Pump Up Your Ping-Pong Power

With Great Power Comes Great Results!

Kyle Davis in Action
Perfect Form Helps Produce Peak Power!. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com
Would you like to be able to improve your ping-pong power? That's a no-brainer if I've ever heard one! I don't think there is a table tennis player alive who wouldn't like to be able to hit that little white sphere a bit harder.

But as experienced players know, there's more to successfully increasing your power than just muscling the ball. Let's face it, you could try to break the ball on every stroke, and that wouldn't make you a power player - just everyone's favorite opponent!

What is Power in Ping-Pong?

When I talk about power, I'm referring to those players who hit the ball low over the net with high speed and enough spin to bring the ball down deep in the court. The type of player who can whip the ball past you before you've twitched a muscle. When you play power players, you know that any loose strokes you make will be coming back at you fast in any direction, and you often end up hitting the ball off the edge of your bat, or missing it completely. Against players with less power, you usually will only miss the ball if they can fool you about which way they are hitting. A true power player can blow that sucker by you even if you guess right!

What's Required to be a Power Player?

Here's a checklist of what you need to do successfully in order to call yourself a power player.
  • Hit more than one in a row - a true power player can cream the ball, recover, and do it again and again if necessary. It's no good trying to hit harder if you have to hit a baby shot on your next stroke because you are off balance or out of position.
  • Place the ball - if you start to spray the ball all over the court when you up your pace, you've sacrificed your technique. You need to be able to hit hard while still hitting the target.
  • Variation - you should be able to vary the spin, speed and depth of the stroke at will. If you can only perform one type of hard stroke, you haven't fully developed your power yet.
  • Adaptability - true power players can still hit hard when put under pressure by their opponent, whether they are being jammed into their elbow or on the run. They are able to compensate for less than perfect conditions.

How to Improve Your Power - Areas to Work On

In order to get closer to achieving the requirements above, there are a number of areas that you can work on. Most players have different amounts of competence in these areas, which is why they can hit the ball hard under the right conditions, but struggle to be forceful at other times.
  • Technique - this is crucial for maximizing your power. Improving your technique so that you make the most of all the muscles involved in hitting the ball will do more for your power than lifting a ton of weights. Plus good technique will give you better consistency, which is very important - it's no good powdering the ball if you can't land it on the table!

    One other important thing to note with technique is that the way you hit the ball can also affect the amount of power you can achieve. For example, my own technique when looping is to brush the ball more than most players, giving me a loop that has more spin but less speed. Unless I decide to change my technique, it is unlikely that I would ever hit as hard as a player that hits through the ball with less brush, since my technique isn't suited to producing speed. So although I can still improve my power, my upper limit is going to be lower than most other players - since I will convert more of my energy to spin rather than speed.

  • Equipment - lets be honest, using the right equipment is going to help your power, provided you can control it. The better your technique, the more technology you can handle. So yes, using carbon blades, speed glue and max sponge rubbers can all improve your power - assuming you have the game to exploit the technology, and not have the technology exploit you! Try to find equipment that is going to help you, not hurt you.
  • Tension - tension in a rubber can help you hit harder. Tension in your body can do the opposite. For years I tried to muscle my forehand to increase the power of my forehand loop, with no success. It wasn't until I copied the relaxed technique of Kong Linghui that I actually started to come close to the upper limits of the power I can achieve with my technique. Your body needs to be relaxed before hitting the ball, so that you can contract your muscles for full effect. If you are already tensed up before beginning the stroke, you are going to reduce the strength of the contraction you can achieve. So relax to hit harder!
  • Footwork / Stance / Balance - these three aspects all work together to allow you to produce maximum force. Good footwork will get you into position quickly, allowing you to hit from a stable base, and you will be more balanced as a result. A good stance, with legs wide apart and good balance, will allow you to move quickly, and also allow you to rotate your body fully without falling over, which will let you get more of your bodyweight into the stroke, increasing your power.

    Many of the top players can produce power from what looks like very awkward positions, where the opponent has them on the run, or jammed up. One of the reasons they can do this is because of their mastery of the basics. Even when under pressure, these players maintain a wide stance and good balance, allowing them to lean their upper body out of the way to give them some room to swing hard. You can't lean and swing like that when your feet are close together - you'll end up on the floor!

  • Anticipation - if you are able to read your opponent's intentions accurately, you will be able to get into position to play the ball earlier. This will give you more time to get balanced, and allow you hit from a stable base, increasing your power. If you don't read your opponent well, you'll often be hitting on the run, and it's not easy to hit hard consistently when you're on the move.
  • Touch - although it sounds like a contradiction, having good touch in your short game can also improve your power play. If you are able to handcuff your opponent through deft placement or short pushes, preventing him from making any strong shots, you are going to increase your number of opportunities to launch a strong attack.