Should I get a table tennis robot? That’s a question that coaches hear quite frequently. For most players, the answer is yes, by all means. If you have a coach and can get some guidance on how best to use your robot, it is a definite yes. As long as you realize that training solely with your robot has some limitations, the upside of having a willing robotic friend is well worth your investment.
There have been plenty of articles written on how to best use a robot. My own opinion is that training with a robot pays the biggest dividends early in your table tennis career. For coaching young children, it is nearly a necessity. For adults who are taking up the sport for the first time or are trying to unlearn some bad habits, the robot may be of tremendous value.
One of the great challenges for new players is getting used to the idea of spinning the ball, rather than merely hitting it. For these players, a good prescription is to set up the robot to feed some backspin for the students to practice their normal forehand and backhand strokes. Unlike a coach, the robot mercilessly sends a steady diet of heavily spun balls that the student has no choice but to lift to get over the net.
Of course, a coach could feed multi-ball with underspin, but there are times when the absolute consistency of the robot may actually be preferable. With most players, about twenty minutes of dealing with robotic backspin is plenty to see the results when they go back to hitting with their coach or training partner. Any attempt to counter a topspin ball immediately following this type of robot training will result in balls being launched far off the table. After a minute or two players typically adjust and start landing their topspin shots, and now they actually have far more topspin.
Pretty much any drill that can be done with a coach can also be done in some manner with a robot. For many of these drills, having a person instead of a robot makes the drill closer to what one experiences in a match. However, for the new player who really needs to practice the basics, sometimes a robot makes a great training partner.