Elevating your game: How To Choose A Ping Pong Paddle / Table Tennis Racket – Buyer’s Guide 2018

As a beginner, you can get away with any basic ping pong paddle – but when there’s little difference in price, why not go for quality instead?

Beginner ping pong paddles usually serve their purpose for the majority of players, but if you’re set on increasing your skills, you may want to investigate other options before settling on a basic paddle.

This guide will serve as a resource for those looking to go above and beyond the run-of-the-mill stock paddle.

Now, here’s how to elevate your game:

A. Get educated by reading this buyer’s guide;

B. Pick a quality ping pong bat or paddle: Aim for the best table tennis racket for your money.

What You Want To Get Out Of A Paddle

In the world of ping pong paddles, you’ll usually find that the better ones include performance ratings (Based on table tennis paddle rating system).

These ratings will often examine a paddle’s speed and power potential, among other capabilities. Use these to identify which paddles are most suited to your game. Remember that independent research on various paddles goes a long way. Manufacturer ratings will on occasion stretch the truth.

Now, let’s break these ratings down so we understand the different facets of a table tennis paddle rating system.

Ping Pong Paddle Power

Power is an offensive players most important rating.

Power paddles are good for smashing, and are frequently used by players that stand a couple feet back during competition. These are paddles designed for speed, that generally have lower control ratings. This makes them more difficult for beginners to acclimate to. Some power rackets are more evened out ratings wise than others, and this is often a result of more modern, multi-layer, wood designs.

Power (or speed) is usually given as a score out of 10 or 100.

With performance ratings, higher numbers represent a higher level of that feature, so a power rating of 99 (as with the STIGA Pro Carbon paddle) indicates the most power possible.

Ping Pong Paddle Control

A high control rating is usually desired by players new to ping pong. Generally speaking, a paddle with decent control will assist you in returns and serves, but won’t necessarily provide you with exceptional spin potential.

As a result, the ping pong paddle speed of your returns, as well as ping pong paddle spin techniques are usually compromised. But your ability to simply get the ball over the net should, at least in theory, prosper.

Paddles designed for control, are usually very tacky and sometimes feature dimples that are aimed in a certain direction.

Ping Pong Paddle Spin

On traditional paddles, the black side of the rubber is usually known for being less quick, but better geared for spinning.

A racket capable of producing great spin, usually accomplishes this by effectively gripping the ball, and does so for a longer period of time. Better grip usually amounts to better spin potential. This is where choosing the right, high-quality rubber, comes in. Worn rubber, or poor technique, could minimize spin potential.

Paddles with high spin ratings, are also known for being highly reactive, sometimes to a fault when in the hands of an inexperienced user.

For example, if your opponent is putting lots of backspin on the ball, this could present an issue when attempting to return using a spinny paddle. Spin and control ratings are sometimes, although not always, synonymous with one another.

Ping Pong Paddle Speed

A paddle’s speed is often a double-edged sword. Although fast paddles may assist in quick returns, control is sometimes compromised in the meantime.

At the professional level, many players are divided on this. Their advanced techniques often grant them the speed they need without a speed oriented paddle.

With a speedy paddle, many professionals also have the ability to harness an otherwise occasionally uncontrollable nature.

Ping Pong Paddle Parts

If you’re planning to customize your own table tennis racket, here are some more factors you’ll want to take into account:

Ping Pong Paddle Blade

Rubber aside, what’s usually left at the core of any paddle is the body, or blade. They are primarily made from wood, as a base ping pong paddle material, but increasingly carbon fiber paddles are being used.

How the blade is constructed, has a direct effect upon its ratings in terms of speed and control, primarily.

Ping Pong Paddle Rubber

Rubber covers the outside portions of a paddle, and is designed around individual playing style.

This rubber surface is color coordinated, so you can pick up on the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent’s paddle.

In tournaments, rubber is commonly swapped with new, fresh ping pong paddle material, to assist professionals in staying at the top of their game. But even at the non-professional level, rubber maintenance is one of the most basic ways to keep a paddle in good condition.

Good paddles usually allow for rubber replacement, whereas lower quality paddles sometimes need to be thrown out as soon as the rubber goes.

Ping Pong Paddle Handle

Handle is another facet of the table tennis racket that is highly customizable.

