Should You Stretch for Table Tennis?
When most people think of table tennis, they think of a fun recreational activity most people play in their basement or break room. Table tennis is most definitely a sport, and a good full body stretch is vital for those who play it competitively. Playing the game involves a lot of leg and arm movement, and tight muscles can significantly impact your performance if you play it professionally.
You stretch to play table tennis for the same reason you stretch before playing any other sport! A good athlete needs speed and agility to have an outstanding performance. It’s also the best way to reduce muscle soreness after physical activity and lessens your chances of getting injured.
Muscles Used in Table Tennis
Table tennis players primarily use the same muscles as those who play similar sports, such as racquetball, tennis, or badminton. They all require you to hold a racket or paddle to hit a ball, so it takes a lot of shoulder and arm strength to play those sports. You’re also going to be quickly moving your feet to run to the ball, so it’s good to have those muscles strong. Having good leg and thigh muscles help you shuffle from one side of the court to the other without pulling a muscle.
The main muscles you use if you play table tennis are:
- Gastrocnemius and soleus (lower leg)
- Rotator cuff
- Wrist flexors and extensors
Health Benefits of Table Tennis
Before we get into the best stretches for table tennis players, let’s learn about some of the unexpected health benefits of playing the sport! This information might even convince you to start learning how to play.
Better Hand-Eye Coordination
It takes some serious hand-eye coordination to play table tennis, and you’ll learn this skill the more you play. A good round of the game can stimulate mental alertness, focus, and tactical strategy. As the ball flies toward you, you’ll eventually learn how to follow its trajectory to hit it with your paddle. Table tennis is great to pick up on if you want to sharpen those skills!
Since everything in table tennis is smaller, the ball will move quicker, and you will have to act faster to hit it. The game is very fast-paced, so it’s great for improving both gross and fine muscle movements. Soon, hitting those ping pong balls will come naturally to you!
Table tennis is another way to improve your balance since you have to quickly change directions to get to the ball. Being able to do that requires good balance. Over time, you’ll notice it improves as you become better at the game.
Great for the Brain
You may have heard experts say table tennis is the world’s best brain sport, and it’s for a good reason. It’s known to sharpen your brain by increasing motor skills and cognitive awareness. Studies have shown that table tennis can increase blood flow to the brain and help with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It takes quite a bit of mental work to develop a strategy for beating your opponent, and since the game is fast-paced, you only have seconds to strategize. That’s great for improving your concentration!
Burns a Lot of Calories
Playing table tennis can be a fun alternative to going to the gym if you want to burn calories and lose some weight. When you play, you’re always on your toes, running around to catch the ball, and thinking of your next move. All those can result in burning a lot of calories in a short period of time. Most professional table tennis players can burn up to 600 calories per hour! Of course, it all depends on how much you weigh, the intensity of the game, and how long you’ve been playing.
Best Static Stretches
Static and dynamic stretching are both important for improving your flexibility and increasing your endurance. Below, we’ve listed a few of the best static stretches for table tennis players. You’ll want to do these moves after a game.
You use those shoulder muscles a lot to hit the ping pong ball, so you’ll want to stretch often to keep them in great shape! You need a strong rotator cuff to swing your paddle and hit the ball with force. This muscle is made up of four muscles (the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) that play an important role in how your arm moves and remains stable.
Take advantage of a stretching coach, who will help ensure you get this stretch done right. They will also give you a deeper stretch than you could’ve gotten if you were doing it on your own. The stretching practitioner will do this by gently easing your arm closer to your chest while you keep it straight and parallel to the floor. You’ll feel the stretch in those rotator cuff muscles, as well as other stabilizing shoulder muscles like the rhomboids, trapezius, and deltoids.
The triceps stretch targets your triceps and deltoids. Your triceps are one of the muscles responsible for the flexion and extension of the elbow, which tennis table players often do during a game. Not having enough flexibility in those areas will make the game harder and will result in you possibly overusing the muscles.
With the help of a stretching practitioner, they will deepen the stretch by slightly pushing down on your elbow while you’re in the triceps stretch position. They’ll also ensure you’re in the correct position so you can get the most out of the stretch.
Good wrist mobility is essential in table tennis, and wrist rotations are great for increasing your wrists’ flexibility. Those wrist flexors and extensors take a lot of stress during a game of table tennis. Stretching them will ensure they’re strong and healthy so you can have a flawless backhand!
Many people can perform this stretch on their own since it’s so simple, but having the extra help from a stretching coach is always a good idea. There’s something about having someone else provide a different intensity than what you’re used to. A stretching practitioner which can give you a deeper stretch and better benefits. Wrist rotations can also strengthen your forearms.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
We’re all familiar with the standard hamstring stretch, but this variation will target both legs at once. When your hamstrings are contracted, it’s what causes your knee to bend. Table tennis players are constantly moving their feet have their knees bent often, so it’s great to give those hamstrings some extra love with this stretch!
