How To Practice Table Tennis By Yourself & Improve Your Skills

by Mike Jones

When trying to improve your table tennis skills, it certainly helps to have a partner or coach with which to practice. Unfortunately, there is not always someone available to practice with.

The good news is there are many table tennis skills you can practice by yourself without a partner to play with.

In this article we will describe how to practice table tennis by yourself by highlighting certain practice tips and drills that can help you improve your game when there is no partner with whom to play.

Solo Practice: Improve Your Ping Pong Skills

Solo Practice: Improve Your Ping Pong Skills
Solo Practice: Improve Your Ping Pong Skills

Before we discuss some of the drills you can participate in to improve your table tennis game, we first urge you to maintain a practice journal. In this journal, you can make notes on the things you learned when practicing, and highlight those areas in which you need improvement.

This handy journal can go a long way towards guiding your self-practice, helping you gauge your improvement and creating a structure for your table tennis learning process.

Below we have outlined a few practice tips and drills you can work on by yourself when there is no partner to help you hone your actual playing skills.

Footwork Drills

If you regularly play the game of table tennis, also known as ping pong, you already know how important the proper footwork can be for your overall game. Foot work is one of the most crucial aspects of table tennis.

Think of it as the foundation from where all your other skills on the court are derived, including the various strokes you use when playing. As a novice player, it is imperative that you take some time to focus on the correct positioning of your body and feet before you even pick up a table tennis paddle.

Being in the correct position for every type of shot is simply paramount for a successful stroke or shot.

There is no need to have a partner when practicing the correct footwork and body position. In fact, you don't even really need a table, although having the table there will help you visualize where your feet should be in relation to the table.

The goal of practicing the correct footwork is to help you develop both stamina and speed while moving your body in the best possible position to make a shot.

The first footwork drill you should practice has to do with flexibility. Although you may not think of table tennis as a very active sport, it does require a lot of flexibility in all directions.

While standing in front of the table, practice moving from one side of the table to the other-without crossing your feet. Crossing your feet can quickly make you off balance and give your opponent a distinct advantage.

When you have mastered the side-to-side drill, work on moving backwards and forwards quickly, while also moving side to side. This helps mimic the motions you will make in an actual game.

Again, refrain from crossing your feet and putting yourself in a bad position to make or defend a shot. Whenever you are practicing your table tennis footwork, always imagine situations you will face in actual game play, where the faster and more flexible player usually has the advantage.

Balance is another crucial aspect to your footwork and body positioning. As such, you should try to practice and master footwork combinations that will help you maintain that balance throughout the match.

For example, when covering short distances around the court, practice shuffling from side to side. And when trying to cover long distances, work on crossover steps that will keep you balanced. By doing drills such as these every day you can get a big jump on the competition.

Physical Fitness

If you do not have consistent access to a ping pong table, you can still work on your game by working on your overall physical fitness. Table tennis can be a very demanding game, and unless you have the stamina to outlast your opponent you are going to be in big trouble when the matches are on the line.

There are many things you can do to improve your physical fitness. The first of these is cardiovascular exercise. Cardiovascular exercise forces you to raise your heart rate and improves your wind and stamina over time, especially when done consistently.

Some of the things you can do to improve your cardiovascular fitness include:

  • Walking. Walking for an hour 3 to 5 times a week can do wonders for your health and fitness.
  • Jogging. Jogging at a good pace can help simulate the exertion you will have to put forth in a table tennis match.
  • Swimming. According to experts, swimming is one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise.
  • Cycling. Cycling is a great fitness pursuit that is very easy on your joints and muscles.
  • Dancing. Take your best girl (or guy) out for a night of dancing and burn calories while improving your overall physical fitness.

Along with cardio training you should also work on weight training to strengthen the muscles in your body. Weight training can help you develop a stronger and more precise stroke on the table tennis court.

When playing table tennis, all of your muscles are regularly involved, including those in your arms, legs and especially your core.

Core exercises, which help work the waist and midsection of your body, are especially crucial when playing table tennis, as you will regularly have to twist and rotate your torso when making shots.

This is where most of the power in your stroke is derived. Speak to a fitness trainer at your local gym and develop a training regimen that works well for you.

Finally, if you have a table tennis robot, which we will talk more about later, you can set that robot to create shots that make you move a lot. This way you can improve your fitness, stamina and footwork all in a single drill.

Practice Your Serve

Every point in the sport of table tennis begins with the serve. As such, you can create a major advantage over your opponent just by practicing various serves by yourself.

Using a regulation ping pong table and a bucket of ping pong balls, start by practicing your basic serve. Once you have mastered this serve, you can go on to practice other types of serves and even experiment with spinning the ball to create an advantage right from the onset of the match.

Here are some tips that can help you get the most out of your service practice drills:

  • Hold only one ping pong ball at a time. Holding more than one ball can negatively affect your serve.
  • Practice serves that are low and double-bounced. To achieve the best in low serves, tie a string to two clothespins and attach them to the top portion of the net on each side. This will create a small gap between the net and the string. When practicing your serves, strive to get the ball through this gap and have it bounce twice on the other side of the net.
  • Set short targets. Short serves can throw your opponent off balance, forcing him to rush the net.
  • Concentrate. There is no need to rush through any of the drills. Take your time and concentrate carefully on each shot for best results.
  • Same arm movement. Long and short serves can often be tipped off by the motion of your arm. Because of this, you should practice making both of these shots using the exact same arm movement-much like a baseball pitcher uses the same arm movement for a fastball and a change-up.
  • Return to the Ready Position. After you make each serve, practice your foot and arm work by returning to the ready position: one forearm length from the edge of the table and slightly to the left (for right handed players).

Practice with a Table Tennis Robot

Many of the world's best players are known to train with table tennis robots, and if you are serious about the game this is a great investment. Robots are a valuable tool to have at your disposal.

Unlike with human practice partners, a robot can place the ball in the same place on the court every time, allowing you to practice certain returns and shot styles.

When starting out with your table tennis robot, be sure to set the stroke speed to low until you feel more comfortable. As you improve and master the various robot strokes on the low setting, you can gradually increase the speed to sharpen your reflexes and your defense.

Table tennis robots vary in size, quality and scope, but depending on the type you have you can set this robot to deliver a variety of stroke types, from slams to lobs and everything in between, all in the exact same spot every time.

You can even set the robot to vary its shots to keep you guessing. This can ultimately help you develop your shot arsenal and improve your footwork and defense dramatically.

About Mike Jones

As a child of the 80's, my fondest gaming memories are playing Pitfall, Frogger, Kaboom! and Chopper Command on our old Atari 8600. These days I've been rocking the Nintendo Classic and learning some new card and board games with the family."

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