How To Hold A Ping Pong Paddle: Shakehand Or Penhold Grip?

As with any sport, the way you hold a ping pong paddle determines the quality of your game play. Mastering the body mechanics of your ping pong grip improves your accuracy, control and potential to generate spin during a game of ping pong. There are several different types of grips that are preferred by experts and coaches and each is recommended for different games and playing styles. 

Why it’s important to choose the right grip

Because ping pong is a game of speed and split-second decisions you have to train your body to respond without thinking and considering your grip on every stroke. Over time, your game will become intuitive as you react without thinking to different situations.

For this reason, it is best to choose and train the proper grip early. Once you have developed poor body mechanics and bad habits it is difficult to re-train your body. When changing your grip or learning a new one, it is normal for your game to get worse at the beginning, which may discourage some people and further entrench poor habits. 

While there is no single perfect grip for every player and style of game, the right grip will allow you to have control and accuracy when attacking and defending, with the split-second responsiveness you need to play well. 

Different styles of ping pong grips

The Shakehand Grip

Shakehand grip front

The Shakehand Grip got its name from the hand position, which closely resembles the pose you would use when shaking hands. It’s a very common grip in western countries and has gained popularity among Asian players as well. 

In the basic shakehand grip, the player has three fingers wrapped around the blade, with their index finger touching the edge of the rubber, and the edge of the blade tucked into the crease between their thumb and index finger. The placement of the edge of the blade within the natural V of the hand is crucial for wrist flexibility and control.

Shakehand grip behind

There are two types of Shakehand grip:

The Shallow Shakehand

In the shallow shakehand, the hand is positioned as above, and the thumb rests lightly curled on the blade. The shallow shakehand is a natural, relaxed way to hold the ping pong paddle, and easy for beginners to learn. 

Pros

  • Comfortable, natural feeling in the hand
  • Great wrist flexibility
  • Can be used forehand or backhand

Cons

  • Less power on attacks
  • Weak crossover point (the “crossover point” is the moment of decision when a player has to decide whether to use a forehand or backhand stroke. Delays in this decision can be crucial in a game)

The Deep Shakehand

In the deep shakehand grip, the hand is placed as described above, but the thumb is slightly raised and relaxes on the rubber of the bat. The deep shakehand grip is often recommended as a starting place for beginners. 

Pros

  • Comfortable, natural feeling in the hand
  • Can be used forehand or backhand
  • Adds power and precision to attacks

Cons

  • The deep shakehand trades the wrist flexibility of the shallow shakehand for the increased power that comes from a stabilized wrist
  • Weak crossover point

The Penhold grip

Example of a Chinese Penhold Grip by Ppong.it. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Penhold Grip is so named because the paddle is held with the blade pointing upward, and the paddle surface pointing downward, much like you would hold a pen. It is the most popular grip among Asian table tennis players, and has gained popularity in the West. 

In the basic penhold grip, the edge of the blade is tucked into the V of the hand, between the thumb and fingers, and the index fingers and thumb are curled around the blade, resting on the rubber. There are three types of Penhold grip.

The Chinese Penhold

In the Chinese Penhold, the blade is held downward, with the index finger and thumb wrapped around as described above. The three fingers of the hand are curled gently along the rubber on the opposite side. 

Check out Chinese player Ma Lin to see the penhold grip in action.

Pros

  • This grip uses the same paddle side for both forehand and backhand strokes, relying on lateral wrist rotation rather than flipping from side to side. This eliminates the crossover point weakness of the shakehand grip.
  • Great wrist flexibility for imparting spin
  • Versatile for both attack and defense

Cons

  • Difficult to impart backhand topspin
  • Playing with the elbow raised and rotating the wrist is physically tiring, which decreases stamina over the course of a game 

The Japanese or Korean Penhold

In the Japanese or Korean Penhold, the thumb and index finger are held in the penhold style. The three remaining fingers are extended along the back of the paddle, with the second finger lying on the rubber in line with the blade, and the remaining two fingers tucked against the second finger. 

Pros

  • This variation adds more power to forehand strokes, as the fingers provide more strength and stability
  • Increased power means that you can stand further from the table

Cons

  • This variation reduces blade movement, which can make it more difficult to return the ball
  • Difficult to master

Reverse Backhand Penhold

In this variation, the player uses the Chinese Penhold grip, but instead of using the front paddle surface, where the thumb and index finger rest, they use the back paddle surface where the fingers are. 

One player who has really mastered this grip is Wang Hao. Check out the video below to see him in action.

Pros

  • Great for games played close to the table
  • Strengthens the backhand 
  • Greater range of arm movement

Cons

  • Because this grip is used low and close to the table, it can be difficult to get the ball over the net
  • Difficult to master

There are other ping pong grip styles, including the pistol grip, the V grip, the Seemiller grip and more, but the shakehand and penhold are the dominant styles in use right now. 

Conclusion 

Most experts recommend that beginners start with the deep shakehand. It’s an excellent, versatile, powerful grip and easier for beginners to learn. Once the shakehold is mastered, an advanced player may experiment with different grips that improve their game according to their style and weaknesses. Each grip has certain advantages and is best for different types of game play, so it’s worth experimenting and finding the best grip for your game. If you’re looking for a new ping pong paddle you can see what our favorites are and read our reviews here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *