Expert: Kevin James, Last Updated: 24/01/2021
Table Tennis is an incredibly competitive sport and often demands vigorous training to master it. If you want to get serious about Table Tennis, you need to give it all that you have. That includes long and well-planned training sessions.
These sessions are often carried out along with a coach or a partner. But, what do you do if you cannot afford a coach or cannot find a partner for practicing? Don’t sweat it!
You can practice by yourself. There is nothing you can’t do in Table Tennis with dedication and strong willpower. If you've access to basic equipment (paddle and a couple of balls), you can start developing Table Tennis skills in no time.
Although the guidance of a coach can go a long way, but there’s no reason to stop training just because you can’t afford one.
In this post, we’ve laid out a few ways for you to learn and develop your Table Tennis skills alone. Just follow the steps right down to the last detail and find a way to work it into your daily schedule.
1. Shadow Play
Shadow Play or Shadow Training involves a series of drills that help you build and perfect your technique.
For shadow practice, you would need a mirror and your paddle. If you find yourself without a mirror, you can also record yourself practicing the strokes and analyze the recording. This form of self-training is crucial because it helps you eliminate wrong movements in your strokes. These drills are practiced without balls and hence its referred to as shadow training.
You can also play some music so that you can tune your movements to the beats of a song. Here are the steps you need to follow.
First, get into the correct the playing position:
Bend your knees and slightly lean forward. Keep your feet roughly one foot apart. Firmly hold the handle (shake hand or pen hold) at the height just above your waist.
Refer the below-image for reference:
Step 1: Stand in front of a mirror or video camera.
Step 2: Complete the exercises mentioned below.
Swing and Move (10 mins)
With paddle in your hand play a single forehand (FH) stroke and move side to side. And play a stroke again.
Your footwork is very important here. If you're moving from left to right, move your right leg first and then your left leg. And vice versa when moving from right to leg.
Maintain your center of gravity (COG) at all times. COG simply means at any point of the drill your body should not be in an unbalanced position.
Here is a video for reference:
Forehand Practice (5 mins)
In this drill, you need to play two forehand strokes in each position.
- Start by playing two FH strokes.
- Next, move 1-foot side-ways and play two FH strokes.
- Finally, move back to the initial location.
- Repeat the drill.
Refer this training video for reference:
Backhand Practice (5 mins)
Similar to FH practice, get into backhand playing position and complete the drill.
Forehand / Backhand Mix (10 mins)
Play a forehand stroke, move 1 foot sideways and play a backhand stroke. And finally, return to the original position. Repeat the drill.
Refer the training video for reference:
2. Service Practice
While practicing with a partner, usually we don't get enough time to practice serves. Why? Well because we're busy knocking or playing matches.
I personally feel, to develop a good serve one needs to practice alone.
If you’re a beginner, start with basic serves first and gradually move to more complex serves. The main aim here is the accuracy and the technique.
For this drill, you would need access to a table tennis table, dozen training balls and a few targets. A target can be anything like an unused paddle, paddle case etc.
Also, put a small bucket on the table on your side to store the balls.
Put the targets on the center and sides of the table on the opposite side.
Step 1: Take one ball in your hand. Aim for a low bounce cross-court serve, just high enough just to cross the net. Ideally, the ball should bounce twice on the opposite side before falling off the table.
Step 2: Take your time and serve the ball at your pre-set target.
Step 3: Return to the ready position.
Step 4: Pick up another ball and repeat.
A useful tip here is to use the same arm movement while serving short or long serves. This can help you take your opponent by surprise and can win you a point in your serve itself.
3. Physical Training
To defeat your opponent, you must train yourself away from the Table Tennis table as well. Having a well-trained and athletic physique can give you a massive advantage.
Thus, physical exercises that help you move quicker and make your body more flexible are a must. This way you can reach to the ball faster, no matter where your opponent chooses to place it.
Here are a few training exercises that you can do on your own:
Practice Footwork drills:
Without good footwork, you can not take your game to the next level - PERIOD!.
Here is a good footwork drill training video:
4. Table Tennis Robot
Table Tennis robots have gained immense popularity in recent years. Even some of the top players use these robots to self-train and develop their techniques.
Unlike their human counterparts, these bots can accurately place the ball. This can help you practice a specific part of your game.
But training with a robot also requires you to follow certain steps.
Step 1: Program/set the training drills on the bot. For example, you can set the robot to put one ball topspin on FH and one underspin on the BH. Set the drills based on your practice requirement.
Step 2: Start with a slow ball-speed and then steadily increase it.
Step 3: Switch to random ball throw mode, to keep yourself on your toes.
The Butterfly Amicus Professional and the Newgy Robo-Pong 2050+ are some of the best Table Tennis robots currently available in the market.
5. Watch Match/Training Videos
Watch training videos and matches of professional players in your spare time. This gives you insights on the strategies and technique used by the best players of the sport.
You may not be able to play like them just yet, but it will surely give you some good personal targets to achieve.
Here are a few Youtube channels which I follow and recommend:
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a training coach or a partner. This shouldn’t stop you from working on your Table Tennis game.
Practicing alone can be a blessing in disguise. You can work on certain aspects of your game which you could have done while training with a partner.