We know you're always looking for ways to up your game, and that's where we come in. Let's talk about the drive, a forceful, swift shot that puts your opponent on the defensive and scrambling. Ready to hit the ball harder and faster? This guide will walk you through the fundamentals of driving the ball harder in pickleball, covering power generation techniques, precision, building a solid foundation, and developing a mental game centered around anticipation and strategy. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned player looking to elevate your game, read on for valuable tips on how to drive the ball harder in pickleball.
To drive the ball harder in pickleball, start with an Eastern grip, a square stance, and place your non-dominant hand on the throat of the paddle. When swinging, load with a "C" shape and rotate your hips and shoulders as you swing through the ball. Step into the shot and finish high.
Now, as you can imagine, there's far more to driving a pickleball with more power than just a few sentences above. Precision, speed, and accuracy are other critical factors to success. And with a powerful drive, you'll have the upper hand, controlling the point and leaving your opponent in the dust. Now's the time to sharpen your skills and show the world what you've got, so if you want to be a force to be reckoned with on the court, keep reading.
In this article, we'll cover the importance of hitting hard and driving the ball in pickleball. We'll explore valuable tips and techniques that you can apply instantly to your game, and we'll also detail the benefits of each strategy. Think of the following as the best-kept secret in taking your pickleball game to the next level. Let's begin.
What Is a Pickleball Drive Shot?
A pickleball drive shot is a powerful, low-trajectory shot aimed at an opponent's feet. It's intended to apply pressure, forcing them to make a weak return. This shot requires a firm Eastern grip, proper footwork, and a full-body rotation to generate the necessary power and precision.
The drive shot comes in a few varieties, but the two biggest distinctions are as a groundstroke or volley. It requires significant upper body strength, making it a natural option for those who possess that kind of power, but if you lack the upper body strength needed, there are some tricks you'll learn throughout this article to compensate.
The versatile shot should be used strategically and not relied upon too heavily, but if you spot an opening in your opponent's court or when they're rushing toward you, it can be particularly devastating. To truly master the drive shot, you need to first understand the different playstyles and techniques involved in pickleball.
Power vs. Precision: Identifying Your Playstyle
Pickleball players generally fall into one of two categories: power players or precision players. Power players love to hit the ball with everything they've got, while precision players focus on carefully controlling the ball's trajectory - they live for finesse and soft hands.
If you're not sure which playstyle you favor, pay attention to your actions during a game. Are you more drawn to hard-hitting shots or strategic placements? Recognizing your preferred playstyle can help you develop a winning strategy tailored to your strengths (no pun intended.)
For Beginners: The Importance of Core Techniques and Strategies
Before attempting advanced shots like the drive shot, you should have a solid grasp of the basics to pickleball. If you're new to the game, head over to our article that lays out the 8 basics of pickleball for beginners.
At the heart of learning pickleball is embracing mistakes as learning opportunities and focusing on improving your technique. You'll mess up - everyone does. But the moment you can focus on what you've learned from messing up rather than dwelling on messing up is the exact instant you'll start to progress.
Oh, and if this truly is your precursor to hitting the most social courts in racquet sports, don't forget the essentials: dress comfortably, wear shoes suitable for movement, and invest in high-quality equipment, such as Paddletek's premium pickleball paddles.
Executing the Perfect Drive Shot
To perform an effective drive shot, you'll need a combination of upper body strength and strategic thinking. Remember, use this shot sparingly. The last thing you want is to become predictable in pickleball - this is a fundamental strategy to the game. Instead, incorporate drives into your overall strategy to keep your opponents guessing.
Power Drives in Pickleball Require the Right Grip
The right grip is everything for power. While there are quite a few options to pick from, the eastern grip is a staple for drives. It's one of the most popular paddle grips for beginners and intermediate players for any shot too. That's because the eastern grip's neutral position allows players to hit forehands and backhands with ease. To achieve this grip:
- Hold the paddle in your non-dominant hand
- Place your dominant hand flat on the paddle face
- Slide your dominant hand down the face of the paddle to "shake hands" with the grip.
If you're right-handed, the V shape formed by your thumb and index finger should sit on the right edge of the handle's top bevel, and vice versa if you're left-handed. When it comes to executing a forehand drive in pickleball, your swing and follow-through are critical to the power, accuracy, and consistency of your shot.
How Do You Hit a Drive in Pickleball?
To hit a groundstroke drive in pickleball, start with a low-to-high swing, making contact with the ball at waist level. Keep your eye on the ball, and follow through with a smooth, powerful motion for optimal control and speed.