There are many types of handles, some of which are actually named after certain styles of grip, such as the Japanese PHJ, which is somewhat triangular at the bottom of the handle.

Flared handles remain fluid throughout the upper portion, and then, as you can imagine, flare out toward the bottom.

Professionally, a great deal of ping pong players use paddles with flared handles. This style, tends to slip far less than say, the straight handle. Straight handles stick to the same width throughout the entire handle, like an evenly distributed thin cylinder.

One of the other popular handle styles, is the anatomic. It’s said to be the most ergonomic, shaped comfortably to fit the contours of the hand. Perhaps one of the most unique, as previously mentioned, is the Japanese penhold, which features a ledge onto which the penhold player can secure his/her finger.

Ping Pong Paddle Glue

The glue, that binds the blade and rubber, is more important than most people give it credit for being.

Some glues, obviously, are more adhesive and quick-drying than others. In case you’re wondering, speed glue was one of the first to be banned in professional table tennis.

In tournaments, glues have to be pre-approved to determine whether or not they’re classified as a “volatile material” by the ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation). So, if you’re planning on competing, definitely choose the right glue so you’re not disqualified before you even begin. A good glue for a table tennis player is usually water-based and solvent free. An additional bonus is whether or not the glue contains an application piece and multiple sponges, to easily apply the glue in a mess-free manner.

Playing Styles

Playing style is another factor that needs to be taken into account when searching for the right ping pong paddle.

Paddles, should to a large degree, reflect the playing style of the individual using them. Keep in mind that a paddle with a slower rate of speed, such as a defensive paddle, doesn’t necessarily make it a better or worse paddle. It just means that it is more or less compatible with a certain playing style. Ultimately, the effectiveness of each ping pong paddle lies in the hands of its user.

Defensive Players

Defensive players capitalized on their opponent’s mistakes, without having placed a high degree of emphasis upon causing them to begin with, the way an offensive player would have.

paddles for defensive players seek to slow down the rate of spin, as well as ball speed. On the contrary, in terms of actual paddle speed they are usually on the higher end because of their lightness. This is necessary for the defensive player to get to where he/she needs to be, before they are put in a compromised position It is accomplished, in part, through the use of tacky, pimpled rubber that “holds” the ball better.

Tacky rubber gives players more time, and control, to redirect their shots to the most strategic location. They also absorb more energy than offensive paddles, which results in less power but more control.

There are two aspects of “control” that are important to defensive players. Control, which is mostly determined by rubber, refers to the ball’s predictability in terms of where it is redirected by the defensive player. It also speaks to how long the paddle remains in contact with the ball, which with defensive paddles is a longer than average period of time.

Spin and power, are usually sacrificed by paddles that are designed to gain the defensive edge.

Offensive Players

The offensive player establishes him/herself as the aggressor in a match by utilizing different spin, smash, and loop techniques.

At the highest levels of competition, offensive playing styles are in abundance. Paddles suitable for offensive players are often made of harder natural wood, as well as the occasional layer of carbon fiber or other ping pong paddle materials used for minimizing energy absorption. They’re often heavier as well, making for perfect conditions to practice topspin drives and other offensive tactics.

These heavier blades may decrease reaction time, but once contact is made with the ball they can be lethal. By decreasing the energy absorbed by the paddle once contact with the ball is made, offensive paddles can redirect that energy more efficiently into the power behind each shot.

Offensively minded players also make use of techniques like spin. These blades, on the other hand, can be light, smooth, and have inward dimples as opposed to outwardly facing pimpled rubber. Being lighter, they are easier to slice through the air to create the ideal spin. Offensive players should look for paddles rated in the 9’s in the power category (or the 90’s depending on the ratings scale set by the manufacturer).

All-Around Players

Players who focus on an all-around game, seek to dominate both on the defensive and offensive end.

They are well-rounded enough to excel both close to the table, and at a distance from it. This variability in playing style sometimes requires the use of a lighter paddle, but great all-around table tennis players are able to adjust to an assortment of paddle and playing styles.

The all-around player revels in the rally, and requires a paddle that compliments this. Lighter paddles, perhaps around 70g’s, suit all-around players well. A lighter paddle gives the all-around player that extra split second of competitive reaction time that could be the x-factor in a game. Lighter paddles will also support the transition from forehand to backhand more naturally. “Twiddling”, or flipping the paddle from one side to the other during gameplay, is simplified with a lightweight paddle.

