How to Practice Ping Pong by Yourself

If you generally think of table tennis as a two-person game, you are certainly not wrong. Most of the time, you will be playing against somebody else of varying skills and abilities whenever you take your place at the end of the table. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of ways to play on your own.

There is a wide range of different strategies you can try out to get the most use out of your table tennis table even when you have nobody else to play with. Read on below to learn more about some of the many ways you can practice table tennis without having anyone else around.

1. A Table Tennis Robot 

table tennis robot

An advanced purchase, if you are practicing on your own, would be a ping pong robot. If you start taking the game more seriously and want to practice even more, you can pick up one of the many table tennis robots that will throw balls at you and allow you to practice your shots.

A very good way to practice table tennis on your own is to use one of these table tennis robots. If you haven’t seen one of these in action, just keep in mind that they are basically machines that will shoot ping pong balls at you on a set timer that you can program to go off every few seconds or so.

This is an excellent way to practice all of the shots in your arsenal, including forehand and backhand shots, as well as topspin and sidespin shots. It is also a very good way to practice some of your footwork around the table tennis table. 

Unfortunately, it can also be one of the most expensive ways to practice table tennis alone. If you want to get one of the best practice robots, you can expect to spend well over $2,000. However, you’ll also find a lot of slightly less fancy models for just a few hundred dollars, which will allow you to buy a practice robot without going bankrupt. 

Another option is to act as your own “robot” if you would like to practice table tennis by yourself. In this case, you simply feed the table tennis balls to yourself. You drop the ball in front of you and then strike it as if it was just played by an opponent. Obviously, this isn’t nearly as good as having a robot, a ball machine, or even an actual practice partner, but it is better than nothing, and there are still some real advantages to doing this. For instance, you can practice your serve quite easily this way. You can also practice your table tennis skills like backspin and topspin shots, and all of these actions can really help you improve your rhythm and timing.

Note: For more information on table tennis robots, check out “6 Best Ping Pong Robots of 2021 Reviewed“. 

2. Use a Table Tennis Return Board 

Table Tennis Return Board

As an aspiring table tennis player, you may also be interested in using a table tennis return board. This is a special board that you hit the ball against. It will then bounce back to you if you are playing alone. This is another helpful way to improve your skills, and there is a wide collection of different types of return boards that are commercially available. 

You can even go online to learn how to make your own return board, which is great if you are on a budget and don’t want to spend a lot of money. A real return board can cost several hundred dollars, but you can also make your own by using a few cheaper materials from Home Depot or Amazon. 


3. Use the Playback Position 

Woman folds ping pong table

Folding up half of a ping pong table is a convenient way of improving your skill.

Another option is to use the playback position on your table tennis table. This is simply when you fold up half of the ping pong table, which creates a kind of wall to hit the ball against. This may not be the ideal way to practice table tennis, but it will help you improve your serve.

But because you won’t have any spins coming at you, you won’t be able to practice returning spin shots. On the other hand, you can get a lot of good spin shot practice yourself, because you will be able to see what each type of shot does on your own time instead of being in the middle of a game and worrying about winning points. 

4. Try Some Shadow Play 

If you really want to improve your technique, shadow play is another good way to do it. Technically, you aren’t really using your shadow. It is better to actually use a mirror and study your reflection as you play your shots. This is when you can pretend that you are playing a rally in a real game and you can go through the motions of hitting the ball without actually using one. 

If you are using the proper technique, you will be able to see when you are doing something wrong, and then you can correct those mistakes. If you don’t have a large mirror, another good option is to record yourself and then play the video back to watch your playing style. This can be quite time-consuming, but it is another good way of improving your game. 

A helpful way to start would be to keep the paddle in your hand as you play a single forehand stroke while moving from side to side, and then playing a stroke again. You will soon discover that your footwork is very important here. If you are moving from left to right, move your right leg first and then your left leg. Be sure to maintain your center of gravity at all times so that your body is never in an unbalanced position.


5. Spend Some Time Practicing Your Serve 

Cropped image of bearded ping pong player serving ball

Developing a killer serve can give you a huge advantage over your opponent.

One of the most important parts of the game is the serve. A great serve can get you a quick point right at the beginning of any game of table tennis. For that reason, it is very important to dedicate some time to practice your serve. You can do some practicing alone and create spin by using your wrist, and you might even find that practicing on your own can actually be one of the best ways of doing so.

When you serve in a game of table tennis, you have complete control over your shot, at least in terms of speed, spin, and placement. There are so many advantages to having a powerful serve, like forcing errors out of your opponent. When you deliver a strong serve, you’ll force your opponent to try harder, and this might lead to them making mistakes, which could cost them the entire match.

There are lots of different types of table tennis serves to learn and just as many different ways that you can improve each one. For example, you can work on your ball placement, different types of spin, or you can even try to get the ball to hit the end line. Even a few minutes of practicing your service each day will greatly improve your skills and make you a strong table tennis player. 

