Simple Drills for Table Tennis / Ping-Pong

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X's and H's Simple Drill

Diagram of X's and H's Simple Drill
X's and H's Simple Drill. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Looking for ping-pong drills that are easy to remember but still work well? I've gathered together a number of simple but effective table tennis drills, that don't require a Masters degree to remember but still get the job done.

The X's and H's drill is one that most table tennis players will probably have performed at some point in their training.

Performing the Drill

As mentioned in the diagram, Player A plays the ball down the sidelines, while Player B hits the ball crosscourt. Simple, isn't it? But even with a simple drill like this one, there are still ways to get more out of the drill than if you just go through the motions without thinking.

Counterhitting
If both Player A and Player B counterhit the ball, the drill becomes an excellent footwork and stamina drill, where moderately competent players can keep each rally going for a long time, provided that Player B (who is hitting crosscourt, which is the easier role) ensures that the ball is just within Player A's reach with good footwork. If Player A is struggling to reach the ball, a smart Player B will hit the next ball at a slightly easier location, allowing Player A to regain his balance and composure, and extending the rally. The idea is to put pressure on each other, but not so much pressure that the point ends too quickly.

Blocking vs Looping
If Player A is blocking and Player B is looping, this drill is an excellent chance for Player B to practice looping to Player A's wide forehand and backhand, a stroke which is not generally practiced enough. The key here is for Player B to start looping crosscourt without too much width, and slowly widen the angle, while allowing Player A time to adjust to the placement of the ball. If Player A is struggling to reach the ball in time, Player B can either reduce the angles, or loop with more spin and less speed, giving Player A more time to move.

If Player A is looping and Player B is blocking, Player B is able to make Player A work very hard, since Player B will be able to block with wide angles. Again, Player B should start with smaller angles, and slowly increase them, keeping Player A under pressure but not making it impossible for Player A to reach the ball. Also, if Player A is finding it hard to reach the ball, he can loop with more spin and less speed, giving him more time to recover and move to the next location.

Looping vs Looping
This is a tough version of the drill, since it is hard to be consistent when looping and relooping. Both players need to concentrate on fast footwork and accurate placement of the ball to make this drill work at all. Even then it's unlikely that many rallies will last more than 5 or 6 strokes. For advanced players only.

02
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Short Game Simple Drill

Short Game Drill Diagram
Short Game Drill. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

This drill is simple to perform, but it works well for any players who want to improve their short game quickly.

Performing the Drill

As mentioned in the diagram, one player should serve a double bounce serve, and the other player should then try to return the ball so that it would bounce twice on the server's side of the table. If the ball is returned too high or too long, the other player should attack the ball, and the point should be played out.

Benefits of the Drill

This a simple drill, but it's not at all easy to perform. When your opponent is varying his spin and placement, it is actually very difficult to push the ball so that it would bounce twice on his side of the table. It is also very easy to get sucked into the rhythm of pushing short, and to miss opportunities to attack loose pushes.

But when this drill is performed with concentration, it is a great way to learn how to shut down an opponent's power attack, forcing him to flick the ball instead of using a loop to start his attacking sequence, and providing great opportunities to counterattack off the less powerful flick.

Top players often control lower level players by dominating the short game, preventing their opponents from opening up while attacking loose balls themselves. Those players who wish to move to higher levels of the game should make this drill part of their training routine on a consistent basis.

03
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Crosscourt Placement Simple Drill

Crosscourt Placement Drill Diagram
Crosscourt Placement Drill. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Performing the Drill

This drill is simple on the surface, since both players must only use their opponent's forehand courts to land the ball in. Either player can serve, (and the first bounce of the serve can be in any part of the table, while the second bounce must be in the receiver's forehand court), but the point is then played out using only the forehand courts.

Benefits of the Drill

This drill will force both players to rethink aspects of the game. What serves should be used to make it difficult for the opponent to return the ball in your forehand court? What serves allow an easier transition to playing the ball from the forehand, since you know where the ball will be returned?

