Difficulty Level of Table Tennis Techniques

This post has been written by Kevin James. He is the co-founder of PingPongBros.com – A website dedicated to help new and experienced table tennis players choose the right equipment.

Here you go.

Table Tennis Skills Difficulty Rating


Hello folks! Okay, so I decided to make a writing about this topic. Why? I don’t know, it’s just passed in my mind, and I think it’s a good topic to write. I have been coaching for over 5 years and got my ITTF certification last year. Based on my experience coaching players varied skill level, I will be rating techniques based on difficulty. I hope you all can benefit from this comparison.

Of course, there are many things which makes the stroke harder, like the spin, the speed, and the placement of the ball. These will require other skill, like spin-reading ability and footwork. I’ll exclude these factors from my writing and focus mainly on the stroke itself.

Let’s breakdown the table tennis strokes first: there are counterhit, block, lob, flick, smash, topspin, push, and chop. Furthermore, there are some more advanced strokes, like short push, backhand sidespin flick, sidespin-topspin, and so on. Oh, and don’t forget the big two: the forehand and the backhand.

Alright, let’s discuss the last two first: forehand vs backhand. Which one is more difficult? Generally, I’m sure most players will say that forehand is easier than backhand. Personally, I think these have relatively equal difficulty. The things which make one of these easier/harder is your preference. Do you like forehand more, or the backhand more? How you learn these strokes are also contributing. Forehand and backhand have their own characteristics which are different from each other, so it depends on the player’s preference whether which stroke is easier/harder.

Why is learning forehand easier? From my experience, the correct forehand strokes mainly use the shoulder joint to make the motion, and involve other joints much less. Let’s compare with the backhand strokes. The backhand uses the shoulder, elbow, and even wrist, and these joints contribute equally to the quality of the stroke. And this makes Forehand easier compared to backhand stroke. At least, from this point of view.

Why is learning backhand easier? Let’s take a look from different point of view. It’s much easier to make a stroke while the ball is in your hitting zone, right? The good news is, the hitting zone of the backhand stroke is right in front of your body. Compared to the forehand, which the hitting zone is slightly in the side of the body, the backhand stroke is easier. Why? Because it’s easier to target something which is right in front of your eyes, and not slightly in the side. Correct?

Next: let’s discuss the stroke itself. There are many techniques to discuss: counterhit, block, flick, smash, topspin, push, chop, and some other more advanced strokes.

To put it simply, I’ll classify those strokes into 5 difficulty class: E, D, C, B, and A.

“E” is the easiest, and “A” is the hardest. Even though I put these strokes based on my personal experience, I’m trying to be as objective as possible by considering two main aspects of the technique: the speed and the spin. Placement is not included because it will also involve footwork, which is a whole different topic for me.

Class “E”

  • The Counterhit
    Explanation: This is your very basic stroke which will be a foundation of most attacking technique. Actually, there’s no need for an explanation of why this should be the easiest one. But if you really want one, I’ll say that this technique is the one involving the least speed and spin.
    Read more here: https://revspin.net/coachwiki/35-counter-hit/

Class “D”

  • The Drive:
    Explanation: It’s just a faster version of the counterhit. But making a good drive requires more coordination than the basic stroke, so let’s put this on “D”.

  • The Block:
    Explanation: A counterhit with shorter motion, I think. You just need to put your bat on correct place and angle to make this stroke. The problem is, you will deal with a fastball if you are forced to make this stroke, so let’s put this on “D”, too.
  • The Push (basic)
    Explanation: Another basic “keep-in-play” stroke. But why not “E”? Because it involves spin, which will make this stroke in new level.

