When starting a new sport, there are certain technical fundamentals you need to learn. Ping pong/table tennis is no different. The paddle may be of simple structure and appearance, but gripping it correctly can make or break you as a player, especially if you want to go from being a casual player to playing competitively.

Additionally, learning how to hold a ping pong paddle properly is vital when starting your journey to improving your game. Old habits die hard and it is worth putting up with the initial discomfort of a new grip style so that you can reap the performance rewards down the line. 

In this article, we are going to discuss and explain a few of the most commonly used (and most favored by professional players) methods of how to hold a ping pong paddle. We will explain to you how to perform these grips and give you the performance pros and cons of each. Once you have finished reading this guide, you will have a clear idea of which grip style you should choose for your playstyle and how to perform it!

The Shakehand Grip

The shakehand grip gets its name from its similarities to shaking someone’s hand. To use a shakehand grip, simply grab the paddle with one hand, and place your index finger somewhat horizontally across the bottom of one side.

This can be a little tricky to visualize so we have included an image of someone using a shakehand grip below:

how to hold a ping pong paddle
Shakehand Backhand view sourced from Wikimedia
Shakehand Forehand view sourced from Wikimedia

Why use the Shakehand Grip?

The shakehand grip is a great all-rounder and is the grip of choice for the vast majority of players, both casual and competitive. Most people will find this to be the most comfortable way to hold a paddle, for most players, it also offers the best combination of speed, spin, and control.

The key to the shakehand grip effectiveness is the presence of the index finger on the back of the paddle. The index finger pressing lightly up against the back of the paddle provides control and stability. Not having the index finger at the back would result in the paddle turning in your hand while you are making shots and you as a player not knowing the angle the face of the paddle is pointing! 

Another key point to consider when using the shakehand grip is grip pressure. Many players tend to “strangle” the paddle as they feel the tighter grip will result in more power. Resist all temptations to do this! Holding the paddle too tight is going to limit the mobility of your wrists making it really difficult to generate any kind of spin.

Instead, hold the paddle lightly allowing for smooth wrist movements. As a guideline, if someone were to try and pull the paddle out of your hand, they should be able to do so without having to struggle. This is a great way to test that you are not holding the paddle too tight.

Pros & Cons of the Shakehand Grip

  • By far the easiest grip to learn
  • The grip style used by the majority of competitive players
  • You can use both sides of the paddle effectively.
  • Crossover point between forehand and backhand. This can result in you not reacting to certain shots fast enough.

We’ve reviewed some paddles here, which are perfect for the Shakehand grip.

The Penhold Grip

The Penhold grip is the second most common way to hold a ping pong paddle. To perform a penhold grip, have the handle facing upwards and then encircle your thumb and pointer finger around the handle of the paddle. Now with the penhold grip, there are two different ways you can place your fingers on the paddle.

The first of these is to have them curled up. Having the fingers curled up against the paddle allows for more fluid wrist movement when making shots which some more flashy players may prefer. 

Have a look at an example of a penhold grip using the curled up fingers method below:

Curled Penhold Grip sourced from Wikimedia

The alternative to this is to have the fingers spread across the back of the paddle. The benefit of this variation is that you have a little more control over the head of the paddle. It may feel like a more comfortable, more reliable grip for many players.

Have a look at an example of a penhold grip using the spread finger method below:

Spread Finger Penhold Grip sourced from Wikimedia

At the end of the day, the variation of the penhold grip you decide to use should come down to personal preference. Choose the variation that feels the best and allows you to play as best possible.

Why use the Penhold Grip?

While the Penhold grip is significantly less commonly used, it does offer some benefits to certain players based on their playstyle. One major advantage of the penhold grip is the increased wrist mobility it provides. This makes it the grip of choice for many players who favor wristy, spin-based playstyles.

Another advantage of the Penhold grip is that it removes the issue of the crossover point that you have with the more commonly used Shakehand grip. The reason for this is that you are able to use the same side of the paddle to play both forehand and backhand shots. This can be a major advantage in some cases as you can react to shots that take you by surprise much faster!

We’ve also reviewed a paddle that is ideal for the Penhold grip.

Pros & Cons of the Penhold Grip

  • Increased wrist mobility
  • Eliminates the issue of a crossover point
  • Uncomfortable for most players
  • Backhand play is much more difficult than it is with the Shakehand grip

So Which Grip is Right for You?

Well, the answer is: It’s a matter of personal preference. That may not be an easy, clear answer but it’s the truth! Our suggestions would be to carefully analyze the pros and cons of each of the grip types as described above and to try them both out.

Different grips suit different players and at the end of the day, putting them both into practice and seeing which feels and performs better for you will give you your answer. The reality is, across the professional circuits, both shakehand and penhold grips are used. One is not better than the other. So what are you waiting for! Set your table up and start experimenting with grip styles!

Have a look at our paddle reviews – you may find a paddle that fits your grip.

Are you a Shakehand or Penhold player? Let us know in the comments below!