Table Tennis is a fast sport… We all know that! In order to be a top player, you need to be quick around the table, moving from side-to-side, reacting to your opponent’s shots. But how can we improve our speed, power and quickness? What kind of physical training should a table tennis player be doing?
Well, one vital part of any table tennis-specific fitness programme is plyometrics! Plyometrics are exercises designed especially to improve our fast and powerful movements. They are explosive, exerting maximum force over the shortest amount of time.
The end goal? To increase power, not just brute strength.
Here are a few lower-body plyometic exercises for you to try out. I’ve hand-picked ones I think are most suited to table tennis players.
1. Lateral Jump to Box
The easiest of the bunch. For this one you’ll need an exercise box or step.
- Stand to one side of it in your standard table tennis stance.
- Then bend down and jump onto the box.
- Try to land softly before stepping back off the box and repeating.
2. Box Drill with Rings
This exercise is similar to the ‘Japanese footwork’ regular drill (if you know what that is). You’re going to need some rings or some way of marking out a box on the floor.
- Start in one box in your table tennis stance, and then jump into all the rings, one at a time, either moving clockwise or anticlockwise.
- Keep your body facing forwards, as if facing the table.
- You can have the rings close together to work on speed or further apart to work on generating more powerful jumps.
3. Lateral Hurdle Jumps
We’re back to the exercise box or bench now but this is bigger movement.
- This time you need to stand beside the bench and you’ll be jumping clear over it.
- Once you land, immediately jump back over to your starting position.
- Then repeat.
- Be careful not to catch your feet on the bench on your way back but at the same time try not to tuck your legs up too high as you jump. We want to keep the movement side-to-side rather than up-and-down.
4. Zigzag Hops
If you have one of those agility ladders it’ll come in handy here, otherwise just mark out two lines roughly a foot apart.
- Start at the end and to one side of the ladder and then begin jumping up and across it in a zigzag manner.
- You can do it with both feet or you can hop on just one foot.
- You can also do it facing forwards or backwards.
- As you get better you can increase the lateral distance you are jumping to make it more like moving side-to-side across the table.
Once you understand the basic principles of plyometrics it’s easy to come up with your own exercises. In table tennis it’s particularly important to have powerful legs so you should probably focus most of your efforts on lower-body training, instead of push-ups and chin-ups etc.
Remember to go easy at first and build things up over time. It’s a good idea to warm up your muscles before starting a workout, as explosive movements can cause tears and strains if muscles are cold. Also listen to your body. If you feel a slight pain or possible injury stop training or switch to a different, less stressful exercise.
Thanks to Sport-Fitness-Advisor.com for their animated GIFs.
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