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How to improve your table tennis skill?—From the Perspectives of Power, Speed, and Spin

How to improve your table tennis skill

Many readers have messaged me, asking how to improve their table tennis skills. Indeed, a simple Google search can yield countless articles such as “Five Tips to Improve Your Table Tennis Skills Quickly” and so on. However, most of these suggestions tend to be broad and lack specificity. Today, we’ll discuss how to improve table tennis skills from a more in-depth and professional perspective.

In table tennis, especially during competitions, the determinants of the game’s outcome are three main elements: power, speed, and spin. If there’s an additional element to be considered, it would be control. However, we will not discuss control today, as it requires extensive training time.

Instead, we’ll focus on how ping pong players who practice table tennis in their spare time can improve these three core aspects: power, speed, and spin.

improve your table tennis skill

Understanding Power in Table Tennis

In table tennis, power doesn’t refer to absolute strength but rather explosive force. Despite having substantial muscle mass, a bodybuilder won’t necessarily generate more force on the ball than a seemingly frail individual. This is because the former might not transfer their explosive force effectively to the ball, while the latter might be able to apply this power at the moment of contact.

Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the mechanism of generating and transferring power effectively in table tennis.

Therefore, the question arises – How can one generate and effectively transfer power onto the ball in table tennis? Let’s explore the key techniques and special training methods to achieve this.

  1. The direction of Power Application: Ensure that the power application, body, and bat direction are congruent. Coordinating various body parts in the same direction reduces reverse and split forces, improving power delivery.
  2. Coordination and Sequence of Power: This refers to involving and synchronizing various body parts when striking the ball. For example, power generation should ideally follow this order: legs and feet drive the waist; the waist powers the upper arm; the upper arm propels the forearm; the forearm activates the wrist. Remember, “power is born from the feet.” Pay special attention to the sequence of force exertion and coordination of joints.
  3. Increasing the Distance Between the Ball and Racket: A sufficient distance allows greater striking force. Drawing an analogy, the impact of a head-on collision between two cars is more significant than a side collision because of the increased distance.
  4. Mastering Strike Timing: The point of contact during a stroke can significantly influence the force exerted. If your strikes always occur as the ball descends or at a point when the ball is parallel to your body, you will fail to express your full explosive force.
  5. Relax-Tense-Relax Hitting Method: Relax your muscles during the backswing to store energy, tense them upon contact to unleash power, and finally, relax again to reset for the next attack quickly.

improve your table tennis skill

How to Train and Improve My Explosive Force in Table Tennis

You can use a professional trainer’s guidance in a gym to train the explosive force. A proposed gym training plan involves three sessions per week, each session lasting about 30 minutes. However, this should be adjusted accordingly during the competition stages.

Alternatively, some exercises can be performed at home or on a table tennis court twice weekly. The intensity and frequency of these exercises should align with your body’s optimal state and can be adjusted based on individual capacity.

Here’s a comprehensive 6-week fitness plan, including exercises with dumbbells, a skipping rope, resistance bands, and rubber bands, designed to enhance your explosive strength for table tennis. Before you start any new exercise regimen, it’s crucial to consult with your doctor or health professional to ensure these exercises are safe for you. Warm up before starting your workout and cool down afterward to prevent injuries.

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays:

  1. Dumbbell Thrusters: 5 sets of 10 reps. This exercise improves shoulder strength and explosiveness, which is beneficial for smashing and defending in table tennis.
  2. Weighted Squats: 4 sets of 8 reps. This exercise strengthens leg muscles and enhances explosiveness, which is essential for table tennis movement and positioning.
  3. Lateral Raises with Resistance Bands: 4 sets of 12 reps. This exercise works out the shoulders and core, enhancing paddle control.
  4. Front Dumbbell Raises: 4 sets of 10 reps. This exercise primarily works on the biceps and shoulders, boosting arm strength.
  5. Skipping Rope: 10 minutes. This exercise is an excellent way to enhance cardiovascular fitness, footwork, and coordination.

Tuesdays and Thursdays:

  1. Interval Running: For example, run 100 meters per minute, then rest for a minute. Repeat this process 10 times. This enhances cardiovascular capacity, increasing stamina for a full-length table tennis match.
  2. Core Training: Exercises like planks, push-ups, and sit-ups, 3 sets of 15 reps each. These improve abdominal strength, increasing stability and control in table tennis.
  3. Resistance Band Training: Exercises like standing rows, standing chest presses, and squats, 4 sets of 10 reps each. These exercises help strengthen your upper body and leg muscles, which are critical for table tennis.
  4. Rubber Band Training: Exercises like rubber band bicep curls and tricep extensions, 4 sets of 10 reps each. These exercises target your arm muscles, enhancing your table tennis strokes.

