Can you hit overhand in pickleball?

Can You Hit Overhand in Pickleball? A Simple Answer For Beginners

There’s no doubt hitting overhand in pickleball provides more power than an underhand hit. You can use momentum, gravity, and more muscle power to put the point away. However, if you read the rules of pickleball you’ll notice it’s sometimes okay and sometimes not okay to hit overhand.  So what’s the deal? Can you hit overhand in pickleball?

You can hit overhand in pickleball unless you’re serving the ball. The only time when you’re not allowed to hit overhand in pickleball is when you’re serving. The serving rules clearly state that a serve must be underhand and make contact with the ball below your navel or waist area. 

So, based on the specific rules needed to perform a legal serve, it’s virtually impossible to serve overhand.  

Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following details about hitting overhand in pickleball:

  • When you’re allowed to use overhand shots in pickleball
  • How to make perfect contact every time
  • Notable overhand serving rules for pickleball

When Can You Hit Overhand In Pickleball?

If you’ve played tennis, you know how powerful an overhand top spin shot can be.  It’s the single most powerful shot when playing from the baseline.

And in pickleball, it’s no different.

It activates more muscles and allows for more use of power through a full arm swing than an underhand hit.  

It’s simply a much more aggressive offensive shot.  When you’re hitting overhand in pickleball, you’re in attack mode.

However, you shouldn't hit overhand whenever you want. nor should you try it on every shot.

can you hit overhand in pickleball?

So, when should you hit overhand in pickleball?  Here are some tips and techniques to keep in mind:

  • You can’t serve overhand, so we’ll dive into proper techniques later in the article.
  • After each serve, you’re free to hit overhand in pickleball. Whether you or your opponent are serving, you can use an overhand shot when the ball comes back to your side of the court.
  • The most effective overhand shot is the overhead smash.  According to NCSU, overhead smashes are the most powerful hit in the game. When the ball bounces over your head, jump in the air and slam the ball back to your opponent’s side of the net with an overhead smash.
  • If your opponent has hit a shot that is high and arcing down on your side of the net, it’s the perfect time for an overhand shot because you can easily hit doward on a high ball.
  • If the ball bounces low, don’t try an overhand shot. Overhand hitting is best when the ball is at or above your shoulder height.
  • If the ball is by your waist, you’ll have a hard time getting “down” on the ball.  This is the wrong time to use an overhead shot in pickleball.
  • Instead, hit a small underhand dink, and keep the ball low.
  • When hitting from the baseline, you’ll get the most power by hitting a forehand with overhand topspin.
  • It’s much easier to control the trajectory of an overhand hit than an underhand hit.
  • Overhand shots are an excellent choice to move your opponent away from the net and push them back towards the baseline.
  • Even if you’re at the net, an effective drive shot with overhand top spin can help drive your opponent back.

As you can see, overhand shots have their place in pickleball. They’re a highly effective shot that can put you on the offensive and set you up to put the point away.

If you want to master your overhand shots and become a more aggressive pickleball player, read on.

Quick Tip: Did you know when serving the ball must bounce once on each side of the net?  I wrote an article entirely for beginners on the two-bounce rule.

How To Hit Overhand in Pickleball

While it might sound relatively straightforward, overhand shots in pickleball don’t always come naturally to all players. 

Most people can swing down and make contact, but controlling the pace, direction, and spin on the ball is far more difficult. 

And being consistent on pace, direction and spin is even harder to master.  But this is what 4.0 to 5.0 level pickleball players are the most consistent on in their game.

Fortunately, you’re about to learn the best step-by-step tutorial to perfect an overhand hit in pickleball.

  1. 1
    When the ball is bouncing in your direction, position yourself with your dominant hand behind your body. You should be twisted sideways with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Make sure the ball is bouncing high enough to make contact (you won’t be able to do this on every shot).
  2. 2
    As the ball approaches, twist your body to align with your hips and feet while swinging the dominant hand’s paddle toward the ball. When you make contact, you can decide if you want the ball to go up or down. This step is the most crucial part of the process since it directly impacts the result.
  3. 3
    Hit the ball with as much force as you can if you’re performing an overhead smash or hitting from the baseline on a return of serve.
  4. 4
    If you want to lightly hit the ball and guide it in a specific direction, twist your hips and arm accordingly. Your wrist plays a significant role in the trajectory, so don’t forget to aim and swing at the same time.
  5. 5
    If the ball is going over your head, jump up right before swinging. The same twisting stance applies with a ball that’s far over your head (within a manageable distance, of course).
  6. 6
    Think of your body as a compressed spring. As the ball gets closer, release the spring for a heavier hit and more impact. 
  7. 7
    Right after you make contact, plant your feet and watch for your opponent’s next move. It’s more than likely they’ll react quickly since overhead smashes are an intimidating motion.
can you hit overhand in pickleball?

Hitting overhand keeps your opponent on their toes. Make sure you’re not trying an overhand hit on every shot, or you’ll become predictable. 

Varying your shots will make you much less readable, keeping your opponent guessing.

Click the link below for a great video tutorial.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s53f-iJXc-s&t=135s

Pickleball Overhand Rules While Serving

But how do you get the most out of your serve when you have to do it underhand?

I've already covered that pickleball does not allow for any overhand serving of any kind based on the height at which the ball must be struck.

It’s too powerful of a serve, which is why the official rules have made that shot illegal. 

My friend Barrett at Pickleball Kitchen gives a great description of some of the little know facts about serving in pickleball and how overhand serves aren’t allowed.  

Consider these regulations when serving in pickleball: 

  • The serve must be performed underhand. The pickleball rules clearly state the paddle has to be moving upward - making an overhand shot virtually impossible. 
  • Not only do you have to follow the underhand motion, but the ball and paddle must also make contact at or below your navel.  Again, how would you hit overhand while keeping the paddle below your navel?  Impossible.
  • Determine the rules beforehand. If you’re entering tournament play and need clarification if your serve is legal; get that clarification before hand. All tournaments follow USAPA rules but every official is different so if you're curious - just ask. 
  • Don’t touch the net. Along with underhand and overhand rules, touching the net before or after the serve results in a fault. 

These four rules will keep you from getting a penalty when serving.

Hitting Overhand In Pickleball - Conclusion

Now that you know when you’re allowed to hit overhand in pickleball and when you’re not allowed to, you’re one step closer to master a crucial aspect to the game. 

Pickleball is fun, enjoyable, and energizing. 

Whether you’re casually playing with friends or competing in tournaments, simple rules like these are crucial to remember.

For more beginner level tips, like where to stand to be in the best position, click here.

About Me

I’m just a lover of all sports that involve a racquet, net and a ball.  My whole family loves and plays pickleball regularly. I started this website to help give people like you the performance tips and buying info they need to make an educated and informed purchase. 

The products I recommend here have been researched, analyzed, compared and in a lot of cases bought, worn and used.  If it’s a bad product, I don’t recommend it. Any small purchase made from this site gives me a small commission that helps fund the growth of the site to provide you more helpful information.

Last Updated on April 12, 2021 by Keith

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