6. Watch Some of the Professionals 

Ma Long (CHN) gold medal, Jike Zhang, silver and Jun Mikutami, bronze in the table tennis of the Olympics rio2016

Ma Long (CHN) gold medal, Jike Zhang, silver and Jun Mikutami, bronze in the table tennis of the Olympics rio2016

Another thing you can do to help improve your game when you don’t have anybody else to practice with is to spend some time watching others playing table tennis games. In addition to Youtube, there are so many websites that are actually devoted to table tennis training and they all offer several hours of videos that you can watch.

Seeing some of the top players in action can be an excellent way to improve your own techniques and inspire you to take your game to the next level. China is one of the most important countries in the sport and the Chinese men’s team holds a record number of 20 world team championship titles.

Ma Long became the men’s singles World Champion in 2019, which means that he has won three titles in a row (2019, 2017, 2015).  You can check out the excellent skills of Ma Long in the 2020 ITTF German Open here. In addition to watching some of the best players on Youtube, you can also find all kinds of coaching videos that will help you learn techniques and correct any mistakes you may be making. If you can join a table tennis club, you’ll also meet plenty of players there who like to have an audience and who are happy to show off their skills to anyone who is watching. 

7. Practice the Game to Stay in Shape 

car ping pong table

Photo: Design Bloom

Practicing table tennis by yourself, even by just bouncing the ball for a few minutes on your paddle, can also be a decent way to get a little bit of physical training. Like any other sport, it is important to put in long hours of training sessions if you would like to get your skills up to the next level. 

Although the game of table tennis is not especially taxing when played on an informal level, it can actually be a very physically challenging sport when it is played at the highest levels. Just think about those videos you watched earlier of the professional players. They are quick on their feet, with intense speed and agility between and during all of their shots. 

In addition, table tennis requires players to have quick reflexes, and there are numerous drills you can use to get into shape for this game, such as using different types of warm-up exercises for general exercise and also for service practice. 

For example, you can gently elevate your heart rate for two or three minutes by lightly jogging in place, marching with your knees kicked up high, or even doing some quick lunges. Moving some of your larger muscle groups can get your heart pumping faster and it really starts your warm-up off in a good way. 

Also, you can practice some side-to-side movements for a few minutes. Practicing your table tennis shuffle steps is a good form of exercise that also prepares your body for the game. A standard lateral shuffle or table tennis shuffle drill is something that can get you warm and build your game skills at the same time. All of these techniques can be excellent forms of ping pong training for players at all levels. Just like in any other sport, the more time you spend practicing your skills, the better you will do when it comes to competitive matches. 

A Few Other Helpful Pieces of Equipment 

Although these pieces of equipment might not be entirely necessary, you might want to look into some basic table tennis gear if you are playing on your own. For example, a good pair of shoes can be an important thing to have. For beginners, most sports or gym shoes will work fine, but, as you get better, you may need a pair of shoes designed specifically with ping pong players in mind. 

You can also think about getting a paddle case to keep your paddles safe and clean when you are not using them. You can also store your balls in the case so that they stay safe and you always know where to find them. There is nothing worse than trying to play ping pong and not having any paddles or balls!

As you start improving your game, it will become more important to pay attention to the way you are holding the ping pong paddle or table tennis racket. Your grip can be very influential when it comes to the amount of accuracy and control that you are getting with your shots, and also, how much fun you will have while playing. 

If you spend a few hours watching some of the professional players in close games, you’ll soon discover that there is a wide selection of different types of grips that can be used. Once you start playing against actual opponents, each type of grip can be used when you are trying to vary your playing style between games.

As is the case in golf, you’ll soon discover that there is no single perfect grip for every player or style of game. If you spend some time practicing on your own and experimenting with a few different styles, you’ll find the type of grip that allows you the most possible control and accuracy when you are attacking and defending, and that is the grip that might offer you the kind of split-second responsiveness you need to play at your highest level. 

A Few More Things to Consider When Playing Table Tennis On Your Own 

Table tennis is a game that is best enjoyed when you are in the company of other people, and this is especially true when you can find an opponent who matches you in terms of skill, stamina, and overall enthusiasm for the game. Beer pong is another excellent variation of table tennis or ping pong, but this game is also usually enjoyed best when you are part of a large group.

Getting a big group of your friends together to play ping pong can be another very good way to improve your skills. Especially if you have a group of people who have widely differing skill levels, the weaker players can learn a lot by watching the stronger ones, and the stronger ones can get a little practice trying out some shots that they may not be quite as confident using when they are playing opponents on their own level.

With so many more people spending a lot more time alone these days, it has become vitally important to develop some interesting and active hobbies that you can practice on your own. Using some of the methods we’ve described above, we think you’ll find that table tennis is a game that is more than suitable as an individual hobby as well as a fun and inclusive group activity.

Riley Draper

Avid table tennis player, world traveler, and content creator. Follow on Twitter. Connect on LinkedIn.