Table Tennis Stance and Footwork

The stance and footwork are the basic skills of table tennis practice. To begin your journey as a table tennis player, you need to start with two things: The right technique to hold a bat and your ready position and stance.

Make sure you have a reasonable gap between your feet, with your left foot in front and your right foot behind, bend your knees, and then tilt your body towards the table to keep your weight forward. Keep your overall stance on the left part of the table.

The rest is just experimentation, practice, and improvement. The most common and the best paddle holding technique is called the ‘Shakehand’ technique. You can start off with this technique and work on your footwork.

At the end of this article, you will learn the proper ready position and stance.

what is the ready stance for playing table tennis?
Ready position and stance in table tennis

What is the ready stance for playing table tennis?

To start off, you must first know the difference between ready position and stance.

Ready Position

The ready position is the basic position that you have to be in when receiving the serve. If you are right-handed, you are supposed to stand at the left side of the table and for inverse for the left-handed.

Ready Stance

The stance is the overall position that you have to maintain during any stage of the game except when getting served. This position is totally dependent on the type of shot you are playing and varies accordingly.

The Objective of Table Tennis Footwork

Summing up in the most simple words, there is one main goal of the whole game. To hit the ball correctly onto the opponent’s side of the table. That is where the right footwork comes into play. Keep in mind that the height of the table is below the waist of the majority of the players and the majority of the good shorts played are very low to the table. To play those shots and avoid hitting the ball out of the table, the height of your hand must stay closer to the table.

Now you can simply try to keep your hand closer to the table and most of you must have tried it in the beginning but that is simply just not the right thing to do. You won’t get a proper motion follow-up while playing the shot and your body will always be uncomfortable. What is the result of this? You miss most of the shots. This is where the right footwork comes into play. You must also lower your whole body by bending your legs and leaning forward to stay in a more comfortable position. Now let’s discuss this in detail.

footwork in table tennis of xuxin
Xu Xin

Table Tennis Ready Position and Stance

The ready position is the beginning position in a match. Either you are serving or being served, you have to take a best ready position and then shift to stance footwork as per the requirements when the play begins. So the ready position has to be comfortable and just right.


As I mentioned earlier that you have to try to stay close to the height of the table and that means leaning down and bending to reach the table’s surface level. To start with the ready position, you have to:

  • Have a reasonable gap between your feet. Make sure that the gap is wider than the width between your shoulders (probably around 1.5-2 shoulder widths). This will increase your overall stability, control over your movement, and will lower your overall height to align with the table.
  • Lean your body towards the table and keep it on the front as compared to your waist and legs. This will shift your weight forward and help with the proper follow-up while hitting the ping pong ball with the paddle. This will also allow you to achieve a more comfortable position and reach the ball faster.
  • Bend your knees as per your requirements. Now the purpose of bending knees is just to align your height with the table and compensate for the remaining instability in your position and weight. The degree of bend in your knee is totally dependent on the height of the person. If you are taller, bend your knees more than the average to match the height of the table and vice versa.
  • Hold your bat in a horizontal position slightly above the table’s height and about 1.5 feet away from the table. This distance will help you to easily play the best shots.

Table Tennis Stance Footwork

Now that you are in a ready position and have played the first serve, it’s time for you to switch your footwork for the next shot. The footwork depends on the type of shot. The stance footwork isn’t as easy and fixed as the ready position. You have to keep experimenting and improving on it until you finally get comfortable and fast in playing the shots.

The basic position to start with is to stand at the left side of the table if you are right-handed. Keep your paddle in the center of the ping pong table where it will be in alignment with the center white line drawn on the table.

When you have played the server, it’s time to take your position. If you are right-handed, it is easier for you to move to your right side and cover more area easily so you stand on the left side of the center line and keep your feet wide apart as I explained in the ready position.

There are mainly two types of shots in ping pong: Forehand and backhand. The stance for both shots differs and must switch smoothly between each other while playing. Take the diagram below as the reference point for further explanations.

stance and footwork in table tennis

The main standing position is left foot on L1 and right loot on  R1. You can shift to backhand and forehand positions from this point.

Forehand Stance Footwork

Forehand footwork comes into play while playing the shot on the right side of your body. This means that you have to move your body from the initial position (left of the table) to the right side. To comfortably do so, shift your right foot from R1 to R2. With this basic movement, you are at the center of the table and your hand fully reaches the whole table now. Play the shot and come back to the same R1 position. You don’t need to move around a lot. Basic movement is the key to fast footwork.

Backhand Stance Footwork

To play the shots to the left of your body, you have to swing your bat to the left and do so. This one is a little harder to play and requires practice and improvement. To play the shots to your left, take your left foot from L1 to L2. This will allow you to reach the shots easily as your right hand falls short on its length when playing the backhand shots. In this case, staying to the left of the table will help a lot.

“Practice Makes A Man Perfect”

Now to practice, start with just playing the forehand shots. Don’t try to practice everything at once. Just one drill at the moment. When you have learned to swing the bat and move your right foot properly, you can finally get comfortable in your ready position and stance. This will make the backhand footwork easier and faster to learn.

Best Players in table tennis

That is everything about Table Tennis footwork. Now pick your racket and start training.

Good Luck!

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