Since your opponent knows which court to expect the ball, is consistency in attacking more important than power, since it's difficult to wrongfoot your opponent? Is it still possible to out maneuver your opponent - can wide balls followed up with a shot straight at the opponent be effective?

Should the player attempt to play every ball with his forehand, or should he also use his backhand if moved out of position?

Variations

Obviously, the backhand court of each player can be used as well, forcing similar decisions from the backhand side. Will players decide to play with mainly their forehand, or their backhand?

By using a string or tape measure, it is also easy to handicap each player, by either widening or narrowing their respective target areas. Strong players can compete with weaker players fairly evenly just by adjusting their targets.

04
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Down the Line Placement Drill

Down the Line Drill Diagram
Down the Line Drill. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

This drill is similar to the crosscourt placement drill, but now the players are using the courts down each sideline.

Benefits of the Drill

As for the crosscourt drill, this drill encourages players to decide on ball placement, instead of just randomly spraying the ball around the court. It also raises similar questions to that raised by the crosscourt drill.

Variations

Besides the obvious use of either sideline, it would also be possible to stipulate that both players use only a certain side, for example, both players must use forehands, or Player A must use forehands while Player B uses only backhands.

Of course, the size of the target areas can also be manipulated with the use of string or measuring tapes. The target area can be designated as either to the left or right of the measuring tape, allowing the target area to be between the center line and the tape, or the sideline and the tape.

05
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Forehand Only Simple Drill

Diagram of Forehand Only Simple Drill
Forehand Only Simple Drill. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Restricting one or both players to only forehand (or backhand) strokes is a very simple drill, but it has some interesting consequences for training purposes.

Performing the Drill

Play one or more games to 11, but Player A is restricted to using his forehand rubber only, with no twiddling allowed. The idea is to force Player A to play only forehand strokes with good technique, so sneaky flipping of the wrist to use a Seemiller-type backhand is not permitted - even for Seemiller style players!

To start with, allow Player B to use both forehand and backhand strokes.

Benefits of the Drill

Player A will receive a number of benefits from this drill, including:
  • Player A will need to choose his serve carefully, in order to attempt to force Player B to return the ball to where Player A is expecting it. Careless serving will allow Player B to exploit Player A's backhand or wide forehand.
  • Good footwork is stressed, since Player A is being asked to cover the whole table with only his forehand side.
  • Player A will need to pay attention to his own positioning around the court during the rally, and attempt to place the ball so that he is not left vulnerable on his backhand side. This will force Player A to make quick decisions about where to place the ball according to his own court position.
  • Player A will be forced to play more aggressively, since he will need to finish the point as quickly as possible. Passive play will give Player B the chance to get the ball to Player A's backhand side sooner or later, and the point will be lost.
  • This drill will also highlight just how much fitness is required if a player wishes to be a one wing attacker that possesses a significantly weaker wing.
Player B will also find the drill beneficial in learning how to exploit the weaknesses of players who have a powerful forehand but a poor backhand.

Variations

The simplest variation to this drill is to force Player B to only play forehands as well, in which case both players will be under pressure. Other variations include allowing Player B to play forehands and backhands, but to a specific half of Player A's court, balancing the restrictions on both players.
06
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Broken Ball Target Simple Drill

Diagram of Broken Ball Target Simple Drill
Broken Ball Target Simple Drill. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Using a broken ball as a target is an easy way to work on placing the ball - and let's face it, with the poor quality of today's 40mm balls, you are always likely to have a broken ball around somewhere! Just push one side of the ball in, and you have a perfect target that will stay on the table without rolling around!

Performing the Drill

The simplest variation of this drill is to have Player A attacking the ball with his forehand, using a loop, drive, or smash as desired. Player A attempts to hit the broken target ball 3 times, keeping track of how many strokes it takes him to do so. Player B blocks the ball back to Player A, keeping the ball in Player A's forehand court.

By recording the number of strokes it takes Player A to hit the target ball 3 times, it is possible to gauge over time whether Player A is improving his ability to place the ball at a target location.

