Good table tennis players come in all sizes. One reason for the popularity of our sport is the fact that it can be played by persons with every body type and level of fitness. As one’s skill level increases, fitness does become more of a factor and strength and endurance also start to become more important for consistent success. But the muscles used in table tennis tend not to be as obvious as in some other sports.
To really look at table tennis muscles, it’s best to start with the feet and work your way up. Most of your movement should be on the balls of your feet. Playing flat footed or not having the endurance to keep a low center of gravity is a huge disadvantage. Standard table tennis movement drills can increase strength and endurance for the lower half of the body.
As you move up the body from the feet to the hands, the emphasis gradually becomes less about strength and more about flexibility – and ultimately about dexterity. Strong leg and core muscles can stabilize the body for shots like backhand drives and blocks and provide the power for forehand loops. The muscles of the shoulders and playing arm also develop through training, as thousands of repetitions begin to build muscles uniquely suited for table tennis.
Those hours of training also develop muscles in the hand. Over the years I have been introduced to a number of professional players and players who have played at a high level over several decades. I began to notice that each time I shook hands with one of them, they almost always had a very distinct, light yet precise hand shake. Without fail, all good players have developed what in other sports is referred to as soft hands. This phrase usually refers to the ability to catch a ball, but table tennis players take this to a level that is not seen in other sports. The muscles of the hand, wrist, and fingers develop primarily to allow for extreme dexterity.
All players have their own unique mix of strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, and dexterity. Every playing style demands a good portion of all of these to be successful. The muscles developed playing table tennis are seemingly invisible, but the results of good table tennis muscles are not.