Pickleball is one of the easiest sports to get into. But, enthusiasts and veteran players who are expanding the competitive scene are always looking for an edge.
Lead tape for pickleball paddles is arguably the best way to modify and improve your paddle to your own play style. By adding extra weight on specific areas of your paddle, you can improve your power, control, and more. Perfect for complementing play styles that rely on stronger shots or extra finesse in precise, skillful swings.
Lead Tape for Pickleball Paddles: Gimmick or Real?
At its core, the problem lead tape aims to solve is pretty straightforward. Pickleball paddles come with a specific weight, and if you want more power, you need more weight. It’s basic science and physics – more mass equals more force. That’s where lead tape comes into play, offering a quick and easy way to add some extra heft to your paddle.
What’s more surprising than lead tape working on pickleball paddles is the fact that lead tape weighs as much as it does in the first place. Lead is a dense material, so it’s much heavier than electrical or duct tape.
We’re going to talk about why lead tape for pickleball paddles is effective below and, spoiler alert, it’s really effective.
What Is Lead Tape for Pickleball?
Lead tape is a thin, adhesive strip of lead that is used to add weight to sports equipment. It is a popular modification in many racquet sports, including tennis, badminton, and pickleball. Using lead tape, players add small increments of weight to their equipment to fine-tune their rackets and paddles to suit their playing style and preferences.
One of the beauties of lead tape in pickleball is its affordability. Typically, a roll or pack won’t break the bank, making it an accessible and popular choice for players seeking to level up their game without breaking their budget. Plus, it’s much cheaper than buying a new paddle outright.
In pickleball, lead tape is typically applied to the sides and top of the paddle. This is because these are the areas of the paddle that will have the most impact on the power and performance of the paddle. Lead tape can also be applied to the handle of the paddle, but this is less common. Typically sold in rolls or sheets, the width of the tape varies, but it is typically about 1/4 inch wide.
Why Lead Tape for Pickleball Paddles Are Surprisingly Effective
Lead tape is surprisingly effective because even though it only adds at most an ounce to your paddle, that extra weight is a lot more than you think. Pickleball paddles weigh around 7.5 to 9.5 ounces brand new. They’re actually quite light, and so an extra ounce would make those paddles weigh 8.5 to 10.5 ounces. That’s an 11.76 to 9.52 percent increase!
Now, this is the part that most people forget. Even though an ounce isn’t that big, placing the tape at the tip of your paddle moves the center of gravity upwards. This means the balance of your paddle will lean more to the edge of the paddle because more weight is on that side. This is why even just half an ounce of extra weight from lead tape makes a huge difference. When you swing your paddle, the heavier, top side will lag behind and produce much more power! More than just what the weight increase tells you.
This is also one of the best pros of using lead tape. Aside from having a heavier paddle, by strategically choosing where to stick the lead tape you can improve other qualities of your paddle that fit your play style better.
Why Should You Add Lead Tape to Your Paddle
Now that you know what lead tape is and why it works, let’s talk about why you should add this to your own pickleball paddle.
The benefits of lead tape doesn’t stop at increasing the weight of your paddle and making your shots more powerful. You can also use lead tape to improve the control of your paddle, increase the sweet spot of the paddle face, and make your paddle more stable. This works by placing lead tape in strategic areas of your paddle and changing its center of gravity. However, you can’t get all of these benefits at the same time, or at least, max them all out at once.
For example, you can’t get the most power while also getting the most control. Power is generated from weight, and having a heavier paddle is inevitably harder to control. What you can do, however, is increase the power and control moderately. Stronger power means your paddle will weigh heavier, but more control means you won’t struggle with the heavier paddle.
How Much Lead Tape Do You Need
How much lead tape you need generally depends on what you want to improve from your pickleball paddle. Pickleball lead tape is typically sold between 1 to 3 grams in precut strips, but there are also full rolls of lead tape you can buy. Of course, the full roll won’t be the most accurate since you’ll be cutting them by hand. If you aren’t a DIY person, we recommend buying the strips instead.
For reference, an ounce is 28.3 grams, so you’ll need around nine 3-gram strips to increase your paddle weight by a full ounce.
