Pendhold vs. Shakehand: Table Tennis Physics

Victor Popovich compares the kinesthetics and attack angles of Penhold and Shakehand grips at exhaustive length, complete with diagrams and thought experiments:

Because of the 12 degree distortion of the attack angle, the greater a penholder accelerates his arm (racquet) the closer the angle of the attack!
So a penhold player does not need to decrease the attack angle, because this is done automatically when he accelerates his arm with a relaxed wrist. The greater a penholder accelerates his arm, the greater the difference between actual speed of the racquet and the “edge” speed. But there is a compensation “mechanism” that does not allow the ball getting out of the edge. This “mechanism” is the closing of the attack angle of the racquet, during the acceleration.

Popovich is the inventor of a new table tennis paddle, the Popovich paddle, designed to compliment his own preferred grip and style of play.

The Penhold Grip


Penhold GripEastern players, generally speaking, often prefer the Penhold. It’s a “reversed” grip, with the handle of oriented downwards as though holding a pen.

There are three major variants on the Penhold grip: the traditional Chinese Penhold, the Japanese/Korean Penhold, and the Reverse Penhold Backhand. In general,the Penhold is as much a style of play as it is a grip:

This grip allows the wrist to move quite freely, which will give good forehand strokes and all types of serves. It also allows the player to block and push easily on the backhand side.

Another advantage is that the player does not have a crossover point where he must decide which side of the bat to use, since the same side is always used to play all strokes.

The Shakehand Grip


Shakehand GripThe predominant Western table tennis grip is the Shakehand, and it is often the first grip mastered by beginning players. Ben Larcombe, a London-based table tennis coach, has a simple, accessible primer on the Shakehand grip available on his web site, “Expert Table Tennis”:

A lot of beginners try to play with two fingers on the bat, or no fingers (hammer grip). Some put their thumb up on the forehand rubber, others don’t wrap their fingers around the handle properly. Many have too big a gap between their hand and the top of the handle. I always emphasise that you should ‘shuffle/slide’ your hand up the handle until it reaches the top and then hold that grip loosely.

If you play in the Western world, chances are you will be exposed to mostly Shakehand players. It’s a powerful, simple grip with a easy switch from fore- to backhand play.

Choosing the Right Table Tennis Grip

Best GripOne of the first elements that any beginning player must master is a proper grip. Strokes, serves, and proper return strategy all follow from having flexible and consistent paddle control.

There is no one, perfect table tennis grip that suits everyone in all circumstances. At first, the choice of which grip to pursue is essentially arbitrary, and new players often default to using the same grip as their coach or fellow players. With time, however, they will develop their own preferred table tennis strategies and can select a grip which compliments their strengths.

This week, we’ll examine three table tennis grips: the shakehand, penhold, and seemiller, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each. By the end of the week, you should have a good idea which of these three grips best compliments your playing style, as well as the tactical strengths and weaknesses of each.

Tomorrow, we’ll start with the most common “Western” table tennis grip: the shakehand. See you then!

How To Be A Table Tennis Official

We really appreciate your interest in becoming a table tennis official. It’s only through the service of dedicated volunteers that our sport continues to grow and thrive.

Volunteering your service as an umpire is the best place to start. Umpires are the officials who rule over specific matches, table-side, so sharp eyes and sound judgment are a must. You’ll need to know what calls to makehow to signal them, and be able to exercise fair discretion in ambiguous situations.

When you feel you’re ready, why not contact a certified referee and offer your services? They will be able to guide you as you work your way to positions of greater responsibility, over time, and can help you make the necessary connections to advance within officialdom.

Thank you again for volunteering. We hope to see you, court-side!

Understanding Red And Yellow Cards

Confused about the red and yellow card system in table tennis? It’s not exactly like those in other sports, so a refresher is probably a good idea before you umpire your first match. 

Newcomers to the sport of table tennis will likely be confused by the sight of yellow and red cards during matches. Although they aren’t technically new to the sport, their meaning can be somewhat difficult to understand, especially for beginners. This creates a troubling scenarios for players trying to abide by the rules and play a “legal” game of table tennis. If you are interested in learning more, keep reading and we’ll breakdown the card system in table tennis and reveal what exactly the red and yellow cards mean.