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Samson Dubina: How to Train with a Table Tennis Robot

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How to Train With a Table Tennis Robot

There are many benefits of practicing with a table tennis robot, and there are a few risks of practicing with a robot. When practicing with the robot, you can choose specific areas of your game that need work and target those areas over and over until you have reached perfection. You can practice looping, flipping, blocking, footwork, and many other aspects. The main risk of practicing with the robot is the potential of becoming “robotic.” When I use the word “robotic” I mean that your shots become very one-dimensional always hitting the same shot to the same location without variation. If you want to improve your game and get the most out of your robot training, here are the elements that you should be targeting –varying your spin, varying your distance from the table, varying your ball placement, and varying the type of spin.
Vary the degree of spin. By adding more or less spin to each ball, you will be able to learn to better control the ball and you will make it more difficult for your opponent to comfortably block your loop. If you add the no-spin variation, be careful not to loop with too much speed. The more topspin that you add to your loop, the more potential for speed that you can have while still maintaining consistency. Start with the robot giving you a basic topspin ball and practice looping with spin variation. After you have perfected the basic stroke, move on to more advanced robot settings while giving game-like variations that would potentially throw off your opponent.
Vary your distance from the table. Against some blockers, you need to stay quite close to the table in order to loop. Against some counterattacking/smashing players, you need to give yourself a bit more distance from the table in order to loop. Regardless of who you are up against, it is critical that you be able to smoothly move in-and-out away from the table. If you have merely been practicing side-to-side footwork, it is time for you to add the in-and-out variations to your robot training.
Vary your ball placement. Improving your ball placement is one of the fastest ways to improve your game. Against those players who are comfortable with both backhand and forehand, you should often target the center transition point. Against those players who are trying to play full-table forehand or full-table backhand, then you need to work the angles in order to make them play with their weak side. When practicing ball placement, try not to be too self-focused on your stroke, but instead be focused more on your targets. Place two or three targets on the robot side of the table. Adjust with your feet into position while hitting to the specified locations.
Vary the type of spin. By adding various amounts of sidespin to the ball, you can make it much more difficult for your opponent to block or counterloop. Practice adding slight amounts of sidespin to your topspin loop. Once you become consistent at that skill, next try to add more sidespin or even sidespin-backspin. The more topspin you apply, the more speed that you can add to your loop. If you loop with pure sidespin or sidespin backspin, make sure that you focus on control, not power.
Robot training can be very beneficial for players at all levels. Just remember to varying your spin, varying your distance from the table, varying your ball placement, and varying the type of spin.

 

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Updated: May 14, 2015 —
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