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How to Hit a HARDER Serve: Five Tips (Pickleball Strategy Guide)

Pickleball is becoming a faster game with more offense and aggression. Learn five simple tips for how to hit a harder and better serve. Read on...

Your serve is the unsung hero of the game. The serve sets the tone, dictates the rally, and can be a subtle game-changer that you can practice by yourself.

You might be thinking, "I'm just starting out, why does it matter?" or "Shouldn't I just get the serve in?" It's true that a serve doesn't always win the point immediately. But, a serve can make your opponent hit worse returns, which will help you with easier future shots.

Unless you have the most powerful paddle on the market, then you will want to heed the following tips on how to swing more powerfully on your serve.

The serve is a great way to unlock a higher pickleball ceiling. We can hit them harder, deeper, and with more spin with just a few minor adjustments. These will take time to practice and get familiar with, but are well worth it. It's time to give our serve more attention.

Here are five fundamental aspects that will help hit a harder serve:

Five Tips for a Better Pickleball Serve

Get Your Grip Right

First consider the continental grip. Make sure your index finger knuckle and the heel of your hand are cozy on that third bevel of the paddle. Basically, the palm of your hand will be behind the paddle when you hit the ball.

This grip gives you the freedom to unleash a powerful, flatter serve. You can also place your hand more under the paddle, tilting it downwards for more topspin. If you do this, make sure your swing path is down to up, to achieve arc. Play around with it until it feels just right.

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Engage Your Core

It's not just about your arm. Your torso and frame of your body can be a secret weapon for a powerhouse serve. When you're gearing up to serve, twist those hips and shoulders a bit just as you are making contact. Tighten your abs like you're about to do a sit-up.

Your core is an engine that will help you drive the ball harder without swinging your arm any harder. If you want a visual, watch golfers rotate their hips as they swing the club. Same idea.

Swing and Follow Through

After you've made contact with the ball, don't just stop there. Don't stop your arm right after the ball takes off. Extend your arm outwards and upwards, and allow it to follow through up and around, toward your non-dominant shoulder.

The key is to 'let' this happen. You don't need to do it forcefully. This move isn't just for show, it's how power and accuracy come together. Practice this complete motion, it will help your swing in total feel more natural. Backswing and follow-through are like a pendulum.

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Timing is Everything

Timing and rhythm can make or break a serve. Toss the ball up just right, not too high, not too low. Something like 4-6 inches is plenty. And when you swing, make contact when the ball has fallen below the height of your hip bone, but not much further.

It's nice to be able to hit the ball from as high as you legally can. Like hitting the perfect beat in a song, your swing should be smooth, coordinated, and well-timed. Not rushed. You might also back-swing while or before the toss, to feel less rushed when it's time to accelerate.

Unleash the "Wrist Lag"

Now, let's talk wrist action. Ever heard of wrist lag? It's like a secret ingredient in your serve recipe. Keep your wrist slightly cocked back during the backswing. It's like loading a slingshot. When the moment's right, just before contact, release that wrist lag, going from extended to flexed. It's this added whip effect that combines with arm movement to add a serious punch. Combine it with hip and torso rotation, and you got yourself a serve.

This is different from a wrist flick as your arm is providing most of the power. It's just an added little extra. Tell yourself you are still mostly swinging with your arm, with just a bit of wrist.

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Bonus Tip: Keep Your Head Still

Don't rush it, and don't over-swing. Swing as fluidly and hard as you can, but without your head jerking up or moving around much. Start slow, focusing on each step.

Get your grip comfortable, engage your core, accentuate the follow-through, get your wrist involved. Then work on doing these things in a good rhythm. Once you've got the hang of it, crank up the pace of your swing. Swing hard, but keep your body 'quiet' and in control.

Pickleball Serve Technique FAQ

How important is spin in a pickleball serve?

Spin can be crucial in serving as it adds difficulty for opponents to return. Given the serve rules, you won't usually be able to impart backspin unless you do a bounce serve. For the most part, focus on giving the ball a medium amount of topspin, with the ball dropping down as it heads toward then. Also, the ball will jump out at them if you give topspin.

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What is the 'double bounce rule' in pickleball serving?

It states that the serve must first bounce on the server's side and then on the receiver's side before either player can hit it. This rule ensures fair play and gives both sides an equal chance to return a ball and get the rally going. For your serving, all it means is that they must let yours bounce. A secondary effect is that you should stay back after you hit your serve, because you must let their return bounce in the court before hitting it.

What are some common serving strategies in pickleball?

They may include aiming for the opponent's weak side, such as a backhand. Another is to vary the placement and speed of serves, like up the middle or out wide.

How can I improve my serving accuracy?

Practicing consistency in your toss, this is the basis for it all. A lot of players toss the ball too high and too far away from their body. Try to toss the ball very minimally and hold it where it would drop out on top of your front foot. You may also abbreviate your backswing and focus on giving a nice down to up motion rather than swinging as hard and big as you can. Giving the ball some high trajectory is fine because this will help with depth.

When should I use a lob serve in pickleball?

Lob serves are effective when you want to disrupt their rhythm. Go for it whenever you feel like it, some players hate facing them. Your best serve might be harder and deeper, so use lob serves sparingly and strategically to catch opponents off guard.

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Where should you stand when you serve?

The best approach depends on their returning tendencies, but a good rule of thumb is to stand about one or maybe two big steps away from the middle line. Don't serve from too far out. Serve from closer to the middle where the angle isn't so severe, and where you will be positioned well for a majority of returns. Try to stand in the same place for every serve.

So, there you have it, a quick guide to serving up a mean pickleball serve. Go out there, practice, and see if it pays some dividends when your team is serving.


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