Saturdays and Sundays: Rest

This plan should suit most individuals, but you can modify it based on your physical capabilities and needs. The key to training is consistency and persistence.

improve your table tennis skill

Accelerating the Speed in Table Tennis

In table tennis, power and speed are intimately connected. Power generates speed, acting as the fundamental source of acceleration. The degree of power exerted is often demonstrated through the corresponding speed.

When sufficient power is applied to the ball, it produces a strong rebound force, resulting in a faster ball speed. This speed can confound opponents, making them unable to predict the ball’s trajectory, leading to errors.

Improving your speed in table tennis can be achieved by focusing on two key aspects: your footwork and your striking technique.

improve your table tennis skill



  1. Move Your Feet First: Many players know the importance of footwork and the center of gravity in table tennis, but applying it in practice might be challenging. Cultivate a habit of ‘finding the ball with your feet.’ This means positioning your body according to the ball’s direction and trajectory using your footwork rather than stretching your arm out to reach the ball. This change in consciousness might seem minor, but it can significantly improve your agility and accuracy on the court.
  2. Stay on Your Toes: To ensure you can move quickly, your weight should always be on the balls of your feet, not your heels. This posture allows you to change direction swiftly, which is crucial for successful footwork in table tennis. Always aim to be light and nimble on your feet.

Striking Technique

  1. Keep Your Motion Compact: The power and speed of your shot aren’t necessarily related to the size of your motion. In table tennis, the moment of contact between the racket and the ball is very brief, so a larger swing doesn’t necessarily mean more power is transferred to the ball. Instead, focus on timing your swing to maximize the force exerted at the moment of contact.
  2. Accelerate Your Swing: Your backswing should be relaxed, and the forward swing should be fast, accelerating. This ensures the maximum force and speed are transferred to the ball at the moment of impact.
  3. Use Your Wrist and Fingers: To achieve the ‘whip effect’ at the moment of contact, ensure that your racket suddenly stops when it hits the ball, much like a car slamming on the brakes. The sudden halt will maximize the force transferred to the ball. For this, the use of your wrist and fingers is crucial. The more you can incorporate their movement into your shots, the more spin and speed you can generate.
  4. Adopt Correct Hitting and Looping Techniques: When you hit the ball, it should feel like you are ‘smashing’ it with your entire body’s power, ensuring the maximum force is transferred to the ball. When looping the ball, focus on creating a fast ‘wrist flick’ motion to generate powerful spin and control over the ball’s trajectory.

improve your table tennis skill

Enhancing Spin in Table Tennis

What Is Spin in Table Tennis?

In table tennis, spin refers to the ball’s rotation as it moves through the air. This rotation affects the ball’s trajectory and how it behaves when it makes contact with the opponent’s paddle. The three primary types of spin in table tennis are topspin, backspin, and sidespin.

  1. Topspin: It occurs when the top of the ball is rotating forward in the direction of motion. Topspin makes the ball dive down toward the table after it bounces, making it more difficult for the opponent to return.
  2. Backspin: This happens when the bottom of the ball is rotating forward, opposite to the direction of motion. Backspin can cause the ball to bounce back toward the net after hitting the table, which can confuse the opponent.
  3. Sidespin: This is when the ball rotates about its vertical axis, either to the left or right. Sidespin can make the ball bounce in unpredictable lateral directions once it hits the table, adding another layer of complexity for the opponent.

Applying spin to a shot in table tennis is a strategic move and is often used to make it more challenging for the opponent to return the ball accurately or with speed. The technique of imparting spin requires a player to strike the ball with a glancing blow rather than a straight-on hit.

What Is the Impact of Spin

Spin in table tennis plays a significant role and strongly influences the trajectory and behavior of the ball. When the spin is applied to the ball, it creates a pronounced curve in its path. In contrast, when force is applied directly through the center of the ball, leading to no friction-induced spin, the ball will travel in a straight line.

In competitive play, differing amounts of spin can lead to an opponent “eating” the serve, which means they have misjudged the amount of spin and, as a result, failed to return the ball correctly. This can result in losing points or giving the opponent an advantageous position in the rally. Therefore, the ability to generate a powerful spin and respond to the spin accurately can significantly influence the match’s outcome.