That's the short and sweet version of the more comprehensive details we recently laid out in our article that includes all the steps for a powerful forehand drive - so be sure to check it out to get a firm grasp on the mechanics once you have your grip down.
In addition to the entry-level description above, mastering three additional techniques that when combined, result in powerful, accurate shots. In this section, we'll dissect the importance of timing, body positioning, and ball height to improve your drive and dominate the court:
1. Timing Is Your Best Friend
If you want a successful drive then you need to time it just right. Aim to hit the ball in front of you and at its highest point, all while keeping your body steady. It's a small detail with a significant impact on your shot's outcome, executed correctly, you instantly improve your odds of having the upper hand.
2. Body Positioning
Next, make sure you're putting your whole body into the swing. Imagine you're cracking a whip, and rotating your waist through the stable surface made by your hand. This way, you're unleashing maximum power and accuracy. And since the pickleball and paddle surfaces are pretty smooth, focus on hitting with a touch of rotation.
3. Ball Height
Lastly, keep an eye on the ball's height as it zips past the net. A lower trajectory gives your opponent fewer options for a return, putting you in the driver's seat. By letting the ball drop faster, you'll have better control of the game. Keeping the ball low is a struggle for many players. If you're in the same boat as many others, we'll leave a link to our guide on how to keep the ball low and stop pop-ups on the court. You can thank us later.
How Do You Drive a Ball Properly in Pickleball?
Although a subtle difference, the keyword here is "properly". We've already covered the 101 and 102 courses of driving the ball, but to do it properly and effectively, there's a simple solution.
Hitting the ball properly in pickleball requires using your entire body, not just your arms and wrists. You need to coordinate your movements and engage your muscles to make a powerful shot.
If you want to take your drive shot education to the next level, then you need to have a solid foundation to build from and stay focused on precision and control. Here's how we view both components.
Building a Powerful Foundation
Wanna crush it on the pickleball court? Start with the basics. It's not glamorous, but making avoidable mistakes isn't either. So master the fundamentals and seek glory and fame later. Here are three things you should be able to do (or feel the impact of) in a rally without thinking about it.
First, master the split step, a super handy move that keeps you in the right spot during a rally. The split step is a fundamental technique in pickleball that the majority of players seem to not know or choose to ignore.
The split step forces you to stay on the balls of your feet, which helps you react more quickly and cover the court faster. Plus, you'll get to your shots with more time to be in a better position for your shot.
Let's talk about cross-training. Wanna be a pickleball ninja? Hit the gym for some weightlifting, endurance drills, and core workouts. This combo will give you the strength and stamina to move like lightning on the court. And don't forget to practice your court positioning with challenging opponents who'll push you to the limit.
Lastly, be strategic. Play against folks who are as good as you or even a little better. Stay nimble and ready to strike, and add some zing to your shots to keep your opponents guessing. Keep an eye on your position and your opponent's, and always think about your next shot. With a solid foundation in place, you'll be ready to rock the pickleball world. There are endless strategies to consider and consume, so be sure to always challenge yourself to learn new ways to compete in pickleball.
Driving the Ball with Precision and Control
If you want to play pickleball like a pro, you need to nail your technique. Before you read on, head over to YouTube and find a finals match between pros. Watch a couple of rallies then come back here. After you read this section, go back and rewatch the match. You'll notice that the pros are all about fundamental techniques, not the crazy shots. That's the value you'll take from this section starting with how to properly hit, and the same rules apply to driving the ball.
- Driving Like a Pro: When hitting the ball, step into it with your front foot, rotate those hips and shoulders, and generate some serious power. Keep a firm wrist and a flat paddle face to make sure you're striking the ball just right. And don't forget to finish high for that perfect shot.
- Know Your Opponent: To outsmart your opponent, you've gotta know their style inside and out. Keep an eye on their court position, shot preferences, and body language to stay one step ahead. Are they dodging their backhand? Do they love hanging out by the kitchen or baseline? These clues will help you predict their next move and give you the edge you need to dominate.
- On the Defensive: Feeling the heat? Don't sweat it. When you're on the defensive, take a deep breath, and analyze your opponent's patterns and playing style. With this intel, you can switch up your strategy and turn the tables in your favor. So remember, a killer shot is only half the battle – mastering your opponent's game is the real key to pickleball greatness.
How Do You Drive with Power in Pickleball?
