Constructing a Table Tennis Training Schedule

There are plenty of places to find various table tennis drills. Books have been written, videos produced, and online advice is plentiful. There seems to be far less information on how and when to use these training methods. The simplest guideline that I have come across is Richard McAfee’s Table Tennis Pyramid of Success.   I’ve found it extremely helpful for charting the progress of players and planning training sessions. The Pyramid is a great outline but coaches will have to figure out the specifics for individual players. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for how to put together a great training schedule.
  • Determine goals – Some players will be playing tournaments. Others may have fairly modest goals. Coaches will need to make the most of training time, and help players set realistic goals.
  • Be specific – Train the shots and movements that you use in matches.
  • Fill in the gaps – If you train with a coach, a group, or a partner once a week, you will need to use other days for some creative solo training. Practicing serves, hitting with a robot, or some aerobic training are possible options.
  • Make time for fitness – While it is possible to play decently and not be in peak physical condition, fitness training can not be ignored. I’ve seen players improve dramatically after dropping excess weight. Good complimentary activities can be running, yoga, weight lifting, soccer, or dancing.
  • Serve and serve again – Confidence in your serves will pay dividends in matches. Besides the obvious benefits of improving serves, this is where creative tactics are usually born. You can even practice hand skills without a table.
  • Do drills appropriate to your playing level. Thanks to Ben Larcombe for pointing out that regular movement drills are most appropriate for beginners, but irregular drills, practicing serves, serve returns, and playing matches are better for intermediate and advanced players.
  • Mix it up – Beginning players may need to spend entire sessions on one skill. Players who have already developed a playing style, and are capable of advanced strokes, can benefit from an assortment of drills and activities.
  • Be consistent – Improvement takes time, sometimes longer than we think it should. The players that I have seen improve the most have almost always been those who play and train regularly.
Constructing a training schedule need not be difficult. Beginners need to focus on basic skills, footwork, and correct strokes. More advanced players need to be doing irregular drills that emphasize the skills needed for their playing style. All players should continue to practice serves and hand skills. Incorporate a fitness program and play matches. Every players needs are unique but the development of a training schedule should not be a mystery.

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