Some coaches are very strict about the way you hold a table tennis bat. You MUST grip the handle like THIS. If you do not, then DISASTER will happen!
I’m a lot more relaxed. Why? Probably because I don’t have an optimal grip myself. Maybe if I changed my grip I would play better, but even with my supposedly wrong grip, DISASTER hasn’t happened. I can hit forehands. I can hit backhands. I can switch between forehands and backhands. I continue to improve. It’s OK! The table tennis Gods haven’t struck me down yet.
I have also witnessed many very good players (much better than me), with ‘wrong’ grips. Heck, I have seen many players with completely bizarre grips (even by my relaxed standards), still achieve very high win percentages in their league matches.
I don’t think there is one exact way you MUST hold a table tennis bat. I don’t think it is even humanly possible, as everyone’s hand shape and size will be slightly different. Some have long, thin fingers. Some have short, fat fingers. Some will have a smaller palm. Others will have a plumper palm. What is a comfortable grip for one player, may seem really awkward for another.
So when I am coaching, I don’t prescribe a specific position. As long as the grip looks something like the images below, then I’m happy. I don’t really care exactly where each finger sits and exactly how high or low the handle is in the hand. As long as the player has a grip which is comfortable to use, and is able to switch between strokes, then there is no need to make a change.
However, there is one important thing you should do, regardless of how you hold your bat, and that is to maintain a loose and relaxed grip.
If you hold the bat too tightly, really strangle the handle, then DISASTER might actually happen. Your shots become stiffer and jerkier. It is harder to generate spin. You have less feeling. You have less speed. Everything tends to get worse. Plus you get tired, much quicker. You fight your own muscles to play shots.
When you have a looser grip, the opposite happens. Your shots become more fluid. You can use your wrist to generate spin. Your shots become faster. You can control the ball better. And you can play for much longer before you get tired.
How loose should your grip be? You need enough pressure to keep the bat in position, but not much more than that. If you pick up your bat and hold it out in front of you. Now just let the weight of the bat bring your wrist down. That’s how loose it should be.
When you’re playing, you may find that you need to add a little more pressure to your bat when contacting the ball. This is absolutely fine. This will help you control the racket angle. But after contact, then the grip loosens again. So think of it like this…
- Shot preparation = loose
- Contact with ball = a little extra pressure
- Follow through & recovery = loose
When players I coach change from having a very tight grip to a loose grip, they almost always experience an instant performance boost. It’s like one of those lightbulb moments … “Oh, wow! This is so much easier. I can’t believe what a difference this makes.”
You should try it too. If you hold the handle really tightly, loosen up. You can keep your usual grip, just hold the bat lightly. Move your wrist in a circular motion. Nice. You have a soft and relaxed grip. You may have to keep reminding yourself to loosen your grip, but over time it will become much more natural. And you will play much better table tennis.