How To Hold A Ping Pong Paddle (Ping Pong Grips)

There are quite a few grip styles that players utilize, most of which have paddles catered to them.

When you think of grip techniques, usually you think of the shakehand and penhold styles, however there are a few other table tennis grips that are quickly gaining momentum that we’ll cover for you here.

Shakehand Grip

The most common grip style is the “shakehand grip”, which is held similarly to the way you would go in for a handshake. This grip can be altered to be either a shallow, or deep shakehand. The main difference ends up being where the thumb rests (whether you like it on the rubber or blade).

Penhold Grip Ping Pong

More advanced grips would include the penhold grips, including three main variations (Japanese, reverse, and Chinese). The penhold grip by and large, as you may have guessed, emulates the writing posture. Although it presents some difficulties during backhanded play, the penhold grips are regarded as a classic ping pong grip still used by many today.

V-Grip

By using your forefinger along with your thumb to surround the blade in a v-shaped manner. You’re utilizing a modern v-grip. This is where a modified, v-grip friendly paddle with the right blade works wonders, because this is a challenging grip to pull off on the average paddle.

Players seeking to be dominant in the spin department, often gravitate toward this playing style.

Seemiller Grip

Dan Seemiller, a former world champion, popularized this technique.

Closely related to the shakehand, the seemiller uses the forefinger to secure the racket by tracing along the outer exterior rim. Advocates of the grip, excel in their forehand game, but like the penhold grip the seemiller sometimes lacks in backhanded game.

The forehand advantage, however, is to some players a more than fair trade. Seemiller players often have some of the most dramatically different grip types on both sides of their racket. They do so to throw off their opponents by altering the pace of the match, and to sustain themselves defensively, especially if an opponent is trying to capitalize on what they perceive to be backhanded weaknesses.

Since forehand and backhand shots are mostly completed with the same side of the racket, the seemiller grip while in play resembles that of a windshield wiper.

We will follow up with a more detailed post on how to hold a ping pong paddles in a few weeks.

Ping Pong Paddle Dimensions

Official ping pong paddle dimensions

Paddle dimensions should be adhered to, especially as per the Laws of Table Tennis (regulation rules of the game).

Although rackets are usually similar in size, there’s more room for customization here than one may think, even in terms of shape. That said, the average paddle comes in at 6 inches in width, and 10 inches in length. This are the ping pong paddle dimensions you should look for.

Ping Pong Paddle Material

The paddle’s blade must be flat, and the majority of the blade’s thickness (85%) has to be wood constructed.

Then, there’s room for creativity with remaining 15% of the blade. This is where adhesive segments of a blade, made of carbon fiber and other ping pong paddle materials, come into play.

Official rulebook racket requirements

The blade should have one black, and one red side, and be covered with pimpled or sandwiched rubber. The differences in color are for strategic purposes on your opponent’s end. That way, both you and your opponent, can learn how each side of the paddle affects the game.

This material cannot be chemically altered, and should not cover any portions above and beyond the length of the face of the blade. Changes to the color or continuity of the paddle as a result of damage during competition are allowed, as long as they’re minimal. On the lower portion of the paddle, however, some rubber may extend downward onto the upper section of the handle, where the fingers grip. Altogether the blade, and the added outer material, should be evenly thick.

In competition play, prior to matches as well as when rackets are swapped, opponents and umpires are first given the opportunity to examine the racket.

A concise overview of ping pong paddle dimensions, and the rules of table tennis, can be found here

How To Pick The Right Paddle For You

By now, hopefully you have a good idea of whether or not you’re an offensive, defensive, or all around ping pong player. Ultimately, the paddle you decide on should be an extension of your game, helping it without hindering it.

In addition to whether or not you’re an offensive, defensive, or all-around specialist, you’ll also want to base your paddle purchases off of your tendency to either play close to the table, far from it, or both. For example if long-distance power is crucial to your game, then a more offensively geared paddle would be important.

Bottom line: How to pick a ping pong paddle? look for:

  • Quality, quality, quality
  • A comfortable grip
  • A reputable seller
  • Recommendations

If you’re just starting out, then a paddle with dimpled inward rubber, or reverse rubber, could prove to be a good experimental option, allowing the player to sample a wide range of shots as they grow into what will eventually become a playing style.