Mastering spin is not just about making it difficult for the opponent to return the ball; it’s also about controlling the ball’s speed, direction, and bounce. A good understanding of spin helps players keep their opponents guessing, force them into uncomfortable positions, and open up opportunities to take control of the game.

improve your table tennis skill

How to Enhance My Spin

improve your table tennis skill

Point of Contact

Indeed, the point of contact – where and how the ball strikes the racket – is a pivotal factor in determining the amount of spin generated in table tennis. Let’s delve a little deeper.

  1. Thin Contact vs. Deep Contact: In table tennis, the term “thin contact” refers to lightly brushing the ball with the racket, as opposed to “deep contact”, which involves hitting the ball more solidly. Each type of contact has different effects on the ball. Thin contact often generates more spin because the racket’s movement primarily affects the ball’s surface, causing it to rotate without much forward momentum. In contrast, deep contact involves striking the ball with more force, which usually produces shots with less spin but more speed. The appropriate type of contact depends on the situation and the intended shot.
  2. Closer to the Handle vs. Further from the Handle: Where you strike the ball on your racket also has an impact on the spin. When the ball contacts the racket closer to the handle (near the racket’s center), the applied force often results in less spin. This is because this part of the racket moves slower than the tip, given the same swing speed. Conversely, hitting the ball further from the handle (towards the tip of the racket) can maximize the applied force and generate more spin, especially when using wrist or finger movements. The reason for this is due to physics: the further the point from the axis of rotation (in this case, the handle), the higher the linear speed, which translates into more spin.
  3. Sweet Spot: Most rackets have a “sweet spot,” an optimal area for hitting the ball, usually located in the middle to upper-middle part of the racket. When the ball is hit with this part of the racket, it can maximize both speed and spin, depending on how the shot is executed. Hitting the ball with the sweet spot also reduces vibrations, providing a better feel and control over the shot.

improve your table tennis skill


Contact Time

In table tennis, the concept of contact time refers to the duration for which the ball touches or is in contact with the racket during a shot. This brief moment of contact plays a substantial role in determining the ball’s spin, speed, and direction.

A longer contact time means the ball is in contact with the racket’s rubber surface for a greater duration, increasing friction on the ball. This increased friction, in turn, generates a stronger spin on the ball. Therefore, enhancing the contact time can be an effective strategy for improving spin in your shots.

Players need to develop a fine sense of ball control to increase contact time. This involves understanding how to hit the ball at the right angle and with the appropriate force to make it dwell on the racket for that fraction of a second longer. Also, players should understand how to manipulate the racket’s angle and speed at the point of contact with the ball.

Players often practice various stroke techniques to improve this aspect of play, focusing on how they hit the ball with the racket. They can experiment with different stroke motions, racket angles, and swing speeds to observe how these factors influence the ball’s behavior, particularly its spin.

Remember, achieving a longer contact time doesn’t necessarily mean slowing down your shot; it’s more about precision and technique than force.

improve your table tennis skill

Racket Speed

In fact, the speed of the racket at the moment of contact with the ball plays a crucial role in generating spin in table tennis. The concept here is relatively straightforward: a faster racket swing at the moment of impact can lead to a deeper strike, providing more grip on the ball and consequently producing more spin.

When referring to a “deeper” strike, the ball penetrates further into the racket’s rubber. This deeper penetration creates more friction between the ball and the racket’s surface, leading to a greater degree of spin. In other words, a faster racket speed helps to create more ‘bite’ on the ball, allowing players to impart more spin.

However, generating more spin with a faster racket speed isn’t simply a matter of swinging as hard as you can. It’s important to strike a balance between speed, control, and timing. If you strike the ball too early or too late in your swing, you could miss the optimal contact point, reducing the quality and effectiveness of the spin. Moreover, swinging too hard can also lead to less control over your shots and a higher chance of errors.

So, while increasing racket speed can help enhance spin, it should be done with precision, good timing, and control.

improve your table tennis skill

How to deal with the spin in table tennis

The most distinctive feature that sets table tennis apart from other sports is its dynamic and varying spin. My students, particularly beginners, continually need to learn and judge the spin, deepening their understanding of it. This point is especially crucial when facing long-pimpled rubber and during service returns.

