As you’re just getting started on your table tennis journey, all the different equipment required can be a bit daunting. This is especially true as there is often very limited equipment available at local sports stores.
If you are looking to understand the different kinds of table tennis equipment so you can get started playing the sport, you are in the right place.
We will explain in great detail everything you need to play table tennis and help you find the perfect equipment for you.
When playing table tennis, you’ll need the following types of table tennis equipment:
- Racket Cases
Table of Contents
- Racket Cases
- Basic Equipment Summary
A player’s racket is their instrument. Every table tennis player must be well acquainted with their racket to understand its limits.
Most table tennis rackets are 150x157mm long, though defensive rackets are generally larger at around 162x156mm.
A typical table tennis racket weighs around 170 to 195 grams, though cheap premade rackets can be much lighter than that.
Table tennis rackets must comply with a set of rules.
For example, all rackets have to be at least 85% wooden. The remaining 15% can be any other material.
These special materials are used to enhance the performance of the racket, and they’re called “composites”. The most common composite is carbon fiber, which is often mixed with other compounds such as arylate or zylon to achieve different effects.
The second rule rackets have to comply with is that they must have a colored rubber (usually red), and a black rubber.
Rackets are composed of 3 parts: the blade, the forehand rubber, and the backhand rubber.
Table tennis rackets come in a variety of shapes to choose from. There are shakehand rackets, Chinese penhold rackets and Japanese penhold rackets. The one pictured above is a shakehand racket.
We have written a detailed guide on the grips of table tennis if you want to learn more about the topic.
Shakehand rackets are the most popular ones. They get their name because when you hold the racket, you do so as if you were shaking hands with it.
You can also get shakehand rackets in 3 different handle types, flared, straight, and anatomic.
We have delved deep into the different shakehand handle shapes in our guide to choosing the best table tennis blade.
Rackets can be purchased in two different formats. You can buy the racket as a whole (these are known as premade rackets) or you can buy the parts separately and build your own custom racket.
Premade rackets are the rackets everyone knows about. These are the ones you can buy in a sporting goods store or a supermarket, and they come ready to play out of the box.
They get their name because they come pre-assembled, the blade and the rubbers are already glued when you buy them. You don’t have to buy the components separately and put them together yourself.
These rackets are generally used by beginners and early intermediate players. They are very controllable and some have good spin and speed, but they generally don’t quite match the performance of custom rackets.
Premade rackets are ideal to start playing the sport since they are super controllable and won’t break the bank. You can get premade rackets from $10 to $60.
In addition to this, they are ideal if you do not have a certain style as a player. One of the reasons why I love table tennis is that every player has their own unique style.
Once you have determined which style you want to play and you have progressed in your table tennis training, you’ll want to upgrade to a custom racket!
Custom rackets are built by each player taking into account their playing level and style of play. Table tennis equipment is very extensive, so once you progress in the sport, you can choose the ideal racket for you.
Table tennis rackets are made up of a blade, a forehand rubber, and a backhand rubber. All of these elements are chosen according to your needs and then assembled with the use of special table tennis glue.
Here’s a video by table tennis legend Timo Boll explaining how to assemble your racket.
Racket Component – Blade
The blade is the “soul” of the racket. It is the link between the ball and your hand.
Because of this, you mustn’t change your blade frequently.
We recommend choosing a blade and sticking with it as long as you can. If you change blades, the feedback you receive in your hand is completely different.
Most table tennis blades weigh between 75 and 95 grams, and the regular head size is 157x150mm. Defensive blades are larger at around 162x156mm to give defenders a better chance at returning the ball.
Blades are divided into three speed categories: OFF, ALL, and DEF.
OFF blades are offensive in nature, designed for players looking to compromise their opponents with fast shots.
ALL blades are of an all-round character, aimed at those players who have a control-oriented, varied game. These players sometimes defend and sometimes attack, depending on the situation.
DEF blades are defensive in nature, crafted for players who have a conservative game. Defensive players return the ball, usually with backspin, wearing down their opponents.
For that, they need slower, more controllable blades that can absorb incoming speed.
