How To Warm Up in Table Tennis Correctly

Warm-up is very important in table tennis. Unfortunately, even at major events such as the World Championships or Europe, it is clear that some top athletes are not familiar or are not well informed about warm-up and stretching. The majority of injuries occur during a training process or a competition. This is particularly interesting as it may indicate insufficient warm-up and lack of stretching exercises before training.

Today, let’s learn the right way to warm up in table tennis.

How long should you warm up?

There are 2 types of warm-up in table tennis: On the table warm-up and off the table warm-up.

In general, off the table warm-up should be done before on the table warm-up.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov is jumping and warming up before an important match
Dimitrij Ovtcharov is jumping and warming up before an important match (ITTF)

Why warm-up and stretching is important?

Stretching and physical warm-up in table tennis is very important. Every professional player warm-up before the match.

Stretching is important because

  • It will help you to soften the muscle
  • Provide a wider range of motion for the muscle
  • Reduce the risk of injury

1. Off the table warm-up

Off the table warm-up is crucial to prevent injury in table tennis.

Many table tennis players go straight to the table when they want to play. Their muscles are cold and contracted and not only can they not play their best, but they can also be injured before their muscles warm up. Before playing, you must warm up your muscles (called “off the table warm-up”).

Off the table Warm-up duration: from 10 to 20 minutes. You don’t need a table to warm up, just follow the warm-up routine below.

Warming up in table tennis is crucial before every training
Warming up in table tennis is crucial before every training

2. On the table warm-up

On the table warm-up help you get the “feeling” of the ball and the ambiance before an important table tennis match. Based on the official table tennis rule, you have only 2 minutes to warm up on the table.

During training sessions, when either player has not warmed up, a longer warm-up is acceptable. But if the players wait for the table (at the table tennis club), the warm-up should not last more than 10 minutes.

During a competition, I recommend that you warm up with your opponent for only 2 minutes before the start of any major table tennis event, even a friendship games.

Stretching in table tennis
Stretching in table tennis

Here is the correct way to warm up in table tennis.

1. Off the table warm-up

A good warm-up is necessary before starting to play. The warm-up involves 10-20 minutes of light physical activity to raise your heart rate and make your muscles warmer. Then do some gentle stretching to complete the warm-up.

On all stretches, move slowly through a full range of motion.

Do not go too fast, you do not want to hurt yourself during the warm-up.

“All you want is for the blood to flow and for the muscles to warm up”, coach Larry Hodges

Here are a good warm-up and stretching routine at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs. These warm-up routines are presented in the “Warming Up for Success” chapter, in the book TABLE TENNIS Steps to Success (ISBN-lO: 0-87322-403-5, Copyright © 1993 by Human Kinetics, Inc.) of coach Larry Hodges.

Book Table Tennis: Steps to Success (Steps to Success Activity Series)
Book Table Tennis: Steps to Success (Steps to Success Activity Series) (more info)

Coach Larry Hodges is USATT Certified National Coach, Member of USATT Hall of Fame, and Former USATT Coaching Chairman. Larry Hodges is a coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (MDTTC), where he used to coach full-time. He is certified as a USATT national coach. He was inducted into the USATT Hall of Fame in 2003.

With the permission of coach Larry Hodges, I would like to present these good warm-up routines for every table tennis player. Just follow these routines to warm up (from top to down).

There are 8 steps to warm-up in table tennis:

Step 1 – Neck

Inhale as you bring your head back to the original position. Remember to only move your head, not your spine. Do each of these stretches 10 times.

Step 1 - Warmup neck
Step 1 – Warmup neck

Step 2 – Shoulders

After circling forward for 10 rotations, change direction and circle both arms slowly backward 10 times. Inhale when you raise your arms and exhale when you lower them.

step 2 - shoulder
step 2 – shoulder

Step 3 – Trunk Back Hips

Step 3 - Trunk Back Hips
Step 3 – Trunk Back Hips

Reach high above your head with one arm while leaving the other dangling at your side. Feel the stretch in your side. Alternate on each side 10 times.

Step 4 – Trunk Twist

Step 4 - Trunk Twist
Step 4 – Trunk Twist

Push against your thigh with your right elbow and feel the stretch in your hips and your lower back. Perform the stretch on each side three times. Hold the position each time for 6 to 8 seconds.

Step 5 – Wrist

Squeeze a rubber or tennis ball in your palm, then extend your fingers, 10 to 20 times. This helps to strengthen your wrist and
forearm while also warming up your wrist.

Step 5 - Wrist
Step 5 – Wrist

Step 6 – Hamstrings

Step 6 - Hamstrings
Step 6 – Hamstrings

Stretch your arms as far as you can comfortably. You will feel the tension in the back of your right thigh. Hold for 6 to 8 seconds,
then release.

Step 7 – Quadriceps

Step 7 - Quadriceps
Step 7 – Quadriceps

Grab the foot with your left hand and gently pull the foot up and closer to your buttocks. You can feel the stretch in the front of your leg increase as you pull harder. Hold the stretch for 6 to 8 seconds.

Step 8 – Calves

Step 8 - Calves
Step 8 – Calves

Keeping your feet together and your knees straight, lean forward and feel the stretch in your calves. Hold for 6 to 8 seconds. Remember to keep your heels on the floor and your feet parallel.

2. On the table warm-up

During the warm-up, do not try to “win” the point, but focus on the rally and the feeling. In rallying, place your shots so that your opponent can warm up rather than practicing your winning shots.

The typical on the table warm-up should follow these 4 steps. You only have 2 minutes to finish these 6 steps.

Step 1 - Forehand to Forehand Warmup
Step 1 – Forehand to Forehand Warmup
  • 1) Forehand-to-forehand drive (20 seconds). Simply hit back and forth from your forehand to the opponent’s forehand. These are regular forehand drive, not loops. Focus on consistency and the feeling.
  • 2) Forehand loop – block (20 seconds). One player will start looping, and the other should block passively to allow them to loop comfortably.
  • 3) Forehand block – loop (20 seconds). The first player will stop looping and start to block back passively, this indicates that they’re done looping. Another player starts looping.
  • 4) Repeat steps 1-3 but with the backhand: backhand to backhand drive, backhand loop-block, and backhand block-loop.
Backhand to backhand warmup
Backhand to backhand warmup – Ma Long vs Fan Zhendong

If you block the return too quickly or if you continue to crush the ball, they can not warm their strokes comfortably. And this can be considered as “unpolite” in table tennis. Please read the etiquette rules in table tennis too.


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3 thoughts on “How To Warm Up in Table Tennis Correctly”

  1. Coach,

    Here is a idea for your next pingsunday article; what body conditioning exercise in the gym is good for table-tennis players!


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