If you’ve just bought yourself a new, premium-grade ping pong table, but you’re worried about your friends and family members beating you when you next have them over for a fun game night, then you’ll need to up your table tennis game.
The best way to strengthen your skill set is to practice, but that can be challenging if you don’t have a training partner for rallies and forehand exercises.
Fortunately, there are many easy and effective ways to practice table tennis alone, from using the unit’s integrated playback feature to doing some shadow play in front of your bathroom mirror.
7 Ways to Practice Table Tennis Alone
Choose any of these seven techniques to practice your table tennis alone and beat your friends and family at your next party.
Make use of the playback feature
Most high-quality table tennis units come with a playback feature, which means you can fold up one half of the table and lock it into a vertical position. You can now use this half of the table as a spacious wall or board, allowing you to play and rally against yourself.
Practicing with the playback feature helps you to improve your SAQ capacity (speed, agility, and quickness), as the wall is closer to you than your opponent would be. When you hit the ball, it will come back at you quicker than it might do in a regular game, giving you an excellent opportunity to improve your reaction time and increase your instinctive agility.
While the playback wall doesn’t generate any spin of its own accord, you can still practice your spin shots when you’re hitting the ball, from topspin to sidespin.
Invest in a table tennis robot
If you’re serious about improving your table tennis game but don’t have a training partner to practice with, consider investing in a specialist table tennis robot. These units shoot ping pong balls at you every few seconds, and you return the shots into a mesh enclosure attached around the opposite half of the table.
These robots shoot from the same height that opponents hit balls from, simulating a real match experience. Premium-grade, professional-style table tennis robots can also modify the ball spin from shot to shot to match the variations that opponents would provide in a game. These high-end models can shoot up to 100 balls per minute, and you can adjust the robot’s height if you want to practice playing against a taller or shorter-than-average opponent.
If you like the sound of these robots but don’t have the funds to invest in a premium-grade unit, you’ll find plenty of cheaper options online.
Practice your service game
Another simple way to practice table tennis on your own is to spend some time working on your service game. Arguably, the serve is the single most important shot in table tennis. If you have a good serve, you can put your opponent on the back foot straight away and keep them there until the end of the point.
You can work on developing your half-long serve. This technique involves placing the second bounce of the ball on your rival’s half of the playing surface lands right on the edge of the table, and makes it very difficult for your opponent to return the ball effectively. You could also try to develop a longer, faster serve that can surprise your opponents. They’ll tend to lob their return so that it passes over the end of your side of the table.
Do some shadow play training
All you need for this type of training is a mirror and a paddle. Practice your serve, backhand, and forehand in front of a large mirror in your bathroom or bedroom, without a ball or a tabletop surface. This type of practice allows you to get real-time feedback on your stance, movement, and swing. Try comparing the look of your shots with some videos of professionals making those same shots to see where you need to improve.
Shadow play also allows you to isolate and work on specific weaknesses in your shot game. If you feel confident about your forehand but worry that your backhand is letting you down, practice your backhand again and again in front of the mirror. Work through the whole shot, looking at the angle of your hand, grip, and swing, to see if you can figure out what’s going wrong.
If you don’t have access to a mirror, try filming yourself when you’re practicing your backhand, forehand, return, or serve. You can go back to this footage and analyze it to see whether you’re moving correctly as you play.
Get a return board for your table
Some table tennis units don’t come with a playback option. If that’s the case, you should consider investing in a return board. Attach this strip to the edge of the opposite half of the table, then practice serving or hitting your forehand toward it so that the ball bounces back to your side.
These boards are narrow and only cover around ¼-⅓ of the table’s width. However, this means that they’re helpful practice tools for working on your shot precision and accuracy. Move the board to the left-hand side of the table to practice landing your forehand in the same space again and again, and attach the board to the right-hand side if you want to focus on your backhand.
Do some speed and agility training
Speed, agility, and quickness are vital skills if you want to strengthen your table tennis game. Focus on SAQ drills that help decrease your reaction time and improve your footwork, like speed ladders, explosive plyometric exercises, and intensive shuttle runs.
You can also spend some time squatting and deadlifting since these movements strengthen your leg muscles and allow you to get real power behind your shots.
Watch some game film
When you’re not physically training for table tennis, the best way to improve your game is to watch the best in the world play ping pong. Tune into an ITTF World Tour event or watch the Olympics to see how the professional athletes move, swing, shoot, and position themselves to win points and games.
You can learn so much from these elite performers. Try to take these lessons on board in your next training session or playing in a game.
Improve Your Table Tennis Game By Practicing Alone
If you want to be a great table tennis player, you need to put in hours of work. This game requires a high level of skill, agility, coordination, and positional understanding, and all these factors take practice to master. When you want to practice on your own, follow one of these useful tips to strengthen your game.