What I Learnt From 10 Weeks of Grip Experimentation

I came back to table tennis training in January after 12 months of coaching Sam for the Expert in a Year challenge. I’d been playing pretty much every day in 2014 but it certainly wasn’t deliberate practice. I felt slow and I realised that I’d picked up a number of bad habits.

One of the areas of my game I was desperate to work on was my grip (that isn’t my hand in the photo above by the way). For as long as I can remember I’ve felt uncomfortable with my grip. There were periods when I tried to change it but I never seemed to make any positive progress. I’d always give up and go back to what I was doing before, or simply not worry about it. From reading a few of the forums it sounds like I’m not alone!

It wasn’t until I was training in Denmark last summer that a light bulb went on. One of the Chinese coaches said something to me that instantly helped me understand what I needed to change.

I made the following video to explain what I learnt about grip, both from that coach in Denmark and also from the last 10 weeks of experimentation. I feel like it has taken me 10 weeks (of playing twice a week) to get my head around exactly what I want to do with my grip but now I am happy and ready to move on with the rest of my game.

I’m going to keep this post short, as the video is long enough, but here are some of the main lessons I learnt from 10 weeks of messing around with my grip…

1. Everyone has a slightly different grip

There was a time when I was looking for ‘the perfect grip’. I thought maybe all the top players know this secret that I don’t and that’s why they seem so comfortable with their grips and I don’t. This simply isn’t true and that kind of thinking can send you mad. Everyone has a slightly different grip and even some of the best players in the world use grips that other players and coaches would say are unorthodox or even ‘wrong’.

2. The pinch is key

The biggest change came from ‘the pinch’. All this means is primarily holding the racket between your thumb and index finger, and loosely wrapping your other fingers around the blade. Sounds simple, right? The only problem is that I’ve been doing the opposite for years; primarily holding the racket between my palm and middle/ring/little finger, with my thumb and index finger gently resting on the rubber. This creates tension and stiffness. The pinch helps to keep the forearm loose.

3. Go for a limp handshake

I hate limp handshakes, but the correct shakehands grip is much more like a limp handshake than a firm one. You want to keep your palm out of it as much as possible, do the work with your finger, and make your hand small instead of big.

4. It’s okay to change your grip

I spent a couple of weeks trying to make sure my fingers didn’t move at all. It was a nightmare. It’s okay to make tiny adjustment with your grip. If your grip is loose this will be easy to do and should happen naturally. It’s only when you are making big conscious decisions to change your grip that perhaps you need to think about sorting it out.

5. Use your wrist

I’ve been using my wrist on backhand loops for as long as I can remember. However, I’ve never really used my wrist on the forehand. I believe this was partly down to my grip. This more relaxed pinch grip makes it much easier for me to flick my wrist into forehand loops and generate a bit of extra spin and speed.

6. Keep the index finger flat

For many years my index finger has not been flat along the surface of the rubber. My knuckle was on the blade handle which meant only the tip of my finger was actually in contact with the bat. By changing so that my whole finger is touching the bottom of my backhand rubber I felt an immediately difference in the amount of ‘feeling’ and control I had over the ball. This was a tip I picked up from reading an article by pro coach Mario Amizic.

7. Does your grip suit your game?

Ultimately, you need a grip that suits your style of play. Perhaps your game has developed around your grip, or maybe you chose a grip that would work well with how you wanted to play. Either way it’s worth thinking about it. I am wanting to play a two winged looping game and therefore I need to find a grip that will allow my backhand to become as strong as my forehand. I also need to be able to switch between the two seamlessly. That is why I am spending so much time on my grip right now.

I hope you’ve found that interesting. It’s been a along couple of months for me but I am finally feeling like I’ve got my head around what I need to do. Now I just need to start doing it in my matches. At the moment I am often reverting to my old grip after I serve which is throwing me off.

Have you had any grip problems yourself? If so, please leave a comment and share your experiences with us all.