Ping pong is a game where numerous different skills are required to outplay your opponent. The more skills and options a player has in their armory, the better suited they are to win. Spin is an important skill that all players that are looking to advance their game will need to learn. We’ve decided to write a guide on how to put spin on a ping pong ball, to help players develop this vital skill and add it to their abilities on the table.
Before we provide the technique required to apply spin on the ping pong ball, it would probably be wise to distinguish between the different types of spin that can be put on the ball. There are 3 main types of spin:
- Topspin: This type of spin is when the ball is rotating forward while its moving in the air. This type of spin imparts a downward force which causes the ball to drop at a faster rate.
- Backspin: The opposite of topspin, this is when the ball is rotating backwards while it moves in the air. The direction of spin imparts an upward force which lifts the ball at a faster rate.
- Sidespin: This is when the ball is rotating horizontally. This kind of spin can give the ball a sideways curve in the air, as well as a noticeably different bounce on the table.
Each kind of spin requires a different technique and stroke. Also, each kind of spin suits different situations. We’ll go through how to apply each type of spin on the ping pong ball, and also when to apply these different types of spins.
Before you learn these techniques, it is advised that you learn basics such as how to hold a paddle in the best possible way. We’ve written a piece on ping pong paddle grips here.
Please note that all of these techniques apply to both the forehand stroke and the backhand stroke.
If you’re an attacking player, this is one of your most important and go-to strokes. This spin causes the ball to have a downward force, meaning you can hit the ball with immense power, and instead of the ball flying over the table – it will dip down and bounce in play.
Here are the steps in putting topspin on the ping pong ball:
1 – Start your paddle at a lower point
Your paddle starting position for this stroke should be below where you’re expecting to make contact with the ball. This is because you’ll be brushing the top of the ball from a low to high stroke direction.
2 – Angle the face of your paddle towards to ground
Facing your paddle more towards to ground provides an angle that will help apply more spin on the ball and will counter for the upward angle that you approach the ball from – keeping the ball from not going too high.
3 – Move your stroke forward and upwards
Approach the ball in an almost “/” angle, brushing the top of the ball which applies the spin. The faster and harder you hit the ball at this angle, the more spin will be applied, giving the ball a great dipping motion.
The flight of this ball will start reasonably high, but if the correct motion is performed – the ball will quickly start coming down at a fast rate, and bounce quickly on your opponent’s side of the table.
Players should use this stroke shortly after the ball has bounced, as the spin is better suited for a ball that is closer to the table. The upward motion of the bouncing ball will also help players apply more topspin on the ball.
This stroke will require a lot of practice, as well as a lot of confidence. Players must believe they can hit the ball with power, and trust the spinning ball to land on the rival’s side of the table.
Applying backspin on the ball is a vital skill to have for any player. The backspin stroke is a more defensive shot, where players are looking to slow down the rate of play and buy more time to prepare for their next shot. This type of spin gives the ball a rising motion, which means it might be difficult to keep the ball on the table when you first start practicing this spin.
Here are the steps in putting backspin on the ping pong ball:
1 – Start your paddle at a higher point
The starting position of your paddle should be above the point where you think you’re going to contact the ball. This is because you’ll be brushing the bottom of the ball in a downward stroke direction.
2 – Angle the face of your paddle towards the sky
The face of your paddle should be slightly aimed towards the sky, as this will support the brushing motion on the bottom of the ball – helping the ball rotate backward.
3 – Move your stroke forward and downwards
This is the key move for backspin. Make sure your paddle is moving from a high to low direction, brushing the bottom middle part of the ball. The stroke is almost going in a “\” direction. The faster a player approaches a ball with this technique, the more backspin will be applied – increasing its rising flight.
Once again, this is a more defensive stroke and should be used to slow down the pace of play in order to better position yourself for your next shot.
This stroke should be selected when the ball has bounced reasonably high, as this spin gives the ball a rising flight – so the higher the ball is when the stroke is played, the greater the chance of the ball bouncing on the other side.
Players will need a lot of time to practice this stroke. However, once mastered, it is one of the most satisfying shots to play.
The stroke can be used for both attack or defense but is generally a slower, more witty shot. Sidespin has the ability to not only affect the curve and bounce of the ball but also impact the way the ball comes off your opponent’s paddle – causing he/she to hit it way off course. This can become very frustrating for your rival! Sidespin varies from either left sidespin to right sidespin.
Here are the steps in putting sidespin on the ping pong ball:
1 – Start your paddle at a slightly higher point, left or right
The paddle should always start at a slightly higher point from where you expect to make contact with the ball. Depending on which sidespin you want on the ball, your paddle should start from that direction.
- Right sidespin: Start your paddle from the right slightly.
- Left sidespin: Start your paddle from the left slightly.
2 – Use push or pull sidespin
Push sidespin is produced by moving the paddle laterally away from your body while hitting the ball. If you’re a right-handed player, this will put left sidespin on the ball. While if you’re a left-handed player, this will put right sidespin on the ball.
Pull sidespin is produced by moving the paddle laterally towards your body while hitting the ball. If you’re a right-handed player, this will put right sidespin on the ball. While if you’re a left-handed player, this will put left sidespin on the ball.
3 – Move your stroke forward and downwards and in
Make sure your paddle is moving in a downward direction from its starting point, and from the direction in which you want it to spin.
- Right sidespin: Right to left paddle direction (right-handed player).
- Left sidespin: Left to right paddle direction (right-handed player).
4 – Brush the side of the ball
Use the brushing motion again for this spin, but this time on the side of the ball. Again, the more speed put on the stroke, the more spin will be applied.
This type of stroke can be used in many different ways. It can be a fast-paced shot, being more on the offensive side, but can also be used to slow down the game and test your opponent’s ability to handle a ball with a lot of spin on it.
The sidespin put on the ball can have a curving effect on the flight of the ball. This can make it harder for your opponent to put in a decent return. However, curve requires a lot of spin – so quite a lot of practice is needed in order to achieve this curve consistently. Practice this technique often and you’ll start seeing some pretty cool ball flights.
Using sidespin a service can sometimes be a very difficult serve to return, as the spin on the ball can be hard to nullify.
Here is a video highlighting how to do a sidespin serve:
Spin can be something that takes years of practice and matches to learn, but if you focus on using the right techniques and strokes – they can be mastered sooner than you think. Keep these methods in mind in your next game, and be patient while you practice each kind of spin shot.
Spin can be enhanced by the ping pong paddle that you use, as different rubbers are used in each paddle to help generate different amounts of spin. We’ve reviewed some paddles here which may help you with learning spin play.