For talented table tennis players, the racket becomes an extension of the hand. Movements feel natural, and every feature of the racket is selected to ensure optimized playing.
But for those who are new to table tennis, choosing the perfect racket can seem more than overwhelming. Pick the wrong one, and it can seriously affect your style of play.
The table tennis racket seems like such a small piece of equipment, but there’s so much variety available to make the paddles unique. Head to your nearest sports supply store, and you’ll find yourself confronted with more rackets than you realized existed. How can you ever find the right one for you?
If you’re struggling to choose your table tennis racket, we’ve put together this guide. It covers the very basics of the racket, and how a beginner can navigate buying their first paddle. You’ll know when you’ve found the right racket for you, because it will feel just right in your hand.
What Do You Call A Table Tennis Racket?
When you hear the term table tennis racket, there’s probably a pretty clear image in your mind. A round top, short handle, and a bit of padding — that’s a table tennis racket!
But you probably picture the same thing when you hear the term table tennis bat, or table tennis paddle, or even ping pong paddle or ping pong racket!
So, which term is right?
Realistically, you can use pretty much any term interchangeably, and people will know what you’re on about. That’s whether you call it a racket, a paddle, or a bat!
If you’re in the US, you’re most likely to hear it referred to as a “paddle”, while in Europe and Asia “bat” is more common.
But in the IITF Handbook and the Laws of Table Tennis, they use the term racket. Because of this, we can consider racket to be the correct terminology, and that’s the one we’ll use.
Ping Pong and table tennis are terms often used interchangeably, although table tennis is the general name for the sport, and Ping Pong is technically a trademark. But often what’s sold as a Ping Pong racket is the same thing used in table tennis.
What Is A Table Tennis Racket?
A table tennis racket is what’s used to hit the ball in the game of table tennis. The build of the racket can provide the ball with speed and spin, helping to score points on opposing players — but you already knew all of that.
But what parts make up the table tennis racket?
The first part of the table tennis racket is the blade. The blade is the wooden base of the racket, including the handle. The blade is typically made of wood, but can also be made of other wood-like materials. However, the ITTF rules state that any table tennis blade must be made of at least 85% natural wood.
The second part of the table tennis racket is the rubber. The rubbers are the softer surfaces that are affixed to either side of the blade.
There are two main types of rubber. These are ordinary pimpled rubber, and sandwich rubber. Ordinary pimpled rubber is a single layer of rubber, with pimples pointing inwards or outwards. Sandwich rubber consists of a layer of ordinary pimpled rubber, covering a layer of sandwich rubber.
Sandwich rubber is the most popular option.
Rubbers have to be different colors on either side of the blade. Old rules stated the rubbers had to be black and red, but a recent rule change now allows the rubbers to be black and one other color, clearly distinguishable from black.
And, of course, there’s the glue that holds it all together.
When making a table tennis racket, rubber is glued to the blade, and then trimmed down to size.
Rubbers tend to be used to cover either side of the blade. If one side doesn’t have a rubber, it can’t be used to strike the ball.
What Size Is A Table Tennis Racket?
It might surprise you to learn that there’s actually no regulation for the size of the table tennis racket. The ITTF Handbook states that the racket can be “of any size, shape, or weight”. All that matters is that the blade is “flat and rigid”.
The average size of the table tennis blade is roughly 6 inches wide by 6.7 inches long, not including the handle. With the handle, the standard table tennis blade is 6 inches wide and 10 inches long.
Although players can technically pick in size they want, these dimensions tend to be optimal for speed and power.
There are regulations regarding the thickness of the rubber used on the table tennis racket. Ordinary pimpled rubber with the pimples outwards must not exceed a thickness of 2.0 mm. Sandwich rubber with pimples inwards or outwards must not exceed a thickness of 4.0 mm. The density of the pimples can be no more than 30 per cm², and no less than 10 per cm².
Ready-Made VS Customizable
The big choice when it comes to buying a table tennis racket is whether to buy one ready-made, or whether to customize your own.
Ready-made rackets come put together, and are pretty easy to pick up from even small sports retailers. Most table tennis players will have some experience with a ready-made racket — it was likely what they were using when they fell in love with the sport.
Customizable rackets are made using individual pieces. A player will choose the blade and rubbers that suit their style of play best. Customizable rackets are typically more expensive, and often require a trip to a specialist store.
Ready-Made Table Tennis Rackets
For beginners, the ready-made table tennis racket is the best choice. They’re typically well priced, and you can pick them up from a range of stores, both online and in person.
