15 Great Table Tennis Tips for Beginners

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funny man playing ping pong

If you’ve recently purchased a new outdoor ping pong table for the whole family, but you’ve found yourself struggling to make even the simplest shots, then this guide on table tennis tips for beginners can help teach you everything you need to know about the game, how to train like a pro, and what techniques can help you improve your performance. These tips will help players of all ages and skill levels, so you can also coach the kids, once you’ve gotten the hang of some of these basic techniques.

Get a Good Paddle

Investing in a good ping pong paddle should be your first step after you’ve purchased a table. A decent paddle isn’t cheap, but it can make the difference between sinking a match and winning it. If you’re taking table tennis training seriously then this will be one of your best investments. Make sure that you train with this racket consistently in order to get used to it and achieve better control over the ball.

Use the Right Grip

After you’ve purchased a paddle, you need to learn how to grip it correctly. There are many different ways you can grip the handle; however, it’s usually recommended for beginners to start with the standard shake hand grip. It’s crucial that you hold the paddle correctly from the beginning, so you don’t pick up any bad habits that can hinder your game later on.

Focus on Your Serving Technique

One of the most important parts of learning how to play the game is mastering the basic serving technique. Serving is one of the easiest ways you can score points and it’s going to be one of the only times you’ll have total control over a match. As a newbie, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to learn multiple serves. Instead, you need to master each one. Once you’ve mastered a certain serve you can move on to the next.

When you serve, make sure that you throw the ball a minimum of 6 inches into the air from an open palm. You should also avoid covering the ball with any part of your body, and ensure the ball is visible to your opponent at all times.

For more information on the different types of serves you can learn how to master click here to read my article on how to serve in table tennis.

Master the Basics

As you focus on your serve and how to hit the ball where you want it to go, you also need to master the four basic types of strokes:

  • Backhand push
  • Forehand push
  • Backhand drive
  • Forehand drive

These are essential backhand and forehand strokes that you need to get down before you take on an experienced player. These strokes are going to be the key weapons in your defensive arsenal, especially if you want to train to compete professionally.

Always Warm Up

Women stretching

You may not think that ping pong is a physically demanding game, but it is. If you’ve ever seen a competitive game, you’ll have noticed just how much energy, power, and stamina you need to dominate a round.  This means that you can easily get injured during a match. Beginners are strongly encouraged to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes warming up their muscles before a round. This can be done using some basic calisthenics, or you can play a warmup round with a friend. Over time, your body will become used to this physically demanding sport, but even once your body has adjusted to the demands of the game, you will still need to warm up before a match.

Learn to Relax Under Pressure

While it may sound obvious, consistency is crucial for winning games and perfecting your skills. In fact, a lack of consistency can often mean the difference between a win and a loss. While you practice, you may be able to consistently make all of your shots, however once you’re under pressure and playing competitively, the pressure can affect you mentally, throwing your game off. During a match, take it slow and focus on each ball as if it were the last point in the game you need to win. You can also practice playing in front of an audience, which can also help to improve your performance under pressure. Ask family or friends to watch you and another friend of family member play a few matches so you can get used to having people around during a challenging match.

Practice Alone Too

In order to grow as a player, you need to train and practice on your own since you won’t always have someone to play against. Try to create your own practice routine with time set aside each day to focus on your game.

If you want to check out some of the best ping pong tables that have a playback mode, click here to read my full buyer’s guide!

Continue to Challenge Yourself

As you grow as a player and advance to the intermediate skill level, you will need to add some different types of serves to your arsenal. There are many different serves both backhand and forehand, as well as different types of spins that you can employ to keep your opponent on their toes and unsure of what your next move will be. Variation, when it’s well timed, can catch an opponent off guard so you can land some easy points. During practice, make sure the ball is low over the net and deep into the opponent’s side. Getting the ball as close to the net as possible will give your opponent less time to decide on a counter serve and can prevent them from generating enough power on the ball with their return.

Join a Club

Joining a ping pong club is another good way to improve your performance, since you can play against many different players. Going up against different players is a great way to learn how to use different tricks and strategies during a match. You will also have more fun playing against people who are in the same boat, trying to learn how to master different serves and improve their stamina and playing strategies.