We have written a comprehensive guide on how to choose your table tennis blade to help you choose the best one for you.
As we said before, there are all-wood blades which are made entirely from wooden layers and composite blades which have added compounds that alter how the blade plays.
Once you’ve chosen your blade, it’s time to choose your rubbers.
Racket Component – Rubbers
Table tennis rubbers are fixed to the blade, one on each side, and they are the part that directly contacts the ball.
These rubbers were perfected over many years of research and development to get different effects on the ball, to the point that there are now several categories of table tennis rubbers, each with its own attributes.
Today, we can find inverted rubbers, short pips, long pips, and antispin.
We have explained each of these categories thoroughly in our guide to choosing the best table tennis rubbers, and we’ll now give you a quick rundown on each of them.
Inverted rubbers are smooth to the tact and the grippiest type of rubber available.
These rubbers are called inverted since the original table tennis rubbers were pimpled.
After that, sponges were introduced to table tennis, and pimpled rubbers were turned upside down to make the topsheet the smooth side.
The pimples now faced downwards to contact the sponge and act as the link between the sponge and the smooth topsheet.
Inverted rubbers are usually the ones with the most spin, and they’re also the most popular type of table tennis rubbers.
Almost all premade rackets come with 2 inverted rubbers, except for some cheaper ones which come with short pips.
Their spin capabilities make these rubbers very versatile since you can use them for powerful attacks and defensive shots loaded with backspin.
Also, sponges have developed to such a point that there are now tensioned variants that offer lots of speed, but you can also opt for more neutral sponged rubbers if you want more control.
Short pip rubbers are the less spinny brother of inverted rubbers. They are called short pips because they’re shorter in comparison to long pips, and their effect is much different.
They act in a similar way to inverted rubbers, but their lesser spin limits their versatility and the range of shots you can perform with them. You can’t play topspin shots with these rubbers as effectively as you can with inverted rubbers.
However, short pips have 2 crucial advantages to make up for the fact that they’re more limited in nature:
- They’re more spin-insensitive. Because they have less grip, these rubbers also absorb less incoming spin, so handling your opponent’s spin is a lot easier with short pips. You can hit through backspin and topspin much more easily.
- They’re awkward to play against. Also because of their relative lack of grip, offensive shots performed with these rubbers travel with very little spin. It’s very hard to block a high-speed, no-spin shot that has a flat trajectory.
If you like to flat hit the ball instead of using spin, short pips are for you.
Long pips are taller than short pips. This difference plays a critical role in how they play. They are nothing like inverted and short pips rubbers since they have very little grip.
Long pips are almost always used on the backhand side.
Long pips have a “reversal” quality, that is, they reverse incoming spin. If you play a topspin shot and it is blocked by a player with long pips, it’s going to come back to you as backspin.
In reality, the spin remains the same, but the ball travels in the opposite direction.
If you hit a topspin shot, the ball rotates forwards towards the side of your opponent.
When long pips contact the ball, it will still rotate towards the side of your opponent but the ball is now travelling towards you, so it comes back to you as the opposite spin (backspin).
These rubbers work great for defenders since they’re able to better handle incoming spin. It would be very difficult to play backspin shots against topspin using an inverted rubber, so the extreme lack of grip of long pips helps a great deal.
Also, when the pips contact the ball, they bend, adding extra spin to your shots, even if they have little grip.
The downside to this is that it’s very difficult to attack with this type of rubber and that you can’t really put your own spin on the ball. You’re always working with the spin the ball is already carrying.
This type of rubber is ideal for players who like to defend and block.
Antispin works similarly to long pips in the sense that they have very little grip and that they reverse spin. They are also used predominantly on the backhand side.
However, it’s hard to add spin to your shots using antispin rubbers because they don’t have the bending effect that long pips have.
Antispin is better used close to the table since they have lots of control. You can block topspin shots over the bounce and your opponent will receive a very difficult ball.
If you are just starting out, we recommend that you buy a good-quality premade racket and play with it until you learn the basic techniques of the sport and can execute them with a high degree of consistency.
Once you’ve bought your racket, you’ll need a quality racket case to store it.
