Tuesday 1 November 2016

Why Blocking is a Vital Table Tennis Skill

Not many players talk about their blocking game, most of them are out there focusing on service or forehand and backhand loop, developing kill shots and methods of aggression in their game. Blocking in fact plays a crucial role, not necessarily in your matchplay, but in your value as a training partner. Here I will tell you why being able to block at a high level is necessary and how you can improve your blocking skills by incorporating blocking drills into your practice.

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Blocking is a Vital Table Tennis Skill
Why is Blocking Important?

Well there are plenty of reasons why blocking is important for both matchplay and developing your table tennis skills overall:

- Good for developing touch and timing, focusing on positioning rather than playing big strokes.
- Focus on consistency and returning many balls instead of being overly offensive.
- Good practice for adding variation from blocking to reduce pace to topspin variations.
- More focus on placement as a weapon over power.

These are reasons why it will benefit your game directly but there is another potentially more important reason why you need to bring your blocking up to scratch.

Make Yourself A Valuable Training Partner

I might not be the same level in matches as the Chinese players in my club, no their USATT ratings are far higher than mine, but can they train with me? Yes. In many ways my training level has gradually surpassed my playing level by a significant factor, especially since starting to coach more. 

The main reason for this is because I had to work hard on my blocking game to make myself a good training partner. When you practice with someone, they only care a little bit about how your drills go, let's face it, if you train with someone all they want is someone who can keep the ball on the table during their drills. If you make good quality training for a player then they will have no problem asking you to train again.

If you go out onto the table and can't block more than 2-3 balls then you have no value to a higher player as a training partner. So this is where being able to block and control during drills can be a huge advantage to you.

How to Improve Your Block

There are many drills you can do to directly improve your blocking. Remember when you train a drill for someone else you are blocking but if you really want to improve a great deal, you should also include some blocking and control drills of your own too.

Blocking Tips: 

- Keep your racket head up and a little more vertical.

- Control your placement with your shoulders, make sure they point to where you are controlling the ball to, especially on your backhand.

- When the oncoming ball has more spin, close your bat angle, when it has more speed, open the angle.

- Use your finger and thumb to apply tightness to your racket head, keep the rest of your arm and body relaxed with your body weight forward.

- Ensure the contact point is close to the body for better control. Keep your backhand between your shoulders and not too far in front of you and on your forehand try not to reach too far.

- Do your best to simplify the action, don't try and hit the ball too much, just try and use the speed and spin of the oncoming ball.

- Add a small tightening of the wrist and forward movement over the ball to add topspin variation to your block. Make sure the wrist movement is in the same direction as your small stroke movement.

Hungary's Georgina Pota teaches how to Block

Fixed Placement Drills: 

- Have your training partner loop from the forehand side, one to your forehand block, one to your backhand block alternating. This helps you improve your block transitioning.

- Practice blocking placement points like 3 point forehand and 2,2 drills. Having accuracy in your blocks is important too. Try and focus on repetitive placements and narrowing down closer to the points you are aiming for consistently.

- Have your partner loop 1 or 2 to either forehand or backhand alternately, this helps you start to build anticipation with your blocking as the frequency of placements is constantly changing.

Random Placement Drills:

- Allow your training partner to hit anywhere from their forehand and try and block back to the forehand from anywhere on the table. Not only do you have to get into position by also make sure you are aiming your return as well.

- Push long to either side and let your partner attack 3rd ball anywhere, try and block the first ball and then transition into a drill. 

- Play backhand to backhand and then your partner can pivot and attack anywhere, block back to the backhand and repeat.

- Full random topspin, both you and your training partner can play anywhere, focus on blocking and placement and try and outplay your opponent (you can score too if you want). Concentrate on both staying close to the table to also improve reaction times.

Variation Blocking Drills: 

- A simple forehand half table random to your backhand drill but the forehand player can change the pace and spin constantly, playing slow heavy topspin loops or fast power loops and everything inbetween. Make it your goal to maintain control and to make the forehand player miss more frequently than you.

- Random with variation. You control random block from your backhand but your goal is to control the table and upset your partners rhythm. You can focus on using placement changes to 'win points' or on altering speed and spin, or even both together. 

- Create an opening. Block random from your backhand and try and force an opening and turn the tables on your partner. Changing pace and placement and spin can help you create an easier ball and you can launch a counter attack and get on the offensive.

One of the greatest touch block players ever, Waldner

Hope my tips today will help with your blocking and you will consider the importance of developing your game by improving yours. By showing yourself as a strong training partner you can attract better players to practice with no matter what your matchplay level is. 

If you have any further questions or coaching topics for me please email to mhtabletennis@gmail.com

1 comment:

  1. The JO video at the end really is a great end to this article. Blocking is a very important and valuable skill that really does make us better as players. Also, who doesn't love a good off-the-bounce block?


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