Why is it important to hold the Table Tennis Racket correctly?
When a beginner starts to learn to play table tennis, the first thing to learn is how to hold a table tennis racket. This is the first step in playing table tennis well. In the game, the grip method directly determines the quality of the game.
Therefore, a reasonable grip will improve the performance of the game. Note that I’m talking about the proper grip, not the correct one. Many people think that there is only one way to grip the racket.
But in fact, with the continuous improvement of the player’s level, the grip will change slightly, and even in the same game, the high-level player will adjust the grip according to the change of the ball path.
Of course, it is best first for beginners to maintain a fixed grip to avoid the action’s deformation. Before we start, you can make reference How to choose your best table tennis racket in 2022 if you don´t do know how to choose a proper table tennis racket. According to Wikipedia, there are two kinds of grips. Let’s take a look at what they are and what their pros and cons are.
How to hold a table tennis racket?
Holding a racket correctly can give the player control, comfort, and speed. Actually, there are two main different ways to hold the racket in table tennis: the shakehand grip and the penhold grip.
You can try both grips at first, and as you get comfortable with the grip, try playing with a more relaxed hand and experimenting with slightly different positions to find what fits you best. We shall introduce the detail of two distinct grips. Please follow us and keep reading.
The Shakehand Grip
The shakehand grip got its name from the form of the fingers, which is similar to the situation when you shake hands with others.
The key point is to hold the handle of the racket with your hands in the form of “V”, the middle finger, ring finger, and little finger are bent to hold the handle.
The index finger is naturally straight and attached to the back of the racket. And the strength of the grip should be comfortable to rotate the wrist.
There are two types of Shakehand Grip:
The Shallow Shakehand:
Use the middle finger, ring finger, and little finger to hold the handle naturally, the thumb is lightly attached to the front of the racket next to the middle finger, the index finger is naturally straight and obliquely placed on the back of the racket.
The position of the form “V” between the thumb and the index finger should be adjusted appropriately according to the use of the forehand and the backhand.
When the forehand is used, the position of the “V” is biased towards the thumb and the backhand is biased towards the index finger.
The shallow grip of the horizontal shot allows flexible use of the wrist due to the loose grip.
The Deep Shakehand:
The deep grip is basically the same as the shallow grip, but the “V” is closer to the racket.
The best way to hold a deep grip is to straighten the right hand, place the index finger and thumb horizontally, and place the racket between the index finger and thumb with the left hand.
The position of the index finger and thumb can be adjusted according to one’s own habits.
The penhold grip
Similarly, penhold grip gets its name from the form of holding the paddle, which is much like holding a pen. It is the most popular grip among Asian ping pong players, especially in the years of 80s or 90s.
The correct way of penhold grip is not difficult. It can be simply defined as “holding an egg in your hand” or “holding a table tennis ball in your hand”, which is very similar to the traditional method of holding chopsticks. There are three important points.
First, the index finger and thumb that clasp the paddle like a pair of chopsticks.
The second is that the other three fingers are placed behind the board, and the middle finger needs to be placed in the middle of the board, and the other two fingers can be bent naturally.
Thirdly, pay attention to the entire handshape at this time, which is in the form of a cavity. In the palm, you can hold an egg or a ping pong ball. This is also the origin of “holding an egg” and “holding a table tennis ball”.
Step-by-Step Guide to Holding the Racket Correctly
Finding Your Dominant Hand
Finding your dominant hand is a crucial step in determining the most suitable table tennis racket grip for you. Your dominant hand will have more control and precision during gameplay, so it’s essential to identify it correctly.
To find your dominant hand, start by standing in a relaxed position with your arms naturally hanging by your sides. Then, raise both hands in front of you, forming a triangle by touching your thumbs and index fingers together, leaving a small space between them.
Next, focus on an object in the distance, such as a poster or a clock on the wall. Keep your hands together and your eyes fixed on the object as you bring the triangle formed by your thumbs and index fingers toward your face.
