Just like with tennis and a racket, golf and a driver, cricket and a bat, the way you hold a ping pong paddle can often determine the quality and consistency of your performance.
Making sure you’ve mastered the body mechanics of your ping pong grip not only improves the accuracy of your strokes, it also facilitates control and your ability to generate spin during a match.
In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at two of the most popular grips you can use in ping pong: the Penhold and the Shakehand.
What’s more, we’ll also look to answer a few of the frequently asked questions.
Why Is Grip So Important?
Before taking an in-depth look at the Penhold and Shakehand grips, it’s useful to first understand why choosing the right grip is so important for ping pong performance.
Ping pong or table tennis by nature is a fast-paced game where the body has to react to make split-second decisions.
Therefore, finding a grip that you’re comfortable with, and one that you don’t have to consciously think about every time you take a shot, is essential for optimal performance.
With enough practice, your grip and overall game will become intuitive as you react to different situations without even thinking.
This is why it’s important to choose your preferred grip and practice with it as early as possible, because once you develop bad technique, it’s difficult to re-train the body.
It’s worth noting that there isn’t one perfect grip that’s suitable for every player and style of play.
It’s all about skill level, experience, and individual preference, with the right grip allowing you to have both control and accuracy when attacking and defending.
The Penhold Grip
The first grip we’ll take a look at is the Penhold grip, which is so named because the paddle is held like a pen – with the blade pointing upward and the paddle surface pointing downward.
The Penhold is the most popular style of grip among Asian table tennis players and has recently gained a considerable amount of popularity in the West.
The most basic Penhold grip has the edge of the blade tucked into the V of the hand, while both the thumb and index fingers curl around the blade to rest on the rubber.
There are also three other variations of the Penhold grip.
The Chinese Penhold Grip
Unlike the basic Penhold grip, the Chinese Penhold has the blade held downward.
The index fingers and thumb wrap around the blade similar to the basic Penhold grip, the other three fingers curl along the rubber on the opposite side of the paddle.
- The same paddle side can be used for both forehand and backhand shots, meaning you don’t have to constantly flip from side to side
- Excellent versatility for both attack and defense
- Facilitates a good range of wrist flexibility for imparting spin on the ball
- Lateral wrist rotation and playing with the elbow raised can be tiring
- It’s difficult to impart backhand topspin using this grip
The Reverse Backhand Penhold Grip
This variation is incredibly similar to the Chinese Penhold grip in many ways, but instead uses the back paddle surface to rest the thumb and index finger, rather than the front paddle surface.
- Excellent range of arm movement for both attack and defense
- Well-suited grip for games that are played close to the table
- Sometimes difficult to get the ball over the net due to the fact the grip is used low and close to the table
- Difficult to master compared to other grips
The Korean Or Japanese Penhold Grip
The third variation of the traditional Penhold grip is the Korean or Japanese Penhold where the thumb and index finger remain curled around the blade, but the three remaining fingers are spread along the back of the paddle.
In this grip, the second finger rests on the rubber alongside the blade, while the other two fingers are tucked up against the second finger.
- Finger placement facilitates a greater amount of strength and stability which adds extra power to forehand strokes
- Greater amount of power means you can stand further back from the table
- Often harder to return the ball due to a reduced blade movement
- Considerably more difficult to master than other grip-styles
The Shakehand Grip
The second main type of grip we’ll take a closer look at is the Shakehand grip.
This grip-style is so named because of its hand position which looks similar to the one you’d use to shake hands.
The Shakehand is the most popular style of grip in Western countries, and has recently gained popularity among Asian players.
To use the most basic Shakehand grip, three fingers need to be wrapped around the blade of the paddle, with the index finger resting gently against the edge of the rubber, and the edge of the blade tucked in the crease between the index finger and thumb.
This placement of the blade within the natural V of the hand is not only perfect for improved levels of control, it also facilitates a greater amount of wrist flexibility.
In addition to the traditional Shakehand grip-style, there are also two other variations of the popular grip.
The Shallow Shakehand Grip
The Shallow Shakehand grip has the hand positioned exactly the same as the basic Shakehand grip, but with the thumb lightly curled on the blade.
This variation is a natural and relaxed way to grip the ping pong paddle, making it the perfect choice for beginners.
- Excellent amount of wrist flexibility
- Provides a natural and comfortable feeling in the hand
- Not as much power can be applied on attacking shots
- The crossover point (deciding between a forehand or backhand stroke) is weak with this grip-style
The Deep Shakehand Grip
The Deep Shakehand grip is again similar to the grip-style described above, but the thumb is raised slightly higher to relax on the rubber of the paddle.
This grip is often recommended as a good starting option for new ping pong players.
- Adds a good amount of power and precision to attacks with both forehand and backhand strokes
- The grip of the paddle is natural and feels comfortable in hand
- Lower amount of wrist flexibility
- The crossover point of the grip is weak
Frequently Asked Questions
Are There Any Other Ping Pong Grip-Styles?
Yes, in addition to the Penhold and Shakehand grips, there are a wide range of other styles, including the V grip, the pistol grip, the Seemiller grip, and much more.
However, the Penhold and Shakehand are by far the most dominant styles in use today.
Is Height And Advantage In Ping Pong?
Yes, sometimes height can be an advantage as it makes it easier to hit lobs which shorter players often struggle with.
Furthermore, taller players also have an advantage when it comes to powerful backhand drives with a longer arm providing extra backswing.
Why Are The Chinese So Good At Ping Pong?
China is historically successful at most international ping pong tournaments for a host of reasons.
Mainly that teams and coaches do extensive strategic analysis of the sport and are often pioneers in new table techniques.
This is only enhanced by the fact that China has famously intense training programs for a wide range of sports.
How Does Ma Long Hold His Bat?
The most effective way to apply spin on your strokes is to use the full range of movement of your wrist.
By holding your bat loosely, you can freely accelerate into the ball.
This is why Ma Long always holds his bat loosely when playing, mainly at the edge of the handle.
The Bottom Line
To conclude, there are a wide range of different grip-styles you can choose from when playing ping pong.
Most experts in the game recommend starting with a Deep Shakehand as it’s versatile and very much beginner-friendly.
Once you learn the fundamental basics of ping pong and master the Shakehand grip, players can then move onto different grips to improve their game according to their strengths and weaknesses.
Just keep in mind that each grip has its own set of advantages for certain styles of gameplay.
Therefore, it’s a good idea for all players to experiment with lots of different grip-styles in order to find the best-suited option.
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