Last Updated on August 10, 2020 by Jake
You’ve caught the ping pong bug and now it’s time to improve your game! Lots of the ping pong tips here are geared towards beginners and the basic fundamentals. Some on this list will be more advanced and nuanced if you are already a good player looking to take your game to the next level.
Without further ado, let’s get into the best ping pong tips and strategy you can integrate into your game to start smoking your opponents more often!
1. Play With a Solid, Athletic Stance.
Many teachers (wrongly) first dive into all of the different types of shots and serves you can have in table tennis. The truth is, players who have a foundational understanding of positioning miles ahead of opponents who don’t. Any good list of ping pong tips has to begin with positioning and technique basics. Don’t worry, we’ll get into all of the fun shots and serves later!
An athletic stance allows you to move back and forth easily to constantly maintain good positioning. It will also allow you to rely on instincts and maximize your reaction speed. This allows players to capitalize on opportunities and gives you the best chances of success.
A good stance for ping pong is to bend your knees slightly with your feet a few inches wider than shoulder width. Your back should be straight and your chest should be leaned forward ever so slightly. Many beginners lean back in a subconscious effort to compensate for slow reaction times. The reality is that posture actually slows down your reaction time and puts you in a defensive position.
2. Pay Attention to Your Footwork
Have you ever watched videos of professional ping pong? It’s easy to be enamored by the crazy shots that get played, but what’s often overlooked is how good their footwork is. You might be able to get by weaker players without moving around too much, but the second you play somebody who is good you will get smoked.
Developing your footwork is honestly one of the best ping pong tips we can give because it allows you to maximize your game. The thing is, good footwork isn’t rocket science. All it takes at first is for you to pay attention to moving your feet and remaining in an athletic stance. With enough practice and repetitions, great footwork will become second nature.
3. Get Your Own Ping Pong Paddle
Here’s the thing. We’re not advocating for you to necessarily get one ping pong paddle vs another one. Although there are clear differences in performance levels across different paddles, I’ve seen really good players who prefer to use basic wood paddles. I’ve also seen players who are really good and use professional quality paddles.
Which paddle you choose is besides the point for this ping pong tip. We always advocate for players to buy their own paddle and stick with it. Why? Because each paddle is different and balls will as such react differently to different paddles. Switching back and forth randomly between paddles will lead to inconsistency.
Over time, you’ll become super familiar with your paddle and be more and more consistent with your game.
4. Hold the Ping Pong Paddle Properly
The grip is the foundation of any good ping pong swing. A proper grip will allow for maximum shot control and reaction movement for defense.
There are actually quite a few viable table tennis grips out there, but we generally recommend people starting out with the Shakehand Grip or some variation of it. Just as the name sounds, you grip the paddle as if you were going to give somebody a hankshake. You can either wrap your thumb around the handle or rest it across the rubber of the paddle.
The Shakehand is a very balanced grip and gives a good amount of control and wrist flexibility to players. It’s a great grip to start out with, and after enough practice you can feel free to try out some other grips like the Penhold, Chinese Penhold, or Japanese Grips.
5. Stand the Correct Distance From the Table
How far from the ping pong table should you stand? Generally speaking, you should remain between 1 and 2 feet behind the ping pong table for your base positioning. Anything closer and you will be prone to getting handcuffed by deep volleys. Anything further away will leave you susceptible to drop shots bouncing twice.
The obvious disclaimer here is that you should be reading your opponent. If you are playing against somebody who is consistently hitting hard shots deep on the table, adjust your table distance further back to compensate.
6. Use Quality Ping Pong Balls
It’s really easy to just buy a random box of ping pong balls and start playing. But, one of the best ping pong tips we give to players is to practice and play with quality balls. They really aren’t that expensive and will make a significant difference on your game.
The reason is because high quality balls spin more and have a truer flight. Good players use spin so getting used to balls that spin a lot is one of the best ways to practice and get better at ping pong.
7. Learn to Recognize Spin
Now on to ping pong specific skills. One of the first and most important skills you can learn in ping pong is how to recognize the spin your opponent puts on the ball. Knowing the spin will allow you to make a better pass on the ball when it’s time for you to hit it next.
The key is to watch the stroke of your opponent’s paddle when they hit the ball. Here is a little cheat sheet for reading spin:
- If your opponent’s paddle strokes from low to high – topspin.
- If your opponent’s paddle strokes from high to low – backspin.
- From their left to right (right to left from your perspective) – right sidespin.
- From their right to left (left to right from your perspective – left sidespin.