Observe which hand remains dominant and covers the object while keeping the triangle intact. The hand that covers the object without any difficulty is your dominant hand.
Shakehand Grip Technique
The shakehand grip is the most commonly used grip in table tennis, and mastering it will provide you with excellent versatility in your gameplay. Follow these steps to achieve the shakehand grip:
- Place the table tennis racket head on your dominant hand with the rubber side facing upwards. The racket head should be at the base of your fingers and rest against your palm.
- Wrap your fingers around the racket handle naturally. Your fingers should form a gentle curve around the handle, promoting a comfortable grip.
- Position your index finger along the backhand side of the racket, extending towards the blade. This finger will play a crucial role in executing backhand shots effectively.
- Let your thumb rest on the forehand side of the racket, allowing for better control and power when hitting forehand shots.
- Ensure that your grip remains relaxed throughout the game. Avoid squeezing the racket too tightly, as this may hinder your wrist movement and flexibility.
Penhold Grip Technique
The penhold grip is another popular grip style, especially in Asian countries, and offers unique advantages for certain types of shots. To achieve the penhold grip, follow these steps:
- Hold the table tennis racket with your dominant hand as if you are holding a pen or chopsticks. Your thumb and index finger should grip the handle, with the rest of your fingers forming a loose grip.
- Position your thumb along the backhand side of the racket, while the index finger should be on the forehand side. This finger positioning allows for the effective execution of both backhand and forehand shots.
- Pay close attention to your wrist movement when using the penhold grip. The flexibility of your wrist is essential in generating power and spin during shots.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Gripping Too Tightly
One of the most prevalent mistakes that table tennis players often make is gripping the racket too tightly. While it might seem intuitive to hold the racket firmly for better control, an excessively tight grip can have adverse effects on your gameplay. When you grip the racket too tightly, it restricts the natural movement of your wrist and forearm, making it challenging to generate the required power and spin during shots.
Additionally, a tight grip can lead to tension in your muscles, causing fatigue and reducing your overall performance on the table. Players who grip the racket tightly may find it difficult to execute precise shots and tend to make more errors in shot execution due to the limited flexibility and fluidity in their strokes. To avoid this common mistake, strive to maintain a relaxed grip on the racket, allowing for more fluid and natural movement during your table tennis sessions.
Incorrect Finger Placement
Another common error to watch out for is placing your fingers incorrectly on the racket handle. Proper finger placement is crucial in table tennis, as it directly impacts your ability to switch between forehand and backhand shots quickly and effectively.
When holding the racket, ensure that your index finger is placed on the backhand side of the racket, while your thumb rests on the forehand side. This positioning allows for seamless transitions between different shots, enabling you to respond to varying game situations with ease. Incorrect finger placement can lead to awkward grip adjustments mid-game, leading to decreased shot accuracy and a potential advantage for your opponents. Practice maintaining the correct finger placement during drills and matches to develop muscle memory and improve your shot execution.
Overlooking Wrist Movement
The effective use of wrist movement is a fundamental aspect of successful table tennis gameplay. Neglecting to utilize your wrist effectively can significantly limit the range of shots you can execute, reducing your overall effectiveness on the table.
Your wrist plays a pivotal role in generating spin and controlling the direction of the ball during shots. By incorporating proper wrist movement, you can add variations to your shots, making them more unpredictable and challenging for your opponents to anticipate and return. Without adequate wrist movement, your shots may become predictable and easier for your opponents to counter.
To enhance your wrist movement, focus on practicing shots that involve wrist flicks, such as topspin and backspin shots. Additionally, engage in drills that specifically target wrist flexibility and control. Regular practice will help you develop the necessary wrist strength and coordination, elevating your table tennis skills and making you a more formidable player on the table.
