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|The Master of Footwork Ryu Seung Min|
3 Key Areas to Improve in Conditioning:
There are some specific building exercises and skills which you should focus on when you are doing physical training.
Explosive Leg Power: Many players like Zhang Jike and Quadri Aruna have very strong quads and upper leg muscles which enables them to create more explosive weight transfer in movement and strokes.
Agility Short Movements: The ability to make short bursts of movement and keep on your toes for a longer period of time (stamina) is also very important in table tennis as the speed of the sport constantly relies on footwork reactions.
Anticipation and Recovery: Being able to make movements and then recover to a stable position can also help a lot with increasing the speed of your footwork and improve the habit of always being ready for another ball.
Exercises for Improving Each Key Area:
Explosive Leg Power:
- Jumping Exercises: Exercises like frog jumps, squat jumps and monkey jumps (from lunge position) are fantastic for building explosive power in the legs as they work on maximizing the use of leg muscles to push up from a low body position.
Frog Jump Demonstration Video
- Stationary Exercises: Squats and Lunges are great for using body weight to train your leg power, these are classic physical training exercises and you can increase the difficulty by adding weights.
- Distance and Agility Movements: Common exercises for this including side step lunges over a fixed area and barrier jumps. This focuses on creating repetitive explosive movements in short bursts. Always try and focus more on side to side movements as this will benefit your game more.
- Burst Exercises: Keeping on your toes is very important. You can do flurries of small steps on the spot as fast as possible in time slots of 30 to 45 seconds with recovery time in the ready position.
- Interval Exercises: Starting and stopping can help build agility. You can do shuttle style sprints or sidestep movements. Also there is a great exercise where you use half a table and sidestep as fast as possible around the side, touching both sides of the net post with the same hand. Complete as many 'laps' as you can in 1 minute and repeat 3 times with recovery in between.
- Agility Ladder: An agility ladder is a great tool for building short step and burst movements in a very short space. See the video below for some awesome combinations!
Agility Ladder Drills
Anticipation and Recovery:
- Shadow Partner: A great way to improve anticipation and footwork is to pair up with someone and, using sidestep movements only, mirror them. One person leads, one person follows using short bursts of up to 3 movements at a time.
- Hand Signal Reactions: A coach can lead a whole group of kids with this drill. Using the flurry in the recovery position as a starting point, the coach can use hand signals at intervals to indicate 'table tennis related movements' these can include, a side step left and a shadow stroke, a side step right, a step in for a short push, a high ball simulation. Each time recover to the flurry position.
- Ball Exercises: You can incorporate tools into drills. I used to use a dodgeball and play across a 5 meter wide area and simply play a catch and throw game between 2 people where the two people had to be facing each other and movements had to be mostly focused from side to side. The Chinese team also used to use the low crouch where the coach throws a table tennis ball and the player has to react by kicking the ball.
Going to the gym and running can of course supplement your training a lot but it is important to try and focus on more specific areas. Long distance running is great for your cardio, stamina and general fitness levels.
It can also be fun with kids specifically to try and incorporate fitness into more game-like exercises to keep the entertainment levels.
Hopefully this helps with people who are looking to improve their physical conditioning to help with table tennis footwork. Remember if you have any questions just email firstname.lastname@example.org