Staying up to snuff, the paddler way

For table tennis anaerobic fitness is needed during strenuous rallies, while a good level of aerobic fitness is required to keep up the intensity over a long match or several matches during a day.

Published : Mar 24, 2018 20:33 IST

 Power Band Lateral Shuffle.
Power Band Lateral Shuffle.

Power Band Lateral Shuffle.

Table tennis can be physically demanding like any other sport, and being fit is more important at the higher levels of competition. For any sport skill and tactics are very important, while at the advanced level, being physically fit would give you the edge over your opponent.

For table tennis anaerobic fitness is needed during strenuous rallies where rapid movements are repeated in a short time period, while a good level of aerobic fitness is required to keep up the intensity over a long match or several matches during a day.

Fitness components

Which of the components of fitness is the most important for success in table tennis? The most important fitness component for table tennis comprises speed, agility and quickness, with the lower body explosive power with balance and stability on explosive movements laterally. Reaction time with a high level of hand-eye coordination is crucial.

Training for table tennis

Fitness training should be done by advanced table tennis players to supplement training at the table. The training should focus on areas most important for the individual. Fitness tests can be used to determine the player’s strengths and weaknesses. Training should be done in the areas of aerobic fitness, SAQ (speed, agility and quickness), flexibility and, above all, specific strength work for hip-rotational power.

Most of the stability and balance during the dynamic phase is controlled by the hip musculature, which involves glutes, hammis, adductors, abductors and quads in tandem with the core control. To develop hip strength and stability, highly specialised strength training protocols are to be designed. The process follows periodised regime according to the season and also individualised regime according the leverages.

Table tennis is a reaction/speed game that requires explosive anaerobic movements which must make up the main specific type of training programme that is required. As the saying goes, ‘You are what you eat’, for any professional level sport it’s ‘You are what you train too’. Speciality needs have to be addressed than generic work ripped off from other sport.

Plyo Box Jumps
Physical training tips for table tennis players

1. Aerobic fitness

Base aerobic fitness is required for the long duration of sport. Even though it’s an anaerobic explosive sport, aerobic fitness helps in the recovery process. Threshold zone training is very important to develop the aerobic component.

If you are training regularly at the table, at a high intensity, then your endurance should already be fairly good.

2. Strength

Specific training of the non-playing side is absolutely necessary.

Playing table tennis means using the body in a very one-sided manner. This is true of lots of sports. However, becoming significantly unbalanced in your strength can lead to problems and is difficult to fix later on if it has been caused by many years of training.

Highly specialised protocols need to be designed for muscle balance, and both anterior and posterior kinetic chain needs to be worked on, in tandem.

Predominantly lower body and core for explosive power for lateral movements and recovery to the playing position on a regular basis.

Lateral movement pattern-oriented strength work has to be mainly incorporated.

Upper body strength work should not hinder hand speed and hand-eye coordination. So choice of exercise becomes critical.

Eccentric loading increases the required strength components and links the desired transfer of speed and power. This can be done during the off season as part of development phase.

3. Power

Powerful legs are the basis for top athletes.

Proper strength protocols lead to specific power development in the desired range and the muscle groups recruited.

Good efficient swinging movements save energy and increases the efficiency.

You are not going to be able to produce maximum power unless you have an efficient technique as your foundation.

Good plyometric work with unilateral movement is recommended for strengthening the tendons and ligaments, and developing joint stability.

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 15/03/2018: FOR SPORTSTAR: Vertimax counter movment (Manav,Fitness Trainer with Student Akshay) at Ramji Srinivasan's Fitness Centre, Nungambakkam on Thursday. Photo: M. Vedhan.

4. Co-ordination

When you serve, all the different movements must be coordinated perfectly.

Is co-ordination more important for the serve than other aspects of table tennis? Are the best servers the most co-ordinated? Is there a way to test general co-ordination skills? Is there a way to improve general co-ordination skills? So many questions!

Include skipping and varied ladder drills to develop fast feet and co-ordination.

Some research suggests that taking part in multiple sports as a child increases your chances of becoming a professional athlete in adulthood. The theory is that skills you’ve learnt in one sport is transferred to others, and therefore it speeds up your learning.

5. Speed

Many players don’t realise. Sprinting improves strength, power and limb speed, which are all vital for table tennis. It also helps to build lean muscle mass while reducing body fat and working the anaerobic system.

Table tennis is a high-intensity sport. It also requires explosive power. So you can see there are a lot of similarities in the training benefits of sprinting and table tennis.

6. Develop arm speed

Players need fast acceleration in the shoulder, elbow and wrist. Resistance training bands or tubes are great for training arm speed and acceleration because they allow the player to mimic the movements of a stroke and target the specific muscles required to execute the shot. The gradual increase in tension of the band makes the trainer increase the speed against the resistance and improve the acceleration of the stroke.

7. Train quick

General conditioning exercises, such as press-ups, push-ups, lunges, squats etc. are all great for the game. However, the emphasis should be on speed, quickness and explosiveness. Conversion of speed from strength is important. So explosive reps and tempo need to be maintained.

Training should — wherever possible — mimic the sport we play without being overloaded. Table tennis is a short, sharp, explosive game that uses anaerobic lateral movements with balance, agility and co-ordination. Use various fitness tools to develop top level fitness for the desired results and avoid injuries.

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