In table tennis, there are ten common training methods – drilling with a training partner, serving practice, robot training, multiball training, practice matches against a variety of opponents, video analysis of your own game, video analysis of top players, physical training, mental training, and tournaments on a regular basis. I will talk briefly about the first four and then show you a short video demonstrating each of those elements of training.
If you have a good training partner who is available to drill with you on a daily basis, I would recommend spending a large percentage of your practice time doing drills. Drilling can help you to develop stronger footwork, fix bad habits, learn to watch your opponent’s racket better, and become more consistent. During drills, you don’t need to worry about the score and you can be more “self focused” on your own game. There are many different types of drills, I’m just going to name a few types – systematic (a set pattern), semi-systematic (somewhat random pattern), totally random, drills starting with a serve, and open ended drills (start in a pattern then progress to game situation). Doing drills does have a disadvantage when playing with your coach because he can’t easily see behind you, so it is difficult for him to properly see your footwork and grip. However, doing drills has a huge advantage over playing games because you can focus on your weak points, strong points, and any other specific areas.
Serving practice is one of the fastest ways to improve your game. For this type of training, you just need a table and some balls. You should be try to improve the amount of spin, the type of spin, the depth – short or very fast as a surprise, the height – keeping all of them very low, and your ready position following after the serve. If you have a table at home, you should be practicing your serve at least two to three times per week. One of the disadvantages of serving practice is that it is really only targeting one aspect of your game; in order to fully move up a level, you need to improve all aspects of your game. One of the huge advantages of serving practice is the convenience factor. For example, many players spend hundreds of hours per year traveling long distances to the nearest table tennis club for practice, traveling to a coach’s house for lessons, or traveling across the country to tournaments – these things are all good. However, practicing your serve at home is a very efficient use of your time and can really benefit your tournament play.
I would recommend training with a Newgy Robo-Pong 1050 or 2050 robot on a regular basis. When playing with a robot, you can do systematic or random drills targeting each aspect of your game – looping, smashing, blocking, pushing, serve return, and footwork. The only disadvantage is that the same ball is not being returned so the quality of the ball coming back to you might be slightly different than in a real game. The advantages are that the robot never misses and can be used in the convenience of your home. Also, when doing robot drills, your coach can walk around the table and view your stroke from every angle.
Multiball training is another way to improve your game. If you have a coach who is competent at feeding multiball, this can be a great addition to your regular training routine. The disadvantage is that the coach can only see your game from one angle. The main advantage is that your coach can make each drill harder or easier than a regular game. For example, during an average footwork drill, the ball returns to you after 0.9 seconds on average – this is the normal timing for a player looping at close range. In multiball, the feeder can give the balls at a lower or higher frequency making the drill much easier or much more difficult. Also, the feeder can give other variations that aren’t possible using a single ball in drilling.
So which training method is the best? You should use all the methods listed above so that you can keep your practice sessions interesting and challenging. If you have an elite training partner available, then focus much of your time on drills and multiball when he is available. If you don’t have access to elite training on a daily basis, then I would focus more of your time on robot training, serve practice, physical training, and video analysis. At least twice per week you should play matches to test your game and evaluate your progress.
-By Samson Dubina