Table Tennis Skills for Beginners (How to Play Ping Pong in 12 Steps)

Last Updated on October 25, 2023 by Sorin Petroj

Have you decided to play table tennis and want to develop some table tennis skills for beginners who are the basics?

Maybe, you are not a newbie and just returning from a hiatus. Irrespective of the reason, you need to establish some beginner skills on the table to handle that tiny bouncing ball.

This guide will elaborate on a few techniques to play accurate shots as a beginner to lay a foundation for more advanced strokes that you can create. Also, exceptional Table Tennis Clubs in the United States provide excellent training conditions, such as Westchester Table Tennis Center and Sunrise Table Tennis Club.

Basic Table Tennis Skills – The 12 Fundamentals for Beginners

If you played games a long while ago, you would know they require proper equipment to play. Even for beginners, the right piece of equipment is mandatory.


And the next thing you need to keep in mind is to practice as much as possible. With practice, you can play those strokes with much more control. Your body has muscle memory, so you need to adopt the correct approach toward a shot.

This develops over time, and you can’t have a crash course for that, despite the claims of some coaches. You need to focus on beginners’ basic table tennis skills and then proceed.

We have a detailed online learning table tennis article and the best coaching tips for 2022.

Now there are 12 fundamental table tennis skills for beginners in the game. And we will discuss them in the following text.

1. Ping Pong Serves

There are three basic types of serves in table tennis + another combination of these: topspin, backspin, and clean empty service without rotation. You will serve with incredible speed and accuracy when you use various them. You have to practice these serves on both sides of the line. You will need a ping pong paddle for beginners to practice the services.

Other services are a bit more complicated, and we will discuss them in the section for more advanced table tennis players. Indeed, we will mention which services they are and why they are good. These are long side rotation serves, internal serves, quick surprise serves, and backhand short serves from the middle of the table.

While serving, make sure your ball stays close to the table or low when it bounces. You don’t need to slam it into the table rather than across it. Another important thing is to throw the straight ball high with an open fist.

Table tennis skills for beginners how to serve properly

When the ball starts to fall, make contact with the racket in front of you and decide at the last moment whether it will be short or long. You achieve the long one by shooting the part of the table closer to you, while the short one is by hitting the part of the table tennis table closer to the net.

Practice finishing the ball in different areas right in front and target other areas on the opposite side. You can bring in the topspin or backspin later.

2. Table Tennis Footwork Practice

To develop better footwork, you need to shadow practice a lot. This way, you will have agile moves from one corner of the table to another. You need to reach the ball as swiftly as possible and get the feel of what it is like for the ball to come to you.

You can practice by pretending to hit the ball as it comes to you and in the direction where you want it to end up. Moreover, you can use your forehand and then try the backhand. This way, you will be flexing your muscles.

Use your backhand when you jump to the other side of the table, and keep your forehand in play when the ball comes to you. Just shadow-practice it all because the ball is not coming to you so that you can scratch even more.

Timo Boll practicing footwork with an exercise drill 2-2

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As you can see, exercises 2-2 are one of the basic ones that we usually recommend to beginners and players who want to improve their movement. You can play this exercise drill with the ping-pong robots.

It is one of the essential table tennis skills for beginners for footwork. It is not that hard to work with, and it improves reflexes, at the same time, you learn the basics about movement and small steps in table tennis.

We mostly recommend beginners improve their footwork by playing with their partner in the following way:

The partner will only stand on the forehand side and share three balls. The first is on the forehand, the second is in the middle of the table, and the third is on the backhand. You have to return all three balls with a forehand by moving as much as you need to reach each time.

Another thing beginners can improve their footwork is playing one ball forehand and the other backhand and returning it to the partner in the same place. That way, he will be able to share the balls with you, and you will be able to move to reach each one.

3. Forehand drive

This is where you will get the natural feel of the ball when making your first return shot. You will get to feel the ball as it comes back to you. With driving skills, you will get the feel quickly. Some lessons will teach you to learn the stance and grip first.

But to get the feeling, you will need to learn to drive first and get comfortable with the stance and grip. Get the feel, and try to make adjustments accordingly. This will allow you to get in the driving position and make shots more comfortable.