Table tennis rackets are very sensitive pieces of equipment. They can’t be exposed to the elements nor can they be left outside a case, since dust particles will stick to the rubbers and cause them to degrade.
We have written a guide covering the best table tennis racket cases for you to choose from.
What you have to look for when buying a racket case is to check that they have enough space to carry everything you need, be it balls, racket cleaners, or sponges.
Table tennis tables come in all shapes and sizes. There are indoor tables, outdoor tables, good quality tables, cheap tables, expensive tables, you name it.
The important thing when choosing a table tennis table is that it is from a reputable brand and that its tabletop is of good quality.
Standard size tables
Standard size tables are sized according to the current ITTF rules.
They measure 274 x 152.5 x 76cm (9ft x 5ft x 2.5ft) and can be found in two different variants, indoor tables, and outdoor tables. For more details, check out our table size guide.
Standard size indoor tables are the most common tables in table tennis. They are the ones you would find in any club and in tournaments around the world.
To choose a good indoor table, we recommend that its board is at least 18mm thick, to guarantee an even bounce. The thicker the tabletop, the more consistent the bounce.
Generally, the thickness of the tabletop is expressed in the name of the table.
In this table, for example, the Stiga Optimum 30, the thickness of the tabletop is 30mm. This table is of very high quality.
Outdoor tables are designed to be used outside.
This Butterfly Playground table, for example, has a weatherproof tabletop, a metal net, and its entire structure is galvanized and powder coated for weather protection and long life. In addition, Butterfly offers a 5-year warranty.
Indoor tables cannot be exposed to the elements because the tabletop will rot, so if you plan to have your table outdoors, you should buy an outdoor table.
Non-regulation size tables
Non-regulation size tables are smaller tables for those players who don’t have enough space to fit a full-size table in their homes.
They are ideal for having fun with friends and family as they are very easy to transport and they can fit in any car. If you buy one of these tables, you can take them to any party or gathering.
3/4 size tables
3/4 size tables are tables that, as the name implies, are 3/4 the size of a standard-sized table. The dimensions of a 3/4 size table are 205.7 cm x 114.3 cm x 76.2 cm.
Although it may not seem like it, these tables are very different from the standard size ones. This is because they have 44% less playing area than standard tables, so you have to be quite precise with your shots to get the ball into the table if you want to attack.
Mid-size tables are smaller than 3/4 size tables, but they are not as small as mini tables. They are very easy to store and don’t take up much room.
Mid-size tables generally measure 182.9cm x 76.2cm x 6.35cm.
Mini tables are the smallest ping pong tables available.
Having played at one of these tables, I can say that it is super fun since the size makes you need to use all your concentration to return the ball successfully.
These are the most convenient tables. You don’t need almost any space to play with them, and you can take them anywhere.
Nets are one of the four essential elements, along with the table, the rackets, and the ball.
To choose a good net, you should always buy one from a reputable table tennis brand. Nets from reputable brands are always of good quality.
Some come with a clamp and screw system, like this DHS net.
While others come with a “clip” system, like this Tibhar.
With those that are clamp and screw, you can stabilize the net to the table better. You can be sure that is not going to move out of place.
Nets with clips can move, but they are much quicker to set up and start playing.
What you want to avoid at all costs is buying a low-quality net like this:
This type of net that you can buy in a sports store or a supermarket is not going to have enough tension. Every time the ball hits the net, it will pass to the other side, greatly affecting the game.
We’ve tested a lot of nets over the last 20 years, so we’ve recommended the best table tennis nets you can buy.
Table tennis balls are another essential piece of equipment. As per current regulations, table tennis balls are 40mm in diameter, 2.7 grams in weight and they are made from ABS plastic.
As we said for all other products, it is super important that the balls you buy are from a reputable brand.
Balls from unknown brands are of low quality, have no weight to them, and have a very bad bounce.
You should avoid buying this type of ball:
These balls are one of the most bought on Amazon, and they are not from a reputable brand.
If we read the package, these balls are 38mm in diameter, the wrong size! For more than two decades now, the official table tennis ball has been 40mm in diameter. The history of the table tennis ball is actually super interesting.