Common Pitfalls When Buying A Ping Pong Paddle

There are some mistakes to avoid that both amateurs and professionals have made when searching for their next ping pong paddle. We’ll detail these here.

Not Buying ITTF Approved Equipment

Just about every component of a table tennis racket has the potential to not be approved by the ITTF, therefore it is crucially important that you go over each component, before making a decision. Even if you’re still an amateur, you may do a lot of growing alongside your new paddle, and pre-approved ITTF equipment may suit you later on in your table tennis career.

Not Buying A Paddle That Reflects The Future Of Your Playing Style

Sure, maybe you started off as a defensive player, successfully returning serves with a suitable paddle featuring plenty of control. But has your style evolved, since then?

Maybe you’ve added some power shots to your game, and you’re becoming more of an offensive player than you give yourself credit for.

If your games evolving, your taste in rackets should be as well. The last thing you want is for you’re growing skills to be held back buy a limited racket that no longer reflects the direction your game is heading in.

Not Picking The Right Rubber

Picking the right rubber is crucial, and truthfully there are so many different routes a player can go with the exterior material on their blade.

If you’re an all-around player, for example, you’ll want to make sure that one side of your blade reflects your defensive strengths, and the other side reflects your offense skills.

If you for example layer both sides of your paddle with sticky outward pointing pimpled rubber, you may excel defensively, but your offensive game and power shots could suffer.

Offensive paddles are usually harder, and that stiffness usually allows for less “dwell time”, which defensive players use as a delaying tactic to slowly yet concisely redirect shots while throwing off opponents.

Maintaining Your Table Tennis Racket

Your table tennis racket is capable of picking up dirt and grime, even after minimal use. It’s important to perform some regular quick and easy maintenance tricks, to ensure that it’s in peak condition to guarantee peak performance.

For those with tacky, defensive blades, upkeep becomes even more important because of their stickiness. The last thing you want is for a buildup of dirt to eliminate that competitive edge in control.

Below, we’ll detail a safe and easy table tennis racket cleaning process, that you can use to keep your paddle in tip-top shape. This short guide will also serve as a solvent-free water based cleaning method that is ITTF friendly.

First, pour some pure, filtered water into a bowl.

Water that’s bottled will work, but whatever you use make sure that it’s sitting at room temp.

Adding a drop or two of dish soap will help facilitate the cleaning process, especially if your rubber is also oily.

Next, dip a sponge in it.

Then wring it out so that it’s still damp, but not soaked. You want to be able to draw sediment off from your ping pong paddle or bat, without allowing excess water to soak into the blade.

Now, apply the spong to the racket.

Cleaning the rubber in long sweeping motions from bottom to top. Doing so, will prevent sediment from simply spreading.

Finally, clean the other side of your racket.

before ultimately setting it upon a dirt-free surface for drying.

Comparison Table

Here is the comparison table of the best ping pong rackets for your money from my compares post:

  NameSpeed ratingSpin ratingRating 
Best Overall
STIGA Pro Carbon991004.9/5Check Price
Read Review
Best Value
Killerspin JET800 SPEED N195904.7/5Check Price
Read Review
Best Budget
Duplex 6 Star80804.4/5Check Price
Read Review
Professional
Butterfly Balsa Carbo X5-FL100954.6/5Check Price
Read Review
Runner Up
DHS HURRICANE-II85934.3/5Check Price
Read Review

Ping Pong Paddle Videos

Whether you want tips on improving your ping pong technique, jaw-dropping inspiration from some of the most memorable table tennis matches in history or just some entertaining trick shots, there are thousands of videos online to get you started.

Here is a great video on how to pick a ping pong paddle:

FAQ

What is the difference between the red and black side on ping pong paddles?

Many professional ping pong players do use different types of rubber on their table tennis rackets, with one side being for offensive play and the other side being better suited to defensive shots. However, the exact rubber depends on each player’s individual choice.

The color itself does not have any relevance. The difference is merely for visual purposes, so that an opponent can anticipate which type of shot is being played depending on which side of the paddle is being used. If the racket was the same color on both sides, it would be easy for a player to flip the paddle without their opponent noticing.

Top table tennis racket brands

If you have a big budget to blow and if you’re looking for professional quality, the best ping pong paddles are custom made, not featuring any particular brand.

