We all want to improve and become better table tennis players, but what are the main areas to focus on to improve? Here we will go into our top 10 tips and the areas that are most important to building a solid game and a foundation to help you learn and improve your table tennis quickly!
Tip 1: Nail the Basics
Working on the basics and building good fundamentals before moving on to the more exciting fast shots is vital to improving. If you rush in too quickly yo playing fast and aggressive topspin shots before the basic technique on the drive strokes is solid it will slow down your improvement and often mean you are less consistent. If you look at the world super power in table tennis, China, they start from a young age and spend a lot of time working on solid basics and a high level of consistency. This means when they move on to more difficult skills, irregular movements and game situations they hold up much better under these types of challenges because they have a solid foundation to work from.
Tip 2: Feel the Ball
Learning to touch the ball correctly in table tennis is often referred to as “feeling” or feel for the ball. Often players strike the ball very firmly and with a thick contact, while this is fine for certain shots you do need to have a finer touch on the ball in order to generate spin and control in your game. Being able to brush the ball lightly is key for developing heavy topspin shots and the dwell on the rubber required to create effective spin serves. A great way to improve this area is slowing down your shots, focusing on getting a softer touch on the ball and trying to get the feeling that the ball is spending more time on the bat. A drill we like to use at the Academy is the 30-60-90 exercise where you play 3 topspin shots, the first at 30% speed, the second at 60% speed and the third at 90%, this helps to improve the feel by varying the tempo in your strokes and changing the touch on the ball to control the speed you are playing at.
Tip 3: Weight Transfer
Having correct weight transfer and making effective use of the body and legs will mean you can be more relaxed with your arm and remove tension from your shots and movement too. Many players put too much emphasis on the energy coming from the arm which mean shots become stiff and forced, try to practice using more legs, body rotation and weight transfer. This makes shots more efficient and also helps generate much more power than using the arm alone, so remember weight transfer plays a key role in maximising your potential shot quality and consistency.
Tip 4: Footwork
Many players may think they miss due to poor technique, however quite often it’s because you are not getting into position and moving the feet enough so the shots break down. So be sure to get a low and compact stance, on the balls of your feet and with your weight forward so you are always ready to make those quick movements and adjustments needed in table tennis. It’s a dynamic and fast sport so having good footwork can be the difference between getting to the next shot or not. We have plenty of footwork coaching videos here on the Academy in our training exercises section which can hep your learn correct footwork and improve your speed around the table.
Tip 5: Timing Point
One of the main differences between amateur players and top professionals is they way they time their shots, often amateur players change their timing point too much which results in inconsistent shots and a lack of rhythm. The optimum timing point for most shots is at the top of the bounce, so when the ball reaches the highest point which gives you the most safety over the net. Being able to judge the timing and always hit at the top of the bounce means you maintain a better position at the table, and not get rushed into unforced errors by playing to early or end up dropping away from the table by taking the ball too late.
Tip 6: Practice Under Pressure
Now we all know we have to practice to improve but making your training relatable to match play is a key aspect to improving performance and results. If you put yourself into more pressured situations in your training it will help you transfer your skills into match play. So for example setting yourself a target of 30 topspin shots in a row without a mistake, this adds an element of pressure which can often otherwise be absent from training sessions. Also don’t neglect irregular drills, serve & return elements and match type scenarios in your practice, these types of exercises create a lot more decision making and pressure than simple regular drills where the ball placement is already set each time.
Tip 7: Video Analysis
It’s amazing how much you can learn by watching yourself back on video, whether it’s a match or your training session you will gather a lot of useful information which can easily be missed in the heat of the moment. It’s a fantastic way to pick up on any mistakes you may have been making and learn from them, but also where you have been having success and how to maximise your strengths the next time you play. You can watch your technique closely and start to look at how you can take your game forward, what’s great is now a days it’s easy to video record yourself on your smartphone and watch it back almost instantly!
Tip 8: Have A Game Plan
As you go into matches it’s important you play to your strengths and avoid your weaknesses as much as possible, having a game plan helps you play with some structure in your mind of what you aim to achieve. Now of course you will adapt this plan according to they type of player you may come up against but if you aren’t clear in your own mind about what you are good at and your best way of winning points it is hard to formulate a clear game plan. So be sure to take time to understand what style of play works for you and how to impose your game onto your opponents.
Tip 9: Have A Weapon
This tip links back to having a game plan, and what we mean by have a weapon is having a unique area of your game which is a strength to you. This could be a strong forehand topspin, your serving game, backhand block, aggressive long push etc. Having an all-round balanced game is fine but if you can pinpoint a particular area of your game which is strong, try to maximise this and make it into a real point winning weapon. Having an area of you game that makes you stand out from the crowd to makes you difficult to play against will give you confidence and belief and also help you more easily formulate a game plan around this as we mentioned in the previous tip. If you feel you don’t have a weapon in your game, don’t worry it’s never to late! Serve practice is something you can work on alone and in time develop unique and hard to return serves, also a great way to pick up on a strength is watching how you win the majority of points in matches, this is often the best way of finding and then improving a weapon in your game.
Tip 10: Have Fun And Enjoy It
Now this may sound a little odd for players seriously trying to improve, but if you aren’t enjoying the training or match play it makes it much harder to improve and learn. Going into each session with a positive mindset and enjoying the learning and developing process will mean you are more relaxed and open to new ideas and finding new ways to improve and progress your game. After all we all started table tennis because we enjoy it, and even though it can be hard work trying to reach that next level sometimes, you need to find the enjoyment in reaching for new goals and striving to become a better table tennis player player!