This is Episode 056 of the Ask a Table Tennis Coach podcast. Today’s question comes from Glen and is about how to stop changing grip between shots.
“As a former tennis player I’m used to using my left hand, I’m right handed, to rotate and reposition the paddle face from a forehand to a backhand and a backhand to a forehand. I actually just realized I was doing it because it’s so ingrained in me from the tennis. I’m sure that works when hitting back and forth with your wife but I’m now trying to upgrade my game and play better in competition. So the question is, what is the best way to reposition your paddle face especially when going from counter-hitting heavy top spin forehand to heavy top spin backhand? Is it that easy to just rotate your wrist? Even when I try to exclude my left hand I tend to want to slide the handle in my hand into the proper hitting position.”
This is something that I see a lot from tennis players that transition to table tennis. I know that a lot of tennis players do get into table tennis, or they play it a bit recreationally and they want to take it a bit more seriously. I always find it easy to spot the tennis players because they keep touching the end of the bat with their free hand.
It’s just a habit that they picked up and most of the time they don’t even realize that they’re doing it. So I can always spot a tennis player when they keep using their non-playing hand to touch the racket.
I’m no expert when it comes to tennis but I believe that when you’re playing forehand-backhand shots you do have quite a big grip change. So you shift the racket around in your hand for those shots. And you’ve also got quite a bit of time in tennis so you can use your free hand to get it into the right position.
Now in table tennis that’s not the same. If you look at most of the top table tennis players they’re going to have little to no change in their grip. If they do have a small grip change it’s going to be a tiny little thing like the placement of a finger or they move a thumb up on the rubber for the backhand side. But that’s going to be it.
There’s no need to be rotating the handle around in your hand at all. You don’t need your other hand to do it or do it full stop.
Now if you do want to become a good table tennis player you can’t be changing your grip. The reason being is there’s not enough time. The main thing you’re going to need to do is to spend a bit of time finding the right grip for you, something that’s neutral between forehand and backhand, then just perfect that and get used to playing with that.
It’s going to feel weird at first. This is what I always say to people when they’ve got an unorthodox grip. Trying to get a neutral grip is going to feel weird. You’re going to feel it might make you play worse or you haven’t got any control over the bat.
Over time that’s going to go and it will get easier. Just stick with it and it’s going to help you in the long term.
Once you’ve sorted out the grip what you need to do is instead of keeping your arm the same and changing the angle of your grip, so shifting the racket around in your hand, what you need to do is keep your grip the same and changing/moving the angle of your arm.
Like in your example in going from heavy top spin forehand and backhand. When you’re going to loop those balls you’re going to hitting the top of the ball. So you’re not going to be hitting the back of the ball. If you’re playing a really good heavy top spin loop you’re going to be hitting close to the top of the ball.
As you go from forehand to backhand, you transition across, you have to go from your palm facing down for the forehand to having your palm facing up for the backhand. That’s a really huge rotation. Not just of wrist but of the whole forearm. You’ve got to really twist it over.
There are scientific terms for this kind of twisting, I’ve written a blog post about it before but I can’t remember the name now. But that’s something that you can go and practice without the ball and practice that transition.
I’m going to make a quick video about it at some point. But it’s really important that you learn to get that right so that you go from being palm down to palm up for the backhand. And that you can do it quickly and shifting up-down-up-down as you transition from one to the other.
Definitely practice that. Give that new neutral grip a bit of time to get going. But that’s going to help loads in the long term. Then you just need your hand to get used to doing those quick switchovers for the backhand and the forehand.
It’s great that you noticed that you’re doing these things and you’re aware of it. Now it’s going to annoy you every time you do it. But you can use that to change the behaviour over time. So just stick with it and it’s all going to come together.
Sponsored by Table Tennis University
Table Tennis University offers revolutionary online table tennis courses from the world’s leading coaches, including; Tao Li, Brian Pace, Samson Dubina, Tom Lodziak, Scott Armstrong, and many others.
Their excellent instruction will help you to develop new winning skills, break old bad habits, bust through frustrating plateaus, and play the best table tennis of your life.
Tao Li’s 12-part Basics Mastery course is a great place to start. And best of all… it’s completely FREE!
It’s time to turbocharge your table tennis education. Enroll TODAY!
Ask a Table Tennis Coach is a daily podcast featuring an actual table tennis question submitted by a table tennis player just like you. New bite-sized episodes are released five days a week, Monday through Friday.
Please visit the Ask a Table Tennis Coach page to listen to previous episodes and to submit a question.