If you have knocked a few feather-light ping-pong balls across the table, it certainly does not feel if you need to be physically strong to play the game. The bat is small, the ball light, and the table is only a few feet wide. However, fitness and strength do count if you want to play well. Why is strength necessary in table tennis?
Strength is essential in table tennis because it improves your agility, stamina, and speed at which you can hit the ball. It prevents injuries and allows you to move quicker, play for longer, and move faster. Better strength enables you to enjoy the game more.
What type of strength does table tennis require? The type of power needed to move and turn quickly on your legs differs from the power needed to balance yourself and hit a ball hard and accurately. There are different components of strength required when playing table tennis. What are they, and why are they all critical?
Strength Is Important In Table Tennis For Speed and Agility
Look at the top table tennis players in action. They jump to the side, stretch, step forward, bound backward, turn quickly, and hit the ping pong ball so fast one can hardly see their arm and hand move. Some movements are delicate. Most are explosive and fast.
Table tennis calls for a mix of physical skills – lightning-fast reflexes, balance, coordination, deft handling, hard smashes, and quick shuffle bursts behind the table.
Table tennis players need explosive power in their legs. Explosive power is similar to but not quite the same as raw power. Explosive power comes from a muscle’s ability to contract quickly with much force. Raw power is the ability to exert much force over a longer time. Table tennis players need explosive power in their legs to reach balls in time and return the shot accurately and quickly.
Not only do their legs need to be strong. One needs strong core muscles to turn about fast and move in any direction. These are the muscles around your stomach and trunk, which you use to keep you upright and to turn and stabilize the body. Core muscles connect the power from your legs to your upper body.
Strength Is Required To Keep Playing Well For Longer
Jan-Ove Waldner is considered the best European table tennis player ever. He says he can detect nervousness in the way his opponent moves. Stiff and short movements show he is nervous or out of shape. An opponent who moves fluidly is dangerous.
A social game of table tennis can be short – perhaps 10 minutes. At advanced levels, the average playtime is longer – an hour. To stay on top, these players must keep their explosive strength going for the entire match. They not only need strength but also to be fit to exert that strength for a long time.
Strength is needed to hit the ping pong ball with such force over the net, the opponent cannot reach it or return it properly. Top players hit the ball at around 60 mph, often reaching more than 100 revolutions per second. That gives the opponent 1/10th of a second to react and hit back.
Strength in table tennis has a further benefit – it prevents injuries. The better the muscles are conditioned, the less a player is prone to injuring himself. Most table tennis injuries occur in the shoulders and core area.
Flexibility coupled with power reduces a player’s chances of injury.
How Is Arm And Chest Strength Important In Table Tennis?
Table tennis players do not need to train to develop large muscular arms, thinking this will enable them to hit the ball harder. They need to develop speed strength, though.
A table tennis stroke runs right through the body. In very quick succession, the feet, legs, waist and shoulders propell the shot. The arms are there to guide the ball and give it spin. While strength is essential in the toes to the shoulders, arms must maintain touch and feel, which becomes problematic when powerfully developed.
The Core Muscle Strength Required For Table Tennis
Core muscle strength is the secret to excellent physical condition for table tennis and many types of sports. Core muscles rotate and stabilize the body and translate power from the legs to the arms.
Your core muscles run from your hip and lumbar region and consist of 29 small muscles.
These muscles are typically inactive in classic exercises, and the more they are strengthened, the better for the skills level of the player. Stronger core muscles mean better balance, quicker turns, and more control of shots – hard or soft. It also enables you to hit balls in quick succession. To illustrate, the world record for speed at hitting the ball repeatedly, is 173 times in 60 seconds by the duo Jack Bellinger and Lisa Lomas.
Leg Strength Of The Best Table Tennis Players
Moving fast within a small space is crucial for a table tennis player. The area within which a player typically moves is only about fifteen square feet. Few sports have such a small movement area, but the player needs to dart, lunge, jump, shuffle, and stretch within this space. The quicker he can stop, go, accelerate, and decelerate, the better he will play.
You need explosive strength for short bursts of speed behind the table to play well. Players must stretch, leap, or turn quickly every two or three seconds. Explosive power is dependent on mobility, stability, and strength. The more strength and power a player has in his legs, the quicker he can move.
How Long Does A Top Tennis Player Train?
The International Table Tennis Federation estimates it takes 15 years of serious training to reach an American Olympic team and 20 years to be top in the world. During this time, various forms of fitness, strength, and skills are trained for hours daily.
Ichiro Ogimura is regarded by many as the best table tennis player of all time. He would train by knocking over a pen with his serve 100 times in a row and do it blindfolded; frog jumping 2,5 miles with 80-pound weights on his shoulders, and he had a peculiar drill of performing 7 strokes in 5 seconds. He trained to be able to spin the ball faster than an airplane propeller. And he kept to this training regimen for years.
Strength is essential for table tennis players. Why? Greater strength results in quicker movements, more ball control, harder striking, fewer injuries, and more endurance. At any level, the more strength exercises you do and the more you develop your power, the better you will play.