It might be difficult to get at first, so it’s best to start this under the supervision of a stretching practitioner. They’ll ensure you’re bending at the waist and keeping your knees straight so you can stretch both legs at the same time. You’ll still need to switch which foot is crossed over the other for an even stretch.
Your core muscles keep you centered, so those need to be stretched properly. Many people might not realize this, but table tennis requires a lot of core work to keep yourself stable while you quickly move back and forth. It’s a great practice to stretch the abdominals for optimal performance.
The abdominal stretch targets all your major core muscles like the obliques, rectus abdominis, and transverse abdominis. It’s also a good stretch for your back and a toning exercise for your arms. It’s easy to overstretch with this move, so make sure you’re under the supervision of a stretching coach if it’s your first time. They’ll help lift your upper body, ensure your pelvis stays on the ground, and provide you with an abdominal stretch that will keep you centered while you play table tennis.
Best Dynamic Stretches
Dynamic stretches are great for table tennis players because they’re constantly moving every part of your body. Here are some of the best ones for you to try.
Your shoulders do a lot of moving during a table tennis match, and arm circles can help to improve their endurance. They’re also a good toning move for the triceps, which are also important to keep strong as a table tennis player. To get the most out of this stretch, your stretching coach will move your arms forward in a circular motion a few times before swinging your arm in the opposite direction.
Elbow curls are the perfect shoulder stretching exercises. They’re simple and effective, and you may even feel like it’s a workout. Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Hold your elbows out to your sides while touching your knuckles to your temples. Your stretching coach will bring your elbows together in front of your face, hold it for a second, then return your arms to the starting position. It’s a great move for improving your shoulder’s flexibility so they can move better.
If you have hip abductor and adductor muscles, it’ll make lunging to hit the ping pong ball much more difficult for you. Leg swings help to open up those muscles and promote better movement and activate the muscles in the lower body. You can do this move standing if you’re doing the move on your own before a match, but with assisted stretching, you’ll be on your back. Your stretching coach will hold you by the ankle and swing your leg across your body to the end of its range. It goes from the medial side and across to the lateral side in a controlled movement. To get the most out of this stretch, relax your body and let your stretching coach do all the work so you don’t hurt yourself. Not only is this move great for increasing hip mobility and range of motion, it also assists in giving you a stronger core and more dynamic strength.
The scorpion is a good thigh stretch. They move a lot during a table tennis match and also very quickly, so it’s good to keep those in good shape. You’ll start by lying face down and holding your arms out on either side of your body. Your stretching coach will take you by the heel and gently bring it to the opposite side of your body. Your body will be rolled in the same direction as the straight leg. After holding the position for a bit, they’ll switch to the other aside.
Common Table Tennis Injuries
Because there is a lot of repetitive movement in table tennis, players are more prone to these kinds of injuries
- Calf injuries
- Muscle strain
- Knee injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Lower back injuries
- Tennis elbow
- Ankle sprain
How Stretching Can Reduce the Risk of Injuries
If you want to improve your athletic performance and reduce the risk of getting injured while playing, it’s a good idea to stretch more. Below are some of the reasons why stretching can do that.
If you don’t stretch often, your muscles will shorten and become tight. This will reduce your flexibility and make them feel more stiff. You won’t move as freely as you should, and that can result in you injuring yourself.
Did you know that stretching reduces fatigue and increases energy? It’s also great for relieving stress. All these factors can help improve your endurance and decrease your chances of getting injured. You’ll be able to move better and feel better as you’re out there.
Reduces Aches, Pains, and Stiffness
When you’re in pain, you can’t move the same way. Stiffness and aches will affect how you perform. You can’t run as fast or stretch as far. Because of that, you could risk pulling a muscle and hurting yourself.
A bad posture can have a negative effect on your sports performance. To properly run and switch to different positions, athletes must have good posture.
It’s always important to remember that stretching shouldn’t hurt. We always recommend assisted stretching because you’re in the hands of a professional who won’t stretch you farther than your body can handle. A stretching coach will also ensure you have proper positioning so you can get the benefits you need from that stretch.
Even though a certain move might be difficult for you now, with regular practice, it should become easier. And consistency is key. You’ll start to notice improvement in your performance and flexibility if you keep a regular stretching routine. You shouldn’t stop when you “feel better.” You’ll begin to feel stiff once you stop stretching regularly!
Finally, don’t forget to breathe. It helps to promote relaxation and will make your stretch session much easier. Blood flow gets regulated throughout the body when you breathe during a stretch. That’s also how you get the best health benefits!
Do You Need a Full Body Stretch?
Our team at Stretch Zone is dedicated to helping table tennis players perform their best by providing quality assisted stretching. Your health and wellness are important to us, so let us help take care of you so you can live comfortably and perform your best. Get in touch with us today to schedule your 30–minute stretch session at a Stretch Zone near you.