The One Grip Every Tennis and Pickleball Player Needs to Know

The following is a transcript of part four of the Game Changers Webinar. 


Now, I’m going to talk a little bit more about general advice on how to check your continental grip. 

So, here’s a tennis racket, and what you want to do is set it up, so you’re holding it like a hatchet. Or a hammer motion. The continental grip was called the hammer grip for many decades. 

And if you hit and the racket was underneath your elbow and taps your forearm, you’re choked up and holding a continental grip, and then you just slide it down, and then it would be like hammering a nail. That’s one way to get the grip. 

If, on the other hand, you’re used to that pizza grip like this, then when you bend it, it’s going to miss your arm on the inside, and that’s going to pass in line with the middle of your chest. And if you’re on the other side, the rackets going to go this way. It’s going to miss your arm. So, picking it up, so it touches your elbow, and then just sliding it down. 

And it’s the same as these aids force your hands to do with these grooved slots. I think you can see it pretty well here. 

Yes, the contrast, and there’s only one way to hold it. 

Another exercise you can do at home, which I really like, is to choke up to start; make sure you have the right grip by tapping underneath. 

If you really have trouble, and this might sound funny, but a little piece of duct take around your hands, don’t be afraid. 

In the old days, we would take off the grip and get a glove, put our hand in the glove, put glue on the glove, and grab the racket in the right grip. And then, when you wanted to practice, you just slip on the glove. 

And obviously, if it’s sweaty and you get various players wanting to test it, it can get kind of yucky, but you know, we’ve been trying for years, years, and years how to help people because this is so important. 

A little exercise you can do at home, is find your grip, and then you just want to open that racket face – this ties into the volley – and you can just bounce anything, like a pickleball. 

(Joe performs the exercise on camera) 

See, I’m getting backspin, and then I can switch with the same grip and spin both ways. So, it’s under, under without changing grip. With the continental grip, you get the same angle whether you’re going to forehand or backhand volley. 

It’s pretty incredible and simplifies a lot of things when you don’t have to worry about changing the racket angle and not having to do this for a backhand and not being able to hit balls that are hit at you.

And another aid that can help with the volley is the Catching Racket , which is more like receiving the ball and cradling the ball as if someone tossed you something delicate; you wouldn’t just smack it away. 


I need that product, personally. I’m always launching volleys into the net. 


So, bottom line is, it’s a great training aid. Very helpful. You can do it at home. It’ll allow you to learn spin. 

One thing I want to say about backspin, or underspin, as some people call it, or slice, we’ll call it slice on the serve. 

It’s really an incredible phenomenon that took me years to realize, and it is when that hitting a slice off an incoming top-spin ball. Once you reach that level, where you’re playing against players that can hit topspin on groundstrokes. Hitting with underspin means if the balls coming in forwards, like this, whether in tennis or pickleball, though tennis gets more ball rotation than pickleball due to the nature of the softball and soft strings. 

But if the ball is coming in like this and you hit under spin, the ball’s direction doesn’t need to change. If you hit it with topspin, you’d have to swing up to change the ball’s direction. This requires a lot more energy, and the timing is a lot more difficult. That’s why you’ll find that players that hit slices are less fatigued and more likely to hit consistently, and it’s a good backup for when you have to play defense, and you’re reaching for shots.

To reach out and hit that topspin when you’re already on the run is quite difficult. So, the efficiency of play, higher levels of play, variety of tactical play, and better serves. 

Our statistics are over 40% of all the swings at the ball are serves in tennis; it’s incredible. The average point is about three hits depending on the surface and what playing level; a serve, a return, and one more shot – that’s the average. But it’s really easy to remember the long points where there are 20, 30 shots, but you don’t remember the ones where the return is missed or it’s a double fault, etc. 

In pickleball, interesting, the average point is nine hits, much longer. Why I’m saying that is the serve being underhanded in pickleball and also the points being shorter in tennis, the continental grip is not as essential as tennis, but because pickleball is played faster, changing grips is just not practical. In pickleball, your reaction time is half in tennis at the baseline. 

So, it’s interesting because the continental grip is key if you want to get better, no matter the game. 


I wanted to speak from personal experience since you taught me the continental grip, the first grip that I learned when I was starting tennis at 10 and a half. That’s still the grip I feel the most comfortable with, so I feel like that there’s something to be said about the first grip someone learns being the one they feel most comfortable with, for better or worse. 

So, I’ve always felt a little bit like I had to work harder to be confident with my forehand versus how people that started with a forehand grip seem to have their forehand as their favorite shot. But then, when you think about it, that’s only one shot; they’re missing on volleys, overhead serves, backhands, and putting slices on these shots. 

And really, it allows so much more versatility, so I think starting with the continental grip is great for any young players starting off. All they have to do is learn one more grip, the forehand grip, and they have everything else covered. 


Yeah, that’s a great point. So you have two primary grips. You have the continental grip and the western or semi-western forehand grip that allows you to hit topspin, the continental grip doesn’t do too well with topspin. 

So, now, the question is, what’s the limitation of the continental grip? You can’t hit topspin forehands. 

If you have someone just learning the continental grip, just shot them high balls; they’ll have a lot of trouble with those. That’s the limitation of the continental grip for everything. That’s it. 

So, switching over, then you can carry you racket head up and close on high balls. And you can come in and still brush up. 

Now, what’s the limitation of playing with the pizza pan or pizza service kind of grip?

We can list them. 

A – you’re going to have a flat serve. Very predictable serve. 

B – you’re going to have a very soft second serve that can just get smashed. 

C – you’ll have an impossible time hitting low volleys because the racket doesn’t open with this grip. 

So, the continental grip is essential. I chalk this up to one of the challenges that tennis has as a sport. Because it is so low self-limiting. You get a lot of gratification right up front just using that frying pan kind of grip. But it’ll cost you in the long run. 

People use the continental grip every day, in everyday life. Walking down the stairs and using handrails. Continental grip. Picking up a suitcase. Continental grip. 

It’s naturally a very strong position and allows a large range of motion and flexibility, too. 

So, in a nutshell, that is the story of the continental grip. 

With just one grip, players of all levels can access and enjoy so much more of both tennis and pickleball. 

Learning the right grip can be a big gateway for some players, players that may never return to the game. 

This makes kinesthetic learning aids that make learning the continental grip vital for any new player and every tennis and pickleball coach. 

No matter what you’re learning, we have the tennis and pickleball training aids that make learning faster and more engaging. Check them out.  

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