The comparison of both 2 grips
Now let’s have a look at the pros and cons of the shakehand grip and penhold grip from the following aspects:
Shakehand grip: Very comfortable and suitable for beginners, like holding a knife
Penhold grip: Beginners will feel uncomfortable as if they are just learning to use chopsticks. And it needs the support of the thumb, middle finger, and index finger these three fingers instead of the whole palm.
- Forehand and backhand conversion
Shakehand grip: Forehand and backhand can change freely and quickly.
Penhold grip: Rely more on the adjustment of the fingers.
Shakehand grip: Less variability, especially difficult to deal with the ball in net zone.
Penhold grip: The path of the ball can be changed rapidly, and the spin is more confusing.
- Explosive power
Shakehand grip: With greater explosive power, especially in the backcourt.
Penhold grip: With less explosive power, only can be dominant in the net zone.
It is not difficult to see from the above comparison that the shakehand grip is relatively stable and comfortable.
However, due to the limitation of the grip, some delicate balls are weak in handling, and their variability and suddenness are not as good as penhold grip.
Although the penhold grip is more difficult to get started, it relies on the fingers to adjust the force, which is more flexible and changeable.
Whether it comes to serving or receiving, it can hit the ball with high skill, and the explosive power of the shakehand shot is much stronger.
With the development of table tennis, the ping-pong ball has become bigger, and the spin of the ball is getting weaker.
Nowadays, there are fewer athletes using penhold grip in world competitions. If this continues, in the next five years, it seems that penhold grip will likely be replaced by shakehand grip.
The main reason why the penhold grip has been weakened in the era of big balls is the backhand.
Although some techniques can make up for the shortcomings of the backhand, it is still difficult for the penhold grip to compete with the shakehand grip.
What’s more, now that the players have become more well-round in both forehand and backhand, as well as the backhand of the shakehand grip is getting stronger and stronger, players who use shakehand grip could be able to take care of the whole table.
On the contrary, for those penhold grip players, once the opponent can’t be killed with one board, it will become very passive.
Therefore, if penhold grip players want to make breakthroughs in the future, they must strengthen their backhand skills.
Developing a Comfortable Grip:
Practice and Repetition
Like any skill in table tennis, developing a comfortable grip on your racket requires dedicated practice and repetition. The more you practice, the more familiar and natural the grip will feel. Regularly engage in drills that focus on gripping the racket correctly and play matches to reinforce your grip technique.
During practice sessions, pay close attention to how you hold the racket, ensuring that your fingers are wrapped comfortably around the handle. Avoid gripping the racket too tightly, as this can lead to tension and restrict your wrist movement. Instead, aim for a relaxed and flexible grip that allows for smooth maneuverability during shots.
Consistency is key in developing muscle memory, so practice regularly and be patient with yourself. Over time, your grip will become more instinctive, and you’ll find yourself focusing more on the game and less on how you hold the racket.
Grip Adjustments for Different Shots
As you progress in your table tennis journey, you’ll encounter various shots that require specific grip adjustments for optimal performance. Different shots, such as forehand loops, backhand drives, and topspin serves, may benefit from slight tweaks in your grip to achieve better control and power.
For example, when executing a topspin shot, you may want to slightly loosen your grip to allow for more wrist movement, generating topspin on the ball. On the other hand, for a powerful backhand drive, a slightly firmer grip may be necessary to maintain stability and control during the stroke.
Experiment with different grip adjustments during practice sessions to find what works best for each shot. As you become more familiar with the nuances of your grip and how it affects your shots, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how to adapt your grip to different playing situations.
Remember that developing a comfortable grip is a continuous process of refinement and adaptation. Keep an open mind, be receptive to feedback from coaches or more experienced players, and be willing to make adjustments to improve your grip technique.
But for those beginners, we suggest that they should choose the form of a grip according to their feeling.
Honestly speaking, there is no so-called “best” way to hold a table tennis racket after we figure out everything.
Each grip has certain advantages and it is suitable for different types of players. So it’s worth spending more time finding the best match choice.