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?

Yes, 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 during the serve. 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
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03/10/2024 07:36 pm GMT

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’re not allowed to hit overhand whenever you want (nor should you try it on every shot).


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 over to your side of the court.
  • The most effective overhand shot is the overhead smash. According to NCSU, overhead smashes are the most powerful shot in the game.
  • 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 smash because you can easily hit downward on a high ball.
  • If the ball bounces low, don’t try an overhand hit. 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 an overhand top spin can help drive your opponent back.

As you can see, overhand shots have their place in pickleball. They’re highly effective shots. They 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.

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 force, direction, and spin is far more difficult.

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

Why is this important?

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.

Hitting Overhand in Pickleball – Step by Step

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

  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. 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. Hit the ball with as much force as you can if you’re performing an overhead smash.
  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. If the ball is going over your head, jump right before swinging. The same twisting stance applies with a ball that’s far over your head (within a manageable distance, of course).
  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. 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.

Pickleball Overhand Rules While Serving

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

We detailed how pickleball rules prohibit overhand serving due to the required ball-strike height. 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-known facts about serving in pickleball.

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.
  • Determine the rules beforehand. If you’re entering tournament play and need clarification if your serve is legal; get that clarification beforehand. 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

Understanding when to hit overhand moves you closer to mastering a key pickleball strategy. 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.

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