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In this post, I will show you some guidance on how to hold a ping pong paddle properly. Not only that, but I will also give you some insight into the difference between backhand and forehand grips, as well as some tips and tricks from professional players.
The shakehand grip
First thing first, when introduced to table tennis, perhaps most of us will use a universal grip which is known as the ‘shakehand’. The following steps are designated for right-handed players; left-handed ones must invert the side in order to perform this technique properly.
Hold the racket loosely, make sure that the web is between your thumb and your index finger and touch the blade’s curve. Take a look at the picture below to understand how to do a shakehand grip.
While holding the paddle, ensure that your index finger should rest along the edge of the backhand side and your thumb is laid against the bottom edge of the forehand side. Keep your wrist straight with your forearm; always remember not to adjust the angle too much.
On the surface level, shakehand grip is an excellent ‘all-rounder’ and straightforward method. It does not specify advantage over speed, accuracy or control, but equally response to those three areas. This method is considered a relatively simple way for beginners and intermediate players to take up.
What I have been writing above is just a surface understanding of the shakehand grip, now I will introduce you the in-depth guide on how to master this style.
There are two primary styles of shakehand grip: Shallow and Deep.
Deep shakehand grip
Deep shakehand grip focuses on a more relaxable thumb position, which will make your strike more powerful but in turn, lose some accuracy. Your thumb should relax against the rubber, pointing upwards to around 10 o’clock. This method is used when a player has an explosive backhand stroke, thus enabling you to put more power and spin into your returns.
Shallow shakehand grip
This is a more natural starting point for most players. In order to hold a table tennis paddle following this style, you should place your thumb just underneath the rubber part, opposite to your index finger. This method provides a more balanced experience and flexible footwork. Forehand and Backhand stroke is equally supported by this grip.
There are many professional players using Shakehand grip frequently in their career such as Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Vladimir Samsonov and Timo Boll.
The reverse shakehand grip is a penhold grip, which is not too much different from its counterpart but give the player an advantage on the forehand, thus enabling you to serve more effectively. However, this type has an inherent weakness on the backside, requiring the player a certain skilled set of footwork.
This grip is named penhold is because it resembles holding an actual pen and is a reasonably common grip. This method is previously the preferred and dominant technique in Asia. Besides, it is considered an elegant but powerfully effective way of controlling the ball. The exact style may vary from player to player due to the different hand positions and the advantages they hold, altogether utilize from holding your paddle as if you were holding a pen. Therefore, the most short-handed paddle is used for a penhold grip. In the next part, I will provide detailed information about how to hold a table tennis paddle in this style properly.
The one thing that Penhold grips have in common is the ways you lay your thumb and your index finger. For the beginner, first open your thumb and index finger to form a C-shaped position, from here you need to place the handle of your paddle facing down into the middle of your thumb and your forefinger. After that, your thumb should press loosely into the rubber on the paddle, while your index finger side rests where the rubber on the paddle begins. Keep in mind that they should not touch altogether.
The Chinese style
Another playing technique that would be a good fit for the new players who are interested in table tennis would be the conventional Chinese penhold grip. That being the case, the next question will automatically be how to hold a ping pong paddle in Chinese Style. In other words, what is the Chinese penhold grip? Before even moving any further, as the name suggests, this grip is synonymous with grasping a pen intended for writing. It consists of the index finger and the thumb holding on to the table tennis racket handle when the other three fingers are curled around the backside of the racket. The main idea behind this efficient grip is to simply ensure that the player is comfortable while handling the ping pong paddle.
There are some variations put into this style, such as:
- Placing the thumb near parallel with the blade while the index finger curves the racket.
- Creating a varying gap between the thumb and the index finger
- Allowing the index finger to overlap the inch slightly
- For further convenience and comfort, you can just let the remaining fingers touch the blade
- Moving the position of these remaining fingers on the back of the blade, middle or even placing them on the base as it best suits you.
Backhand and Forehand stroke
When you are more familiar with table tennis, it is time you learn advanced ways of holding a ping pong paddle – the backhand and forehand stroke.
In table tennis, when people talk about their forehand and backhand strokes, they are usually referring to their groundstrokes. These are the main strokes used during baseline rallies. The main difference between the strokes is visible, while other differences are more subtle and are related to your style of play.
In the next table, I will cover the differences between Backhand and Forehand stroke.
|Explanation||A forehand shot is primarily hitting the ball with your hand’s most natural position. For example, a right-hander would hit the ball from the right side of his body, and vice versa.
|A backhand shot involves turning your arm slightly across your body to hit the ball.|
|Stance||1. Position your body so that the ball comes to your natural side.
2. Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
3. For right-handers, let your right foot be slightly behind your left (for power generation )
4. Knees bent, body crouched (leaning forwards), both arms out in front of you.
|1. Position your body square to the line of play – this means both feet should point diagonally towards your opponent.
2. Knees bent, body crouched (leaning forwards), both arms out in front of you with a slight bend at the elbow.
|Backswing||1. As the ball approaches, rotate your body slightly to the right from your hips.
2. Shift some weight to your back foot.
3. Keep your racket at about a 45 degree angle.
|1. As the ball approaches, bring your racket towards your body
2. Keep your body aligned and balanced.
|Strike||1. Once you’re ready to hit the ball, rotate your body back forwards.
2. Transfer your body weight back from the back foot to the front front.
3. Try to hit the ball at the peak of the bounce.
4. For a forehand drive (more power), try accelerating your forearm slightly as you make contact.
|1. Once you are ready to hit the ball, move your arm towards the ball.
2. Tap the ball to push the ball forwards, and use your wrist for more power and direction.
|Finish||1. Your follow-through should leave the racket in front of your body, pointing in the direction where you’ve hit the ball.
2. Move back to your ready stance for your return
|1. Your follow-through should follow the ball to the direction you have aimed
2. Recover to your ready position and anticipate the next shot.
In conclusion, there are many ways to hold a ping pong paddle properly. The more proper you hold, the more chance you will outplay your opponents. The aforementioned guidelines are a summary of all playstyles, as well as pros and cons and differences. I hope that from this post you will find a perfect method to practice and take your skills to the next level.