How to Choose the Best Table Tennis Bat
If you’re a regular table tennis player, you’ve likely noticed the difference in your play when using different bats. If you’re a beginner, this might not be such common knowledge – but table tennis bats have different designs that can make them easier or harder to use, or more suitable for certain types of play.
Below, you’ll find more information about how to choose the best table tennis bat based on your experience and playing style.
If you’re new to table tennis, or you don’t play very often, you might be wondering if you should upgrade your bat – and for what.
Using a basic bat (the one that came with the table, for example), return a few serves. Take this opportunity to see if your shots are too powerful (e.g., the ball always whizzes off the table) even if you’re trying to be gentle, or not powerful enough (struggling to make it over the net). This will give an indication of the type of bat you should consider buying, as they can help you work with your existing capabilities.
If you find that you are comfortable using the current bat, and you only play leisurely games with friends, you may not need to upgrade straight away. You may choose to upgrade at a later date if: 1) you choose to play more frequently with a club, 2) you want to challenge yourself and master more skills, 3) you feel the bat is holding you back.
Top tip: Most table tennis bats have a rating out of 10 for speed, spin and control. If you are new to the game, trying to learn technique and master basic skills, you will benefit from having more control than speed. When bats have more speed than control, they can be difficult for beginners to master. It’s better to perfect technique with a controlled bat first, before introducing speed.
Blade Material and Thickness
The material of the wooden paddle (the blade) makes a difference to game play. The number of layers used to make up the blade will also affect how it responds.
Entirely Wooden Blades
These blades consist of only wooden layers. They are a good choice for beginners (as well as intermediate players). Wood offers good control and flexibility, resulting in a better ‘connection’ with the ball. This can help when varying shots because it provides a clearer idea of how the ball will respond (particularly for less-experienced players).
Mixed Carbon Fibre Blades
These blades consist of alternating layers of wood and carbon fibre. As a result, they are much stiffer than entirely-wooden blades and can produce a lot more speed. Carbon blades are not considered a good choice for beginners, and are better suited to players who already have a lot of experience using wooden blades. They don’t offer as much control, so the foundation of technique already needs to be in place.
The placement of the carbon amongst the layers also makes a difference. If the carbon layer is closer to the surface, it will make a more noticeable difference – these are referred to as ‘outer carbon blades’. If the layer is closer to the core (‘inner carbon blades’), it will feel more subtle.
Ply refers to the number of layers that make up a blade. A 5-ply blade will generally facilitate control and spin. The central layer is thicker, with two thinner layers on either side. Due to there being fewer layers (and therefore less glue), 5-ply blades tend to be more flexible than 7-ply blades.
5-ply blades are often preferred by players who favour deflection; for example, shots like top spin. This is because the ball doesn’t bounce off so quickly, giving longer contact.
If it isn’t a 5-ply blade, it’ll likely be a 7-ply blade. These are the two most commonly found styles. 7-ply blades are made up of more layers and the layers are thinner than those in a 5-ply blade. There is more glue, holding the layers together, and the blade is therefore stiffer and less flexible. Experienced players who are looking for power and speed may want to consider a 7-ply blade over a 5-ply blade.
7-ply blades have less deflection than 5-ply blades so they are often considered more suitable for fast returns, flicks and blocks.
Different Types of Wood and Carbon Blade
Unfortunately, it isn’t always enough just to choose an entirely-wooden blade or a mixed-carbon blade – there are also different types of wood and carbon to consider. The layers inside the bat are unlikely to be all the same type of wood. Here’s a list of the different materials, and their main properties, so you can choose the best table tennis bat based on its qualities.
Common Types of Wood and Their Properties:
- Ayous – lightweight with good flexibility.
- Balsa – often used as a blade core or for outer layers. One of the lightest woods in terms of weight.
- Hinoki – heavier and denser than wood like Ayous and Balsa. Helps the ball ‘stick’ – good for spin.
- Kiri – commonly used as a core layer. Limited vibration.
- Koto – increases stiffness of blade. This results in power and speed.
- Limba – a soft wood used for control.
Common Types of Carbon Fibre and Their Properties:
- ALC – a good allrounder, providing good levels of spin, control and power. This is one of the most popular and commonly used carbon composite layers.
- KLC – very soft. Reduces vibration and offers good precision.
- PBO-C – quite rigid, good for speed.
- Super PBO-C – exceptionally fast.
- X3 – combines fibres of ALC and PBO-C resulting in a happy medium between the two. Stiff, but easier to control than PBO-C.
Table Tennis Bat FAQs
How should I hold my table tennis bat?
The most common grip for table tennis is called the ‘shake hand grip’. This is the grip that is recommended for beginners.
The main points for this grip are to place your thumb on the forehand side of the bat and your index finger on the backhand side of the bat. Both your thumb and index finger should be on the rubber portion of the face of the bat.
Your other three fingers should be loosely placed on the handle of the bat. Don’t grip the bat too tightly as this will inhibit freedom of movement.
How should I clean my table tennis bat?
The rubbers of your table tennis bat will collect dust, powder and sweat. When the rubbers are dirty, they become less grippy. This means the ball will slip off the bat and you will find it difficult to generate spin.
After each use, clean your bat with a little water and a soft cloth. Don’t get the bat too wet, just enough to remove the grime and sweat. Then allow it to air dry. Make sure to keep your bat protected, preferably in a case, to stop it from getting dusty.
Should I buy a bat with a carbon blade?
If you’re a beginner, steer clear of carbon blades until you are comfortably using an all-wood blades. Carbon blades are a step up, and they may make gameplay too challenging if you haven’t mastered the basics.
If you are an intermediate player who is looking to increase the speed of their game, you may benefit from a blade that contains carbon composite fibre. Be aware that a carbon blade will likely be stiffer than an all-wood blade; therefore, if you are not looking for increased power or speed in your shots, you may prefer to stick with an entirely wooden blade.