How to Properly Hold a Ping Pong Paddle
Author: Kevin James, 09th Mar, 2023
Are you a beginner ping pong player, fascinated by the intricate skill and unpredictability of the quick-paced game? Perhaps you’re a more seasoned player, looking for ways to further your skills as a table tennis champ?
Regardless of your skill level, the technique will be the foundation of your ability - a base for you to develop your prowess and learn how to play the sport.
The most important part of learning how to play and build on your talent is learning the proper way to hold your paddle or blade, and the earlier you can adapt to a proper technique, the earlier you will see fast and noticeable improvements.
Bad habits are also much harder to break later on!
Holding the paddle with a bad technique decreases your stroke's power, and control. It seems silly to suggest that you could be an infinitely better ping pong player just by adjusting your grip, but the control and power you can gain over the ball will surely make you a winner.
There are two common ways of holding the paddle that we’ll look at today, complete with pictures to help you get to grips…
Ping Pong Grip Types
1) The Shakehand Grip
"Roughly three out of four table tennis players use this grip"
At surface level, Shakehand sounds like an intriguing and exotic method. In reality, it’s named due to its likeness of shaking someone’s hand, as shown in the pictures below.
The Shakehand grip is one of the most common methods of holding the paddle, and is used heavily by professional western table tennis players. The grip is also popular among Asian Players, as it provides a significant amount of control over the ball.
The reason people use the Shakehand method is because it is an incredible ‘all-rounder’ and straightforward. Whilst it doesn’t offer any specific advantage over speed, accuracy or control, it is equally responsive in all three areas. The Shakehand Grip is also fairly simple for beginners and intermediate players to learn.
Paddles with long handle are preferred choice for shakehand grip.
Shakehand Gripping Technique
- To begin with, grip the handle of the paddle as if you were holding onto something, and wrap your hand loosely around it.
- Next, extend your index (pointer) finger across the paddle, as if you were making a ‘gun’ shape.
- Now, where you decide to place your thumb will define whether you are using a shallow or deep hold. Thumb placement is also the main factor that determines which is your stronger side - Forehand or Backhand.
- The power is distributed equally across forehand and backhand strokes, entirely eliminating the need for changing grips during mid-play
- Easiest ping pong grip to learn
- More support from community and coaches
- As it is the most common type of grip, it can become somewhat predictable
- More time is needed to decide whether to use a forehand or backhand side, which could eat into valuable time
There are two primary ‘styles’ of Shakehand, referred to as shallow or deep.
a) Deep Shakehand
This grip utilises a more relaxed thumb position – you might lose out on some accuracy, but you will make up for this in the power you gain.
Your thumb should relax against the rubber of the paddle, pointing upwards to around 10 o'clock.
Deep shakehand grip favors explosive backhand stroke play helping you put more power and spin in your returns.
b) Shallow Shakehand
A more ‘natural’ start point for players. Place your thumb just underneath the rubber part of the paddle, opposite your index finger.
Shallow Shakehand provides a more balanced experience and increased flexibility. This grip supports Forehand and Backhand stroke play equally.
Famous Players who use Shakehand Grip:
Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Vladimir Samsonov, Timo Boll
2) The Penhold Grip
Named the Penhold due to the way the paddle is held, this is another very common grip.
Previously the preferred and dominant technique in Asia, the Penhold grip is an elegant and effective way of commanding the ball. Whilst the exact style used varies from player to player, due to the many different hand positions and the advantages they hold, all varieties of this group utilise holding your paddle as if it were a writing tool.
Paddle with a short handle is the preferred choice for penhold grip.
Penhold Gripping Technique
One thing that Penhold grips have in common is the position of your thumb and index finger. To begin with, open your thumb and index finger to form a C shape – from here you need to place the handle of the paddle (facing down) into the middle of your thumb and forefinger.
Your thumb should press loosely into the rubber on the paddle, whilst the side of your index finger should rest where the rubber on the paddle begins – they should NOT touch.
- Increased control
- More stylish than other grips
- Harder for other players to predict
- Much easier to spin the ball
- Difficult to learn
- Restricts movement
- Can be uncomfortable to learners
a) Chinese Grip
Now that you’ve gripped your paddle, you might be wondering what to do with your fingers on the other side of your bat.
On your backhand side, spread the remaining three fingers such that they're equidistant from one another. This provides a slightly wider area of support on the back of the paddle, and allows for much greater power delivery.
The Chinese penhold grip favors brushing the ball with more energy while compromising a bit on accuracy.
b) Japanese Grip
The Japanese Penhold grip is very similar to the Chinese variant, but offers greater precision and control.
For the Japanese style of the Penhold grip, on your backhand, you should keep your fingers close to another and in some cases stacked on top of one another. They fingers press against each other to provide a bit of extra power – this makes for incredibly strong shots and serves, though it does slow down your paddle movements due to the awkward angles you might need.
Famous Players who use Penhold Grip:
Xu Xin, Wong Chun Ting, Ma Lin
Other Noteworthy Grips
The Shakehand and Penhold grips are the two most popular and well recognised grip styles, but certainly aren’t the only ones available.
It’s worth looking into other uncommon ways to play, such as:
- Pistol grip – A modified Shakehand that emulates holding a pistol. Modified bats can be bought, though if you aim to compete, you may need to check if these are allowed.
- ‘V’ grip – A variant of the Penhold grip, this involves holding the paddle with your thumb and index finger in a V shape around the paddle rather than the handle.
- Seemiller grip – Another variation of Shakehand hold, popularised by Table Tennis legend Dan Seemiller.
You should play around, and see which grip works best for you.
Just remember that whilst a proper grip will give you a head start and teach you the fundamentals, you still need regular practice and choose the right Ping Pong Paddle, if you want to become one of the best!