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Table Tennis Fitness

Kevin James provides some tips to improve your table tennis fitness.

Without a proper fitness regime, you cannot take your table tennis game to the next level. Period! And most of the players realize the importance of fitness quite late.

Table Tennis at a professional level requires physical prowess and cheetah-like reflexes. However, not much information is available on what training regime and exercises you should follow to improve your fitness level.

While merely playing Table Tennis can help you remain fit, but if you truly want to excel in the sport, then you need to follow a correct physical training regime. Table Tennis is a unique sport that requires you to do specific exercises to strengthen your core, legs, chest, biceps, and triceps.

Here are the six tips on how to improve your Table Tennis fitness

Warm Up

Warming up before practice or a match is very important. A typical warm-up will raise your body temperature and will loosen up your ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and to prevent the risk of injury and improve movements.

Typically, I follow this warmup routine:

  • Jumping jacks or a light jog: 3-5 minutes
  • Foam roll the hip flexors/quads: 10-15 passes each side
  • Foam roll the piriformis: 30 seconds each side
  • Foam roll the thoracic spine: 10-15 passes
  • Fire hydrants: 5-10 rotations each direction, each leg
  • Groiners with overhead reach: 8-10 reps
  • Hip flexor stretch: 30 seconds each side
  • Side lunge: 5-10 reps
  • Rocking ankle mobilization: 5-10 reps each side
  • Wall slides: 5-10 reps
  • Band pull apart/dislocates: 8-10 reps
  • Wrist rotations: 30 seconds

While it may not be possible to complete all the exercises but try to complete as many you can.

My daily Workout Routine looks like:

Warmup: (see above)

  • Squat: 3 x 6-8
  • Horizontal press: 3 x 6-8
  • Horizontal row: 3 x 6-8
  • Band external rotations: 2 x 12-15
  • Band hip rotation: 2 x 8-12 (each side)

Ditch the Long Runs for Short Sprints

Running is great for physical fitness. That is why it forms part of the fitness regimes for most sports. But Table Tennis requires fast responses that use our fast twitch muscle fibres, while general running uses our slow twitch muscle fibres to push us forward. So, while a two-kilometre run is great for our cardiovascular system, it is not exercising the twitch muscles that we use when playing Table Tennis.

A better way to get the best of both is to switch to short sprints of between 10 to 50 meters, with short recovery periods in between. This both boosts cardiovascular fitness and works our fast twitch muscle fibres, improving response times in Table Tennis.

In fact, most conditioning training exercises should be done quickly for the same reason. Add speed to press ups, sit ups, lunges, and squats. This should work the right kind of muscle fibres and develop explosive speed and power.

Move Side to Side, Not Front to Back

There is a saying that 'you play how you train'. Muscle memory builds up surprisingly quickly, and what you do during training will show up in your games. This is why it is always important to train with both the proper technique and intensity because if your muscles get used to the lazy technique and low intensity, this will find its way into your game.

Before starting your training session either with a partner or on a ping pong robot, it is a good idea to practice quick lateral movements to loosen your foot muscles.

This also means that when training away from the table, it is a good idea to train the types of movements that you will use in your game, to commit these to muscle memory. In Table Tennis, we mostly move from side to side, rather than front to back, to hit the ball. This means that in the physical training, we should do as much lateral movement as possible, and replace forward-backwards motions with side to side motions.

For example, lateral jumping not only improves leg strength, explosive power, stability, and balance but helps build coordination and muscle memory for effective side to side motion behind the table.

Focus on Arm Speed

Lots of exercises that we do for fitness involve working the legs, such as running and jumping. This is great for improving the dynamic power and agility that is essential for Table Tennis. However, one of the most important elements of Table Tennis is arm speed – fast acceleration of the shoulder, elbow, and wrist - so it is essential to incorporate training for this into any fitness regime.

One great way to work on arm speed is to train with a weighted bat. This works the specific muscles that you use during the game, and you will quickly find yourself being able to complete your movements more rapidly with a regular weighted bat.

But weight training that focusses on the shoulder, arm and wrist muscles is also a great way to improve your power and speed. It is possible to use quite heavyweights to work these muscles, moving quickly in the positive phase of the exercise, and using slow controlled movements in the returning phase of the movement.

Work on Anticipation and Reaction

One of the essential elements of Table Tennis is being able to anticipate the actions of your opponent and respond quickly to anything that they do. There are ways that you can incorporate this type of skill into fitness training, allowing you to both build physical fitness and game skills at the same time.

One way is to do mirror training, with a leader stringing together combinations of three or so movements, such as lunges and jumps, and the follower trying to mirror them as quickly as possible. Another way to achieve this is to give each exercise, a specific hand signal, and have a trainer use the hand signals to indicate which exercise to be done. This is ideal for group training.

Final Words

Just playing Table Tennis will quickly improve your physical fitness, but if you want to improve your Table Tennis quickly, some 'off court' fitness training can make a big difference. While any fitness training is good, doing the kind of fitness training that also supports the specific skills and muscle actions that you need for Table Tennis will accelerate your progress significantly.


Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • JAMES, K. (2019) Table Tennis Fitness [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/article443.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Kevin James is a professional table tennis player and an ITTF level 3 coach. He is the co-founder of PingPongBros.com a website dedicated to providing all table tennis enthusiasts with the best product reviews, equipment news, and tips and tricks. If you enjoyed this blog post or want to know more about him, feel free to email him at kevin@pingpongbros.com

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