Benefits of the Drill

Player A will improve his ability at hitting the ball to a specific location on the court, regardless of where the opponent has hit the ball. This is a valuable skill that will be of use when Player A needs to place the ball to take advantage of an opponent's weaknesses.

Variations

Besides simply performing this drill using Player A's backhand, there are number of other variations of this drill that can be used.
  • Player B can have a target ball to aim at as well, giving Player B similar practice with his block.
  • A second target ball can be used at a different location, such as Player B's backhand corner, or Player B's playing elbow, giving Player A a choice of targets. This encourages the development of Player A's decision making, since there will be times when one target ball is easier to hit than the other, and Player A should attempt to hit the easiest target.
  • Player B can be allowed to place the ball anywhere on Player A's court, making the drill more difficult for Player A. The use of multiple target balls can also be used in this case, for example if Player B places the ball in Player A's backhand court, Player A must hit target ball 1, and if the ball lands in his forehand court, Player A must hit target ball 2. This encourages Player A to quickly identify where Player B is hitting the ball, and decide quickly which target he must aim at.
  • The drill can also be used with strokes such as the push, flick, or chop, in order to practice other techniques.
07
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Wide Forehand Opening Attack Simple Drill - Step 1

Diagram of Wide Forehand Opening Attack Simple Drill - Step 1
Wide Forehand Opening Attack Simple Drill - Step 1. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

This drill is a very useful extension of the basic forehand loop to forehand block drill. Simply by adding a serve and serve return to the drill, we increase the benefits in a number of ways.

Performing the Drill

Player A serves a double bounce serve to Player B's forehand. Player B then pushes or flicks the ball as wide as possible to Player A's forehand side, cutting the sideline wherever possible. Player A then loops, drives or smashes the return to Player B's forehand side, and Player B blocks the ball back to Player A's forehand court. From there the basic forehand loop to forehand block drill continues as normal.

Benefits of the Drill

There are a number of benefits for Player A when performing this drill.
  • Plenty of practice of his double bounce serve down the line, which is one of the most difficult serves to perform well, and also a common weak area for opponents.
  • Good footwork practice since Player A must move quickly to cover the wide return of serve, and then move back into position to cover Player B's block. Moving wide to the forehand side is also a common weakness in many players, so this is a good chance for Player A to work on this area.
  • Player A will have to choose between opening his attack from a push return or flick return. This will improve his decision making under pressure, and also gives Player A the chance to work on both types of opening (from backspin and topspin).
  • When Player A has opened from a push return, he will have to adjust his stroke for his next attack, which will be against a ball with slight topspin. This adjustment is something that many players find difficult at first, so the extra practice will be of benefit.
Player B will also benefit from the drill, since he will get to practice his return of serve from his short forehand side (a weakness of many players), and he also can practice aggressively returning the ball as wide as possible to make it difficult for Player A to attack well, which is a good tactic to master. Player B can also work on his blocking against Player A's attacks.
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Wide Forehand Opening Attack Simple Drill - Step 2

Diagram of Wide Forehand Opening Attack Simple Drill - Step 2
Wide Forehand Opening Attack Simple Drill - Step 2. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Variations

Some easy variations to this drill include:
  • Allow Player B to return his serve down the line as well as wide crosscourt, which will force Player A to wait until he can determine where Player B is placing his serve return.
  • Allow Player B to block to any location, which will force Player A to recover quickly after hitting his third ball attack.
  • Allow Player A to attack to any location, which will make Player B have to work harder on his blocking.
  • Allow both players to hit the ball to any location after the serve and serve return have been completed, which will force both players to work hard to take control of the rally.
  • Change the location of Player A's third ball attack to Player B's backhand, and have Player B block to Player A's forehand as usual. This gives Player A the chance to practice his opening attack and follow up down the line.
  • Same as the previous variation, but have Player B block the ball diagonally crosscourt towards Player A's backhand. Player A then plays backhand attacks to Player B's backhand block.
  • If the serve is too long, allow Player B to loop or drive his return to any location and the rally can be played out. This will highlight to Player A how often he is accidentally serving the ball long.
09
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Forehand Flick / Backhand Attack Simple Drill

Diagram of Forehand Flick / Backhand Attack Simple Drill
Forehand Flick / Backhand Attack Simple Drill. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Performing the Drill

Player A serves a double bounce serve to any location. Player B has the choice of returning the ball short to Player A's forehand, or deep to Player A's backhand. If the return is short, Player A steps in and plays a forehand flick to any location. If the return is deep, Player A loops or drives the ball to any location. The rally is then played out.