8. Account for Your Opponent’s Spin by Altering Paddle Angle and Stroke
One of the ping pong tips that can really take your game to the next level revolves around how you handle spinny shots that come at you. You’ll be amazed how well you can return shots with spin just by making these simple adjustments.
Type of shot coming at you:
- Topspin – tilt your leading paddle face down and make contact on the top half of the ball.
- Backspin – tilt your leading paddle face up and make contact on the bottom half of the ball. Using a push shot through the bottom of the ball is a great way to return backspin.
- Right Sidespin – tilt your paddle to the right (top of the paddle forward on a forehand) and strike the ball on the right half.
- Left Sidespin – tile your paddle to the left (top edge forward on a backhand) and strike the ball on the left half.
This is something that will take focus to get down at first. After enough practice though, you will naturally return spinny shots without having to think about it.
9. Use Spin Yourself
You can make things tougher on your opponent by adding spin to your shots too! Practice making different strokes on the ball. As long as the rubber of your paddle is facing the target, you can swipe at the ball a variety of different ways and still get it in play.
For topspin: Swipe low to high and aim for the middle to top half of the ball.
For backspin: Swipe high to low with the face tilted up and aim for the bottom half of the ball.
For right sidespin: Swipe left to right.
For left sidespin: Swipe right to left.
Adding spin shots to your repertoire will keep your opponent constantly playing defense and allow you to be in the driver’s seat of rallies more often.
10. Your Stroke Should be Compact and Efficient
An efficient stroke makes a huge difference in allowing you to maintain good positioning. You shouldn’t be following through so excessively that it takes a long time to return your paddle to a neutral position.
Similarly, there is no reason you should need to wind up so much for a shot that your arm flails away from your body. It is easy to generate a sufficient amount of power by making solid contact and hitting with proper technique.
11. Accelerate Through Impact
Part of the proper technique I just mentioned is for you to accelerate through your shots. Simply accelerating through contact with the ball will add an unbelievable amount of pop and liveliness to your shots.
I want to make sure I differentiate between “accelerating through the shot” and “swinging hard”. They are two completely separate things. Having a mentality of swinging hard is not going to get you very far.
Hitting the ball fast is only good if you get the ball in play. The best ping pong tip for hitting the ball hard is to accelerate through impact. This way you can be accurate with power shots.
12. Use Your Entire Body
You must have an active body to get the most consistency out of your ping pong game. It’s really not the best to only use your arm to swing the ping pong paddle. The best ping pong tip for your swing that we can give to you is to utilize your entire body.
Everything from your feet, legs, hips, arms, shoulders, and eyes should all be in rhythm. That might all sound overwhelming, but with focus and practice it will become second nature.
13. Shot Variation
Keep your opponent on their heals by using variation in which types of shots and serves you hit to them. If you play predictably, you become very easy to beat. Unpredictable play doesn’t require anything crazy at all, just some variation in the shots you hit.
Ping Pong Tips for Shot Variation:
- Use different types of spin with your shots, even in the same rally.
- Hit the ball at different heights. You can hit the ball when it’s on its way up so your opponent is unprepared, at its apex, or on its way down. Each height will provide a different type of shot for your opponent to deal with.
- Make your opponent move by aiming for different halves of the table. Hit some shots to the left and some to the right in random orders.
14. Develop 3 or 4 Different Serves
The serve sets the tone for the point. For the player serving, it’s an opportunity to take command of the rally. Aces on serves are very rare against good players, so the object of a serve should be to put your opponent into a less than ideal position right off of the bat. If you can switch up a few different good serves, you might be winning the mental battle before the ball is even hit.
I like to suggest a topspin serve with sidespin, a deep backspin serve with a little sidespin, and a drop shot like backspin serve as a starting point. Combining sidespin with top or backspin can be a lethal combo! Practice a few different kinds of serves until you have 3 or 4 that you could execute in your sleep.
15. Low and Deep Returns
Generally speaking, you want to keep the ball as low as possible over the net when hitting back to your opponent. That will greatly limit their options for spinning and/or smashing the ball back to you.
Similarly, getting the ball deep on the table puts your opponent in a defensive position and also limits their selection for return shots. Anything that can throw off your opponent’s rhythm and posture is going to tilt the odds more towards your favor.
Obviously, you don’t want to only play shots like this to the point of becoming predictable, but it’s a good base way to play. Especially if your opponent has the edge on you, playing a low and deep shot can be a great way to get them off balance and take control of the point back.
16. Pinpoint Opponent’s Weaknesses
Ping pong is a mental game in addition to physical. Good players are constantly strategizing and trying to discover weaknesses in their opponent to exploit.
