The Drills That I Use
By Samson Dubina 
 My choice of racket is a Nittaku Ludeak – composed of 85 grams of 7-ply all-wood construction.  This blade gives me the right weight and power for my mid-distance counterlooping style.  The Ludeak blade teamed with Narucross EX Hard rubber is the perfect combination.  Narucross EX Hard is one of the world’s fastest rubbers and unlike many other tensor rubbers, Narucross has great touch for the short game.

In this blog, I’m going to describe the types of drills that I personally use on a daily basis.  

Samson Dubina

     This is the most common type of drill.  I attack my training partner’s backhand while he blocks the ball to specified locations.  I focus on moving into position, keeping my balance, and being consistent by making at least ten balls on the table each rally.  Once I am able to play ten balls each rally, during a practice session, I should be able to play at least three strong topspin balls in a game.    Systematic drills are the longest and require the highest levels of physical conditioning.  Examples of systematic drills include:

1 backhand, 1 forehand
1 backhand, 1 middle, 1 backhand, 1 forehand
1 forehand, 1 middle, 1 backhand, 1 middle
2 forehands, 2 middle

    This drill requires more concentration because I now need to focus on my opponent’s placement variation.  I’ll attack his backhand while he blocks to a somewhat designated pattern.  Once I’m consistent, I begin the same drill by starting with a serve, receive, then footwork.  Examples of semi-systematic drills include:

1 or 2 backhands, 1 or 2 forehands
1 middle, then 1 backhand or forehand

Open Ended
    This drill starts out as systematic but ends with a game-like situation.  For example, I’ll start out with the drill pattern backhand, middle, backhand, forehand; on the eighth ball (second forehand), I’ll hit anywhere.  From that ball forward, my opponent will play anywhere and I’ll play anywhere.  The point becomes like a game and I can play any stroke.  This drill combines the fitness of footwork with the creativity of a match. 

    Random drills are my favorite because they require the most focus.  I attack my training partner’s backhand, and he blocks anywhere on the table or to a specified large zone on the table.  I watch the ball approaching my racket and watch contact, after contact I focus on my opponent’s racket.  By focusing on his racket, I’m able to know where he plans to block the next ball.  I can quickly move my feet into position to prepare for the next attack.  

Multiple Locations
This drill is more difficult for both of us.  I attack to multiple locations while my partner blocks to multiple locations.  This drill forces me to make small adjustments with my feet and be able to change location.  Recently, multi-location drills are becoming more popular at the world’s top training centers.  Examples of multi-location drills include:

Cross-court, down-the-line
Down-the-line, cross-court using all forehand
My forehand ½ table to my partner’s 1 forehand, 1 backhand
My full-table random to my partner’s 1 backhand, 1 middle 

Serve and Free Point
     This is just like playing a game, but without keeping score.  This is important to do on a daily basis because it allows me to experiment with different techniques without feeling the pressure of trying to “win”.  This is a great drill for practicing new serves, new serve returns, and other parts of my game. 

     As stated in previous articles, serving is the fastest way to improve.  In a game, I can sometimes win four to five points per game on my serve.  This is a daily necessity for improvement.  Some of the top Japanese players serve up to two hours per day.  For more details on serving, see my blog… 

Serve Return
     From beginner to top level, serve return is the most difficult part of table tennis.  Preparing for the Olympic trials, serve return is one of my main focuses.  I benefit the most from having my training partner serve one particular serve over and over again for five minutes.  During the five minutes, I focus on returning that particular serve in many different ways.  Next my training partner will serve a different serve, and I will continue returning.  The last five minutes, my opponent will serve any serve long or short, and I’ll return as if I’m playing a match. 

     Multiball is one of the best ways to isolate one particular part of my game.  Focusing on footwork, I make a goal to move into position and loop fifty forehands before taking a short pause.  This high-repetition practice is excellent for my footwork and consistency for the long rallies.  Another drill that I often do with multiball is looping half-long balls; those pushes that almost come off the end of the table.  My partner will feed about one ball every three seconds giving me time to recover after each loop.  Overall, multiball practice is an excellent tool, especially if used in the proper way. 

Two Table
     In order to push my footwork to the next level, I like to use two tables.  My training partner will feed multiball from one table while I make larger jumps to cover the distance of two tables.  For beginners, I would suggest starting with your partner feeding the balls to the distance of one and a half tables.  Once that is achieved, then move to two.  Be sure that you have plenty of warm-up before performing this exercise. 

     Using a robot is the most efficient way to have a quick, one-hour workout.  Unlike multiball, I don’t need a training partner, so I can practice whenever my schedule allows.  I begin the session with five minutes of forehand and backhand.  Next, I do thirty minutes of footwork drills like faulkenberg or middle/corner; each drill is timed for two minutes with a one-minute rest between.  Next, I’ll do ten minutes of counter looping and smashing. The one-hour session will conclude with short game and serve return.  Even on my busiest days, I like to find time for a one-hour session at my house. 

    In order to link my training together, I like to play at least five to ten matches per week.  This allows me to test my game and see how well I can execute my skills.  Based on how well I perform in matches, I’ll adjust my practice the next week.  During each session, I can make small improvements; these steps really add-up in the long run!