To play table tennis, you need the right equipment, including a ping pong table, paddle, and balls. But to win, you need to know the basic table tennis techniques to use, such as power serves, and defensive and offensive strategies, so you can smash the competition and dominate any match. In this guide, I’ll cover all the information you need to know, so you can handle yourself like a pro during your next family ping pong competition.
The Rules of Ping Pong
- In ping pong, the table must be 5 feet wide and 9 feet long. The surface of the table must be 30 inches from the floor. A traditional table will have a white line going down the center lengthwise which will divide it. Additionally, there are white lines that form the border of the top surface. The net must be approximately 6 inches high and should span the entire table at the middle. While not required, for a net to be legal, it must stretch out 6 inches on each side.
- Depending on personal preference and light conditions, the ball can either be white or orange. When purchasing your gear for your new ping pong set up try to buy the best quality balls possible. High-quality balls offer a more responsive bounce and can be easier to control.
- When you purchase a paddle, look for one that comes with inverted rubber. This means the rubber should have a smooth and flat surface instead of paddle with rubber that juts out from the surface.
If you want to go through a deep dive of the rules, click here!
Warming Up Before a Match
Warming up before a game will help your body prepare for rapid coordinated moves. Try playing a warmup match or two with a friend before a serious match. The goal should be to warm up for a period of 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your fitness level.
Ping Pong Strokes
Of any type of stroke you use, your arm should be kept very relaxed. The power used for a stroke should be concentrated on the wrist, forearm, and waste, all of which should act together like a whip, keeping the upper arm as still as possible.
The Ready Position & The Importance of Footwork
The average size of a ping pong playing around is around 40 feet by 20 feet. However, the width of a table is just 5 feet. This can make it difficult for some players to move around freely, especially when it comes to an intense, fast-paced match. The ability to move around easily so you can return those challenging trick shots will be crucial. That’s where ping pong table footwork comes in. footwork in table tennis requires precision. You’ll need to take smaller steps so you can move into the perfect position for challenging returns and forehand loops. You’ll also need to be able to execute those challenging leaps at the edge of the table when you’re using a a corner smash. Practicing your table tennis footwork can improve your speed and control over a match.
You’ll use side to side footwork when you’re close to the table. To do, make sure you use your outside foot, whether you’re moving right or left. Begin from your base position, moving from backhand to forehand. You’ll move from your left foot to your right, then vice versa. This creates short and precise steps in a shuffling side to side pattern.
Drives consist of a light top spin stroke that will produce low ball trajectory. These are the primary offensive strokes that are used in ping pong. A player will employ drive to force mistakes and to set up a winning match. Mastering both the backhand and forehand drive is important since it will give your opponent fewer options when they are using their own attack strokes. When executing this and other types of offensive strokes, you’ll use your entire body in unison for power and consistency. You’ll need to keep the ready position until you’re right about to execute the shot and remain responsive, but relaxed.
For a forehand drive, you will need to keep the upper arm close to the torso, but not flush with it. Your forearm should form a 90-degree bend, with your upper arm and should be pulled back into the three o’clock position. You will need to shift your weight toward your dominant foot and swing forward using a slight upward motion. The elbow should not move much up and down and is used as a pivot point. However, it should also be allowed to move forward slightly during the follow through. Make sure that you keep your paddle somewhat closed and stay that way throughout the stroke. Your follow through should finish when the paddle is parallel with your shoulder. Once you hit the ball, return to the ready position immediately.
For a backhand drive, the waist will turn to the left, with the paddle pointing in the nine o’clock position. When you’re following through, you will connect with the ball in front of your body, right after the top of the bounce. Allow your elbow to work as the pivot point, then snap your forearm slightly forward in an upward direction. Your paddle should be closed at this time. If done correctly, follow through should be finished naturally after contact with the ball has been made.
A push is a basic back spin shot that’s used to return close and low shots, or to change up the pace of a match. Considered a defensive shot, a push allows for placement on any spot on the table that’s challenging to attack when it’s been executed correctly. A push should be done using the right foot to step in. You’ll connect with the ball right after the bounce, using an open paddle. How open the paddle is will depend on the intensity of the ball’s back spin. Heavy back spin will require a wide-open paddle. Use a varying amount of paddle angle and back spin and be sure to keep the ball low.
The forehand push will bring the paddle up slightly and back, while you keep your elbow at your waist. Make sure that you bend your wrist back and swing forward using a downward motion. Once the racket reaches the ball, you will need to snap the wrist forward to improve speed. Using an open paddle, you’ll barely touch the bottom half of the ball. Ideally, you’ll make contact with the ball immediately after it bounces. Avoid pushing a ball at the top of the bounce since the return will pop up high enough to allow your opponent to make a powerful smash. Try hitting the ball slightly to the right and in front of your body. You’ll follow through slightly down and forward.
For a backhand push, you’ll bring the paddle slightly back and up, close to your stomach, as you cock your wrist back. For this move, you’ll make contact with the ball in front of your body. Your elbow should be kept still as the wrist and forearm move forward.
Blocking will allow a player to use the opponent’s force against them. Blocking is done immediately after the ball has bounced so that maximum speed and control is retained. Adjusting the paddle’s angle will depend on the severity of the ball’s top spin. The more top spin the ball has the more you’ll need to close your paddle. There is very little backswing and follow through with a blocking move. Basically, you’ll think of blocking as a backup shot that you’ll use when there isn’t much time for a loop or full drive. A block can be used offensively as well, depending on how much control you have over it. You’ll use your wrist to vary the direction of this type of return and make sure that you pay attention to your footwork.
Smash is the shutdown stroke of ping pong. Any ball that’s close enough or high enough to the opponent’s side can be smashed. When you smash, this move will combine wrist, forearm, and waist movement to the fullest extent. Good smashes are very hard to return, yet a skilled player may be able to do it. The ball will make contact at the top of a bounce at the highest point.
The basic rules of serving in table tennis include:
- The ball should be held above the table level to allow the opponent to see it.
- A ball must be visible to the opponent until it’s struck.
- Balls must be struck behind the end line.
- Balls must be struke only on the way down.
- Balls should be held in the palm of the hand with the fingers kept stretched out.
- Balls should be tossed vertically
The serve used is entirely up to the player. There are no specific serves that have to be used. However, there are some basic serves that you should experiment with, including:
Similar to chopping or pushing, this type of spin serve is executed with an open paddle slicing the bottom of the ball.
Top spin serves can be done with a flat paddle and involves grazing the top of the ball using a closed paddle for more spin.
For side spin, you’ll hit the back of the ball in a right to left or left to right motion.
If you want to learn how to add spin to your ping pong ball, click here!
These basic table tennis techniques can prepare you to take on players of different skill levels, but you won’t be able to dominate a match or crush the competition until you put in the practice. These techniques can be very challenging to master, but with consistent practice at least three to four times a week, you can begin to develop a solid playing strategy that will prepare you to take on any player.