To drive with power in pickleball, focus on proper technique: a strong stance, hip rotation, and a firm wrist. This generates force, making your shots more powerful. Proper grip and paddle angle are also crucial for a powerful drive.
This section pulls everything you've learned so far and puts it all together. How to drive, how to hit properly, and how to create power. Now we dive into a power drive.
- Grip: Use the eastern grip (like your shaking hands) and hold it perpendicular to the ground with the flat surface of the paddle face facing away from you. This grip allows for an easy transition between forehand and backhand shots, giving you the best chance of hitting your shots with precision.
- Stance and Prep: Being in the ready position allows you to react quickly to your opponent's shots - this is why the split step is so clutch. When you can get to any shot, your opponents will have a hard time getting the best of you. This means keeping your weight on the balls of your feet, bending your knees slightly, adopting a square stance, and keeping your non-dominant hand on the throat of the paddle for balance and control.
- Load and Follow-Through: When it comes to the swing, there are two phases to consider: the loading phase and the contact and follow-through. During the loading phase, rotate your hips and shoulders, keep your elbow bent, and position the paddle behind and slightly above the ball, creating a "C" shape with your arm. Then, during the contact and follow-through phase, swing through the ball, step into the shot with your front foot, rotate your hips and shoulders, maintain a firm wrist, strike the ball with a flat paddle face, and finish high. This will give you the best chance of hitting the ball with precision and power.
Simply holding your paddle with the proper grip, adopting a strong ready position, and following through with the right swing, you will instantly drive the ball with more power. It's funny how simple things can be the most powerful things at times.
If you want to move past the basics of adding power to your drive shots, this next section is for you.
Advanced Techniques for Power Drive Shots
The Topspin Drive
Topspin drives in pickleball offer players an advantage by utilizing the Magnus effect, creating a low backspin, and keeping the ball close to the net. In less scientific terms, this creates a wicked backspin and keeps the ball low making an unpredictable flight path and bounce. Meaning your opponent won't stand a chance since they have no idea how to read their return shot.
The Slice Drive
This shot requires a bit of finesse and control, but it can be a great weapon to have in your arsenal. This underhanded shot puts a unique spin on the ball, causing it to skid and stay low. Righties get a clockwise spin, while lefties go counter-clockwise. Mastering the slice drive will make you one of the more respected players on your courts.
The Power Smash
Ready to show off your strength? Unleash the power smash. It requires putting every fiber in your body behind your shot, which will send the ball hurtling into your opponent's side. Executing a perfect power smash not only pressures your opponent but also boosts your confidence with a display of strength and skill.
Essential Equipment for Maximizing Power on Drive Shots
We're all familiar with the concept it's not about the equipment you use but what you do with it. While a memorable saying with degrees of truth to it, in pickleball, your equipment does matter. Especially if you're trying to hit a more powerful drive shot. In the lineup of the most important equipment for more power, nothing ranks higher than your paddle. In the following sections, we'll go through the elements you need to consider, starting with choosing the right Paddle for your style.
The key to picking the right paddle for power is more about making the right choice relative to your skills and style. It's not about picking the ultimate power paddle - what's the point in that if it's too heavy for you to swing?
We'll start by level-setting on 5 elements that can make a paddle have more power, and how they fit into specific play styles. As you read through each factor, consider your own experiences and skills - don't leave that behind as you lean into power. This tug-of-war between power and control is something you'll find in every feature of a pickleball paddle.
1. Paddle Weight:
Choosing the right weight for your pickleball paddle can make or break your game. A heavier paddle delivers more power and drive, while a lighter one gives you greater maneuverability and speed. It's like choosing between a sledgehammer or a rapier - both have their strengths and weaknesses. Let's do a quick breakdown of the weight classes of pickleball paddles before we get any further on the topic.
Lightweight Paddles: Less Than 7.3 Ounces:
A lighter paddle allows for quicker reaction times, which is a key component to having better agility on the court. This is especially useful for players who like to play at the kitchen line, where quick reflexes can make a big difference. Additionally, lighter paddles are great for beginner players who are still developing their control and accuracy. With a lighter paddle, they can make minor adjustments with greater ease and get a better feel for the game. Finally, a lighter paddle is ideal for players who prefer softer shots like dinks and drop shots. Since they don't require as much power, a lighter paddle can help finesse the ball over the net with greater precision.
Pros of a Lighter Paddle
If you're looking for more control in your game, a lighter paddle could be just what you need. With its lighter weight, it's easier to maneuver, allowing you to place your shots with greater accuracy and finesse. Plus, if you prefer a more finesse style of play, a lighter paddle will help you achieve that goal.
