Thicker vs thinner table tennis rubber. How do you know which is right for you?
As you most probably already know, when purchasing a table tennis rubber you are usually presented with various thickness options to choose from. The “thickness” of the rubber actually refers specifically to the sponge portion of the rubber sheet and it has a significant impact on how your paddle will perform and feel once the rubber is applied. In this article, we explain exactly how sponge thickness can affect your game and give you some practical advice as to whether you should go with a thicker or thinner rubber based on your playstyle.
If interested, we’ve reviewed plenty of paddle options with various different rubber options.
Why thickness matters
Before we go into the specific differences between thick and thin sponges, it is first important to understand why sponge thickness actually has an impact on play.
When you make contact with the ball, the sponge that sits under the top sheet of your rubber gets compressed. The ball sinks into the rubber and is essentially catapulted out as a result. Varying degrees of thickness, therefore, affect how the ball is affected by the rubber and it thus has an effect on the three major factors of table tennis performance: Speed, spin, and control.
Other factors such as sponge hardness also play a significant role here but for the sake of this article, we are going to focus on thickness.
The impact of thick sponge (2.0mm or more)
A thicker sponge is better suited to aggressive players who want maximum speed at impact. When making contact, the ball spends less time on the racket than it would if the racket had a thinner sponge. The result is more speed but less control.
Summary of thick sponge attributes:
- Thicker sponge means faster ball speed and less control
- Enhanced speed and spin
- Better suited to experienced players
- Thicker sponge means you will sacrifice some control and as a result is not recommended for beginners
- Heavier feel overall
Who should use thick sponge/rubber?
If you are an experienced player who wants to generate as much speed and spin as possible and does not require too much additional control assistance from your racket, a thicker rubber (2.0mm or more) would be ideal for you.
The impact of thin sponge (1.9mm and below)
Thinner sponge offers you more control and generally is far more forgiving, specifically to less experienced players. While a thicker sponge is favored by offensive players, the softer sponge is usually the go-to choice for players who prefer a defensive playstyle or by recreational players who require a little extra assistance from their rubber to control the ball.
Summary of thin sponge attributes:
- Thinner sponge results in slower ball speed but greater control
- Great for defensive block and push play
- Ideal for recreational players
- Most likely too slow/not enough spin generation for elite players
- Lighter feel overall
Who should use thin sponge/rubber?
if you are a player who favors control and defensive play over flat-out attack, a thinner sponge(1.9mm or less) will suit your game. Additionally, if you are a recreational player who needs a bit of a forgiveness and control boost, thin rubber is ideal for you.
Both thick and thin sponge rubber have their place and are suited to different players both in terms of experience and play style. While a thin rubber will suit a recreational or defensive player, looking for maximum control, a thick rubber will maximize speed and spin for the offensive player looking to dominate their opponent. It should also be noted that the thickness of the sponge is not the only factor that needs to be considered when choosing a rubber. Sponge hardness is another important factor that also plays a major role and should be considered in combination with thickness.