Table Tennis Strokes, Drills, and Selecting Equipment

  • Strokes - An introduction to the various strokes.
  • Drills - We cover several popular types of training drills.
  • Equipment - Learn how to select a bat, rubber, and other equipment.
Strokes - An introduction to the various strokes
Stroke How to execute Uses
PUSH Execute a push by making contact in front of your body on the underside of the ball quickly after its bounce. Aim the push either close to the net or deep in your opponent's court. A safe return to a low ball or underspin.
BLOCK On the forehand side, block with the bat to the side of your body. On backhand side, the bat should be directly in front of you. Against a spinny loop, block right after the bounce by (pressing) downward with a closed face and loose wrist. Against a smash however, block with a more open face and "cushion" the block to keep the ball from flying long. To return a hard shot, a heavily spun loop, or when out of position.
KILL Also known as a slam or smash, shift you weight forward and twist your body to generate maximum power. Hitting crosscourt gives you the greatest margin for error and should therefore be used often, however jamming your opponent by hitting into their body may also be effective if they are standing close to the table. To win the point immediately with speed.
Make solid (not spinny) contact with the ball at the top of the bounce. Complete the stroke at about eye level- a too lengthy follow-through will prevent you from getting into the ready position in time. Generally, the counterdrive is used to sustain rallies and move the ball around to initiate an attack.
Although the loop can also be used against topspin, we only cover the mechanics of looping against underspin here. While standing close to the table, shift your weight onto the forehand-side leg, drop your forehand shoulder and your paddle close to the ground, then push with your legs upward to powerfully graze upward on the ball just after the ball has started to descend. As you move your forehand side upward, bring your backhand shoulder and arm down to act as a counterbalance. Adjust the face of the paddle to the amount of underspin on the ball. To setup for a kill shot or to return heavy underspin.
The backhand loop is similar to the forehand loop, with the exception that you start in more of a squat and you should be positioned more in the path of the ball. Again, drive upward with your legs to generate upward power while grazing the back of the ball with the paddle face perpendicular to the floor. To setup for a kill shot or to return heavy underspin.
CHOP With a firm wrist, cut the underside of the ball during its descent. Finish with a long follow-through that is both downward and forward. Use varying amounts of wrist-moment to vary the amount of underspin put on the ball. To force a return into the net or to rally for position.

As discussed on the competition page, in order to maximize the efficiency of your training sessions, you will need to set specific goals you intend to aim for during the session. This will help you focus your time and effort to make faster progress. Drills designed for these goals will likely play an important role in this type of focused training.

Equipment - How to select table tennis equipment

Most table tennis equipment resellers will let you select any type of rubber with any bat and assemble these for you at your request. Selecting a rubber and bat type requires that you know just as much about your style of play as you know about the actual equipment.

The paddle should have a red and a black side. The ball should be either orange or white and 40 mm in size. The table should be 2.74 meters long, 1.525 m wide, and 0.76 m high.

The Rubber
The type of rubber you select is crucial, since it determines the amount of spin you can create, and also affects the overall speed of your paddle. If you wish, you can use a different type of rubber on each side, but tournament rules require that one side is red and the other side black. This requirement enables the opponent to see what type of rubber is used during a stroke. Rubber will wear out over time and lose its ability to create spin. Protecting the rubber from dust and air will help make it last longer.

The spinniness of a rubber is mainly determined by the composition of the rubber's topsheet. Generally, the spinnier the rubber, the more affected by spin the rubber will be. Types of rubber include
Inverted - The pips face inward and attach to the wood. When used with a tacky surface, this type can produce excellent spin. Without the tacky surface, known as Anti-Spin, it is not as affected by spin but also cannot produce spin. Often used to produce a "dead-ball".
Short Pips - The pips face outward to make contact with the ball. Excellent for smashing.
Long Pips - Often used by defensive players. Similar to short pips, except that long pips will return more spin with unpredictable results, sometimes surprising the opponent.

The speed, however, is mainly determined by the thickness of the rubber. Generally, the rubber thickness ranges from 1.0mm to 2.5mm. Thicker rubbers create maximum speed best used for offensive play, while thinner ones provide more control and touch for control or defensive players.
1.0 - 1.5mm - For better control and feel.
2.0mm - The most popular thickness. It provides a balance of power and control, and is also used by spinning or attacking players that play close to the table.
2.5mm - Also known as "maximum" thickness, it generally creates the most power and spin.

Some players, including most elite players, apply speedglue to the blades. Speedglue needs to be reapplied often since it normally loses its effect after 4 to 10 hours of play. Special types of rubber have been designed to be used with speedglue for best results.

The Blade
The blade is also referred to as the bat or racket. The factors that should determine your choice of a blade include weight, speed, and handle shape. Most blades today weigh between 70 and 100 grams. Select a weight that matches your style- a light blade will be easier to maneuver while a heavier blade will generally produce more power. Although a rating of a blade's speed is often provided by its manufacturer, keep in mind that these ratings should only be compared with blades of the same brand. Faster blades are obviously preferred by attacking players, while those with moderate speeds are suitable for players who balance consistent play with some attacks. Slower control blades are preferred by defensive and developing players.

Pay attention to the shape and size of the handle. Here, select a handle-shape based on its comfort. Some blades have a hollow handle to improve the sweet spot and its touch, as well as reduce its weight. The most common handle shapes are

Flared - Popular with loopers and all-round players.
Anatomic - Combination of looping and smashing.
Conic - Combination of looping and smashing.
Straight - Work well with smashing. Also preferred by players favoring their backhand.
Penhold - Used with the Chinese and Japanese grips.