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In table tennis, there are two primary ways of holding, or gripping, the racquet. Each grip lends itself to a different style of play, and there are pros and cons to each grip. The decision of which grip to use is an important one for all new players.

Shakehands grip:

This is the most popular grip, both in professional and recreational play. The racquet is held, as the name suggests, like you would grip someone's hand when shaking it. More specifically, the player's middle, ring, and pinky fingers wrap around the handle of the racquet, lined up perpendicular to the length of the racquet. The thumb and index finger are held on opposite sides of the racquet, pointing straight out. The index finger should rest on the bottom edge of the backhand face of the racquet.

The racquet itself is double-sided, i.e. it is covered with rubber on both sides. This is one of the advantages of the shakehands grip, in that you can use opposite sides of the racquet for forehands and backhands. This leads to a more balanced style of play. It is also easier to defend (block) using this grip. Probably more comfortable and intuitive as well, especially for tennis players.

Penholder grip:

This grip is considered more traditional than the shakehands grip, and is popular in Asia. The racquet is held vertically, like a pen, with the handle resting between the thumb and index finger, which curve around the handle to rest on the face of the racquet. The remaining fingers curl up and rest on the back of the racquet.

With this grip, only one face of the racquet is used. Therefore, racquets designed for this grip usually only have one face covered with rubber. The major strength of the penholder grip is a very powerful forehand compared to the shakehands grip. The forehand stroke has an uppercut motion, resulting in lots of topspin. On the other hand, a penholder player generally has a weaker backhand, especially when trying to defend shots.

As a general tip, regardless of which grip you decide to use, the racquet should not be held too tightly nor too loosely. It should be loose enough so that someone can easily take the racquet from your hand without prying your fingers open, but not so loose that you'll accidentally throw your racquet while performing a particularly vicious smash. The most important thing is for the player to feel comfortable, as if the racquet were a natural extension of the arm.

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