Class “C”

  • The Smash
    Explanation: Same as the drive, but against a higher ball (Ever trying a backhand smash? try lifting your elbow higher. Forehand is much easier, though). Being used against a higher ball, it will require even more coordination, making this stroke harder than the drive on “D”.
  • The Topspin (basic)
    Explanation: I’m talking about topspin against no spin ball as the basic topspin stroke. You need a “brushing” contact while hitting the ball. Learning how to “brush” requires good touch and can be very tiring (You may often mishit the ball in the early learning process), but the reward will be worth it. As you get better, this stroke can be very versatile and can be used both for offensive and defensive purposes. Spinning the ball is harder than hitting the ball flat, so topspin is harder than drive.
  • The Flick (basic)
    Explanation: This is an offensive stroke against short ball near the net. Since you don’t have much space to make a backswing, you will need a more sophisticated motion to make this stroke (Especially with forehand. This is the area where the backhand shines). I don’t know how to describe this stroke best. Some players will say it’s like a mini drive/smash, while others will say it’s like a mini topspin. Try ’em out and find out.Read more here: https://tabletennisengland.co.uk/news/archived/coaching-forehand-backhand-flick/
  • The Lob
    Explanation: Exclusive for defensive purpose. Same as a block, you will deal with a fast ball if you are forced into defensive position. But the ball will be so fast that you need sometime to recover for the next wave, and the lob can support you. Initially, it’s like blocking the ball and throw it to the sky. When you’re further away from the table and ready for the next smash, it’s like counterhitting the ball or topspinning it sky high. This stroke relies on excellent coordination and control to make the ball land successfully. Class “C” is a perfect class for this stroke.
  • The Short Push (advanced)
    Explanation: Why is it harder to make a short push than a basic push? The short push requires excellent touch to make it effective. Moreover, the short push has less margin of error than the basic push. It means any small mistake will result in a very loose ball which is easy to kill.
  • The Chop (basic)
    Explanation: Like the basic topspin, the basic chop is a chop against no spin ball. This stroke stems from the basic push, but with wider “chopping” motion. This stroke also requires good touch like topspin.

Class “B”

  • The Topspin-sidespin (advanced)
    Explanation: Spin is one major factor that gives you consistency on the stroke, especially topspin and backspin. Sidespin doesn’t give you that benefit much, so adding sidespin on the ball may decrease your consistency. Moreover, brushing the ball sideways isn’t something you do often. On the contrary, I think sidespin is like a dual edge. Even though it’s difficult to do this stroke, it’s also difficult for the opponent to return this stroke. I’ll put this on “B”.
  • The Topspin against backspin (advanced)
    Explanation: Putting spin on the ball itself will add one difficulty level. Now you’re going to spin the ball on the spinning ball, which will add one MORE difficulty level. Fortunately, the ball will be slow due to the characteristic of the backspin. It requires even better touch to lift the ball over the net and have the ball land on the table, though.
  • The Sidespin Flick (advanced)
    Explanation: I think this technique is very exclusive for the backhand. Why is it harder than the basic flick? Because you’ll contact the ball on its side, not on the back. Also, its the nature of sidespin to be more difficult than the topspin/backspin. Moreover, it requires high elbow to execute, which other strokes don’t. Learning something different often is a harder thing. Which other strokes that require high elbow? (backhand smash is not included in the option)

Class “A”

  • The Topspin against topspin (advanced)
    Explanation: Dealing with extra spin already gives you one extra problem. Now you’re dealing with extra speed, which gives you one MORE extra problem. The total will be 2 problems (extra speed and extra spin). But it’s not over yet! You must hit it with speed and spin, so it will be one MORE problem. It will be 3 problems in total. Things can’t be worse, can it?
  • The Chop against topspin (advanced)
    Explanation: Same as topspin against topspin, you must SPIN the ball on the FAST ball that is already SPINning. How many problems you can get? Three! And you’re on defense….

Alright! So that’s all my writing about the difficulty level. It’s longer than I thought, but I hope you enjoy it :). I know there are many who would not agree with me, so feel free to comment on my writing. Any comment and suggestion will be gratefully accepted :D.

For the final words, keep your skill sharp!

Last Updated: 02/04/2019

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