As a beginner, you won’t be sure exactly what table tennis racket will suit your needs. You won’t have enough experience to have developed a particular playing style, so choosing the right customization for you will be difficult. Once you’ve got to grips with your table tennis racket, you can then make smart choices for customization.
Casual table tennis players, and those who only play for fun, will also benefit from a ready-made racket. They’re typically inexpensive, and a good brand will last for some time with irregular usage.
Ready-made table tennis rackets can often be purchased in sporting goods stores, but watch out for any that have been sitting on the shelves for too long. Over time, the rubber starts to deteriorate. If it’s been on the shelf for too long, the lifespan will have already shortened.
Buying online from a retailer that regularly replenishes stock tends to be a better option, especially as you won’t need to feel the racket before purchasing.
With ready-made rackets, it’s important to find a balance between price and brand. We suggest looking for a brand with some name recognition and a history of quality. That way, you won’t end up with a racket that falls apart with one good hit.
However, it’s rarely worth paying more than $50 for a ready-made table tennis racket. If you’re looking at some expensive options, it’s better to just get a racket customized.
Our recommendations for ready-made rackets are:
These are all typically available for around $50, have a decent weight and speed, and quality to last.
If you’re starting to get serious about table tennis, but you’re still not sure about customizable rackets, then keep an eye out for deals. Brands such as Joola, Eastfield, and Killerspin offer some fantastic ready-made rackets at a higher price. If you can get them at a discount, we recommend snapping these rackets up.
When you’ve reached the limit of what you can achieve with a ready-made racket, then you’ll need to start looking into customizations.
Customizable Table Tennis Rackets
A customized table tennis racket can be designed to fit your needs. You can pick exactly what blades and rubbers are needed to match your style of play. By doing so, you can build your strengths, and improve your weaknesses.
Customized table tennis rackets are best if you’ve been playing for a while, and you have a decent idea of your skills. They’re also better than ready-made if you’re looking to make improvements, and intend to keep learning.
If you intend to play table tennis competitively, then a customized table tennis racket is a necessity.
Customized rackets are for specialists, and you may struggle to find the pieces at general sports supply stores. Again, you need to be wary of rubbers that may have been in the packets too long and started to disintegrate.
To purchase quality individual pieces for your tennis racket, we recommend heading to a specialist store or online retailer. Amazon is also surprisingly useful, as they have such a huge range of stock.
If you do intend to compete, then you need to make sure your individual pieces are approved for competitions.
For blades, we recommend considering:
And for rubbers, take a look at these options:
Butterfly Sriver Table Tennis Rubber (Also available from Megaspin.net)
TIBHAR Evolution MX-P Table Tennis Rubber (Also available from Megaspin.net)
DHS NEO Hurricane 3 Table Tennis Rubber (Also available from Megaspin.net)
Butterfly Tenergy 05 Table Tennis Rubber (Also available from Megaspin.net)
Customizing your own racket is the more expensive choice, but it also gives the best results. But before you start picking rubbers and blades, you need to understand which will benefit your style of play.
Choosing A Table Tennis Racket For Your Style Of Play
All the talk of pimples, blades, rubbers, and sandwiches might confuse you if you’re new to table tennis. There is no best racket that can aid improvement in all players. Instead, these details come together to create a blade that is best for you.
For beginners, this doesn’t really matter. Look for a ready-made racket that feels good in your hand, and that you can swing easily.
But as you play and improve, you’ll start to get an idea of your style of play. Maybe you like to go on the attack, or maybe you prefer to play defensively. Choosing the right racket can ensure you have the best equipment to suit your unique skills.
If you’re working with a coach, speak to them about what blades and rubbers are best for you. And if you don’t have a coach, consider what aspects of the racket you might feel hold you back. If you can, try playing with a few different types before you start building your customized racket.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you feel more comfortable choosing a racket!
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s The Difference Between A Table Tennis Racket, Bat, And Paddle?
Table tennis rackets, paddles, and bats are all the same piece of equipment. Rackets is the term used by the ITTF, and you’re more likely to hear someone say “paddle” in America, and “bat” in Europe and Asia. But all terms are correct, and describe the same thing.
What Brands Make The Best Table Tennis Rackets?
Some of the best brands for table tennis rackets are Butterfly, Joola, DHS, Stiga, Eastfield, Tibhar, Palio, and Yasaka.
Where Do You Buy Table Tennis Rackets?
Ready-made table tennis rackets can be purchased from most sports supply stores, as well as online retailers such as Amazon.com and Megaspin.net. If you want to buy a customized table tennis racket, we recommend specialist stores. Or try Amazon.com or Megaspin.net.
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