If you are new to playing table tennis, you may be unsure exactly how to hold a ping pong paddle. And your confusion is justified, because there are actually quite a few different ways to do so! Shakehand grip, seemiller grip, penhold grip… the methods seem to go on forever.
However, all these methods can really be boiled down to two grip styles, with a few small variations. This article will explain each style in detail, and explain how to decide which is right for you. Achieving the proper grip will make you a much better player, making it all the more important that you choose the style that is right for you.
Before we get into the various grips, it is important to understand the different parts of a ping pong paddle.
A table tennis paddle is basically made up of three parts: the handle, the blade and the rubber.
- Handle: The part of the table tennis paddle that you hold with your hand.
- Blade: The inner part of the paddle, made up of layers of woods and sometimes carbon fiber.
- Rubber: This covers both sides of the paddle. One side is always red and one side black, so that the opponent can easily tell the type of stroke a player is making.
The Importance Of Choosing The Right Grip
There are important factors you should consider in choosing your grip when you play ping pong.
- Experience level: If you are an experienced player, you are probably used to a particular grip style. For you, now could be the right time to start experimenting with different grips. But if you are a beginner, you likely do not yet have the expertise to properly assess different methods. You should probably start with the shakehand grip, as this one feels the most comfortable.
- Play style: Professional players tend to hold the paddle differently depending on their play style. Finesse players who frequently switch between forehand and backhand strokes often favor the penhold, while power players tend to favor the shakehand.
- Age: Older players may struggle with the penhold grip because it puts strain on the wrist. If you struggle with wrist pain for any other reason you should also avoid it.
Choosing the right paddle grip is important for all table tennis players. This is because the ping pong grip you choose has a significant effect on how you play.
Whichever method you choose, it is important to learn how to grip a ping pong paddle properly. Without further ado, we’ll get into the details of how to achieve each table tennis grip below.
Types Of Ping Pong Grips
We’ll go through all the different methods of holding a table tennis paddle.
The Shakehand Grip
The shakehand grip got its name from the shape your hand makes when shaking someone’s hand. To achieve this grip, stretch your index finger across the edge of the rubber, with your remaining fingers wrapped around the handle. The edge of the handle should be tucked into the crease between your thumb and index finger in a natural V grip.
The shakehand grip is the most common grip in the USA and is gaining popularity in Asia too.
For a shallow shakehand grip, position your fingers as described above, and curl your thumb lightly around the handle. The shallow shakehand provides a comfortable feel, and decent wrist mobility, making it a good choice for beginners. However, it does not provide a lot of power on attacks, and can cause delays when changing between forehand and backhand strokes.
In a deep shakehand grip, the fingers are placed the same as above, but the thumb is raised so that it relaxes on the rubber of the bat. The deep shakehand grip is still comfortable, but provides a little more power in attacks. However, there is still the issue of a weak crossover point, and the deep shakehand does not provide as much flexibility in the wrist.
The penhold grip is named after the way one holds a pen when writing. There are a few different penhold grips, but they all have in common that the thumb and index finger form a C-shape around the handle. In a basic penhold grip, the paddle should face down into the middle of your thumb and index finger, which both press lightly into the rubber.
The penhold grip is the most common grip style across Asia. Recently, more Western players are beginning to use it too.
The Chinese penhold grip is the style popularized by world champion Wang Hao. To achieve it, place your thumb and forefinger as described above, with your remaining fingers curled gently along the rubber on the opposite side.
The Chinese penhold allows the player to switch between backhand forehand side with wrist rotation rather than elbow rotation, making this faster. It also allows great wrist flexibility and thus better control. However, it is a little tricky to master and can strain the wrist.
Frequently Asked Questions
The different ways to hold a ping pong paddle are broadly the shakehand grip and penhold grip. Within these wider categories, there are a few variations. A shakehand grip may be shallow or deep, and the Chinese penhold grip is slightly different to the classic penhold. There is also the Seemiller grip, although this is much rarer.
There are two sides to a ping pong paddle so that a player’s opponent can always tell whether they are making a forehand or backhand stroke. The forehand side of the paddle is red, while the backhand side is black. Being able to tell immediately what stroke your opponent has made allows you to make split second decisions about how to react, as the ball will have a different spin depending on the stroke type.
You hold a ping pong paddle forehand by keeping the red side forward. Other than that, both the penhold and shakehand grip can be used for a forehand stroke. However, the penhold allows you to switch between strokes more quickly as you do so by rotating the wrist rather than the elbow.
Shakehand is better for beginners because it is easier to master and feels more natural. However, the best way to hold the paddle differs between different players according to playing styles. For example, if you switch often between forehand strokes and backhand strokes, the penhold grip may be best for you. In contrast, if you are a power player rather than a precision player, the deep shakehand may suit you best.
Yes, there is a difference between the red and black side of a ping pong paddle. The red side is the forehand side, and the black side is the backhand side. It is important to always keep the red side forward, as the color difference is how your opponent can quickly discern whether you are making a forehand or backhand stroke.
Hopefully, you now understand all the different table tennis grips as well as the importance of choosing the best grip for you when deciding how to hold a ping pong paddle during your play. While many professional players are beginning to choose the penhold grip, if you are a beginner, you should probably stick to shakehand.
But feel free to experiment with different styles! Just note that your performance is likely to take a dip when trying a totally new style, so give yourself a little time to get used to it before passing judgment.