Until recently I never really thought about any particular body type in regards to table tennis. I know that I’ve played very short players, extremely tall players, heavy and light players, and players with all different proportions. It never seemed to matter much. Either they could play well or they couldn’t. It’s a little different if you start coaching players, as opposed to seeing them all as opponents. Recently, I’ve had some students who are at the extremes of height, ranging from 6′ 7″ to 4′ 7″. I’ve also had some insights into carrying extra weight that might prove to be useful. Generally speaking, I’d rather face an extremely tall player than a short player who is very quick on their feet. There have been some very successful tall players, but there are challenges to playing a sport where being tall is not necessarily an advantage. If you coach a lot of children, you start to get used to strong shots launched with a low trajectory. These types of shots can make it a little uncomfortable for a relatively tall coach. If you are extremely tall, it’s a good idea to get used to playing a little further back than normal. From a few steps back it’s possible to give yourself more time, and take advantage of your wingspan. A taller player should also learn to put a little more loop on their shots. You’ll need the extra loop from further back, and looping shots will give you more time to recover.
Being shorter than average could be an advantage, but only if you move quickly and efficiently. You can potentially take the ball sooner, without your own body getting in the way. Well trained young players can put their entire body into shots in a way that most adults can’t. An attacking 5′ preteen can be a daunting adversary. All other things being equal, 5′ 7″ might be the ideal height for table tennis.
Fortunately, body type is only one of the factors that make up skilled table tennis players. You don’t have control over your height or body type, but there are ways to improve your game by getting a better body. If nothing else motivates you to lose some weight, imagine how much better you might play if you were carrying ten or twenty less pounds. Since we tend to lose and gain weight gradually, it’s easy to ignore the weight that slows us down in competition, not to mention everyday life. Pick up a couple of ten pound dumbbells to get a better idea of how any extra weight is affecting your game.
Table tennis training can keep you in decent shape, but it’s a good idea to assess if you need some individualized attention. What’s your cardio condition, age, weight, level of strength, and flexibility? What could be the best use of your time and energy to get a healthier body? Even small improvements in key areas could improve your game. If there is something about your body that is affecting how well you play, it’s probably affecting your overall health as well.
It’s certainly possible to play decent table tennis and be in horrible physical shape. Table tennis is a game of skill and concentration. But it is played with our bodies, and our bodies include our brains. It’s not possible to neglect our bodies and it have no affect on the skills and concentration that allow us to play well. Whatever your body type, learn how to make the best use of it to play your best. Take care of the body God gave you, and you won’t just be able to play for life, you’ll play well for life.