Benefits of the Drill

Player A receives a number of benefits from this drill, including:
  • Practice of his double bounce serving.
  • Decision making and footwork practice, since Player A must choose quickly between two very different strokes which are played in far apart locations, and move into position in time to play the correct stroke smoothly and effectively.
  • Technique practice for his forehand flick and backhand attack.
  • Practice of following up his forehand flick with his fifth ball attack, or practicing his third ball attack with his backhand.
Player B also benefits from the drill in several ways, such as:
  • Practice of his serve return to two different locations.
  • Positioning practice, since Player B will recover to a different position depending on whether he returns the ball short or deep.

Variations

There are many ways to vary this drill to achieve slightly different results.
  • If Player B is having trouble getting his serve return short, Player A can serve the ball very short, instead of double bouncing the serve, which will make it easier for Player B to drop the ball short when desired.
  • The drill can be reversed, with Player B returning short to Player A's backhand, and long to Player A's forehand.
  • Player B can return the ball short to any location, forcing Player A to decide whether to flick the ball with his backhand or forehand. Player B's deep return should still be to the backhand.
  • To make the serve return easier for Player B, Player A could serve to a fixed location with a fixed type of spin.
  • Player B can return deep to any location, but still returns the ball to Player A's forehand when returning short.
10
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Counterloop Simple Drill

Diagram of Counterloop Simple Drill
Counterloop Simple Drill. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Although the double bounce serve is the main service technique used by high level players, that does not mean that the long serve is never used. Intelligent use of a long serve can force a weak loop return from an opponent, allowing the ball to be counterlooped aggressively on the third ball attack.

Performing the Drill

Player A serves a long fast serve (bouncing within 6 inches of the endline), or a serve that just fails to bounce twice on Player B's court. Player B then loops or drives the ball to Player A's forehand court, and Player A attempts to counterloop the ball to any location. The rally is then played out.

The long fast serve is used to surprise an opponent, and hopefully catch him out of position, either cramping him or making him stretch for the ball. The serve that just goes over the endline is used to make the opponent hesitate, unsure of whether the ball will bounce twice on the table or go over the endline. This will also hopefully cause the opponent's attack to be weaker than normal, allowing the server to make a strong counterloop.

Benefits of the Drill

Player A gets a number of benefits from this drill, including:
  • Practice of long serves of various spin types, and serves that just clear the endline on purpose.
  • Grooving his counterlooping of the ball as the follow up from his service. Often this pattern is neglected because players start their counterlooping practice while already standing away from the table.
  • Practice of his decision making, since he must decide where to place his third ball in order to take control of the point.
  • Learning and reinforcing the concept that just because his opponent has attacked the ball, this does not mean that the player must go on the defensive. Weak attacks from his opponent can and should be counterattacked.
Player B also gets worthwhile practice, such as:
  • Practice of his aggressive return of serve. Player B should be attempting to make his return of serve difficult for Player A to counterloop successfully.
  • The chance to decide whether to go on the defensive or continue to press his attack, depending on the strength of Player A's counterloop. This is excellent practice for match situations, where such decisions must be made under pressure.

Variations

  • Allow Player A to serve short as well on occasion, and play out the point.
  • Player B returns to the backhand side of Player A.
  • Player A counterloops the ball to Player B's forehand court, and play continues diagonally.
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Two on One Simple Drill

Diagram of Two on One Simple Drill
Two on One Simple Drill. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

The use of two players to drill against a single player is more a drill technique than a simple drill by itself, but I think it deserves a page of its own to discuss how to make the most of this technique. This technique can be especially handy if you have a strong player and two weaker players training together, or even an extra player without a partner.

