Table Tennis Blog
I was asked by an international player my opinion and thoughts regarding handle shape. And how does the grip effect your backhand and forehand strokes?!
I’m not going to lie, I’m not an expert in equipment but I am a great believer in having the best tools to maximise your potential.
I’m also a stickler when it comes to marginal gains and constantly look for that one extra Inch in gains...
As a player I always played with a flared handle. When I started coaching top international table tennis players I noticed a trend in straight handles. So, decided to try it out and quickly adapted, I still play competitively on occasion and must keep up with the trends and changes of the game. The straight handle allowed me to develop my backhand!
I have a slight grip change, a straight handle allowed me to flip from backhand to forehand easily. The only time I’m unable to grip change is if someone is top-spinning at me very fast with a quick change of direction. This is where I would block or attempt to hit a flat forehand kill (not ideal or consistent).
Playing with a flared handle I had a slight off neutral grip which enabled my forehand to be the more dominant side. My backhand was punchier and lacked control plus was limited in terms of open-ups and topspin kick or counter. When I changed to straight handle, my forehand became less hooky and I developed a more solid and all round backhand.
Table tennis has evolved since I began mid to late 90’s. Back then forehands alone were good enough to win you a world title. Today without a backhand you’re effectively handicapped.
So how does the handle and grip effect your game?
What I do know,
- If you make a tight fist your forearm rotation is reduced by 5-10%
- The Chinese Ma Long, Fan Zhendong etc. use a flared handle
- Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov have straight handle, note Timo has a huge grip change.
- your hand size plays a key factor
- The blade and grip influences your backhand and forehand
What I don’t know,
- The science behind the grip and blade, meaning if you took a group of players and scientifically measured results would there be a difference? Us humans are remarkable and we mould and change to our environment. So, if you did tests and found a slight change in power/speed/spin, would those results change after 6 months of practice with a new blade or grip?
- Does the same blade with a different handle give you more power/speed/spin? Possibly with the grip yes but does the handle? And will those stats change after a practiced time scale?!
- Is there a correct or incorrect grip? Timo Boll was World no.1 and currently no.3 with a technicality incorrect grip! Waldner had huge grip changes and still regarded as one of the all-time greats (greatest in my book).
- Should a grip be individualised? Meaning we all have different hand shapes and different styles, should we mould our grips and handles to suit our individual needs?
A grip is important and I often try to implement a traditional grip for all my players. But I have and still pull back at times when I see a player developing their game with resistance to my grip proposal. I’ve seen top players such as Patrick Chila have an extreme grip which saw his hand half way down the handle. Now some would argue that he was never a world champion but others would argue he was a top 20 in the world player. This can be argued both ways, if his grip was better he may have been a top 10 players or possibly vice versa?! Who knows? The answer is he reached top 20 in the world with a technically incorrect handle grip.
Is the handle that important? I think it makes a difference yes and believe there is pros and cons. But I also know we have had world and Olympic champions with three different handles; Pen-hold, flared and straight!
Therefore in my humble opinion your table tennis grip is important in allowing you to execute certain technical strokes and personal execution. But it will not fully determine your capabilities.
The blade handle, regardless of shape has had champions and therefore is inconclusive. We mould and shape our future regardless of the surrounding.
If anyone has any scientific data or opinions on this matter it’s welcomed.
Written by Eli Baraty
eBaTT (Eli Baraty Academy of Table Tennis)
Coach Me Table Tennis Instagram: _elibaraty
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