Blocking hard shots correctly is a very important facet of the game. Most people add too much movement to their “block shot.” Remember, less is more. The simpler you keep it, the stronger and better your blocks will be.
BODY STANCE (THE “READY POSITION”)
Similar to most sports, you want to have your center of gravity on the balls of your feet.
• Bend your knees (with your feet approximately shoulders-width apart).
• Lean slightly forward (so your body weight and balance shifts to the balls of your feet).
• Paddle out front of you (with your elbows slightly bent).
• Shoulders square with the net (your chest should be facing the net).
• Paddle face/head should be above your wrist (this ensures the ball trajectory is upward).
This body position will keep you nimble, quick and in balance.
Body movement (how to get to the ball so you can block correctly):
You must move your feet (you never want to hit a block shot while lunging). Remember, the ball will rarely be hit to you where you don’t have to move.
• To maintain proper body positioning (square to the net), step with your foot that’s on the same side of your body as the side you are hitting the ball.
Note: If you turn your shoulders so you are perpendicular with the net (or your back is facing the net), it will be very easy for your opponent to hit the next ball behind you.
As noted above, always remember: “Less is more.” A “block” is exactly that—a block, not a swing, punch forward or a cut (downward swing).
• Your paddle should always be in front of your body (never take a back swing, which means bringing your paddle back so it is in line or behind your body).
• Paddle face toward the target (point the face of the paddle toward your target).
• Paddle head should be above your wrist (if the ball is low, bend your knees more to ensure paddle face remains above wrist).
When you make contact with the ball (i.e., block), freeze your paddle for one second at the end of the block (this ensures your paddle face remains/ends up pointing toward your intended target (there is NO swinging in the block shot; simply “freeze” your paddle so there’s no backswing or follow-through).
• As you block, keep your center of gravity on the balls of your feet (you should never be standing straight up or leaning backward).
Hint: When blocking, if you have to lunge (i.e., the ball is hit too far to one side to move in front of it), squeeze your grip tighter. This stiffens your wrist, helping absorb the energy (making your arm stronger and less likely to move backward from the force of the hard hit). Hold your paddle firm (freezing your paddle movement) to simply block the ball back (do not swing/punch). Less is more. Simply move, block, freeze.
Improving Your Ready Position (to have a stronger stance):
• Get in your ready position. To test the strength of your stance, have a friend face you and push slightly on your shoulder. You should be able to stay on the balls of your feet.
• Practice moving without hitting the ball. Get in ready position. Practice stepping sideways ensuring your shoulders stay mostly square with the net. If one shoulder is in front of the other or your back is facing the net, you know you have turned too much.
• At home, practice blocking (to create muscle memorization and to dramatically improve your game), in front of a mirror. Place paddle in front of your body. Ensure that the paddle is facing imaginary ball/target. Now move as outlined above, keeping your paddle frozen in front of your body. Freeze at the end of moving/stepping to your imaginary point of contact for one second (this ensures the paddle face is facing your imaginary target). Repeat until you master this.