Performing the Drill

The idea behind this drill technique is to make Player A work harder than normal, by harnessing the advantages of having two players acting as one opponent. In order to make this effective, it is best if Player B has a strong forehand, and Player C has a strong backhand. Player B should be attempting to cover as much of his court as possible with his forehand, and should also cover a little of Player C's court if he is in good position to do so. Player C covers any wide balls to his court with his backhand, and can also cover a little of Player B's court if Player B is out of position, in order to keep the rally going.

If Player B and C work together well, they should combine to place a lot of pressure on Player A, since it should be difficult for Player A to find a gap in their court coverage. And since both players have less court to cover, they should be able to get into position more easily, allowing them to stay balanced and produce stronger strokes.

Benefits of the Drill

Player A will benefit from this drill technique, since he should be placed under more pressure, and any drills will be likely to last longer. When done properly, it is similar to Player A training against a higher level player.

Players B and C should focus on their technique and ball placement. Since they have less ground to cover, they should be able to move into position more easily, improving the quality of the strokes they can achieve.

Variations

This technique can be applied to many drills, and can also be used to play matches, where Players B and C combine to simulate a higher level player competing against Player A.
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Ball Aim Simple Drill 4 - By the Numbers

Diagram of Ball Aim Simple Drill 4 - By the Numbers
Ball Aim Simple Drill 4 - By the Numbers. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Mark Player B's court into 6 areas. Since it is very difficult to place the ball close to the net, the boxes that are marked out next to the endline should be smaller than the boxes close to the net. A number should then be allocated to each area, as shown in the diagram.

Performing the Drill

The simplest variation of this drill is for both players to use a basic stroke, such as the push or counterhit. Player B hits the ball to Player A's forehand, and as he hits the ball he calls out a number between 1 and 6. Player A must then attempt to place the ball in the location specified.

Benefits of the Drill

Benefits for Player A include:
  • Learning to place the ball according to an outside stimulus, rather than simply deciding the location at random. This ability to adjust the placement of the ball will be useful as Player A improves his ability to 'read' his opponent. Better players can judge the best location to place the ball depending on the opponent's body language, positioning, and skill set. A player who simply hits the ball to a random location without considering his opponent will struggle to beat better players.
  • Learning to adjust his stroke in different ways to place the ball in different areas of the table. For example, if Player A is counterhitting, he can place the ball in Area 3 by hitting the ball harder so that it goes past Area 6, or by topspinning the ball less so that it dips more slowly. He could also hit the ball slightly higher so that it travels further and lands in Area 3 instead of Area 6.
  • Player B can use intelligent choice of locations to teach Player A the best places to place the ball depending on the progress of the rally, and position of his opponent. For example, if Player A has placed the ball deep into Area 1, moving Player B wide to his forehand and backwards from the table, Player B may then call the number 6, so that Player A puts the ball in a very difficult location for Player B to reach. Or he could call the number 1 again, encouraging Player A to hit the ball straight back at him, hopefully aiming for his playing elbow.

Variations

  • Allow Player B to place the ball to any location.
  • Have Player B serve, and thus force Player A to return the ball to where Player B is expecting it. This will highlight how a strong server has an advantage, since he can often force his opponent to return the ball where he is expecting it.
  • Play as a normal rally, with all strokes allowed.
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Forehand Pivot Simple Drill

Diagram of Forehand Pivot Simple Drill
Forehand Pivot Simple Drill. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Performing the Drill

Either player can serve the ball, but the serve used should favor a push return. The serve can be to any location if desired, but the return of serve should be to the server's backhand corner. Both players should then continue to push the ball with their backhands, to each other's backhand corner.

Player B should push the ball from 1-5 times in a row, while looking for a suitable return to run around his backhand corner and hit a forehand loop or drive. To begin with Player B should try to select a return that will make hitting his forehand attack easy. As he improves, he can attempt to attack more difficult returns.

Player A should push the ball from 1-5 times in a row to Player B's backhand corner, changing the location of his push to Player B's forehand corner from time to time. In addition, if Player A sees Player B starting to pivot around his backhand corner, Player A should push the ball down the line in order to catch Player B out of position.

