Pickleball is a sport that needs quick reactions, especially when you are playing close to the Kitchen line. When you are at the Kitchen line (and your opponents are on the other side of the Kitchen line), then you are only 14 feet apart. This short distance gives you only a fraction of a second to react to a flying pickleball, which, in turn, means you need quick reactions. The quicker your reactions—in particular, the quicker your pickleball paddle speed—the more likely you will be to score points and win games on the pickleball court.
|5 Tips to increase Your Pickleball Paddle Speed and Reaction Time
Sometimes, when pickleball players want to increase paddle speed, they tend to take bigger swings and wilder swings in an attempt to swing faster and harder. This is not helpful. Big swings (including big swings back) actually make you slower, and wild swings lead to too many mistakes on the pickleball court.
Instead, to increase your pickleball paddle speed, try these 5 tips:
1. Have a Good Grip
Whether you use a continental grip, an Eastern grip, or a Western grip, or anything in between, it is important to have a relaxed grip (think a 4 out of 10 in terms of grip strength). This relaxed grip will let you have faster hands. Also, think about having a small space between your index finger and the other fingers that are holding the paddle. By having some space in your fingers (rather than have all four fingers close together), you will be able to move the pickleball paddle better—including faster movement for speed and more movement to create spin.
2. Hit Out Front
There are many reasons why you should hit the pickleball out in front of your body. One of these reasons is that it will reduce your time to react to the pickleball. If you are hitting the pickleball behind your body, then it will take more time to get ready again. Plus, you can swing faster and more easily out in front of your body (rather than behind your body). So, hit the pickleball out in front of your body.
3. Release Tension
Hold your pickleball paddle and tense every muscle in your paddle-side arm. Now, swing. Do the same swing after you release the tension and relax your arm. Do you see which swing is faster? Your swing should be much faster when you stay loose. Also, remember to swing from the shoulder (so, your shoulder may be strong and steady, but the rest of your arm (e.g., your bicep, tricep, forearm) should be relaxed).
4. Short Backswings
As mentioned above, big backswings are not helpful. Big backswings make you slower on the pickleball court, as it takes too long to bring your paddle back and then move forward. You do not have a lot of time on the pickleball court. So, it is important to keep your backswings as short as you can. And, since your goal is to hit the pickleball out in front of your body, your backswing should usually be within your sight. Practice making your backswings shorter in order to make your paddle speed faster.
5. Drill to Get Faster
Practice your paddle speed and the tips above to get better. A few easy pickleball drills to do this include:
- Volley Drills – Find a partner and hit volleys to each other from Kitchen line to Kitchen line. Work on forehands and backhands and then switch sides. Try to make it harder by both you and your partner stepping into the Kitchen and continuing the volleys inside the Kitchen. The shorter distance will take away reaction time, so you can try to improve your skills. You will feel like you have a lot of time once you step back behind the Kitchen line. If you do not have a partner to drill with, these same drills can be done using a wall.
- Table Tennis Ball – To make the volley drills harder for reaction time, get a table tennis ball (also known as a ping pong ball). Use your pickleball paddle to volley the table tennis ball. Do the same volley drills as above and challenge yourself to get as close to your partner or the wall (as applicable) as possible. Using a table tennis ball will really test your hand speed and ability to react because the table tennis ball is much smaller and much lighter, so it will move faster than a pickleball meaning even less reaction time. Also, since the table tennis ball is smaller, it will be harder to track in other words, you will need more focus to work on your ball tracking skills.
The goal with pickleball paddle speed is not how fast you can swing the paddle. Rather, it is how much time it takes you to swing the paddle. So, while it is important to work on ways to increase the actual speed of your paddle, it may be more important to focus on ways to cut down on the time it takes you to swing the paddle. Quicker paddle speed is not always better. Rather, it is important to be smooth on the pickleball court, so that you can be efficient and short in your swing and be ready to reload for the next shot. So, try these 5 tips to do just that!