Ping pong is a game that anyone can easily fall in love with. It provides laughs, banter and brings out the competitive side in all of us – which is usually fun, but can also get serious! We’d like to help accelerate the improvement process, so we decided to write a guide on how to improve at ping pong.

With a bit of practice, anyone is capable of reaching a pretty good level of play – which is kind of what makes the game so enjoyable and special. There are many methods and skills which players can learn that will accelerate their growth rate as an overall player. These skills vary from positioning, watching your opponent’s paddle movement, or just training your strokes in general.

We’ll go through 10 things that players can focus on in order to improve their ping pong game. These can take time to master, and a lot of practice and playing is required.

As decent players ourselves, we found these methods very effective in improving our game. We started not only competing with guys who used to be better than us but even started taking them down in match series. 

1 – Mastering the basics

The basics include the absolute fundamentals of ping pong, being techniques such as:


Players should find a grip that is the most comfortable and effective for them. The grip choice should allow for an easy transition into any shot – such as going from a forehand stroke to a backhand stroke. We’ve written a detailed guide on how to grip a paddle here.


This includes basic positioning of a player during game – including how far to stand from the table during different sections of play, when to come closer, or when to back off and receive. These skills come naturally from playing matches with anyone. 


Learning how to apply spin is a key skill, as it is vital for shaping and positioning every shot. For the more aggressive strokes, players should learn how to apply topspin or forward spin, as this gets the ball dipping over the net at a quick pace. 

For more controlled or defensive play, backspin or sidespin becomes more useful to know as these help with precise placement and add a sense of creativity to shots. These kinds of plays can also outsmart your more aggressive rival.

How To Get Better At Ping Pong
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Strengths and weaknesses

Every single player who has played ping pong has strong areas and weak areas in their game. Players need to find these out in their own game and try even out the balance so that they’re able to return any shot coming at them.

2 – Maintaining a ready position

This is a core principle that every player should learn to master. The goal for this is to best position yourself for any shot that may come your way. 

There can be numerous scenarios when players need to adjust their position for the return of their rival, such as: 

  • The opponent is taking an aggressive approach, focusing on your backhand and putting a lot of topspin on the ball. If you’re on the receiving end of this aggressive player, it may be wise to give yourself some space from the table, giving you more time to plan and place your return. If you give yourself more time to plan your shot, you give yourself a greater chance to play at your opponents weaker areas.
  • Your competitor is standing a bit further from the table, taking a more defensive approach and isn’t applying much speed on the ball. For this situation, you’d want to get a bit closer to the table and try to test all areas of his game, adding pace and topspin where you can. Even the odd drop shot might catch him/her off guard.

Making sure you’re ready to play any stroke to the best of your ability is a vital skill to have, and luckily, this is something that comes naturally with competitive practice. 

3 – Find a unique serve

The serve sets the tone for the rally. There are many kinds of serves, and players should try to find one which they’re best at and is the most effective. We’ll go through some serving options:

  • The high toss forehand topspin serve: This is a more aggressive serve, and can be used to get your opponent on the back foot immediately. Players should stand relatively close to the table for this serve, and their first movement should be quite a high toss of the ball – at around 60cm. Following this, the ball should be hit from a low to high angle, applying top spin on the ball, and giving it a nippy bounce off the table. 
  • The backhand sidespin serve: The main objective of this serve is to limit your opponent’s choice of return – increasing the chances of a weaker return. The spin you apply on the ball will impact the way the ball comes off your opponents paddle, meaning he/she will have less control on their shot. 
  • The short backspin serve: The goal of this serve is to make it difficult for your opponent to play an attacking stroke, forcing him to play a weak return which will be easier to play for you. For this serve, players should stand closer to the table. A relatively high toss is required, and to apply backspin, a fast forward motion of the paddle should be used, while trying to almost ‘brush’ underneath the ball.

These are just a few serving options that players could use. Ideally, one should find the most comfortable serve which is relatively effective. Remember, the goal of any ping pong shot is to make your next stroke easier.

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4 – Utilizing height for your strokes

The height of the ball will determine which strokes are available to you. For example, if the ball is at a low height, you would need to apply topspin on the ball – as this gives it a ‘dipping’ motion which will help it bounce on the opponent’s table once it goes over the net.

