From the people who taught you how to put English on a cue ball, here’s our guide to spinning a table tennis ball and why it’s helpful.

Blur spin

Now that you’ve successfully figured out your paddle grip style, it’s on to the big leagues with an integral part of table tennis—spinning the ball. From the people who taught you how to put English on a cue ball, here’s our guide to spinning a table tennis ball and why it’s helpful.

Why it’s important to know spin.

Brute strength and force won’t win every game. Knowing how an opponent is spinning the ball is almost as important as knowing how to do it yourself. If an opponent is putting spin on their serves, you’re bound to lose crucial points if you can’t identify and counter them. When a ball hits your paddle with spin, it rebounds in the opposite direction of the rotation.

Here’s how it works

Topspin

This happens when the forehand is tilted forward and you strike the ball in an upward and forward motion. Generally, your arm will arc from your waist, strike the ball and then follow through over the top of the ball.

The effect:

Topspin shots are faster and generally dip downward when you hit them. When blocking them, they run the opposite direction—upward—after rebounding off your paddle.

Tip:

To block a topspin shot, tilt the face of the paddle more toward the table to make sure your return stays down. 

 Topspin

Backspin

The opposite action and rebound effect of topspin. Also called a slice or drop shot, the backspin shot is struck with a paddle that is tilted back in a downward motion. Generally, your arm will arc from above, strike the ball and then follow through below the bottom of the ball.

The effect:

Backspin shots are slower and appear to float upward when you hit them. When blocking them, they run the opposite direction—down—after rebounding off your paddle. It becomes incredibly hard for your opponents to return a shot anywhere but in the net if you master this spin.

Tip:

If blocking a backspin shot, open the angle of your paddle with the table and try to give the ball more of a quick push than you usually would. This should help you counteract the drop shot.

 Backspin

Sidespin

Once you start getting the hang of topspin and backspin, start trying your luck with different types of sidespin. You’ll notice that the pattern of rebounding still applies with sidespin. You can get really creative and make your opponent think you’re using different sidespins.

The effect:

If you strike the ball and make it spin counterclockwise, it arcs to your left, runs off your opponent’s paddle to your right, and vice versa with clockwise rotation. The difficulty in both performing and returning sidespin is that many players do it differently. The way you hold your paddle and your style changes the way you direct the spin.

Tip:

This one takes muscle memory. If your opponent spins the ball and you notice it rebounding far left, remember how they did it and then return those same types of shots with your paddle angled more to the right. Same idea for the opposite rebound. After a while, you’ll start to envision the spin as they’re hitting it.

Sidespin

If you feel you’re at a higher skill level, try spinning against or with your opponent’s spin.

Think you’re a spin doctor? Describe your favorite ways to create spin.