Pickleball power is sooooo different from decades ago.
Heck, it’s lightyears different from when I started to play 18 months ago!
The biggest change, aside from the sheer number of players: POWER.
Players are transcending the age-old strategy of merely enduring opponents, now adopting an assertive playing style to dictate points. Are today’s players younger and more fit than yesteryear? You bet your bottom dollar!
Even elite players like Ben Johns, Tyson McGuffin and Catherine Parenteau’ emphasize the value of power. Forget about beating bangers; ask yourself, how can you add more power to your pickleball game?
How to Play Power Pickleball
Rethink Your Backswing
A common misconception among beginner pickleball players is that an extensive backswing translates to a powerful shot. As someone transitioning from a tennis background, I can affirm that losing a long, sweeping forehand or backhand motion is key to pickleball success.
Pickleball veterans will attest that genuine power emanates from the combined force of your body and wrist, not just the arm. Ideally, limit your backswing so that your paddle is just within your peripheral vision. It shouldn’t rotate further than the contours of your body.
Prioritize Contact Point: Keep it in Front
Striking the ball behind your stance is a power-drainer. Instead, establish a balanced distance between your body, paddle, and the ball. Remember, power generation has its roots from the ground, progressing upwards. As you prepare to strike, rotate your hips, ensuring the ball contacts in front of you. A controlled backswing naturally aligns the ball in the optimal contact zone by decreasing the swing duration.
Pickleball Power: Master the Grip
A wrist snap is pivotal to power, and it starts with mastering the grip. Maintain a moderate grip intensity: 4 on a scale of 10. If I sneak up behind you, I should be able to snatch the paddle from your hand with zero resistance.
Then, as you contact the ball, dynamically adjust your grip strength. Taking a cue from pro player Tyler Loong, envision your paddle as a towel you’re whipping – if it can produce enough force to sting, it can certainly amplify your shots.
Strategize With Ball Trajectory
A descending ball is your ally for power. It offers better control and can introduce a menacing velocity to your shots. On contemplating between a drive or drop during your third shot, let the ball’s trajectory be your guide. If it’s on an ascent, prioritize placement over power. A well-executed drop shot into the kitchen ensures opponents are kept at bay. Conversely, a descending ball is an invitation to unleash power, driving it with intent.
Invest in a Power-Paddle
Pickleball paddles aren’t a one-size-fits-all affair. While technique remains the most essential factor in generating power, the right paddle can be the catalyst.
Best Pickleball Paddle for Power
What Makes a Power Paddle Mighty?
- Graphite: Paddles made from graphite are lightweight yet strong, allowing players to generate swift paddle movement while maintaining a solid hitting surface. This combination aids in powerful ball strikes.
- Composite: Composite paddles, often a blend of materials like fiberglass, carbon fiber, and polymer cores, are designed to offer both power and control. The rigidity of these materials can translate into more forceful shots.
- Heavier Paddles: Generally, heavier paddles provide more power because they have more mass behind each shot. With a proper technique, a player can utilize this added weight to drive the ball with more force. However, it’s essential to strike a balance: if a paddle is too heavy, it can become cumbersome and might reduce a player’s reaction time.
- Polymer Core: It’s the most recent and popular core type for pickleball paddles. Paddles with a polymer core are soft and quiet, but they can also provide a significant amount of power due to their bouncy nature.
- Nomex Core: Originally developed for the aerospace industry, Nomex is a honeycomb material that is dipped in resin to create a very hard and lightweight core. Paddles with this core tend to be powerful, but they can also be noisier.
Enhancing pickleball power is a combination of technique, strength, and timing. Drills can help players hone these aspects and translate them into a more forceful swing during actual play. Here are several drills to help pickleball players achieve more power:
Pickleball Power Drills
- Find a solid wall, like a racquetball or handball court wall.
- Stand about 10-15 feet away.
- Hit the ball against the wall, aiming for a consistent rebound spot. Focus on using your whole body in the swing and generating power from your legs and core.
Progressive Depth Drill
- With a partner, start by hitting soft dinks at the net.
- Gradually increase the power and depth of your shots until you are hitting full drives from the baseline. This drill helps in understanding how to modulate power and combine it with control.
Serve and Smash Drill
- One player serves while the other player attempts to smash the return with power.
- The server tries to keep the serve deep, making it challenging for the returner. This hones the returner’s ability to generate power even from difficult positions.
Pickleball Power: Weighted Paddle Swings
- Using a paddle with added weight (or a specialized training paddle), practice your swing technique. The added resistance helps in strengthening the muscles used during the swing.
- Remember not to overdo it to avoid straining your muscles.
- Focus on generating power from the ground up. Start with a wide base and practice transferring weight from your back foot to your front foot as you swing.
- Engage your hips and core to maximize power. This drill emphasizes the kinetic chain in power generation.
- Place targets (like cones or markers) in different areas of the court.
- Practice hitting with power aiming for these targets. This melds power with precision.
- Have a partner feed you balls quickly in succession. Your goal is to return them with as much power as possible.
- This drill enhances your ability to generate power even when under pressure and with limited setup time.
Wrist Snap Practice
- Focus exclusively on the wrist action at the end of your swing.
- The snap of the wrist can add considerable speed to the ball, especially on serves and smashes.
Resistance Band Training
- Attach a resistance band to your paddle’s handle and anchor the other end. Swing against the resistance to strengthen the swinging muscles.
Remember, while power is a fantastic asset in pickleball, control is equally crucial. While practicing these drills, always ensure that you’re not sacrificing accuracy for the sake of power. Over time, the aim is to seamlessly integrate power into your overall game strategy.
When to Use Power in Pickleball
In pickleball, as in many racket sports, timing is everything. Tapping into power at the right moments can mean the difference between winning or losing a point. Here are the optimal times to harness power in your pickleball game:
- The serve is the only shot in pickleball where you have complete control without any pressure from your opponent. A strong, deep serve can put your opponent on the defensive from the get-go, setting the tone for the point.
Third Shot Drive:
- Instead of the traditional third shot drop, if you see your opponents are not adequately positioned at the net or if they’ve provided a weak return, you can drive the ball with power to put them on the defensive.
Off a High Ball:
- Anytime the ball is high, especially above the net level, it’s an opportunity to use power. High balls lack the defensive advantage provided by the net, so you can attack these balls aggressively.
- If your opponents hit a powerful shot but it’s not well-placed (e.g., it lands in the center of your body or on your forehand), you can use their pace and add your own power for a swift counterattack.
When Your Opponent is Out of Position:
- If one or both of your opponents are not in their optimal positions, it’s an excellent opportunity to hit a powerful shot to the open space or directly at the out-of-position player, making it hard for them to recover.
On Overheads and Slams:
- Anytime you’re presented with an overhead opportunity (akin to a tennis smash), you should typically harness your power, aiming to finish the point or force a weak return.
When You Want to Change the Game’s Pace:
- Introducing sudden power when the game has been mostly about dinks and drops can catch your opponents off guard. This tactical change can disrupt their rhythm and give you an advantage.
To Prevent Opponents from Attacking:
- A consistent powerful game, when done with control, can prevent your opponents from setting up their shots or getting into an attacking position. They’ll be too busy defending, which can give you the upper hand.
However, while power can be an effective weapon in pickleball, it’s essential to use it judiciously. Overusing power without strategy can lead to unforced errors or provide your opponents with easy opportunities to counterattack. Balancing power with finesse and strategy is the key to a successful pickleball game. Though upping your pickleball power quotient is never a bad thing. 🙂