We’ll talk about 3 different height situations:

  • Height A: This is when the ball has bounced on your side of the table and is on the way up. A player has a few options here. A short backspin stroke could be played on it, which might catch your rival off guard. This ball will have a flat ball flight. Or, the player could meet the bounce of the ball and apply a topspin shot on the ball – this is a more attacking play. 
  • Height B: This is when the ball has reached its maximum height. A quick, downward stroke is the ideal choice for this shot, giving the ball a flat, but downward flight.
  • Height C: This is when the ball is on its way down for its next bounce. This is a great opportunity to play a topspin stroke on the forehand. The stroke involves playing the ball from a low to high angle with the paddle, putting forward spin on the ball. This will give the ball dipping motion over the net.

Choosing your next stroke is very dependent on the height and the position of the ball. It would be a good idea to learn which shot is suited for each ball. 

5 – Finding the best paddle to fit your style of play

This should be done reasonably early and is something that will benefit you majorly as a player over time. All paddles have different attributes – making each one unique to different playstyles. 

A good idea would be to determine what kind of player you are, and then start looking at paddles based on that. We’ve written a complete ping pong paddle buying guide here.

The most important component to look at when eyeing out the best ping pong paddle for you is the rubber used for it. The rubber determines attributes such as speed, control, and spin, which obviously vary. Here are some suggestions we have:

If you’re an attacking player

Look for a paddle that has less speed in it. Control will be your friend if you’re this kind of player. An attacking player generally hits the ball harder enough and won’t have to rely on the spring of the rubbers. A paddle with good spin and control as well as low speed would be a good choice.

If you are a defensive or a controlled player

A player of this kind uses more creativity and placement skills. For this reason, having a paddle with maximum spin and control would be a wise choice. You’d look for a paddle with rubber which is very tacky, for maximum grip. A paddle with a fair amount of speed would be helpful as well, giving your returns a bit more spice to them. 

We’ve reviewed many paddles for all playstyles here.

6 – Compensate for spin using for paddle angle

When applying different kinds of spin to the ball, a key technique is to angle the face of your paddle for each different kind. 

  • For topspin: Angle your facing paddle more face down (towards the ground), and try contact the ball above the center
  • For backspin: Angle your facing paddle more face up (towards the sky), while making contact with the ball below its center.
  • For right sidespin: Angle your facing paddle more to the right, and strike the ball on the left side of the center.
  • For left sidespin: Angle your facing paddle more to the left, and strike the ball on the right side of the center.

Being able to apply spin of all kinds is a very useful skill to have – widening your array of stroke options. 

7 – Noticing what spin is on the ball

Another key skill relating to spin is the ability to read the spin which is put on the ball. We can notice this from the type of stroke played by our rivals. Different strokes apply for different spins – so if your rival is moving his paddle from: 

  • Low to high: The player is putting topspin on the ball. This ball will have a high bounce on your side of the table. 
  • High to low: backspin is the choice here – the ball flight here will be flatter.
  • From their left to right: right sidespin will be applied.
  • From their right to left: left sidespin will be applied.

Actively watching your rival’s choice of stroke will help determine what action is being put on the ball – this will benefit you in planning for your return.

8 – Keeping returns over the net

Having the ability to keep your returns low over the net is extremely effective, as it limits the options of your opponent’s return. 

As the ball is closer to the closer, the angle that your opponent has to work with is a lot less – meaning it’ll be harder to hit with power. This will benefit you, as your return shot should be more manageable. 

There are obviously a few exceptions, and you shouldn’t focus on keeping the ball going just over the net for every shot. Shots such as lobs, or smashes are just two exceptions. 

There are obviously a few exceptions, and you shouldn’t focus on keeping the ball going just over the net for every shot. Shots such as lobs, or smashes are just two exceptions. 

9 – Use your whole body for forehand strokes

Using body parts such as your hips and shoulders for forehand shots can have a noticeable impact on the consistency of your shots. It helps with rhythm and can generate more power when needed. 

Using just the arm for a forehand shot is never a good idea, as this movement can be rigid and lack rhythm – which doesn’t help with consistency.

10 – Train until strokes become muscle memory

Our final, and arguably most important tip for improving at ping pong – is to practice until shots that seem difficult at first, become naturally easy and become a part of your muscle memory to respond to shots.

Some strokes may be difficult at first, but this shouldn’t discourage you to keep trying them out until you’ve got it aced. Stay patient, keep trying – they may become an important tool in your shot cabinet one day.

Some strokes may be difficult at first, but this shouldn’t discourage you to keep trying them out until you’ve got it aced. Stay patient, keep trying – they may become an important tool in your shot cabinet one day.


Ping pong is a game that everyone wants to be good at. It may take time to get to our desired level, but if players focus on the right things – this process can be made faster.

We hope this guide helps you to improve as a player, and enjoy your games more.

If you’re interested – we have a few other tips and tricks guides here.