7 Ping Pong Drills to Improve Your Match Play

Ping pong drills are essential to improving as quickly as possible, and there are loads to choose from. One of my favorites is the backhand, forehand, forehand drill, it helps me cover the entire table and encourages the use of my powerful forehand.

But who knows? That may not be the ideal type of ping pong practice for you. That’s the beauty of table tennis drills. There are so many to choose from and you can tailor each to suit your specific needs. In this post, I cover my favorites.

Here are my top 7 ping pong drills for beginners and more serious players:

  1. Cross-Hitting
  2. Down the line
  3. Down the Line and Cross-Court
  4. Short Serve, Opener
  5. Backhand, Forehand, Forehand
  6. Short Serve, Loop Opener, Loop Kill
  7. Flick, Forehand Kill

Basic Ping Pong Drills for Beginners

1. Cross-Hitting (Back to Backhand and Forehand to Forehand)

ping pong drills 1


One of the most basic drills in table tennis is the cross-hit. It involves striking the ball diagonally to your opponent from a fixed area. I strongly recommend you do both flanks, so backhand to backhand cross-hitting and forehand to forehand cross-hitting.

The reason this drill is so effective is because it’s simple and allows you to really focus on your technique. There’s minimal footwork involved so you’re less likely to make mistakes. I consider it the perfect warm-up exercise. I start every session with it without fail.

2. Down the line (Back to Backhand and Forehand to Forehand)

ping pong drills Down the line 2


A similar table tennis drill for beginners is a down-the-line exercise. Rather than striking the ball cross-court you instead strike it straight. This means when you play your backhand, your opponent plays their forehand (if you both hold the racket in the same hand). On the flip side, when you use your forehand, your opponent uses their backhand.

I don’t use this drill all that much, but it’s still very effective. Some of us are guilty of playing the ball cross-court too often in matches, so this exercise is perfect for practicing down-the-line balls.

3. Down the Line and Cross-Court

ping pong cross hit and down the line 1

This third table tennis drill for beginners combines the first two and is a little more difficult, mainly because it demands more footwork. It’s also the first drill where each player’s roles deviate from one another. One player acts as the feeder while the other performs the more challenging motions.

For this exercise, the feeder stays on the forehand side and alternates between blocking the ball to the backhand and forehand side. This forces the other player to have to alternate between playing a down-the-line backhand drive and a cross-court forehand drive

Afterward, you can invert the rally by having the feeder instead block from the backhand side. You can also increase the difficulty by hitting faster drives or switching to loops.

4. Short Serve, Opener

ping pong drills short serve and opener

*Dashed lines indicate you have multiple shots to choose from

Attacking first in table tennis places you at a major advantage, this is why I am a big fan of this drill. It keeps you safe and works on your ability to initiate the first attack.

To perform it, you execute a short serve, your opponent then pushes long to your backhand, it is then up to you whether to attack the ball with either your backhand or forehand. I recommend working on both to give you more options in matches.

I perform similar drills in most of my table tennis practice sessions and will make slight changes to increase the difficulty. One of my favorites is to have the final feeding push go anywhere on the table. This means it can be short or long and to the backhand or forehand. Without knowing where the ball is going to go, it’s very difficult to consistently attack the ball well. Yet this is a problem you will consistently face in matches, so it’s the perfect exercise.

Read More: Table Tennis Warm Ups


Ping Pong Advanced Drills

1. Backhand, Forehand, Forehand

ping pong drills backhand, forehand, forehand

This is one of my favorite advanced drills as while it gets you moving, it isn’t excessively tiring like many other advanced drills are. I use it to train my loops, but equally, you can use it for drives as well.

I begin with a backhand cross-court, then I shift to the center of the table to use my forehand at the crossover to play the ball to the same position. Finally, for the last shot in the sequence, I continue moving to the right to cover my forehand flank where I play a down-the-line forehand.

After a complete sequence, you can either repeat it from the beginning or reverse the sequence to get there. This would mean playing a forehand from the crossover; both are good options.

2. Short Serve, Loop Opener, Loop Kill

ping pong drills short serve loop opener loop kill

While drill 4 from the basic ping pong drills section is a great start, you can’t always win the rally from your opener against backspin. This is why it’s important to work on your next shot. In a match, this will usually be a block which is perfect for attacking.

For this exercise, you begin by serving short as before for safety. Your opponent then pushes long to your backhand, at which point you open up from backspin with a backhand shot of your choosing to the backhand side. I recommend a slow and spinny backhand loop.

The feeder then blocks the ball to your backhand side. Now is the time for the kill shot. You shift to the left to play your forehand and then loop-kill the ball either to the backhand or forehand flank.

3. Flick, Forehand Kill

ping pong drills flick forehand kill

This final drill may be short, but it really puts your attacking abilities to the test. This is because you not only try to kill the ball early, but you also use advanced footwork.

To begin, the feeder gives you a short serve to your forehand. You step in and to the right to execute an attacking flick to the backhand flank. Following this, the feeder blocks the ball to your backhand side. However, rather than playing a standard backhand, you quickly move far to the left to play a forehand loop kill down the line.

You may find you get caught out on the last shot as you can’t move fast enough to the left to initiate a forehand. If this is the case, add in a backhand loop as your second shot. This will essentially split the sideways movement from one shot to two, making it much easier.

Read More: Table Tennis Tips


Table Tennis Robot Drills

Table tennis robots emulate the play of a partner, and if you get a quality model, they can do just about anything — including acting as the feeder for the drills discussed thus far!

Here are some further drill ideas you can try out:

  • Touch play (Receive serves short)
  • Alternating pushes and loops (to emulate playing a chopper)
  • 3x loops 1x smash (to improve your ability to end a rally)
  • Alternating backhand loops and forehand flicks (to enhance your in and out movement)

Solo Ping Pong Drills Without a Table

There’s no escaping the fact that table tennis drills without a table are nowhere near as effective as drills with one. However, if you are a beginner, there are certainly some solo table tennis exercises that will help you improve.

  1. Volleying the ball: To work on your hand-eye coordination.
  2. Playing against a wall: To improve your familiarity with strokes and ball speed.
  3. Shadow practice: This involves going through table tennis movements to help develop your muscle memory.

Table Tennis Doubles Drills

While few players undertake ping pong practice drills for doubles, they are still a good idea. Especially if you play competitive doubles regularly. The main problem players face in doubles is that they get in the way of one another, so try to tailor your drills toward that.

Here are some examples:

  1. 2x backhands from backhand side, 2x forehands from forehand side
  2. Backhand loop opener from the backhand side, forehand loop kill from the backhand side
  3. 2x pushes from the backhand side, 2x pushes from the forehand side, loop opener, free-play

Closing Thoughts

Ping pong drills are the fastest way to improve at table tennis, so neglecting them is a big mistake! I recommend performing at least a few different drills per training session, and try mixing them up regularly. That way you work all areas of your game and reduce the likeliness of getting bored.

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Freelance writer. Table tennis enthusiast. Lover of all things online. When I’m not working on my loop game I’m probably binge-watching some fantasy show.