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Which Grip is Best for Basement Ping-Pong Players?

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Photo of Shakehand Deep Grip - Forehand

Shakehand Deep Grip - Forehand

© 2006 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.
There are a number of ways to hold a ping-pong paddle, but which grip is the best for basement ping-pong players?

Seems like a simple enough question, doesn't it? But as for many things in table tennis, the answer is not so simple, and basically boils down to:

It depends.

Not very helpful, you might think. So let's see if we can explain a little more about what you need to consider when choosing a grip to play table tennis.

What Grips Can I Choose From?

Before trying to choose a grip, it's a good idea to check out just what type of grips are possible. I'd suggest spending a little time reading about the different grip types here. This will give you an overview of the basics of each type.

What Type of Player Am I?

Now that you have an idea of the range of grips that are available, you should spend a moment or two thinking about what type of player you plan to be. By this, I simply mean that you should consider whether you plan to play only for fun with family, friends, or workmates, or whether you are open to the possibility of taking the sport more seriously in the future, with the chance of getting into organized competitive play down the track.

Playing For Fun - Grip Recommendations

If you plan to only play for fun, then many people would say that it won't really matter which grip you use, since you won't be too worried about the outcome as long as you enjoy yourself along the way. So according to this theory, the best thing to do is to try each grip out to see which one feels best to you, and then dive in and have fun! And while this is certainly a valid point of view, I'd like to add a couple of suggestions of my own anyway.

Even though some would say that you should use any grip that you like, I'd argue that some grips are a little easier to use than others, and since at least part of the fun in playing ping-pong is winning occasionally, why not use a grip that will help you as much as possible? In which case I would recommend that most basement players should use the shakehand deep grip.

I suggest this grip for a number of reasons, including:

  • Many people will be fairly familiar with some variation of this type of grip to start with, which makes getting used to this grip easier.
  • By holding the racket well up the handle towards the blade, you prevent the racket from moving very much in your hand, making the racket angle more consistent. This makes controlling the ball much easier for new players.
  • It is easy to perform both forehand and backhand strokes with this grip.
  • The main disadvantage of this grip, which is the existence of the playing elbow or crossover point, is minimized since the speed of the rallies is often much less in basement play.
A close runner-up to this grip would be the traditional Chinese penhold grip, which also has a number of advantages. My main concern with basement players using this grip is that the drive stroke with the backhand side can be a difficult stroke to master, since the technique involved is rather awkward in comparison to a shakehand backhand drive. When you add the fact that not many western players use this grip, it is also much harder for the basement player to watch and learn from other players of this style.

I personally would not recommend any of the other types of grips, since these are specialist grips that have evolved for specific purposes, none of which are relevant for basement players who are playing for fun.

Playing for Fun But Considering Competitive Play

If you are contemplating taking up the sport for fun but with an eye to possibly getting competitive later on, then I would slightly modify my recommendations for which grip to use, by adding the shakehand shallow grip to my list, and ranking it just behind the shakehand deep grip.

The reason behind my thinking is that the shakehand shallow grip involves holding the paddle a little further down the handle, giving more flexibility in the choice of racket angles but reducing control, since the racket can move around in the hand a little more, which newer players can find hard to manage. It also increases the wrist leverage you have when swinging the bat, thus increasing the racket speed you can generate, especially on short swings. This extra racket speed is very useful for producing extra power and spin, which are extremely important in the modern competitive world of table tennis.

However, it is fairly easy to change between the shallow and deep shakehand grips, so if you choose one and later on decide to change to the other, you will not have much problem in doing so. I have switched between the shallow and deep grip at several times during my career depending on which style I was playing, and had minimal difficulties in adjusting.

Essentially, the more certain you are that you will want to play competitively later on, the more I would lean towards recommending the shakehand shallow grip over the deep grip. But in any case, switching between the two later on is not a major undertaking, so don't spend a lot of time worrying about it.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that while I am recommending that most players should start with a shakehand grip, whether deep or shallow, this does not mean that you are wrong if you decide to choose the Chinese penhold grip instead, or indeed, one of the other grip variants. While I believe that 90% or more basement players would be better off using a shakehand grip, this does not mean that it is the best grip for everybody. So if you firmly love another grip type and can live with its disadvantages, by all means go ahead. But if you are unsure or can't decide between a couple of grips, I'd suggest that going shakehand is probably the best option.

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