The Shakehand grip and the Penhold grip are the two most common types of grips in table tennis, each having its advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we take closer look at the features of each, presenting the ups and downs for each grip.
The shakehand grip is the most common type of grip, being used by virtually all European players, and a good part of Asian players as well. This grip, as the name itself shows it, is very similar to shaking one’s hand. The handle of the racket is gripped with the whole hand and the thumb and index rest on opposite sides of the blade. The index finger is extended along base of paddle, on the same side with the other three fingers. The three fingers are curled around the racket handle. The position of the thumb is on the other side of the racket, right at the base of the blade, not touching the rubber.
The shakehand grip is mostly used by players who employ a lot of topspin in their game, being equally good for backhand and forehand strokes. The most important advantage offered by the shakehand is the flexibility of wrist it provides. Another advantage of shakehand is the wider variety of racket choices that exists for this grip, due to its increased popularity.
Beginners should pay attention not to place the index finger around the handle, together with the other three fingers. Also known as the hammer grip, this sort of grip is very restrictive, because it doesn’t allow a lot of wrist movement.
A variety of this grip is when the thumb comes a bit forward, being placed on the rubber and the three fingers are curled around the handle and come closer to the base of the blade; this grip is called deep shakehand. The advantage of the deep shakehand is the control it offers, being usually used for backspin strokes. However, it’s not a grip which allows a lot of flexibility, the range of wrist movement being far more restricted for deep shakehands, that for normal ones.
As for the disadvantages of the shakehand grip in general, you should know that this type of grip has a so-called “crossover point”, that is, a point where players have difficulties in deciding weather to use backhand or forehand strokes.
Firstly introduced by Asian players, the penhold grip soon became popular among European and American players. The penhold grip requires a special type of racket, since the handle for this grip is usually shorter than the handle for shakehand grips. Also, the racket for penhold styles has only one rubber side, being therefore lighter that shakehand bats, while the other side is just painted with color to respect table tennis regulations.
The penhold grip resembles more or less holding a pen, with the thumb and index fingers meeting on the same side of the blade (in some versions even overlap), while the other three fingers are curved on the opposite side of the racket. This type of grip allows a lot of movement for forehand strokes, but restricts a bit the area of movement for backhand strokes. Being more efficient for forehand, most players who use penhold rely on forehand strokes and therefore, compensate the lack of backhand strokes by being more active and moving more, in order to cover the whole table surface.
When the three fingers at the back of the racket lay flat on the paddle, instead of being curved, the grip is called Japanese penhold and is a variety of penhold. This type of penhold gives more power for forehand strokes, being mostly used by forehand attackers.
The main disadvantage of the penhold grip is the restriction it has for backhand strokes. However, unlike the shakehand, the penhold doesn’t have a crossover point, and thus moments of indecision between choosing forehand or backhand are avoided.