There are many ways to shop for a pickleball paddle, and ultimately one factor will be your deciding factor. For some, it's price. For others, it's style. But arguably, one of the most important purchase factors tied to your performance on the court is pickleball paddle weight.
Midweight pickleball paddles (between 7.3 and 8.3 ounces) are the most beginner-friendly as they balance paddle speed, control, and power. Lightweight paddles (7.3 ounces and lighter) increase agility and control, whereas heavier pickleball paddles (8.3 ounces and up) increase power.
That's the 30,000-foot view, but there are far more nuances to a pickleball paddle's weight, and if you want to know how to pick the paddle weight, then you'll need to dig into the details. So let's discuss the 3 weight classes of pickleball paddles, the pros and cons of each, and arm you with the knowledge to pick the right pickleball paddle weight for your next purchase.
Why Does the Weight of a Pickleball Paddle Matter?
The weight of a pickleball paddle matters since it influences every component of playing pickleball. Paddle weight is directly related to the power a player can put behind the ball, drastically affecting ball and paddle speed, control, and even arm strength and endurance throughout a game.
Everything on the paddle has an effect on weight - from the edge guard and surface materials, all the way to the handle length and jewel. If it's on the paddle, it's adding weight.
The Weight of Your Paddle Impacts Technical Performance
The weight of paddles has a tradeoff at each end of the spectrum, where one side is more powerful and the other is in more control.
The heavier a paddle is, the more power you'll gain but at the price of less control and agility. And the inverse is true for a light paddle, meaning you'll have increased control by comparison but less power. And a paddle with a weight somewhere in between finds a balance.
The Weight of Your Paddle Impacts Physical Performance
Aside from this performance oversimplification, weight matters when it comes to your body.
Have you ever thought about how many times you swing a paddle in a game? It's easily in the hundreds per game - you can see how this motion would impact your arm - from your wrists to your shoulders, every ounce matters.
With a heavier paddle, although it may be an ounce of difference to a midweight, when you multiply that ounce by hundreds of shots, it starts to add up. And this can quickly factor into your arm strength throughout a game.
Playing with paddles that are too heavy is a quick way to injure yourself. But, playing with too light of a paddle can cause aggravation as well.
A heavier paddle will absorb the shock of a ball significantly better than a light paddle. On a light paddle, the shock energy will transfer the vibration throughout your arm, which can cause issues, especially with repetition.
These are just a few of the reasons picking the right paddle weight is so important, yet most people overlook factoring their bodies into the equation.
All this is to say that paddle weight affects both technical and physical performance. Because weight is so significant to playing the game of pickleball, and since every ounce matters, pickleball paddles are divided into 3 weight classes to make it easier for players to quickly tell the difference. Let's have a closer look at all 3 paddle weights.
The 3 Weight Classes of Pickleball Paddles
Pickleball paddles fall into the following categories:
- Lightweight: Below 7.3oz
- Midweight: Between 7.3oz and 8.3oz
- Heavy: Above 8.3oz
You may find other weights aligned to each class, but in terms of how major retailers classify paddle weights, they most often follow the same weights referenced above. If there is any variance, it will typically be within .1oz, which is close to the weight of a penny. It's minimal, to say the least.
1. Lightweight Paddles: Less Than 7.3 Ounces
Compared to heavier paddles, lighter paddles allow you to play the sport more naturally, as they're easier to move. This helps your reaction time, lending itself to increased agility which is particularly helpful when you're playing at the kitchen line.
The lighter weight also means less power on your shots, which can be positive or negative. You'll benefit from more control as the ball catapults away from your paddle at slower speeds than you would get from heavy paddles. But greater control at the cost of decreased power isn't for everyone.
Pros of a Lighter Paddle
- The highest degree of control
- More natural arm movement for quick reactions
- Great for lighter shots - soft dinks and drop shots
Cons of Lighter Paddles
- The lowest degree of power
- Not great for joint and arthritic issues
Who Should Use a Lightweight Paddle?
A lightweight pickleball paddle creates the least resistance of all paddle weights, this helps some beginners with control and accuracy. It's also a great weight for players who are looking for softer dinks and drop shots, where greater power isn't as important.
A lighter paddle typically means your body is going to absorb more of each hit instead of the paddle, which makes isn't ideal for anyone with tendon issues. It can also mean early onset of arm fatigue if you need to compensate for the lack of power it generates by swinging faster or extending your swing back further.