One of the most significant benefits of using a lighter paddle is that it can reduce fatigue. Since they put less strain on your arm and shoulder, you'll be able to play longer and with more energy. This is especially helpful if you're prone to joint issues or if you're recovering from an injury. Plus, a lighter paddle can also increase your reaction time, which is essential for playing at the kitchen line. The quicker you can react, the more agile you'll be on the court, helping you to stay ahead of your opponents.
Cons of Lighter Paddles
While lighter paddles have their advantages in terms of control and comfort, their major downside is their lack of power. If you're trying to build power, a light paddle is probably not the best direction for you.
They generate less force and require more effort to hit harder shots and drives, which can be a disadvantage for players who rely on power to win matches. So if you prefer to play an aggressive game and hit powerful shots, a lighter paddle may not be the best choice for you.
Midweight Paddles: Between 7.3 Ounces and 8.3 Ounces
Midweight paddles, ranging from 7.3 ounces to 8.3 ounces, offer a balanced approach to power and control. They require less emphasis on wrist mechanics to generate power and instead rely on conventional swinging motions.
This makes them an excellent starting point for new players who want to improve their skills without sacrificing power or control. Additionally, midweight paddles are typically used among intermediate players who are looking for a versatile paddle to take their game to the next level. If you need balance to your game, midweight is your choice.
Heavy Paddles: Greater Than 8.3 Ounces
Heavy paddles can work for any player, but typically they're reserved for more experienced players and pros that are looking for additional power on their shots. The other type of player that might benefit the most from a heavy pickleball paddle is those that struggle to swing the paddle quickly enough to effectively play the game; a heavy paddle increases ball momentum without needing to swing faster.
Pros of a Heavier Paddle
Playing pickleball with a heavier paddle has its perks. It can be a game-changer for players who prefer to play with a more aggressive style with some spice behind their shots. With more weight behind each swing, they can hit powerful shots with greater ease, generating more force and making it easier to hit long drives.
If you struggle to hit the ball over the net because of power, a heavier paddle might be an option to consider. However, be prepared to adjust your game as a heavier paddle can be more difficult to maneuver, which can lead to less control over your shots.
Cons of a Heavier Paddle
While a heavier paddle can seem like a tempting option for those seeking to add power to their game, it is essential to consider the cons before making a decision.
One of the biggest drawbacks of a heavy paddle is that it offers less control over your shots. While the extra weight can add some power to your swings, it also makes it harder to maneuver the paddle quickly, leading to a decrease in accuracy and placement. This can be especially challenging for players who rely on finesse and placement to win points or those who prefer to play upfront in the kitchen.
Playing with a heavier paddle can cause fatigue and discomfort, especially for those who have joint issues, which typically hinders shoulder strength and mobility. The extra weight puts more strain on your arm and shoulder, which can be problematic for players who already have joint issues or lack shoulder mobility and strength. Additionally, the extra weight can cause players to tire more quickly - there's that fatigue issue popping up again - which can negatively impact their performance throughout a game or tournament.
Final Thoughts on Pickleball Paddle Weights and Power for Drive Shots
The weight of your paddle can also impact your stamina and muscle fatigue during a game. Imagine swinging a heavy paddle for hours on end. While the first 50 or so swings might not drain your battery, after hours of play, your arm might be too sore to play at your best.
So, it's important to find the right balance between power and control that works for you. Consider that if you aren't the strongest player, added weight may not be your best path to generating power, and you may want to explore different methods on this list to find a paddle that supplements power.
If you want something in between, Bantam Ts-5 Anna Leigh Waters Edition is a solid selection - it weighs 7.5 oz which puts it towards the lighter end of midweight paddles. This is a great balance of weight that can help you swing the paddle without fatigue, still get power behind your shots, and move the power without feeling too bulky.
2. Paddle Core
The core material of a pickleball paddle is a bit like its hidden heart. Different materials and thicknesses can drastically impact power and control. The right core material invisibly aids your power and control of shots. Subtle things like reducing the shock and absorbing vibrations when you contact the ball are thanks to the paddle core's work behind the scenes. The core of a pickleball paddle plays a crucial role in determining the power and control a player has on the court. Polymer cores are by far the most popular and influential materials in pickleball paddles. Polymer cores offer a nice balance of power and control, making them a go-to option for new players.
