Table tennis (or ping pong) is a solo sport, but you always play against a partner. With some sports, like pool or soccer, you can easily practice alone, but with table tennis, you usually have someone hitting the ball back to you.
So what can you do when you are all by your lonesome?
Actually, there are a few things which you can try. Let’s take a look.
Play Against The Table
Most modern table tennis tables are foldable, and the beauty of this is that you can fold up one side and use it as a bounce partition. Fold one side up and then play as you would against a regular player. The ball will bounce back to you when you hit it, and you can rally for as long as you like.
The other option for practicing your solo play with only you and the table is to practice your serve. Get yourself a shedload of balls, and hit one serve after the other. Over time, your service is going to improve.
The third method for you and your table to practice with is to feed the balls to yourself. Drop the ball from a height onto the table beside you and then play a shot over the net. This method may not improve your return play, but it will help you to find your rhythm. This method is also great for helping you to hit dead balls (those without any spin).
Now, there is only so much you can learn with these three methods, so let’s take it up a notch.
This is where you get a bit more scientific and study your form and position. You can do this in one of two ways; either with a mirror in front of you or by filming yourself. If you use a mirror, then you are analyzing your own play in real-time. For this reason, I recommend that you film yourself so that you can stop every so often and analyze yourself, and you can also study your play in-depth at a later date.
By using shadow play, you are studying your form, and training in some muscle memory so that your body can instantly play a shot when you are in a game. Before you study yourself in a mirror or camera, it is a good idea to check out some shadow play videos on Youtube. You want to train the correct habits and not the bad ones.
Watch the videos and study the form. As you watch yourself in the mirror or on camera, ensure that you have good form. Watch your footwork too, and use a metronome if you need to, to help your rhythm. Shadow play is also fantastic for helping with physical conditioning.
Most people are not aware of how physically demanding table tennis is until they get into their first intense rally and then multiply that by every point they will play in a professional game.
Improving your fitness and physical condition will go a long way to improving your table tennis game, and you do not even need a table, paddle, or ball to do it.
When you are focusing on physical conditioning, you should be thinking a lot about your speed, agility, and quickness. Many drills can be found online, and ensure that you look for exercises which work your legs a lot. Anything where your feet are moving quickly, is going to be beneficial.
Along with fast feet, you want to have a quick reaction time in your shoulders, elbows, and wrists, and good general fitness. Even going for a run is going to improve your game. Strength is going to be secondary to speed but will still make a difference. Try adding some weights into your routine, and see the difference when you are making shots.
The Whole Nine Yards
If you can afford it, then the best way to practice by yourself is to invest in a robot friend. This is going to cost you around $2,000, but it is the best way to simulate playing with a partner without actually having one.
Having said that, there are some basic robot models which are available for a couple of hundred dollars which have minimal functionality. Both will improve your game, but the more you invest, the more you are going to improve.
There are many ways in which you can improve your game, as long as you have the time and dedication. Practice by yourself, and then get out there and find someone to play with.