Penhold VS Shakehand

This debate has raged on for years as to which is stronger, penhold.. or shakehand... but no more do we debate! Today we dive into the specifics of each of these grips to figure out which style is the true victor. 

(Please note, this is based on my opinion, facts, and research from online sources. If you disagree with anything i'm about to write.. More power to yah. This is an informational post, not a "HEY LOOK I'M MORE RIGHT THAN YOU" post. Thank you.  )



So I have no doubt that since the beginning of the playing of our amazing sport, table tennis, that the grip of the racket has been heavily debated and argued over. And it is true that no grip is truly more powerful than the others, it IS true that each grip has It's unique style, pros, and cons. I want to go over these with the two most "common" grips. Penhold and Shakehand. 


(A quick view of how the two grips can differ. Penhold blades also differ, as their handles are usually shorter.)

Very quickly I must also address the fact that, YES, there are more choices than just these two grips. I could dwelve deeper into those grips (Example the Seemiller or V-Grip) but I'll save those for a different blog.



"Possibly the oldest surviving grip since the table tennis racket took its current shape. This is similar to a tennis grip with the index finger extended over the racket head perpendicular to the handle. This grip allows almost even power distribution over forehand and backhand shots, but has a wider crossover point in between.

Virtually all European players and roughly two thirds of Asian players use this grip." - Wikipedia

 Yah, I used a Wiki entry, but it describes it in the best possible way I could think of. But anyway, the shakehand grip is definately the most popular grip choice. Why is that? Perhaps it is easier to understand, mentally especially, as holding it is simple and swinging is a basic motion. A Con I definately know is the "Cross-over point" the grip has. This is describing the point where you move from forehand to backhand; in the middle of that movement the racket rubbers are facing away from the table and leaves an oppening for attack. (I'm describing as best I can, if you are still unsure, please check out this LINK)

(Timo Boll is an example, as his opponents target his elbow in attempts to "jam' him attacks.)

I actually personally use the shakehand grip and have found it simple to figure out and work with. No... I'm not saying I have perfected it, I am far from having perfect technique (Still working on it!  )  but for the one year I have used it, I have managed to teach myself the strokes with ease. Also there is lots of information on the grip because everyone uses it, so I just have to watch others to learn. Another pro of the grip, compared to penhold, may be the backhand. This is heavily debatable and I will go over it more in the penhold part of this. But basicilly, the shakehand grip has a simple swing for the backhand, where as with penhold you have to slightly modify your grip mid-rally to use the backside of the blade. This can be seen as a disadvantage. Also the classic penhold user (They use a blade with rubber only on the forehand side, since both the forehand and backhand use this one side) has only one side in which to hit the ball, which allows for very little backhand motion besides blocking or sideswipping the ball (chop block). So quick review...

The Pros: It's a simple grip that is common, so information is easily accessable, making it easy to learn its effective strokes.

The Cons: The grip has a "Cross-over point" that can be a weakness if targeted by other plays; the grip has limited wrist movement as well. 


The penhold grip has many variations, including the Traditional Penhold style, where only one side of the blade is ever used for backhand and forehand. In todays modern world, the penhold grip has been advanced to use both sides of the blade to give the penhold grip a unique backhand style. It looks like this...

(Making a face while executing this stroke improves accuracy by 10% apparently)

But even with a "weak" backhand previously, this has not stopped penhold plays from winning the World Cup OR the Olympic games, regularly, as the backhand weakness can be covered with excellent footwork or the penhold backhand loop innovation.This does make the penhold grip very forehand orientated however. Now, even though I play shakehand, I lean towards warnting to learn penhold instead, as I find it very flexible and exciting to work with. With this grip the wrist is a lot more free then a shakehand players' wrist is, this allows for more flexible shots with variations of spin, as well as excellent serves. Along with that, the penhold grip has no "cross-over point" as it's counter-part does. This advantage allows for quick movement, as the blade is usually light as well. So in the end...

The Pros: The grip allows for maximum flexibility of the wrist, allowing for maximum spin. Also the forehand is very strong, making up for a somewhat weaker backhand. Also there is no "cross-over point" like the shakehand grip.

The Cons: Some argue that the penhold grip has a weak backhand (However blocking is excelent and the backhand loop is continously being developed) and that it is not as easy to learn. This may be from the different motion a player has to make in order to execute forehand or backhand.



In the end, we must look at the advantages and disadvantages of both. We see that the shakehand grip is common, and easier to learn, as well as only having a weak "cross-over point" that one must remember about while playing, as that can be an easy target for their opponent. We also see that the penhold grip is a bit more difficult to learn, but can be rewarding as the wrist is more flexible and the forehand can be very powerful, but also the ever developing backhand loop is making it even more deadly. So which one is the winner? 


It is almost impossible to say which grip is better, simply by listing pros and cons of each. When the fact is: no matter the grip, it all comes down to your technique and mindset. The many examples for shakehand are Timo Boll, Jan-Ove Waldner, and Ma Long (to name a few!). The many examples for penhold are Xu Xin, Wang Hao, and Ma Lin! Each player has won many awards,  including world cups, Olympic medals, and sooo many more titles.

Each of these plays only have one thing in common. The drive to win. Their personal preference as to which grip they like to use has no influence as to if they won or lost. The only thing stopping them from winning their game is how much effort they put into it. They didn't think "Oh, I have a weak backhand".. Or think "Oh, I have a cross-over point they are going to target". No. They thought "How can I over-come this problem." You see the difference?

So don't let your grip preference stop you. Don't let it worry you. Try them both, experiment, see which you like more, than just work on it! Learn, develop, experiment! Never use grip as an excuse to stop trying. Try harder. Work harder. And see where it takes you. Oh... and remember...

Always make a funny face. It helps. 




Thank you.

(7/3/2015, 10:19 AM : Last Edit)

Posted in: General
Andrew Williams
Great blog, very informative!
Remington Steele
What are your views on the all American grip?
John C. Waters
I guess I'm not familiar with that grip?