The honeycomb shape of the core is designed to provide sturdiness while minimizing the necessary material, which helps to save weight. The density of the core, which is determined by the size of the honeycombs, also affects the hardness and weight of the paddle. A denser core creates a harder surface and a heavier paddle, while more open and airy core results in a softer paddle that is easier to maneuver.
Additionally, the thickness of the core plays a significant role in determining the amount of control and power a player has. A thick core provides greater control with each hit, while a thin core delivers more power.
Choosing the best core material suited to your playing style is essential for optimizing your game.
From the Bantam series, which is Paddletek's line for power and performance, the Bantam Ex-L Pro has an amazing Advanced High-Grade Polymer Composite honeycomb that provides a great balance of strength and stiffness for power, without being incredibly heavy.
There are so many materials that can make up a paddle core, and countless thicknesses you can find them in, so knowing your way around both elements will ultimately be your best way to find the perfect match. Start with our guide on pickleball paddle materials - learn how each works, why they matter, and how to make the right decision for you.
3. Paddle Surface:
When it comes to pickleball paddles, the face is a crucial component that can greatly impact your game. Different materials can be used to construct the face of the paddle, and each material can affect the level of grip or "grit" that the paddle has.
The material of the paddle face can also affect how much energy is absorbed and returned when hitting the ball. This can change how much power you need to put into your swing, and how long the ball will stay on the surface of your paddle before bouncing off.
Fiberglass paddles are like slingshots for power hitters. These paddles are made of compressed fibers that have been subjected to high heat and pressure, resulting in a strong, durable material. The addition of resin soaking produces a glass-like texture, which makes the paddle even more resilient.
But what makes fiberglass paddles particularly great for power is the fact that they are relatively heavy compared to other materials. The added weight gives players more momentum behind their shots, allowing for more forceful hits that can travel farther and faster.
4. Paddle Shape:
All pickleball paddles certified by USA Pickleball adhere to size regulations, which means that their length and width can't be larger than 24 inches. As you can imagine, there are a lot of different ways to make a paddle under these rules. Although they are restrictions, the shape of the paddle can vary greatly.
For example, a paddle with a wider face may have a larger sweet spot, making it easier to hit the ball cleanly and accurately. On the other hand, an elongated paddle with a more narrow shape may allow for better control and precision but have a smaller and higher sweet spot.
Of course, Paddletek has paddles built for power in both shapes, including the Bantam Ex-L Pro and Bantam Ts-5 Pro. For those who might benefit from a wider sweet spot, both paddles have a width of more than 8 inches, particularly helpful for the elongated paddle like the Ex-L Pro. This bumps up your power without limiting accuracy and control. It's always about a solid balance.
5. Paddle Handle:
There are two things to consider with a pickleball paddle's handle - the handle length and the grip circumference. In other words, how long is the handle, and what is the circumference of the handle that you'll wrap your hand around.
The length of your handle is baked into the overall length of your paddle, and it translates to performance because the longer the handle is the further away from your body the sweet spot and paddle face become. It will affect your power and control with every millimeter added or removed.
A longer handle is also more comfortable, and for the small population that may use two-handed backhands, you'll want this option. A longer paddle, with the help of a longer handle, also creates more power since the greater distance will increase paddle speed at the tip of your paddle.
The Bantam Sabre Pro has a longer handle at 6", with a total paddle length of 16 1/2" and a grip length of 6”. Longer handles as a part of longer paddles allow you to reach balls that are farther away, which can be an advantage to players needing to cover a lot of ground.
Grip circumference should always be decided by your comfort of gripping a paddle, as it doesn't have the same direct line to power as the other features covered. In general, though, having a grip with some sort of shock absorption that fits in your hand perfectly, will allow you to hit drive shots with greater power.
Powerful Drive Shots Are the Sum of Many Parts
Driving the ball harder in pickleball can give players a significant advantage on the court. By developing techniques for generating power and precision, building a strong foundation, and focusing on anticipation and strategy, players can improve their game and win more points. The drive shot is an essential skill that requires upper body strength, and mastering the core techniques and strategies can make a difference.
It's also important to choose the right equipment, such as the weight, core material, face, shape, and handle of the paddle, to maximize power and drive. A lighter paddle can be advantageous, and understanding how the core material and surface affect power can help players make an informed decision. Overall, building a powerful foundation, coordinating movements, engaging muscles, and strategic positioning can take your pickleball game to the next level.
If you’re interested or already playing pickleball, training, and practicing are important to help you build a strong base of support to move around the court. Also, it improves strength, and flexibility if you practice or train for a pickleball game. Make sure to practice your eye coordination, footwork, and agility when training.