Once Player B has played a forehand attack, the rally should be played out at will.

Benefits of the Drill

Player B receives a number of benefits from this drill:
  • He is able to work on his serve, serve return, and backhand push, using them to help set up an easy return to attack.
  • Player B will be working on his forehand loop against a push, and his footwork in moving both to his left and right to play his forehand loop.
  • He will improve his ability to choose a suitable return to attack with his forehand by pivoting around his backhand corner, and will also learn not to move too early when attempting to pivot.
  • He will improve his ability to read his opponent, by trying to determine when Player A is going to push the ball down the line.
Player A also benefits from this drill as follows:
  • He can practice his serve, return of serve and backhand push, using them to make the ball difficult for Player B to attack.
  • He also gets to improve his ability to read his opponent, by trying to determine when Player B is about to pivot around his backhand, and taking the appropriate action in pushing the ball down the line instead.

Variations

Some simple variations include:
  • Replace the pushes with counterdrives instead.
  • Allow Player B to loop with his backhand, while Player A blocks instead.
  • Begin with the push variation, but once Player B attacks, continue with the blocking variation.
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Aim at Playing Elbow Simple Drill

Diagram of Aim at Playing Elbow Simple Drill
Aim at Playing Elbow Simple Drill. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Performing the Drill

The idea behind this drill is to allow a player to find out how well he is able to direct his third ball attacks to a moving location - in this case, his opponent's playing elbow.

Player A can serve the ball to any location, and Player B should then return the ball to Player A's forehand court (preferably either high enough or long enough for Player A to attack). Player B should then move to another location of his choice, and wait in this position, while facing square on to the location where Player A will play the ball from.

Player A should then play his third ball attack, and attempt to place the ball so that it travels between the space between Player B's racket and his right hip (i.e. his playing elbow). Player B should not attempt to hit the ball, but should hold still so that Player A can see whether he has managed to successfully target the ball.

Benefits of the Drill

This drill is mainly of benefit to Player A, since he will receive practice at:
  • Serving to any location.
  • Performing a successful third ball attack with his forehand.
  • Learning to keep track of his opponent's movement around the court, so that Player A can aim at his opponent's playing elbow successfully.
Player B can still practice his serve return, however.

Being able to place the ball consistently to an opponent's playing elbow is a skill that is useful at any level of the game. At lower levels it may result in outright points due to an opponent's mistakes in dealing with such an awkwardly placed ball. At higher levels it makes it harder for an opponent to attack or counterattack such a ball, which is important for retaining control of the point.

Variations

  • Allow Player B to return to any location, forcing Player A to play both forehand and backhand third ball attacks.
  • Allow Player B to return the ball short enough to stop Player A looping or driving, if he can. In this case Player A should push or flick the ball towards Player B's playing elbow, in order to practice making it hard for Player B to start his attack.
  • If Player B returns the ball short, allow Player A to try to return the ball short as well if he wants to. Now the first player to successfully attack the ball should aim at the playing elbow of his opponent, who should in turn stand still to allow the attacker to see whether he has placed the ball on target.
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Keeping the Ball Low - Net Post Extensions

Diagram of Net Post Extensions to Check the Ball Height Over the Net
Net Post Extensions to Check the Ball Height Over the Net. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Keeping the ball low over the net is an important skill to possess in matches, especially when serving, returning serve, pushing, and playing drop shots. When practicing, because we tend to face the net square on (and look down from above), it is not always easy to tell just how high the ball is traveling over the net.

The use of net post extensions can be very helpful in allowing you to check whether you are keeping the ball low enough - and is a simple technique that can be added to many drills. They are also quite simple to make!

What You Need to Make the Net Post Extensions

You don't need to spend a fortune to make a useful net extension. All you need is two PVC or plastic tubes that are big enough to slip over your net posts, some nuts and bolts and a drill (or some nails and a hammer), some cord or string, and a good knife or saw to cut the tubes. Needless to say, this is a job for adults or children with adult supervision.