  1. Judging the Ball: The first step in dealing with spin is to accurately judge the type of spin, its intensity, and the landing point of the incoming ball. The speed and angle of the opponent’s paddle at the moment of contact with the ball can estimate the spin intensity. A faster swing often means a stronger spin. Also, the sound and sight of the ball can provide cues about the spin’s strength.This skill comes from experience and observation, noticing cues from the opponent’s paddle movement, body position, and the ball’s trajectory.
  2. Adjusting Racket Angle: Depending on the incoming spin, you must adjust your racket’s angle to return the ball effectively. For example, if the ball has topspin, you’d need to angle your racket downwards to counteract it, and if the ball has a backspin, you’d angle your racket upwards.
  3. Applying Correct Force: The direction and intensity of force you apply when hitting the ball can help counteract your opponent’s spin. Matching or opposing the spin with your own force can reduce the likelihood of mis-hitting the ball due to the spin effect.
  4. Avoiding Strong Spin Areas: Spinning balls have different spin intensities in different areas. Generally, the area around the ball’s equator (the middle) has the strongest spin. You can minimize the spin’s effect on your return by targeting the ball’s poles (top or bottom).
  5. Building Confidence: Dealing with spin can be intimidating, especially against skilled players. However, it’s important to remember that any spin can be countered with the right strategy. Confidence plays a key role here. Analyzing and understanding your opponent’s spin techniques, and having faith in your ability to respond effectively, can make a significant difference.
  6. Practice: As with any skill, practice is essential. The more you face different types of spins and attempt to counter them, the better you will handle them. Drills focusing on spin returns can help develop the necessary skills and reflexes.

improve your table tennis skill

How long does it take to improve table tennis skills?

Many table tennis fans often wonder how long it will take to get better at the game. The truth is, with consistent practice, your skills can improve quite fast. On average, if you dedicate 2 hours per day to training and do this 3 to 4 times a week, you can expect to see substantial improvements in your table tennis skills in just one or two months.

  1. To master the basic forehand and backhand strokes and practice fundamentals with others, you’d typically need two to three months.
  2. If you wish to compete against less experienced players and know how to spin, serve, and pull off advanced strokes, this often takes around one to two years.
  3. If your goal is to compete in amateur matches without consistently losing and have a set of game strategies, it usually takes about three to five years.
  4. To reach a professional level, you should ideally start learning at age five or six. This journey often takes about five to ten years.
  5. As an adult aiming for a professional level, it’s nearly impossible unless you’re extraordinarily talented. You miss out on the foundational training received in childhood. The rate and depth at which children learn table tennis surpass adults. Just look at the Chinese national and provincial teams – no professional player began training after the age of ten.

If you’re an adult beginner who’s starting table tennis as a hobby, my tips could be helpful. It cuts down learning time and increases your interest in the game.

You can begin by practicing your forehand and backhand drives. Both forehand and backhand strokes are table tennis fundamentals, and everyone, including professionals, needs to practice them daily for a good feel of the game. We start with the backhand, as it’s often easier for beginners to hit the ball this way, which helps build confidence.

First, have a coach teach you basic backhand movements and practice swinging the racket in the air. A common problem for beginners is they often swing with their entire arm instead of pivoting from the elbow, a habit that needs changing. Also, don’t fear the ball dropping below the net, and keep your racket tilted slightly forward, not backward.

After roughly 30 minutes of air swings, move to a practice session where your coach feeds you multiple balls. At this stage, focus on performing a complete, relaxed swing rather than hitting the ball. Ensure you pull your racket slightly backward and downward before hitting the ball – this is crucial for a relaxed stroke. If you skip this pulling action, your movements might become stiff.

After two days of multi-ball practice, start with another half-hour of multi-ball training on the third day to get the feel. You can then transition to single-ball training. With a slower ball speed, beginners should be able to execute more than ten backhand strokes consecutively successfully after some time.

improve your table tennis skill

How can I improve my table tennis skills at home?

Many ping pong fans may face challenges with limited access to suitable facilities or lack of practice partners at times and may be restricted to practicing at home. So, the question arises: is it possible to improve table tennis skills while at home? Indeed, it is possible to practice table tennis and enhance your skills even when you’re alone at home. Let’s explore how this can be done.