Don’t Forget About Your Footwork

As you continue to get better and begin playing against opponents who are much better than you, you’ll need to consider how you use your feet. Footwork is something that pros dedicate a lot of time to since being in the right position to return a ball is important. If you begin to take the game more seriously, you should also consider purchasing a pair of table tennis shoes. These shoes are made specifically with the movements of a ping pong player in mind and can help you move around the table safely and quickly.

Learn to Spot Weaknesses

Developing your playing strategy in table tennis is important. A huge part of developing advanced tactics is learning how to identify your opponent’s weaknesses. This will help you gain a huge advantage during a match.

Learn How to Fake Out Your Opponent

people playing table tennis

Gain an advantage over your opponent by learning how to fake them out. Make the beginning of your serve look the same by placing some spin on the ball. This will make it difficult for your opponent to determine what type of serve you’re planning to use. Be careful where you look when you’re serving, to prevent your opponent from determining which side of the table your ball is going to land on. Come up with ways to disguise your serve so your opponent never knows what to expect. Keep them on their toes and dominate every match.

Read Your Opponent

Just like your opponent is trying to anticipate your next move, you need to try and anticipate theirs. Pay attention to their stance, where their eyes go, and how they hold the paddle. Quickly anticipating their next shot will give you an advantage, allowing you to prepare and determine what type of return shot to use.

Avoid Holding the Paddle too Tightly

If you hold your paddle too tight, the muscles in your arm and wrist will also be too tight. This can restrict your arm movement and slow you down, resulting in strokes that are jerky. You’ll also find it more difficult to change the angle of the paddle when you’re switching from one stroke to another. This will negatively impact your control.

Use a looser grip so you can use your wrist more and generate spin. You’ll find it much easier to switch up your moves, change the angle of the paddle, and switch up the types of strokes you use. You’ll also find that you’re able to play faster, return shots with more power, move freely, and feel more relaxed.

Don’t Stand too Close to the Table

When you stand too close to the table, you’ll struggle to return shots that land too deep. You’ll also have no space to play a stroke. Instead, put some space between the table and you. At the right distance, if a ball lands deep, you’ll have more room to return the ball. If the ball’s returned very short, you’ll still be able to step in to get closer to the ball, however, you’ll want to make sure you move back out again.

Ping Pong Mistakes to Avoid

Below, you’ll find a list of common mistakes beginners tend to make when learning the ropes:

Standing with Your Dominant Leg Forward

Never stand with your dominant foot placed further forward than your non-dominant. Beginners usually do this when they’re using backhand strokes but doing so will make it difficult to power your serve. Make sure you stand with your feet square to the table, or you can put your dominant foot slightly further back. With your feet placed in this position, you can still play a strong backhand serve, but it will be much easier to switch to your forehand stroke and use more power behind it.

Reaching for a Ball

If you have a habit of reaching for balls that are too wide to your backhand or too wide to your forehand, using an outstretched arm, then your shots won’t be as powerful. You may not even be able to reach the ball if it’s too wide. If you’re lucky enough to make contact with the ball, you will lack control and your shot will be weak.

Instead, you need to move your feet so you’re closer to the ball. If it goes wide, you should side-step it and play your stroke. You need to be in the optimal position to play all of your strokes. This means being ready to move all the time.

Being too Hard on the Ball

Don’t go too hard on the ball. This isn’t baseball. If you hit the ball too hard, without using the right technique, your shots will be sloppy. Slow down instead. It’s a lot easier to learn the proper techniques if you start off slow. If you want to hit the ball harder, only use 70% of your power instead of 100%.

Final Thoughts

Table tennis is more challenging than many people expect, especially beginners. A casual match between friends or family is much different than a match between a skilled opponent in a competition. When you play for fun, you’re not really focused on table tennis rules, using the proper stance, or the right grip. Playing under pressure is a whole new ball game.

These table tennis tips for beginners can help you become a better player; however, they won’t suddenly transform you into a ping pong master. Being a better player will take a lot of practice. If you implement some of the tips from this guide into your game, your performance will improve over time, and you’ll find that you’re progressing faster.

You’ll also make fewer mistakes, keep more balls on the table, and you’ll begin to feel like a real table tennis player. Out of all of the tips I’ve included in this guide, the most important one to follow is practicing often. Try to stick to a daily routine. Remember, consistency is key. If you’re short on time, even a short 20-minute session a day can significantly improve your skills on your journey to becoming a table tennis master.