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Power up your pickleball forehand drive: Complete guide

Power up your pickleball forehand drive: Complete guide


By Danea Bass & Barrett Bass

On: 02/28/2024

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strategy

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Learn how to take advantage of your opponents' weaknesses, where to aim the ball, and practice these pickleball drills to become an expert in the pickleball forehand drive.
Learn how to take advantage of your opponents' weaknesses, where to aim the ball, and practice these pickleball drills to become an expert in the pickleball forehand drive.

A powerful forehand drive in pickleball is crucial to help you win more games with confidence. Our expert coaches, Barrett & Danea Bass, showcase simple tips & drills to improve your pickleball game. Learn how to take advantage of your opponents' weaknesses, where to aim the ball, and practice these pickleball drills to become an expert in the pickleball forehand drive.

What is the pickleball forehand drive?

A forehand drive in pickleball is a shot hit with your forehand, with power, and stays low over the net. If you don’t come from a racket sports background, the pickleball forehand drive might require some practice. If you do come from a racket sports background, you might need to slightly alter some things that you're used to.

Goal of the forehand shot

The goal of the pickleball forehand drive is not necessarily to drive down the line or down the middle. Although that could be the case sometimes, more often than not you're actually trying to set up the fifth ball — which means: when you hit that drive you are trying to create an easier ball for you to come up and drop into the kitchen. Your other goal of this shot would be to create a pop-up or an error from your opponent. If you come from a different racket sports background, you may think you're trying to just hit a shot as hard as you can, when in reality you want to give yourself a little margin of error because you're trying to get a next ball that is more advantageous than the previous one.

Where to aim the ball

Two places are the most advantageous places on the court to hit a drive. Those two places are going to be:

  1. To the person that's returning the serve that's running forward up the court. The reason why that's advantageous is because they're running, so it's really hard for them to hit a good counterattack if you're having to move. 

  2. At the player who hasn't proven that they can handle pace or hit a really good counterattack to your drive.

Tips to help you execute your forehand drive

To help you execute the forehand drive,  there are some tips in the learning progressions for the shot. 

  1. Keep your shoulders relaxed and engage your legs — because your power comes from the ground up. 

  2. Keep your wrist relatively firm or locked in the swing and avoid cutting under the ball. Brush the back side of the ball and swing from a low to high motion.

  3. When you're finishing your swing, your follow-through will take your arm to your opposite shoulder. You’ll want to make sure that the butt cap of your paddle is facing in toward your target.

Progressions for your forehand drive

To simplify the forehand drive, you can learn through a progression:

Progression #1: Shadow swings

Before you pick up a ball, you will want to work on “shadow swings.” 

  • Have a slightly-open stance — you can be fully open or slightly open but just make sure you're not fully closed.

  • Hold your paddle at a 45° angle out from your body.

  • Move your paddle right in front of your inside leg or inside knee,

  • Move the paddle up to the opposite shoulder.

  • Repeat this motion multiple times.

Repeating your shadow swings may seem monotonous, but if you can practice without a ball you will start to create muscle memory so you will know what to do when the forehand drive is the best shot for the moment.

Next, you will want to add more movement and dynamics with your legs.

Progression #2: Add a ball to your swing

When you have gotten comfortable with your shadow swings, you will next want to add a ball to the exercise. You will drop the ball to yourself and repeat your swings, hitting the ball over the net deep into the other side of the court.

  • Follow the steps of the Shadow Swings.

  • Drop the ball in front of you.

  • Hit through the ball, contacting it out front of your body.

  • Follow through above the outside shoulder.

Progression #3: Unit turn

After you have practiced your shadow swings and added a ball, you will want to move to the next step of the progression: the unit turn. In a unit turn, your paddle, chest, and shoulders will all be turning as one unit.

  • Follow all the above steps.

  • Rotate your chest, paddle, and shoulders together. 

  • Continue to avoid a big backswing, keeping your body compact.

  • Have a partner drop the ball to you so your focus can shift toward incorporating the unit turn.

  • Swing low to high, using your legs and core.

Progression #4: Footwork

The next part of the progression is focused on your footwork.

  • Go through your shadow swings.

  • Have your partner direct you to the left, right, or forward.

  • Run to that spot and establish your feet.

  • Go through your unit turn.

  • Repeat these steps as your partner directs you to new positions.

  • Once you feel comfortable with this drill, have your partner feed the ball to you while continuing to direct you to new positions.

  • Repeat until you feel comfortable with your footwork.

Progression #5: Progressions with partner

For the next step in the progression, you will want to have a partner on the opposite side of the net.

  • Start toward the middle of the court.

  • Your partner will feed you to your forehand side.

  • Once again, you will run to the ball and establish your feet.

  • Hit the drive straight forward or down the line.

  • After you are comfortable with that move, move over and work on driving the ball down the middle.

  • Shuffle back to your position and re-establish your feet after each hit.

Progression #6: Add more power to your drive

Once you feel comfortable with the pickleball forehand drive progressions, you can then add more power to your drive.

  • Fold up a towl and put your knee on the towel (your right knee if you are right handed, your left knee if you are left handed).

  • Start off with shadow swings.

  • Focus on leaning back on your hip, but as you bring the paddle back transfer your weight forward.

  • Have your partner drop the ball in front of you.

  • Continue the drill, focusing on your core and generating power from your hip.

These drills will help you improve your pickleball forehand drive so you have both control and power over how and where you hit the ball.

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