Want to learn to play table tennis or, maybe, up your game a little? Whatever your motivation, we’ve got some tricks and tips to make you a better player. Table tennis can be played with just two people, one on each side, or as doubles with two people on each side.
From soft-serves to backspins to paddle choice, there are so many subtle things that can improve your game. Table tennis is a low-impact, fast moving game of skill. It has many health benefits and can really add a lot of great moments to life!
Ready to play?
Let’s take a look at some of the things you’ll want to know to get started playing table tennis and then some of the more advanced techniques that the pros use to win their rapid-fire games.
To begin, you’ll need to know how to hold the paddle, which might also be called a “bat” or a “racket”.
There are two main ways that people hold a paddle. The most common is called the “shakehand”. The second most common is called the “penhold”.
You may hear or read about the “penhold” being Asian and the “shakehand” being Western, but the two top-ranked Chinese players in the world as of September, 2018, Fan Zhengdong and Zhu Yuling, use “shakehand” grips so don’t fall into the trap of thinking that there’s a cultural significance or difference in the grips.
Choose the one that works best for you and whack that ball!
·The Pen-hold Grip: Hold the handle as if it was a pen. Your thumb and index finger should wrap around the handle and your other three fingers will be on the back of the paddle.
·The Handshake Grip: Wrap all of your fingers around the handle of the racket, except for your index finger—that should be on the rubber, supporting the backhand side of the racket.
Once you’ve got a grip on how to hold your paddle, it’s time to serve up some fun! Serving is one of those fun-to-hone skills. At first, just getting the ball over the net and onto the table can be a victory. With some practice, however, you’ll soon want to know how to serve like a pro.
Pros don’t just serve, they do it from the “core” and finesse the ball over the net. The goal isn’t to whack the ball as hard as possible. Instead, they are aware of their stance and their swing. The goal is to serve the ball short, sharp and direct. If possible, they try to get the ball to just pass over the net and bounce twice before the opposing player can even get to it. You can watch them do these amazing and interesting serves online.
Keep your core strong and engage from the core when you’re serving. A serve, believe it or not, is not about arm strength. It’s more about control. To control your body and the ball, keep it all coming from your core.
Your stance is rooted in your core. Your movements are rooted in your core.
In your core lies your greatest strength (alternatively: your greatest strength in your core lies)!
Flex Your Reflex
Reaction times are critical in table tennis.
That little ball moves quickly and you need to as well!
One fun game you can play with a friend is to grab a bucket of balls and have the other person serve the balls, very quickly, to you.
You try to hit back as many balls as possible. It’s crazy!
Then, switch places (after you pick up a whole bucket of balls!). Games that force you to move fast but don’t have any consequences will help you focus on your reaction time.
Kids are extremely good at that, so ask a child to help.
Fast reflexes require relaxed muscles. I know, it seems backwards but think of a cat.
Lightning fast reflexes, soft, squishy muscles and can sleep upside down and bent over the arm of a chair, right?
Okay – so keep your muscles soft by stretching, maybe even doing some yoga, and doing some relaxation techniques. This way you won’t pull any muscles and you’ll be moving faster and faster each game.
Move at your own pace and remember that just playing table tennis will gradually increase your reaction times, your balance and improve your reflexes. So, flex that muscle and put the paddle to the test!
Footwork, something that usually brings to mind boxing or ballet, is actually important to playing table tennis.
If you’re just starting out, just try to make sure that you’re not tripping over your own feet as the ball whizzes by you!
Once you get the hang of it you might notice that it matters if your feet are fast or slow. Try to stay light on your feet and keep them firmly planted when you swing. Then, get ready to move again because that ball can come back faster than you can say ping…
More than the Core
So, it should be clear by now that having a good core can really help keep your game hot but there are also many other factors involved in conquering table tennis.
A strong core is important but so is a good paddle. Cat-like reflexes don’t hurt, either.
Whether you’re playing for fun or playing to win, keep in mind that you can always learn something new, break an old record and have a blast playing this fast-growing sport!