5 Tips to Help You Improve Your Table Tennis Skill at Home

improve your table tennis skill

  1. Ball Bouncing: This is a simple and effective way to improve your touch and feel for the ball. Try to continuously bounce the ball on your paddle 500 times without dropping it. You can then get creative with the following:
    • Forehand bounces
    • Backhand bounces
    • Combination of forehand and backhand bounces
    • Bouncing the ball on the edge of the paddle
    • Bouncing the ball on the handle of the paddle
    • Adding spin while bouncing the ball
  2. Wall Hitting: This is a great way to improve your touch and feel for the ball. Try hitting the ball continuously against a wall. Aim to hit the same spot on the wall to maintain a steady rhythm. After mastering this, you can try the following:
    • Forehand wall hitting
    • Backhand wall hitting
    • Combination of forehand and backhand wall hitting
    • Spinning the ball against the wall
  3. Shadow Playing: Hold the paddle and simulate the strokes in the air. This can help you understand the sequence of movements and strengthen your muscles. After mastering the basics, continuous shadow playing of about 500 strokes can help you understand the essence of the stroke.
  4. Footwork Training: The importance of good footwork in table tennis cannot be overstated as it allows you to position yourself correctly for each shot. Even if you’re practicing at home, there are several drills you can do to improve your footwork:
    1. Sidestep/Shuffle Drills: This footwork is used for lateral movement across the table. Start on one side of your room and take a sidestep to the other side. Remember to keep your steps small and quick, maintain a low center of gravity, and never cross your feet over each other. As you step, mimic the stroke you would have taken if the ball was coming at you. This means doing a forehand stroke as you step to the right and a backhand stroke as you step to the left.
    2. Crossover Drills: This footwork is used when a wider range of lateral movement is required or for moving forward and backward. Like the shuffle drill, you start on one side of the room, but this time you take larger steps and cross one foot over the other. If you’re moving to the right, your left foot crosses in front of your right foot, and vice versa.
  5. Table tennis robot: It can be a very effective tool for improving your skills at home, particularly if you don’t always have a partner to practice with. So if space allows, consider purchasing a ping-pong robot for practice at home. This can allow you to practice different strokes with varying spin and speed. Unlike practicing with a human partner, a robot will deliver each shot with consistent speed, spin, and placement. This can be very helpful when you are trying to master a new stroke or improve a specific aspect of your game.

improve your table tennis skill

How do you get mentally strong in table tennis?

Improving mental strength is crucial to developing your overall skill set in table tennis. The most fundamental strategy is to set clear, achievable, and measurable goals for both your training sessions and actual matches. Having a well-defined target provides a sense of direction and a benchmark against which you can measure your progress. It keeps you motivated and focused, helping to increase your overall performance.

Maintaining a positive mindset is another key aspect of mental strength in table tennis. This involves keeping an optimistic attitude toward your game and practicing positive self-talk. Take time to celebrate your small successes and view failures as opportunities to learn and improve. Developing a positive mindset helps build self-confidence and resilience, which are critical factors in any sport.

Additionally, mental visualization is a powerful tool for building mental strength. Visualize yourself successfully executing shots, serves, or rallies. This mental rehearsal process can reinforce neural pathways, enabling you to perform these movements more effectively in real-world situations.

Managing stress and emotions during matches is another essential aspect of mental strength. Techniques such as breathing exercises, mindfulness, and meditation can be incredibly beneficial for staying calm and composed under pressure. By learning to control your emotions, you can ensure that your mental state does not adversely affect your performance.

Concentration and focus are also vital for success in table tennis. During your training sessions, make a conscious effort to concentrate on the task at hand and stay in the present moment rather than worrying about the potential outcome of the match.

Competitive experience plays a crucial role in building mental strength. The more you compete, the more comfortable you will become in high-pressure situations. Participating in as many tournaments as possible allows you to gain experience, enhancing your mental toughness.

Remember, consistency is key. Just like your physical skills, your mental strength will improve with regular and sustained practice. However, also ensure that you get enough rest and recovery, as sleep profoundly impacts cognitive function, mood, and overall mental health.

improve your table tennis skill


This article took me a long time to complete. It sums up my years of teaching experience and addresses many common problems students frequently encounter during their table tennis training and learning process.

My initial intention behind this comprehensive guide is to provide assistance to table tennis enthusiasts all around the globe, aiding in the enhancement of their skills and technique in the game. More than just skill improvement, however, this resource is meant to augment the joy derived from the sport. Table tennis, like any other sport, is as much about the thrill, excitement, and satisfaction it brings to its players, as it is about the skills and techniques used in the game.

The goal is not just to help players become better at ping pong itself but also to inspire a greater appreciation and enjoyment of the sport. As table tennis players improve and see our progress, we will likely find even more joy in playing and continue engaging with the sport. This love for the game, combined with improved skills, is what truly defines the essence of table tennis.

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