That being said, we recommend buying more than what you think you’re going to need. Lead tape doesn’t really expire, and if you want to make an adjustment to your paddle, it’s better to have extra instead of buying another set of pre cut tape from scratch. This is one of the benefits of lead tape rolls—there’s a lot of extra tape.
How to Add Lead Tape to Your Pickleball Paddle
Adding lead tape to your pickleball paddle isn’t difficult, but you might not be happy with your customization on the first try. It’s very common for players to add too much tape or not add enough. Some even put tape in the wrong areas or find that they wanted to improve control instead of power, vice versa.
So, keep in mind that adding lead tape to your paddle might happen more than once and that’s completely okay. Customizations take a while and so will finding the right orientation for your play style.
Top of The Paddle: Power and Whip
Adding lead tape and weight to the top of your paddle increases the strength and “whip” of your strokes. A whip is when you swing your paddle and the top end lags behind because of the weight. This lag creates a whip-like effect when it hits the ball, increasing the power of your shots. It’s especially stronger when you actually whip your paddle to hit the ball instead of just swinging it.
To get this benefit, add tape to the top edge guard of your paddle. Adding tape to the middle area increases the most power, but you can also add the tape to the top left and top right corners for some power and a bit of stability.
Sides of The Paddle: Stability and Wider Sweet Spot
Lead tape on the sides of the paddle increases stability and widens the sweet spot of your paddle face. A stabler paddle means the angle of your shots are much more accurate. There’s a lesser chance that your paddle face will skew or pivot slightly as you swing. This is especially important for players who are all about dinks and strategic shots, since consistency in your swings is crucial.
A wider sweet spot means that it’s easier to hit the pickleball for maximum power. If you aren’t familiar, a sweet spot is the area on your paddle face that, when hit, generates the most power and control. However, the larger a sweet spot becomes, the lesser the power it generates. So a wider sweet spot doesn’t mean more power!
Bottom of The Paddle: Balance and Control
A pickleball paddle is generally top-heavy. Meaning if you try and balance it by the neck of the paddle or between the handle and the face, the paddle is most likely going to fall on the face-side. Adding lead tape closer to the handle, at the bottom-most area of the paddle face will improve the balance of your paddle.
However, this means that there’s less mass at the tip of your paddle, so your power will inevitably decrease.
Better control, balance, and handling are very good for beginner or elderly players who just aren’t used to holding a paddle. Or, for players who are getting hand fatigue from just holding the paddle for too long.
The Entire Edge Guard: Everything
BUT! What if you absolutely love your paddle, but it’s just a teeny tiny bit light?
Adding lead tape to your entire edge guard will improve everything. More power and more stability, but only slightly improved handling. Why? Because the extra weight on the top and side areas of the paddle will counteract the benefits of adding extra weight at the bottom of the paddle. So, the handling should either even out or only improve a little bit.
Is It Legal to Use Lead Tape for Pickleball Paddles
Considering all the benefits of lead tape, it must be illegal for tournament use the same way some baseball bats are illegal, right? I mean—more power is an obvious advantage.
In reality, it’s actually perfectly legal to use lead tape for your pickleball paddle. It’s even commonly used by pros in tournaments.
What Does the Official Pickleball Rule Book Say About Lead Tape?
In fact, the lead tape is even mentioned in the official pickleball rule book. Here’s what the rulebook made by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) says:
USA Pickleball Rule 2.E.5.a. – Alterations:
The only alterations or additions that may be made to a commercially made paddle are edge guard tape, lead tape, changes to the grip size or grip wrap, and name decals and/or other identification markings on the paddle face.
USA Pickleball Rule 2.E.4. – Weight:
There is no restriction on paddle weight.
The USAPA is in charge of creating rulebooks that all recognized tournaments must follow. They’re one of the biggest and most influential pickleball organizations in the world, so if they say it’s legal, then it’s legal.
How Long Does Lead Tape Last?
Unfortunately, there’s no real metric for how long lead tape will last because the environment, use, and situations are all very diverse.
As a good rule of thumb though, based on my experience and my other pickleball colleagues, lead tape generally lasts around 6 to 9 months. This is with around 4 days of pickleball per week. You can scale this up or down depending on your own use case.