For example, a player might have a very poor backhand and therefore favors their forehand to a fault. You might exploit this by hitting to their backhand side and they have to get into a bad position to hit a forehand. From there, you can place a ball on their forehand side that is very hard to reach from their poor positioning.
Don’t be obvious about the exploitation though! I typically use exploits like this example on key points or turning points in the match. Abusing an opponent’s weakness over and over will only tip them off to it, and they may counter attack in some other way.
17. Beat Better Players by Frustrating Them
One of the best ping pong tips for playing against better players is to have a defensive mentality and aim to frustrate them. Some people will start to perform worse if they feel like their good play isn’t getting rewarded.
If somebody is playing aggressively and slamming balls at you, take a couple of steps back from the table and practice getting the ball back in no matter what. Having a ball returned after smoking it is enough to force many players into making a mistake.
This strategy is a great confidence builder too because you will slowly start to realize that you can hang with good players. From there, it’s just about practicing more and continuing to get better!
18. Play Against Better Players Than You
On that note, make a habit of challenging players who are better than you. There’s nothing wrong with playing against people who aren’t as good as you, but that’s not going to help you improve.
Pay attention to what better players do. Pick up on their strategies and techniques. Ask questions about what they’re doing and pick their brain for ping pong tips. Eventually the information you absorb will positively influence your game.
19. Have a Steady Mindset, Don’t Press
Some of the best ping pong tips apply to more than table tennis. In sports and in life, things will inevitably go wrong at some point. Don’t let the in game adversity snowball. You just lost 5 points in a row? So what? Get out there and focus on winning the next point, not your deficit.
Many players take things from bad to worse by pressing, or playing out of their character and skillset, when things go wrong. This often ends up only making things worse. If I’m not good at aiming smashes but all of a sudden start slinging them because I’m angry, I’m only going to lose more points in the process.
Sticking to your game and having a short memory allows things to balance out in the long run. Eventually your opponent will give up a few points in a row and you should be ready to capitalize on that momentum.
20. Use Deception
Using deception is one of the more advanced ping pong tips. The concept is simple, but becoming a master of table tennis deception takes time. A great time to use deception is on the serve, where you are in total control of the first shot.
For example, you can hit a shot with minimal spin, but follow through with a motion that might indicate spin. This can subtly catch your opponent off guard and start the rally off in your favor.
21. Develop a Strong Backhand
One of the ping pong tips I always give beginners is to work on your backhand. For new players, the backhand is often the weakest point of their game. Developing a backhand gives you additional ways to attack your opponent and allows you to continually maintain good positioning on defense.
When I wanted to get better at my backhand, I would practice by playing games exclusively with my backhand. At first it was disastrous, but after a while my skills caught up and my backhand is now arguably better than my forehand! Backhand game is key to becoming a complete table tennis player.
22. Be Consistent
Consistency is the key to winning games. Being consistent with your shots and approach allows you to tweak and fine tune your game in ways that you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. It’s easy to say you are going to be consistent, but the best way to do it in practice is to focus on every shot and play like every single shot is the game point.
23. Practice, and Practice Some More
After you know the basic fundamentals of technique and positioning, ping pong tips become unhelpful unless you are willing to practice. Practicing and putting time in is the only way to become a better, more consistent player.
In many sports, practice isn’t fun. In ping pong, practice can be tons of fun though! Grab a partner and get some games in. If you don’t have a partner there are some great pieces of practice equipment for ping pong such as a catch net or a robot to help you improve solo.
Of course, there’s always the old fashioned way. You can also practice Forrest Gump style by hitting into a hat or raising the opposite side of the table vertically.
24. Find a Ping Pong Club
Ping pong clubs are a perfect way to get plugged in with the table tennis community. At a club, you’ll find players to practice with, and be around folks who are truly passionate about the game. They will likely be able to give you ping pong tips as well! Butterfly supports table tennis clubs and pro shops throughout the USA and is a great place to start your search for a club.
25. Red vs Black Side of the Ping Pong Paddle
You may not know, but there is a reason that each side has a different color on most ping pong paddles. For red and black paddles, the red side will be a slightly firmer rubber that will hit shots faster. The black side is softer and therefore will create more spin than the red side.
Because of this, top players will generally hit forehands (where they generate more power) on the red side. The black side is used for spinny backhand finesse shots.
Ping Pong Tips – Wrap Up
I hope this list of ping pong tips helps you improve your game! Remember to start with the basics and from there you can move into more advanced and nuanced aspects of the game.
Have any ping pong tips that you think we left out? Let us know in the comments section below!
If you need ideas for your game room, check out our post of over 100 ideas for your game room next.
Last update on 2021-09-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API