We also do not know the material of these balls. Obviously, they are not certified by any table tennis federation, neither the ITTF nor the CTTA. What you want to do is buy a certified ball from a trusted brand.
In the market, you can find 1, 2, and 3-star balls, though I haven’t seen a 2-star ball in all my years of playing. 1 and 3-star balls are the most popular.
1-star balls are the cheapest, but if you buy a 1-star ball from a brand with a good reputation, that ball is already going to be very good for training and matches.
The DHS 1-star ball, as you can see, is CTTA approved (approved by the Chinese Association), and specifies that it is a 40+ ball.
What this means is that it is a 40mm ball, the right size, and the + sign means that it is made of ABS plastic, the right material.
3-star balls are the best quality balls, used in tournaments. 3-star balls are much better than 1-star balls, but they also cost a lot more.
These balls have to comply with stricter quality control parameters. Manufacturers test their balls for different specifications such as roundness, hardness, weight and diameter.
The best balls are branded as 3-star and sold to the public at a premium.
For most players who are training, 1 star balls are completely fine.
Shoes are many times an underestimated factor when players think of table tennis equipment.
I didn’t buy my first table tennis shoes until my third year of playing, a serious mistake.
I used to play table tennis with running shoes. Not only do you slip a lot more in these shoes, but you’re also at a huge risk of injury. Table tennis is a sport in which we move laterally, and running shoes are made to go forward.
To play table tennis you need shoes that are:
- Low to the ground
- Have lots of grip
- Good lateral support.
Playing table tennis with running shoes makes you prone to twisting your ankles, which is a very common and preventable table tennis injury.
We have also written a guide for you to choose the best table tennis shoes.
The clothes that you wear when playing table tennis are super important.
It is crucial that you play with comfortable clothes since a shirt or shorts that are too tight will impede your movements.
In short, you can’t wear white clothes, because white clothes make the white ball hard to see for your opponents.
You can also not dress in tank tops or pants, but you can wear sleeveless shirts.
Most players dress in t-shirts and shorts or skirts with a comfortable fit.
More details can be found in our comprehensive guide on what to wear to play table tennis.
Robots are the perfect solution when it comes to practicing table tennis without a partner.
As good as they may be, they are also expensive. Robots cost anywhere between $150 and $2000.
As you can see, there are some affordable robots and others are more expensive.
What sets the cheaper robots apart from the more expensive ones is the build quality and the functions the robot has.
Affordable robots such as the iPong shoot the ball in a straight line, can’t oscillate, and shoot either slight topspin or slight backspin.
The more expensive robots can oscillate, they can shoot fast balls, slow balls, they can shoot heavy topspin, backspin, or sidespin and they can also be programmed for you to perform any exercise you want.
Most of them are easily transportable, especially the simpler robots such as the iPong.
They are perfect for when you want to incorporate a new technique or polish your current ones.
This is because they always send the ball to the same place and with the same spin. This way you can focus all your efforts on performing the shot correctly, and you can learn everything by muscle memory.
They are mounted on the opposite side of the table and usually come with a net you can put up to collect the balls you hit.
We recommend getting a robot if you want to put in some extra training time at home.
Accessories are a very important part of the table tennis outfit. Choosing the right accessories can greatly enhance your playing experience.
We also cover accessories in our guide on what to wear when playing table tennis.
In short, we recommend that you use:
- Headbands if you have long hair, as it can obstruct your view when playing.
- Wristbands if you want to dry your forehead and hands between points.
- A towel to use every 6 points and think about your strategy.
- Straps and braces if you have areas of pain and want to alleviate it.
- Digital watches like the Casio F91-W to time your exercises and see what time it is.
- Smartwatches like the Apple Watch to know your heart rate, oxygen level, calories burned, and other interesting metrics.
Basic Equipment Summary
Although table tennis is a very simple sport, the equipment used can get quite complex. However, when you’re just getting started all you need is a table, a net, a racket, and a ball.
You’ll definitely have more fun with quality equipment that allows you to play table tennis how it was designed to be played. These don’t have to cost the world, we just recommend avoiding cheap knock-off brands.