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The primary thing is to hold the ping pong racket around the height of the waist, lower yourself a little at the knees and you should move forward and stop your hand in front of you. It would help if you made contact with the ball in front of you and automatically returned your hand for the next shot.

We use both body and hand in every movement, and in the meantime, we follow the ball with our eyes. This is the most important thing to learn on time. Not to play out of place and only out of hand, but always add a little body movement.

The following things are the legs and movement. Always jump a little and move depending on the ball. This will allow you to move to heavier and faster balls later automatically.

4. Backhand drive

Similar to the forehand, only, in this case, the position of the posture at the table is more natural. The legs should be slightly spread and in the same plane, left and right. Lean forward slightly, make contact with the ball with the racket open, and close the racket slightly at the last moment.

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As you can see, the second essential table tennis skill for beginners is the backhand which is not complicated at all. Even for some players, it is easier than a forehand.

As a strong backhand player, I cite Aleksandar Karakašević from my country as a unique example of how this shoot should be reported. You can learn spins and other moves from the backhand side of him. He is the best Serbian-ranked player on the ITTF Ranking list.

However, as a beginner, it is vital that you have the correct posture, move correctly, and not push the ball but a little with your wrist to take a kick. That means the arm, elbow, and wrist should work together.

5. Forehand and backhand pimples

When you are done working on your basic playing shots, it’s time to create more ping-pong strokes. You have to develop a significant amount of timing in your game. It would be best to hit the ball at the right time with real force.

These are the next steps that beginners learn and children who mostly pimp initially. It is only essential to open the racket at a certain angle, as you can see in the following video, and slightly forward and down together with the wrist of the pimple ball.

 Video of forehand and backhand pimples

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For that, you will have to use your forehand and backhand push. This is your basic shot; however, this is not used in modern-day table tennis. But it doesn’t mean you have to skip these shots from your lessons.

It would help if you learned to make these pushes more aggressive. This is because you will give your opponents a long, heavy ball to middle the shot.

You can generate a lot of power and surprise your opponent. You can fast push directly to the foreside of your opponents, which catches them off guard, and attack the next ball.

There are also empty pimp balls, which means that you do the whole movement correctly, but you do not add a wrist but push the ball at the last moment.

Then your opponent may think he is a strong pimple and you were pushing the ball, and he will raise you a high ball that you can hit hard.

6. Looping

With looping, you can develop better skills to create those backspins with the help of your backspin serve. This is one of the most common ways to start your match. You can practice this by having your partner serve with a backspin.

The serve must be so that you have to use your backhand or forehand. But instead of doing that, you will have to use a loop as your return stroke as you are working on your loops only. If your partner can block these, catch the ball, and start again.

The loop is the strongest weapon of every table tennis player. Beginners should learn this move correctly to perfect and accelerate it later. It is best to understand this if you give your partner pimple long balls and make a topspin attack.

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You will take a position like in a forehand drive, lower your hand, and make contact with the ball with a big jerk forward. The racket should be slightly open, and when in touch with the body, go ahead towards the table. You will feel the angle by how much the opponent cuts the ball.

7. Chopping

Chopping should be done against the wall to quickly respond to the ball coming at you with a pace behind it. This is entirely different when you rally at the table with your partner.

You can also do this by drawing a small line or guessing that you need to hit the wall just over the line, only three feet away from the floor. This is approximately the height of the net.

Now drop your ball on the floor and when it bounces back up to you, try to chop it right against the wall just over the line and do it again when it comes back to you and keep practicing.

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When you try to chop against the topspins, you will chop more adequately. The chop needs to be low on the table tennis net because you don’t have to worry about a return shot from your partner.

You can ask your partner to serve you a topspin, then do the chop. Your partner needs to catch the ball and serve you another topspin, continuing the cycle. Make sure to practice this both with your back and forehand.

When dealing with the backhand and forehand chopping, you will get the feel of the actual game, where you will have to work on both sides. Ask your partner to drive on both sides so you can use your back and forehand for all the return shots.

8. Forehand flip

The flip with your forehand was an advanced table tennis skill in the past. But now, it is considered to be a fundamental skill. Your opponents will quickly dominate you if you can’t aggressively play your return shot. So, aggressive play is something you need to learn in modern table tennis.