However, our best ping pong paddle brand is STIGA, the name behind the Pro Carbon paddle. Offering excellent performance and value for money, this is our top pick. There are many variations between other brands, so the top ping pong brand is the one that makes the best paddle for your needs!

What is a ping pong paddle?

Also known as a racket or a bat, a ping pong paddle is a tool used for playing the competitive sport of table tennis. Different variations are available, but it’s typically made up of a straight or flared wooden handle affixed to a solid wooden (and sometimes carbon fiber) blade.

The blade is covered with rubber to allow technical, highly skilled shots. Often featuring dimples or pimples, the rubber is red on one side of the blade and black on the other side. This difference is regulation, purely to prevent one player from tricking their opponent with a different type of shot.

Ping pong vs table tennis

There is no difference between ping pong bats or paddles and table tennis – technically, the terms can be used interchangeably. So ping pong vs table tennis is a mistake, they are the same. However, in common use there is a preconception that table tennis is more of a professional, competitive sport, while ping pong is more of a hobby or a game. The ITTF uses the term ‘table tennis’ when discussing the sport in an official capacity.

How to hold a ping pong paddle

Penhold and shakehand are the two most common ways to hold a ping pong paddle.

The penhold grip involves holding the handle between the thumb and forefinger with the blade facing downwards. The popularity of this technique is decreasing due to its weakness with backhand shots, where the wrist has to twist into an awkward position.

See our above section on how to hold a ping pong paddle for further detail.

Ping pong paddle cleaning and maintenance

Cleaning your ping pong paddle is of the utmost importance if you want to maintain its performance for as long as possible. This is particularly true for very tacky blades where dirt and dust build up, reducing how effectively you can control the ball.

All you need to give your table tennis racket a good clean is some simple soap and water. Press and wipe your paddle gently so as not to damage the rubber. For deeper cleaning you can buy special table tennis cleaning sprays, and some paddles even come with protective covers and cases to keep the paddles in tip top shape for as long as possible.

What style of ping pong blade should you choose?

As we’ve already seen, paddles can be any shape or size, but most blades are around six inches in diameter with a four inch long handle.

The best ping pong paddle for spin should have inverted dimples in the rubber to create a smooth surface against which the ball can bounce. In addition to this, offensive players should look for a hard paddle to give plenty of power.

Blades which are covered with textured or tacky rubber (or rubber which has dimples pointing outwards) are best for defensive players who want lots of control. The extra texture grips the ball for slightly longer than a smooth surface, allowing you to place your next shot carefully.

What style of ping pong handle should you choose?

Flared handles are the most common among professional ping pong players due to the fact that they’re so comfortable to hold. While straight handles are also popular, they’re the same width the whole way down their length, making them prone to slippage. Featuring an ergonomic curve, anatomic handles are also comfortable, but they aren’t as popular as they offer less versatility.

Your choice of handle should be based on your personal preference, depending on your playing style and the handle style that you find most comfortable to hold.

Here are the main variations: Flared (FL) and straight (ST) handles are the two most common types among beginner and professional table tennis players. As the names suggest, straight handles are the same width the whole way down their length, while flared handles get wider at the bottom. Anatomic (AN) handles aren’t as common as the other types, but they do feature an ergonomic curve to make them fit in the palm of the hand comfortably. There is no right or wrong answer to which is best – the best ping pong handle is down to personal choice and what feels most comfortable to hold.

Most budget ping pong paddles are pretty basic, with few variations or opportunities for specialization. However, as your skill level grows, you’ll probably start looking for something that suits your individual playing style and hand size. If you turn professional then you’ll want to spend big bucks on a completely customized ping pong racket.

Conclusion

There is quite a difference in terms of quality, performance, and price between entry-level ping pong paddles for beginners and the high-quality equipment that’s used by professional sportspeople. As a result, it’s important to put time and effort into researching all the options to choose the best ping pong paddle for you.

The quality of a ping pong paddle really will make a massive difference to your game play, so with this guide and a little research, you can find the best ping pong paddles for the money and for your family’s needs. When entry-level and professional ping pong paddles sit at such similar price points, it makes sense to go for the higher quality option at a reasonable price.

I suggest you head over to my full reviews and comparison post for the best ping pong paddles for 2018 here

Also, a great table tennis group on reddit worth checking out:

Reddit Table Tennis group

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