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Add Chaos to Your Table Tennis Training Drills

Two Minute Table Tennis Tips

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Add Chaos to Your Table Tennis Training Drills

If you really want to add some randomness to your training drills - try this table!

Here's a quick question - do more than 80% of your training drills involve the feeder hitting the ball to one position, or to certain locations in a fixed sequence?

Here's a second quick question - is your success rate with these drills over 80%-90%?

Here's a third quick question - does your success rate in playing the strokes you drilled in training drop dramatically in actual matches?

If you answered yes to all three questions, it might be time to start using more random elements in your training drills, to better simulate a real match.

Adding Random Elements to Fixed Table Tennis Drills

Fixed drills are great for grooving basic footwork and techniques. But once the basics are mastered, you have to take the next step up and start increasing the difficulty of the drill, in order to allow you to get practice at using your strokes in conditions closer to an actual match. Otherwise you become the type of player who looks like a legend in training, but can't perform in a real match.

The idea is to keep most of the repetitive element of the drill to still allow techniques and footwork to be practiced, but to add one or two simple random elements which will help you to perform those techniques during a real match, when you don't know where the ball is going in advance.

Suggested Random Elements

There are many different ways to add some randomness to your training drills, all of which are useful for taking the next step up in training difficulty. Here's some of my favorites:
  • Change placement at a random time - I usually do this by having my training partner hit one type of stroke to one location, but at a random interval (say once every 3-5 balls or so) he can play the same stroke to another specific location on the table. This gives me the benefit of being able to train a particular shot, but having to stay ready to cover the rest of the court as well. Not knowing when my partner will switch prevents me from cheating with my footwork or preparation - I have to stay in a neutral ready position, so that I am able to hit either stroke.
  • Random stroke variation - have your training partner hit balls to a fixed location, but now and then allow him to change the type of stroke that he plays, forcing you to adjust quickly to the new stroke. This will make sure that you learn to keep an eye on your opponent's preparation, and give you practice at adjusting your own strokes.
  • Random speed or spin change - have your partner vary the speed or spin of his return at will. While there is normally some natural variation in speed and spin in a normal training drill, usually the feeder keeps his return within a fairly narrow range, which can become too easy to handle.

    Encourage your training partner to really use the whole range of possible speeds and spins - from fast to slow speed, and from heavy to light spin. This is very good practice for dealing with mis-hits from your opponent, which often come at different speeds and spins to what you were expecting. It's also good for handling those sneaky opponents who like to trick you with changes of pace and spin!

  • Random depth change - have your partner vary between very short, medium length, and very deep returns. It's surprising how this simple change can really increase the difficulty of the drill, just because you now have to move forwards and backwards while playing your stroke.
  • Chase the elbow - this is a tough drill to perform, but it is also quite good fun for both players. Have your training partner attempt to hit every ball into your playing elbow. Now and then he can hit a medium speed stroke wide to your forehand or backhand, to see whether you have remained balanced while moving around the court. It surprising how difficult it is to reach even fairly slow balls that are just out of reach if you are off-balance!

Keep it Simple

Most of the above drill variations will be suitable for intermediate players right through to the advanced level of play. Don't go overboard and try to use too many random elements at once. The idea is to make your drills a little harder by adding some randomness in controlled conditions. If you add too many random elements at once, you'll make the drill too difficult to perform, and you'll lose any training benefit. You might be surprised at how adding just one simple little random element changes the difficulty of your normal drills!
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