What is the best training exercises for table tennis? Today, let’s learn from the best Chinese table tennis players: Zhang Jike. How they train in their normal practice drills.
In general, a training session last for 3 to 4 hours. This is one of an example of a practice drill in China performed by Zhang Jike. It contains several steps:
- Warm up: Firstly, you should warm up.
- Movement: Chinese coach focuses a lot on footwork. That’s why “movement” is the next training step.
- Impact power: Then, they practice to add the power to the shots. The concept “Power from the ground” is very important.
- Seve and attack pattern training: Chinese players repeat the multi-ball by pattern a lot. Repetition is the key to master a new technique.
- Return the serve: Serve and answer to the opponent’s serve is crucial in the modern table tennis. You should quickly control the pace and attack first.
- Coach’s modification and improvement: Finally, the coach will analyze your technique. They help you to improve your techniques. Even the elite top player needs the coach’s advice to improve.
1. “Warm up”
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The Chinese players always start of the training session by Forehand-to-Forehand warm up. This stage, you can feel the ball, and the spin is the most important here. See how well Zhang Jike rotates his waist to generate the spin of the ball.
The “warm up” session is “to feel the ball” and “warm up your body”
After 5 minutes warm up, you should quickly focus on the footwork. It’s very important in table tennis. The simple exercise is doing the backhand-middle-to-forehand footwork. One ball to your backhand side, and the next ball is sent to your middle, and then to the wide forehand. And you should hit the ball with your forehand.
Chinese coach emphasizes that
“The movement is more important than the stroke!”
You need to move first and then hit after. Don’t hit before moving! That’s why, the movement is the most important training. After the warm-up, you should train your legs! train how to move correctly!
When Zhang Jike missed the ball, he looked at his “rubber”. There is nothing to look at. However, it’s the way you gain confidence! You say that my techniques are correct, maybe my rubber is wet! No! It’s just a bad habit! However, it gives you confidence!
3. “Power from the ground”
After getting the “feeling” during the warm-up session, and the footwork. You should train to improve the power of your shots. Remember: The power comes from the rotation of the lower part of your body.
Now, focus only on Zhang Jike legs. He always makes a “small step”, and generate so much power with his legs. The legs are the most important part in table tennis!
Focus on the lower part of your body during your training sessions.
4. “pattern situation” training
This is the secret of Chinese players ! They are very strong in a real match situation ! Because they have trained for that specific situation every day, 10.000 times. They have confidence, consistency and stamina!
Have you seen the tactics here?
Zhang Jike served short to the middle, and then push long to the opponent backhand, and then counter attack ! This is specific tactics if your opponent has a weak backhand.
5. “return the service”
The Chinese coach also says that
“the service and the return of service takes 50% of the stroke in table tennis”.
This is correct! Serve and attack is the most important aspect of table tennis. Zhang Jike is practicing the Backhand flip the ball at the Forehand side. This is his specialty! He is very comfortable to flip the ball (short/mi-long) at his Forehand side.
Watch it carefully! You will see that the timing is very important in the Backhand flip. Zhang Jike waits for 1 second, where the ball start to fall, then he uses his wrist to flip the ball. Why should we flip the ball at the early falling? Because this is the moment that the speed of the ball is lowest, it is almost fixed, and further, the spin of the ball has decreased. So it’s safe to flip the ball now! More consistent and you can flip the backspin or topspin ball at this moment.
In service-return, “consistency is the most important”.
However, even the World Champion Zhang Jike, he is not perfect! Chinese coach staff always find a way to improve his technique. The head coach asked Zhang Jike now, to use Forehand flip at his Forehand side instead of his favorite Backhand flip. But it seems difficult!
Liu Guoliang said that Zhang Jike should fix the moment that he flips the ball! Zhang Jike didn’t flip at the “steady moment” – when the ball speed is lowest! However, Liu Guoliang has failed to flip it correctly, you should train everyday to master a new technique!
6. Optimize the technique with the help of the coach
Do you know him? I will explain you later !
However, in China, the experiences are transfered from generation to generation. Behind Liu Guoliang, there are many assistants, coach staff, even big boss, to discuss about techniques, tactics,
psychology of table tennis. That’s why, they always find a solution when Chinese team counters a difficulty.
He is Cai Zhenhua, former table tennis player, and former head coach of China team from 1991 to 2004. He played an important role in leading the Chinese team to its comeback.
In 2007, he became the Deputy Director of General Administration of Sports. He is the president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association, Badminton Association and Football Association! Mr. Cai is a real big boss.
Best tips from coach Cai Zhenhua
Coach Cai explained to Zhang Jike how to improve his forehand flick. He has 2 solutions:
- Short ball: drop shot
- Semi-long ball: Forehand flip
Look, even he was very busy as a big boss in Administration tasks. He is very fluid and very good!
He flips the ball easily! Rotation and fluid!
He said that Zhang Jike should stand closer to the ball. To flip the ball with the Forehand, strike the ball near the body will give you more control. The elbow should be low, and flip when the ball is at the falling stage. Zhang Jike has hit the ball too late.
If the ball is too short, you should drop shot. Zhang Jike does it very well! He touches the ball very early, when the ball is just bouncing, at the bouncing phase, this makes the ball very short.
However, Forehand flip the ball is much more difficult ! Zhang Jike always prefer to Backhand flip this ball. Maybe, Ma Long is better than Zhang Jike at Forehand flip the ball !
- – Thank to Cai Zhenhua who has spent time to visit and encourage Chinese Team before the Olympic Games.
- – Even Zhang Jike is the World Champion, he is not perfect. Chinese players always train to be better, never stop training.
- – For us, amateur table tennis player, we should focus on the “timing”, when to hit the ball. (As we often hit too hard, just focus on hit faster, harder, but don’t know exactly when to hit the ball).
- – To flip the ball, wait a little, wait when the ball is starting to drop (wait for about half second when the ball is at the higest position, then it will drop), that’s the moment we flip the ball, both Forehand and Backhand. Because at this moment, the spin is reduced, we don’t “eat” the spin, and the ball is very stable, we can see clearly the ball.
- – To drop shot, we should touch the ball when the ball is about to bounce up (early of bouncing stage). Because the ball is lowest now, and the returned ball is low too. If you drop shot too late, at the highest position, it’s very diffcult to make it low, and the opponent can attack it easily.
- – You should also practice every day the “pattern situation” for the real match. This gives you confidence and the consistency! Try to attack the 3rd ball and the 5th ball.
- – You should also improve your movement, don’t train too much the ball “on the table”, but train more the ball where you need to move. Remember “Hit the ball by your legs, and Power From the Ground”.
- – In your daily training, focus on the “feeling, the timing and the consistency” this is the fastest way to improve your table tennis. Don’t just smash, or hit the ball, but you should spin the ball.
Watch the full training session here:
Watch this video.
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