Table tennis has become an increasingly physical sport over the past couple of decades, with fitness taking on a whole new level of importance in the vast majority of table tennis training regimes.
With this in mind, our guide will take a closer look at six of the most effective tips to keep in mind for improving your fitness when it comes to playing table tennis.
We’ll also look to answer a few of the frequently asked questions.
The Physical Demands Of Table Tennis
Before taking an in-depth look at some of the best methods for improving table tennis fitness, it’s worth considering the physical demands of the sport.
Some of the most important factors to take into account include:
- Which energy system is used when playing table tennis?
- What are some of the main muscles used?
- What are the typical movements needed in a match?
- Which muscle fiber type is used?
Table tennis is a high intensity sport that’s based on speed and reactions.
It almost always requires explosive anaerobic movements, especially if you’re playing at an advanced level.
However, it’s not quite as straightforward as some other sports, as there are a wide range of factors to consider, including the skill level required, the short duration of a game, and the length of a season – all of which make designing a suitable fitness plan quite the challenge.
Moreover, the effort and ability levels of the player can also have a significant effect.
Therefore, for the purpose of this guide, the fitness tips we’ll take a closer look at will be based on a table tennis player with a good degree of skill and ability, and one who’s been playing the sport for a number of years.
We’re also basing our tips on the assumption that the player already possesses a good level of general fitness.
1. Increase Your Arm Speed
The first thing you can do to improve your table tennis fitness is develop your arm speed as all high-level players need fast acceleration in the shoulder, wrist, and elbow.
One of the best ways to train arm speed is to use resistance training bands as they allow you to mimic the movements of a stroke and target some of the specific muscles used in executing a shot.
You can do this by gradually increasing the tension of the band, which in turn improves your speed against the resistance, as well as the acceleration of your stroke.
Another popular training method for developing arm speed is to use heavier bats.
This is perfect for increasing the power of your shots, although it’s worth noting that you’re unable to introduce any kind of resistance with this method.
2. Lateral Training
Table tennis is predominantly a lateral movement sport, meaning that the most common directions of movement tend to be from side to side.
Therefore, in order to develop your sport-specific fitness, a significant portion of your table tennis training should consist of lateral movements.
Training laterally provides a host of important benefits, including improved leg strength, better stability, improved ability to change direction at speed, as well as higher levels of explosive power, balance, and coordination.
In other words, pretty much everything you need to be good at table tennis!
3. Focus On Short Sprints
The next training tip we’ll take a closer look at is the importance of sprinting.
This is essential for table tennis fitness due to the fact it can develop your power, strength, and limb speed – all of which are vital for table tennis.
What’s more, using short sprints in your workouts can also help to develop lean muscle mass, as well as working the anaerobic system and reducing body fat levels.
To focus on short sprints in your training, look to break down your running distances into short sprints of 10, 20, and 30 meters.
Make sure you repeat them a number of times and give yourself plenty of time to catch your breath and recover between reps.
Table tennis is a high intensity sport which requires a fair amount of explosive power. The same could be said for sprinting, so the similarities in the training benefits are easy to see.
The vast majority of table tennis players are unaware that recent research has shown that intense sprinting sessions can improve cardiovascular endurance in roughly half the time of regular cardiovascular workouts like cycling or long-distance running.
So, even if your main goal is to simply improve your general level of fitness, sprinting is one of the most effective ways to go about achieving it.
4. Jumping Exercises
To compete in table tennis at a good level, dynamic power and agility are key areas that need a considerable amount of training.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to improve these specific areas is to add some jumping exercises into your training routines.
To perform the vast majority of jumping exercises, you won’t need access to any kind of equipment, and there are plenty of variations that use different leg positions such as a split jump or pike jump.
Furthermore, you can also add some sidestep movements and sprints when you land to really focus on developing power.
If you want to further advance your jumping training, jumping on and off boxes is another great way to improve explosive power.
This is commonly referred to as plyometrics, and is particularly popular among elite-level athletes who want to improve their joint stability and strengthen their tendons and ligaments.
5. Speed & Explosiveness
While some of the most popular general conditioning exercises like sit-ups, squats, and press-ups are all useful for table tennis fitness, the emphasis of your workouts should be on speed and explosiveness rather than the perfect technique of the exercise.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to make these basic exercises better suited for developing explosive power.
For example, you could add a bounce before each press-up or a jump before each squat – just make sure you don’t completely forget about the correct form and technique!
6. Hand-Eye Coordination
As is the case with all racket sports, hand-eye coordination is extremely important in table tennis.
Multi-ball training is perfect for developing this skill, as all you need to do is grab a basket of balls and ask your training partner to feed them quickly to you in all different directions.
This not only tests your reactions, but also your ability to perform accurate and hard strokes, before quickly getting into position for the next shot.
Hand-eye coordination can also be developed off the table through a wide range of training methods. A common drill is to drop an object and then catch it before it hits the ground.
A more complex variation to this drill is to turn your back to the object and have a friend drop it for you.
You then have to spin around and gain control of the object before it comes into contact with the floor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Table Tennis A Good Workout?
As this guide has explained, table tennis is a physically demanding sport which provides a great workout.
Aside from the pros we’ve already touched upon above, there are several other excellent health benefits of training and competing in the sport, including mind-body stimulation, social interaction, and aerobic exercise.
Is Table Tennis Harder Than Tennis?
While table tennis is certainly a physically challenging sport, tennis is one of the most demanding sports in the world, from physical endurance to mental composure.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is the amount of distance you have to cover on a tennis court.
How Long Does It Take To Get Good At Table Tennis?
This all depends on how frequently a player practices. An individual who practices almost every day and dedicates much of their spare time to honing their skills can reach a high level of performance after five years.
However, most aspiring table tennis players can’t dedicate quite as much time to their training, so closer to the 10-15 year mark is a little more realistic.
The Bottom Line
To conclude, the most effective training for developing table tennis fitness should, where possible, mimic the physical demands of the sport.
In other words, your training should be full of short, sharp drills which use anaerobic lateral movements with agility, balance, and coordination.
If you follow our six training tips, your table tennis fitness should improve in no time at all, and hopefully you’ll also see some positive changes in your level of performance as a result.
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