Making the Net Post Extensions

  • Cut the tubes to length - say maybe 1 foot (30cm) or even 1½ feet (45cm).
  • Cut a slot in each tube that is wide enough to slip the net cord through, so that you can slide the tubing over each net post.
  • Put a nail through each tubing just above the top of the slot you have cut, so that the tubing will sit on the nail on top of the net post, and will not rest on the net cord. You might want to cut the tip of the nail so that there is no sharp tip pointing out. Or you can drill a hole through the tubing, and use a nut and bolt instead - I would recommend using the nut and bolt myself.
  • If you are using nails, place several nails spaced an inch or so apart at the top of the each tube. Leave the head of the nail out a little from the tube, so you can tie the cord around the head of the nail. If you are using nuts and bolts, drill some holes in the top of the tubing, spaced an inch apart. You can use a nut and bolt on each tube, tying the cord around the nut. The nails or drilled holes will allow you to vary the height of the cord - you can lower the cord as you get better at keeping the ball down.
  • Tie the cord at the height desired.
That's it! You now have a simple to use tool that allows you to check the height of your serves, serve returns, pushes and drop shots. Give it a try - you might be surprised at just how high some of your touch shots are going over the net!
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Footwork Speed Simple Drill

Diagram of Footwork Speed Simple Drill
Footwork Speed Simple Drill. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

This simple drill technique for increasing your footwork speed is best used with drills where the ball is being placed to the same location. I'll describe how to use the technique for a simple forehand loop drill.

Performing the Drill

Player A is performing forehand loops crosscourt, while Player B is blocking the ball back to Player A's forehand court. After hitting his stroke, Player A should quickly take a small shuffle step to his left, and then shuffle step back to his right to play the next stroke.

Player A should begin with only a small shuffle step, and as his footwork speed improves, he can attempt to move further.

Benefits of the Drill

There are a number of benefits for Player A when performing this drill, including:
  • Increased footwork speed - Player A will rapidly improve his footwork speed if he performs this drill correctly.
  • Improved form and balance - in order to successfully perform this drill, Player A will need good form and balance, or else he will not recover in time to hit his next stroke. Players who use too large a swing or tend to lean rather than moving their feet will have to adjust in order to complete this drill.
  • Player A will get used to moving after hitting the ball, instead of standing still.

Variations

  • If the drill is too difficult, Player A can start with shadow play in order to get his footwork correct.
  • Player A can also use a shuffle step to his right, so that he alternates between moving to his left and his right after stroking the ball.
  • If Player A is finding it hard to force himself to move far enough, place a line on the floor to Player A's left with some tape or chalk, perpendicular to the endline of the table . Have Player A move to the left side of the line after hitting the ball, and then move back to the right to hit his next stroke.
  • Have Player A perform a shadow stroke when he moves to his left. (This will make the drill very difficult.)
  • Use slower shots, such as pushes or slow counterhits, to give Player A more time to move between strokes.
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Two Table Simple Drill Technique

Diagram of Two Table Simple Drill Technique
Two Table Simple Drill Technique. © 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Implementing the Two Table Simple Drill Technique

By placing a second table half on Player A's side of the net, Player B has access to much greater angles than Player A, while Player A has to cover a lot more table area than Player B. There are a number of ways to use these factors to improve your training, including:
  • Player B can exploit the extra angles and table area to force Player A to improve his footwork and recovery skills. Player B will very often be able to put the ball out of easy reach of Player A in both directions (something that is not generally possible normally), forcing Player A to improve his recovery and anticipation.
  • The extra table area and angles allows Player B more options in ball placement, effectively increasing the playing strength of Player B. For example, in a normal drill if Player B moves Player A wide to his forehand, and Player A returns the ball to Player B's backhand court, it is difficult for Player B to force Player A much wider due to the narrowness of the table, unless Player B is an advanced player with good control and sidespin technique. But with two table halves side by side, Player B can move Player A out wide to his forehand as usual, and then move him even wider on the next stroke without difficulty, regardless of where Player A places the ball. In this manner, Player B is able to simulate a player who is technically much better than what Player B actually is, to the benefit of Player A.
  • The extra table half can be used in normal drills, allowing Player B to aim for targets that would normally be very close to the edge of the table. If his shot would have missed the table, the rally can now continue instead of having to stop.
  • It's not necessary to use the whole 4 quadrants of the two table halves. By adjusting the position of the two table halves a half-court to the left or right, it is possible to use 3 of the 4 quadrants instead, with the last quadrant which is to the far left or right remaining unused. This can be very useful if you wish to play practice matches with a stronger opponent against a much weaker opponent, since it evens the playing field to an extent.
  • Player A can benefit from the fact that is much easier for Player B to hit extreme angles, allowing more practice for Player A from positions that occur in matches, but which are hard to replicate consistently in practice on a normal table.
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Playing Elbow Simple Table Tennis Drill

