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How to choose your table tennis rubbers

There are hundreds of new table tennis rubbers released every year. New players are totally confused to choose the right rubbers. Famous table tennis brands like Butterfly, Stiga, Donic, Nittaku, and DHS release a lot of new rubber every year. Coach EmRatThich makes a guideline to help you to choose the right table tennis rubbers.

Since you need 2 rubbers, one for the backhand side, one for the forehand side. They are not the same. I have explained how to choose the right rubber for each side:

How to choose the best Chinese table tennis rubber

The best Chinese rubber often has these characteristics:

  • table tennis rubber is tacky, which can generate a lot of spin with the proper technique
  • always select the hard but thin Chinese rubber (2.10mm to 2.15mm)
  • always take the harder sponge version (40 to 41 degrees)
  • avoid fake Provincial and National rubbers
DSH hurricane 3 chinese forehand rubber with blue and orange sponge (4)
DSH hurricane 3 Chinese forehand rubber with a blue and orange sponge (4)

There are many myths about Chinese rubber. See the video “the truth about Chinese tacky rubber”.

If you want to know the real personal Chinese table tennis rubber of the top players (Ma Long, Zhang Jike, Wang Liqin, Hao Shuai), read this article: “The difference between European and Chinese rubber

How to choose your table tennis rubber

As crucial as choosing a table tennis blade is selecting appropriate table tennis rubbers. Due to the fact that a direct impact on speed, spin, and direction is made when you hit the ball with the rubber surface. If you are looking for an all-around great rubber, there isn’t one.

You need to select the right rubber that fits your playing style, your power strength, and your age.

Speed, spin, and control can all be found on the majority of our rubber sheets. Based on Butterfly speed rating, here is some value for references:

Offensive: OFF+, speed rate about 13-14.

Offensive: OFF, speed rate is 12

Offensive OFF-: speed rate is 10

Allround: ALL: speed rate is 8-9

Defensive: DEF, speed rate is 6-7

Vibration Frequency Index of Butterfly blade
Vibration Frequency Index of Butterfly blade

Having a speed rating of less than 10 indicates excellent control. Anything between 8 and 9 is considered good for all-around play, and anything beyond 12 is considered quick for offensive play.

Rubber sheets that are smooth, reversed, and sticky is preferable.

For some players, the pips rubber, allowing them to shoot faster and more precise shots. A minority of players defend with an anti-spin rubber, which works by reversing the opponents’ rotation. It is easier to handle spinny serves and loops with long pips and anti-spin, but it requires more skill and time to master. The thickness of the sponge that sits behind the rubber varies from 1.2 mm to 2.5 mm. Before adding a rubber sheet to your shopping basket, you can choose the thickness of the sponge and the color of the top sheet (red or black).

Here is a video, I have explained how to choose the right rubber for the backhand side:

how to choose best table tennis rubbers (part 1) - backhand side

Watch this video.


Choose the right sponge thickness

Sponge thickness is very important. It decides the speed and the feeling in your hand.

What effect does the thickness of the sponge have on performance? Why is there only a one-speed rating for rubber sheets, regardless of the chosen thickness, if it has an effect on speed? It’s not the same!

Thick sponges (2.0mm or greater) lead to more offensive play, and this is a simple guideline to remember. Thinner rubber is more commonly used for short and long pipped rubbers, whereas 1.9mm to 1.5mm is preferred by more ‘control’ players.

Thin or Thick Rubber?

Watch this video.


The sponge slows the ball down when you swing at it and make contact. The sponge acts as a kicker for the ball as it moves inside the sponge and hits the wood underneath.

The sponge permits the rubber topsheet to exert friction on the ball during the above process of catching and tossing the ball, resulting in greater levels of spin than could be achieved without the sponge.

Different sponge thicknesses aren’t taken into account when checking the speed and spin ratings for different rubbers. Due to the way you hit and play, the sponge’s effect changes. In other words, a soft swing will slow the ball down, while a powerful loop will hasten your shot speed (by allowing you to take bigger swings).

sponge and topsheet thickness
sponge and topsheet thickness

In terms of millimeters, some rubbers are referred to as 1.9 or 2.2 mm, while others are called MAX, Medium thickness. The maximum thickness of the sponge and topsheet is limited to 4.00mm, according to ITTF regulations. If the rubber topsheet’s thickness isn’t specified, sponges designated “Maximum” are created by the manufacturer to be as thick as they can be while still staying under 4.00mm, and usually, they include a big enough margin of error to counteract this thickness of adhesive.

Tacky or grippy rubber

In general, Chinese rubbers are often tacky. European and Japanese rubbers are grippy, in another hand.

Here, you can see the tackiness effect of the famous DHS Hurricane 3 rubber. It’s a Chinese rubber.

Insanely Tacky Chinese Table Tennis Rubber!

Watch this video.


In general,

  • Tacky topsheet is great for forehand rubber, especial Chinese rubber
  • Grippy topsheet is great for backhand rubber (like Butterfly, Donic, Stiga rubbers)

Here is some of the technology used in rubber fabrication:

  • Butterfly
    • High-Tension
    • Spring Sponge
  • Donic
    • Formula
  • Yinhe
    • Max Tense
    • High-Tension
    • MoxA
  • Xiom
    • Energy Sponge
  • Yasaka
    • Tensor

These technologies mean that the sponge has the “tension” added into the rubber.

Here is the main difference between Chinese tacky rubber versus grippy Butterfly rubbers:



Choose the right hardness

Some rubbers have a very hard sponge. But other rubbers have soft sponges. Which one should you choose?

What is the significance of the rubber hardness?

The degree is a measure of the abrasiveness of the sponge. When the number is lower, the sponge is softer, and when the number is greater, the sponge is harder.

I recommend you choose the harder rubber on the forehand side. Choose a softer version on the backhand side.



Ma Long likes using DHS Hurricane rubber with 40 (DHS hardness degree). It’s about 57 ESN hardness scale.

The rule of thumb is, the hardness on the backhand side is softer than 2 degrees on the forehand side.

At lower speeds, a soft rubber (with a smaller hardness number) tends to provide greater spin (including serves).

The greater the number, the more spin you’ll get at high speeds. Those that play in a ‘Chinese’ style (by keeping their elbows straight when looping) will benefit from a higher number (the harder sponge).

Spin capacity on hard and tacky chinese rubber versus ESN Tensor rubber
Spin capacity on hard and tacky Chinese rubber versus ESN Tensor rubber

The lower the number, the better for those who play in a more “European” style (bent elbow during looping). In general, higher-rated players tend to like harder rubber. Pro players love using the hard rubber because they can hit harder and faster than the new players.

Throw angle of hard tacky rubber versus European rubber
Throw angle of hard tacky rubber versus European rubber
Pro player use booster on hard sponge rubber
Pro player use booster on hard sponge rubber

Choose the right colors

In general, pro players like using black rubber on the forehand side. Because black rubbers seem to be tackier than red rubbers. I have explained I here. (Black versus red rubber).



Almost every top Chinese player use

  • The black rubber on the forehand side
  • The red rubber on the backhand side.

See the photo below of Ma Long’s equipment.

Ma Long personal rubber
Ma Long personal rubber: Black Hurricane 3, and Red Tenergy (the year 2011)

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Table tennis coach in France since 2012, founder of pingsunday.com (the best online coaching program for table tennis players). Born in Vietnam in 1983, Ph.D. in Université Pierre Marie Curie. Read more about him.

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