Forehand flip is done by entering short pimp balls, similar to topspins. The difference is not with the whole hand but only with the wrist. Since the ball is close to the net, you can’t achieve such a big swing, but you can attack the opponent with your wrist and make him defend.

It is very important to approach the ball with one foot under the table. Players who play with the right hand should approach with the right foot and vice versa. When you do a flip kick, you return your foot to the starting position for the successive balls.

9. Backhand flip

Like the forehand flip, the backhand flip is also considered a fundamental technique. It would be best to use your backhand flip to return all short sidespin and topspin serves. Backhand pushes were utilized for these serves in the old days, but these backhand flips have replaced them.

With this move, you also have to get down on your knees and approach with one foot under the table. This is because the ball is close to the net, and when you contact the ball with an open racket, and make an upward movement with your wrist.

It is best to practice when you pimple short balls with your partner and enter one of them with a flip. The top of the racket should be lowered as close to the table as possible and then moved up and forward. Then you return your foot to the starting position to be ready for the further course of the game.

10. Backhand and forehand blocking

Blocking is another essential part of the game and is one of the primary table tennis skills. You will cut off quick shots conveniently if you can block with forehand and backhand.

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Using topspins, you can ask your partner to get you on all areas on both sides of the table. It would help if you tried to block each shot by hitting the ball as soon as it bounced from the table. It’s an effective way to transfer the force back without losing shape.

Unlike looping, with blocks on both sides, it is essential to adjust the angle of the racket. You will achieve this by slightly closing the racket depending on the strength of the topspin.

You won’t hit the ball like in a forehand drive, but lean the table tennis racket a little. That will be enough to return the ball to the table because it already has the strength and acceleration from the opponent’s topspin.

Additional Table Tennis Skills for Beginners

11. Forehand topspin

This is a shoot that many players like to use. It is the first step towards progressing from a beginner to a more advanced player.

Many players don’t know this move after many years but have been playing matches on safe balls for years.

However, when you learn topspin from the forehand side, you will see that you are entering a new era of table tennis. The stroke is performed by shifting the body’s center of gravity to one leg and then striking the ball forward with a lowered hand to perform a rotation.

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The center of gravity shifts to the next leg, and the arm quickly ends up and up. Here, as with other table tennis skills for beginners, you must include the body. Without the body, there is no strength to hit the ball.

Above all, concentrate on making contact with the ball as thin as possible due to the rotation. You will give your opponents a headache. You will adjust the angle of the racket so that the racket will be more open if there are more pimp balls and more closed if you perform a topspin on clean balls.

The wrist plays an exceptional role in forehand topspin because you make the final move with it. You can also make feints towards the backhand side to surprise the opponent with the wrist.

12. Backhand topspin

Now you need to practice your backhand as well. Most beginners tend to focus more on the forehand than the backhand, and it’s a huge mistake. It would be best if you started practicing your backhand strokes right away.

This way, you will bring your wrist into play to better control the ball. With your backhand topspin, you can also relax and accelerate with timing. It will also allow you to find the proper grip for your table tennis racket.

Your backhand topspin needs to be a lethal weapon. But it would be best if you focused on the speeds here. To increase the speed of your shots, you just hit faster and sooner.

Table Tennis Skills for Beginners – Final Thoughts

Over time, these table tennis skills and techniques have drastically changed. But people still hold on to beginners’ primary table tennis skills and follow the new trends. This is the best way to approach this whole ball game.

There are various other shots that you can practice and include in your basic training. Remember, it’s not about creating your shots; it’s about practicing them with accuracy and precision.

You are learning basic table tennis skills, and you can’t develop something overnight that others have achieved with years of practice.

The more you work on a particular shot, the better you will get. Once you are done with the basics, you can begin advanced-level strokes and create the strokes as you play the ball.

The things we talked about you need to practice often and often in training to automatically start using them. Table tennis is a very fast sport, and you have to exercise moves for your body to react instinctively without planning.


When you practice each of these 12 basic table tennis skills for a few months, you will be surprised how you achieve the result yourself without planning a specific move.





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