Diagram of Playing Elbow Simple Drill
Diagram of Playing Elbow Simple Drill. © 2008 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Benefits

This playing elbow simple drill, as described in the accompanying diagram, can be useful to both Player A and Player B.

Player A can benefit in the following ways:

  • He gains practice at aiming at the playing elbow of his opponent.
  • He is able to practice exploiting the opportunities created by an opponent who fails to recover quickly and correctly after a stroke.
  • His decision making should improve, since Player A has to decide quickly if Player B is vulnerable to a wide angled stroke, and in which direction.
Player B also receives a number of benefits from performing this drill:
  • He must decide quickly whether to use his forehand or backhand to hit the ball that has been placed in the area around his playing elbow. As the ball moves a little to one side or the other of his playing elbow, Player B needs to be careful that he chooses his best option, which generally would be a backhand stroke for balls that land towards the backhand side of his playing elbow, and the same for forehands. Players with stronger forehands might wish to use their forehand against balls that land further to the backhand side of their playing elbow.
  • He must concentrate on returning his racket to a neutral ready position, so that he can play a forehand or backhand with equal ease. This is excellent practice for matches, since it prevents Player B from committing to a particular stroke too early.
  • He must also ensure that he recovers to a neutral playing position, depending on the line of play. If Player B moves to one side to play the ball, and forgets to move back into position, he will no longer be in the best ready location, and Player A will be able to take advantage of this by playing the ball to the wide angle that has been left open by Player B. This will teach Player B that he must always be looking to move to the best ready position for his next stroke.

Variations

  • Player B can play the ball to Player A's forehand instead. This results in the ball coming towards Player B's playing elbow from a different angle - more across than into his body.
  • If Player B fails to recover to a neutral playing location, Player A may wish to play the ball back to Player B's playing elbow a second time, attempting to draw him even further out of position. If Player A is successful, he should have an easy winner when he switches to the wide angle stroke, since Player B should be unable to reach the ball.
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Play an Extra Stroke Simple Drill Technique

Diagram of Extra Stroke Simple Drill Technique
Extra Stroke Simple Drill Technique. © 2008 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.

During training or a practice match, when your opponent makes a mistake, whether it be hitting the ball into the net, off the table, or missing it completely, don't stop. Instead, determine what type of shot he was attempting to play, then move and play a shadow stroke as if he had been successful in his attempt.

Benefits

  • You will learn to recover and keep playing the point after hitting a strong shot. No more standing still and watching after smashing the ball as your opponent barely puts the ball on the table, but you can't get back to reach it!
  • You will be mimicking playing against an opponent of a much higher standard than your opponent actually is, since you will have to move and play one more stroke in every rally. Even after your best shots, you will have to recover, move into position and play another shadow stroke.
  • You will discover just how vulnerable some of your favorite point winning strokes make you against better opponents, who are able to return these shots. You will become more aware when you can fully committ to an attack, and when you should moderate your attack and allow yourself time to get back into position to play the next ball.
  • Since the extra stroke is a shadow stroke, you should be able give your full attention to using good footwork and technique, as you don't have to actually hit the ball.
  • You will be working that little bit harder than normal, since you have added one extra stroke to each rally. This can only be of benefit to your match fitness, and you will be used to playing longer rallies than most of your opponents.