When you play table tennis, do you move efficiently from side to side, back and forth and keep balance? Or do you stumble from one shot to the next, tripping over your own feet?
If you’re a stumbler, you probably need to work on your stance. I was definitely a stumbler when I first started playing. I’d play a big forehand shot, lose balance, end up to the side of the table and watch helplessly as my opponent simply blocked the ball past me onto the open table. Damn!
I couldn’t work out what I was doing wrong. How could some players hit attacking shot after attacking shot from all areas of the table and I couldn’t?
The problem? My stance. My legs were too close together. I was standing too tall. My balance was terrible. I couldn’t recover quickly enough.
If this sounds familiar, you’re probably a stumbler too. The next time you play, take a look at your feet. How close are they together? If you’re feet are too close together, you’ll find it much harder to player table tennis well, so you need to get your feet wider apart.
5 reasons to play with a wide stance
1. A wide stance will help with quicker movement, side to side. You can cover the width of the table with a sidestep in either direction. If your feet are too close together you may need 3 or 4 steps to cover the same distance and this will slow you down.
2. Your balance will be much better. In the video below from my course Table Tennis for Beginners, you can clearly see how easy it is to topple over if your feet are too close together.
3. You will be able to recover quicker. By using your thigh muscles to transfer weight from one leg to the other, you can play a forehand shot from the backhand corner and recover quickly to play a forehand shot from the forehand corner.
4. It will be easier to keep low. You will see the ball better and you’ll be in a better position to play topspin shots off low backspin balls.
5. And finally, a wider stance can help you get into your ‘warrior mode’. If you find yourself losing focus during games, get your legs wide, bend your knees, stick your bum out and crouch forward and this can help trigger the part of your brain which tells your body “we mean business”.
How wide is a wide stance?
A lot of coaches will say your feet should be shoulder width apart. For me, I think shoulder width apart is the minimum your feet need to be. When only just shoulder width apart, you can still run into problems with balance and recovery.
Having your feet a little bit wider than shoulder width is better and the taller you are wider your legs will need to be. Take a look at videos of the professionals and pay attention to their stance, speed of movement, recovery and balance. Notice how wide their legs are. It’s phenomenal!
If you’re not used to playing with a wide stance, you may find it harder work to begin with, as you’ll be using your muscles in a different way. But keep going! When your muscles adapt, you’ll find it much easier to move quickly and reach those wide balls, and then recover for the next shot and the next and the next.