How to Hold Your Free Arm During Play

This is Episode 045 of the Ask a Table Tennis Coach podcast. Today’s question comes from Lanz and is about how to hold your free arm during play.

Lanz asks…

“Okay so we always hear about how to move your legs, how to play your strokes but something I’ve never heard about is what to do with your free arm. Do you just hold it in or out? When playing for long periods of time, four hours or so, I find my free arm shoulder aching. Which I can only guess is from holding it in the wrong position. It got so bad recently its turned into a tendon long term pain and I haven’t been able to play for three weeks. Please help.”

I have to admit this isn’t something I have encountered before. I’ve come across loads of players that have gotten pain in their playing arm, in the shoulder and elbow, but not really in the free arm.

My first thought is that this has got to be down to being too tense or stiff. I think sometimes you don’t even realize it but it can be caused when you’re concentrating on one part of your game and your mind’s on that. The rest of your body can lock up in a strange position therefore causing aches and pains.

I’d say relaxation is going to be key when you’re playing. It’s something that come up in so many questions on this show – me telling people that they need to relax when they are playing table tennis. You need to keep your body loose and shaking yourself out in between points.

Things that can help are breathing out. Doing a big exhale and letting the tension release. If you’re not doing that you’re going to get stiff and tense then you’ll find injuries happening from the stress that you’re putting on your body from locking it in position. Generally that’s something that you need to be remembering.

When it comes to your shoulders what you want to be doing is letting them hang down. This is something that personally I’m very bad at. When I was in Denmark training lots of the coaches there were telling me my shoulders were shrugged up too high and I needed to relax them. That I needed to stop drawing them to my ears and let them hang down.

That’s the best technique. If you look at the Chinese players they sink down a bit and their shoulders are low. Almost a bit slumped in the upper body. But that’s what you want to be doing when you’re playing table tennis. You don’t want to be all tense and tight around your shoulders and trapezius muscles.

If you can lower your shoulders you’re going to lower your arms and let your whole upper body relax. That’s going to keep you injury free and lower your center of gravity keeping your stance low. It’ll help keep you more balanced and solid while playing better table tennis.

I reckon that this is probably your problem. You’re just keeping your shoulders too high and tense. This is something that I do too. Just try and let them drop and relax generally. Hopefully, that will sort it out.

I have to say I’m not a doctor so you should go and see one if you haven’t done so already.

Just remember to let your shoulders drop and be relaxed in the future. I hope that’s going to help you out. I hope you make a quick recovery and that you’ll be back on the table soon.

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