While a lightweight paddle won't magically turn a novice into an expert overnight, it will make the game feel more natural early on, which is why some beginners will go with a light paddle to start. This is especially true for the Ping-Pong converts out there.
2. Midweight Paddles: Between 7.3 Ounces and 8.3 Ounces
As you might expect, midweight paddles are all about balance. They're right in the middle of the spectrum, providing a good amount of power and control.
This weight helps add more juice to serves and serve returns, so you won't have to work as hard to place a deep shot compared to a lightweight paddle.
While lightweight paddles allow you to add more finesse and power with the flip of a wrist, that's not a great option for everyone. With a midweight paddle, you'll notice less emphasis on wrist mechanics to create power. Instead, power will rely more heavily on conventional swinging motions.
This is a bonus for anyone with tendonitis or coming from any racquet or paddle sport that incorporates a traditional swing, as the motion removes stress from your wrists and will feel more natural to your prior swinging background.
Again, it's not all power though, there is still a balance of accuracy with a midweight paddle - it's just less pronounced compared to its lighter counterpart.
When it comes to blocking, you'll notice a marked improvement from a midweight paddle to a lightweight paddle. This can make all the difference between ending a rally in the net and ending a rally with a high-five.
Pros and Cons of a Midweight Paddle
By design, this weight is right in the middle of all the attributes that might be defined as positive or negative.
As such, it's best to think of a midweight paddle as the gateway between any attribute, such as power and control, wrist action vs full backswing, fast and slow paddle speed, etc. - it's essentially a weight that gives a decent look at both sides of every quality.
Who Should Use a Midweight Paddle?
Midweight is a great starting point for new players since it balances the lightness for control with a bit more weight for power behind every shot. It's extremely versatile, being a great option for singles or doubles, where it isn't overbearing on dinks or underwhelming for serves and returns.
3. Heavy Paddles: Greater Than 8.3 Ounces
The moment has arrived - it's time to talk heavy pickleball paddles. You know the drill on power and control here, heavy paddles lean toward the power end of the spectrum - but don't discount control with a heavy pickleball paddle, it's still there but less pronounced.
Remember physics from high school? That's what's going on here - this heavier weight requires less speed to generate more power.
It also does a great job at absorbing the energy of each hit and the added weight lends itself to greater stability for your serves and serve returns.
It might take some time and definitely active play to get used to. This is especially true if you're transitioning to this weight class from lighter paddles or sports that rely more on wrist movement.
Pros of a Heavier Paddle
- Boosts power behind each hit
- Adds stability to shots
Cons of a Heavier Paddle
- Hinders control - accuracy and placement of each shot due to increased pop
- Creates arm fatigue
- Exacerbates and aggravates arm injuries
Who Should Use a Heavy Paddle?
Heavier paddles are suited for a wide range of players, such as experienced players who are seeking more power in their shots. They're also ideal for anyone that struggles to swing the paddle quickly enough to effectively play the game since it will create ball momentum without needing to swing faster.
The downside of a heavy paddle lies in a lack of control and fatigue. For players who already struggle with dinking and drop shots, heavy paddles will most likely make the issue worse.
And if you have any sort of tendonitis or arm injuries, a heavy paddle is going to fuel that fire. But even without an injury, swinging a heavier item hundreds of times a game is more likely to drain your arm quicker.
In general, a heavier pickleball paddle isn't a great option for new players. A possible exception is tennis converts, due to the similarities between sports, but even then, a midweight paddle is far more likely to be a better paddle weight to start with.
Paddle Weight Depends on Personal Preference
When evaluating the right paddle weight, you have to account for quite a few factors, and it's far more than power, control, or the speed of moving the paddle through the air.
Your health, fitness, experience with the sport, style of play, your prior paddle or racquet sport experience, and of course what feels comfortable to you are all important parts of the equation.
But if you're unsure where to start, you might find comfort in the idea that the majority of new players start with midweight paddles since it's so even-keel in every attribute.
We've unpacked a lot here, and not to overwhelm any new players reading this, but there are so many other factors to consider in a paddle.
If you're just looking for the answers instead of reading about it, you should know that paddles are kind of our thing. So if you have questions about paddle weights or anything else, just drop us a note - we have answers.