7 Great Ways To Practice Table Tennis Alone

Most people think of table tennis as a two-person game, but there are ways that one can play alone. In fact, this is a great way to practice on the sly and then be able to overcome an unsuspecting opponent who may think that you have no skills because you have no one to practice with. 

There are actually several ways that you can play table tennis alone, and you will be able to greatly hone your skills in the sport, even if you don’t have anyone to play against. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can practice without having anyone to help.

1. With a table tennis robot

table tennis robot firing ping pong balls
Table Tennis Machine (cropped) by Rico Shen. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

One of the best ways to practice table tennis alone is to use a table tennis robot. If you haven’t seen one in action, they will shoot balls at you on a set timer every few seconds mimicking that of a real player.

Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive ways to practice table tennis alone. If you want to get a high-end robot, you can expect to spend upwards of $2,000. But, if you aren’t worried about getting the absolute best there are a lot of lower-end models can go for just a few hundred dollars, so you can still get a practice robot without having to break the bank. This gives you an opponent to play against, even if it isn’t a live opponent. Anything is better than nothing, and a robot is the next best thing to the real thing.

We’ve put together a post with our favorite ping pong robots here if you want to have a read.

Be your own robot

You can also act as your own “robot” to practice table tennis by yourself. Basically, what you would be doing is feeding the balls to yourself. You drop the ball in front of you and then hit it as if it was just played by an opponent. Obviously, this isn’t nearly as advantageous as using an actual robot or partner, but anything is better than nothing, and it does have some advantages. 

For instance, you can do a lot of practicing on your serve this way. You can also practice spins, and this method is great to help you improve your rhythm, timing and practice various stroke combinations. This is also a great way to practice hitting float or dead balls.

2. Use the playback position

table tennis table in the playback position
Table tennis table in the playback position

Another option is to use the playback position on your table tennis table. This simply means that you fold up half of the table, creating a wall to hit the ball against. Whilst this is not the ideal way to practice table tennis, it will help you to perfect your serve. The only thing is, you won’t have any spins coming at you, so you can’t 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 without being in the middle of a game where you can’t really concentrate on building your skills.

3. With a return board

red and black table tennis return board

You may also be interested in using a table tennis return board. This is a special board that you hit the ball into which causes it to bounce back to you if you are playing alone. This is another great way to master your skills, and there are a variety of different types of return boards 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 upwards of $250 but you can make your own at a fraction of the price if you are the handy type.

4. Practice your serve

man about to serve in table tennis

One of the most important aspects of the game is the serve. A great serve can get you an automatic point right at the beginning of any game of table tennis. For that reason, it’s really important to dedicate some time to practicing your serve. You can practice creating spin by using your wrist, and this can actually be one of the best ways to do so. 

There are a number of different types of table tennis serves to learn and different ways to improve each one. You can work on your ball placement, different types of spin or trying to get the ball to hit the end line. Even a few minutes of practicing your service each day is going to greatly improve your skills and make you a very worthy opponent.

5. Shadow play

If you really want to improve your technique, shadow play is a great way to do it. Technically, you aren’t really using your shadow. It is better to use a mirror and look at your reflection. Essentially you’re going to pretend that you’re playing a rally and go through the motions of hitting the ball but without actually using one. Below is a video showing you some drills you can practice.

As long as you are using the proper technique, you will be able to see if you are doing anything wrong, and correct any mistakes you are making. If you don’t have a large mirror, another option is to record yourself and play it back to watch your progress. This is rather cumbersome, but again, it’s better than nothing.

6. Watching others

One final thing you can do to help improve your game when you don’t have anyone to practice with is to watch others playing table tennis. There are many websites devoted to table tennis that offer videos you can watch. Seeing how the top players do it is an awesome way to improve your own techniques and give you ideas.

There are also loads of great videos on YouTube you can watch. In addition to watching the best players, you can also find all kinds of coaching videos that will help you learn techniques and correct any mistakes you may be making.

7. Staying in shape

man exercising for table tennis game

Practicing table tennis by yourself is also a great way to get more physical training. Believe it or not, table tennis can be a pretty physically challenging sport. You need to have speed and agility and be fast on your feet. There are numerous drills you can use to get into shape for this game, including using ladders and different warm ups.

Running is another great way to help you to stay in great physical condition, and it offers many benefits besides improving your table tennis game. 


Anyway, we hope that gives you some new ideas and inspiration for practice ping pong on your own. Let us know in the comments if you have any other ideas.

Read also:

Eugene (Gene) Sandoval has been one of those guys who spent too many hours around ping pong tables in high school. However, soon enough, Gene understood that there is more to ping pong than having fun. That is how he started a journey that made Eugene one of the experienced semi-professional ping pong players in the United States. As the founder of the PingPongRuler, Eugene spends most of his time surrounded by ping pong tables and research. He always has this knack for coming up with new ping pong strategies and telling the good and bad equipment apart.