Numbers? What are table tennis numbers? In table tennis, it is important to hit the ball at a certain height. So in order to easily tell someone which height of the ball trajectory to hit the ball at, we number main points of the ball trajectory.
The diagram below shows the table tennis numbers of the ball trajectory.
By knowing the number we can label main points on the trajectory which helps us in training. For example, for the forehand counter hit, we wait for the ball to reach number 2 or 3 before hitting the ball.
In table tennis the key to consistency is and proper stroke is timing and this is one of the biggest difference between amateur table tennis players and professional table tennis players. So a stroke that is too early is no better than the one that is too late.
In table tennis, there are many players that are over hitting and accelerating too soon on their looping strokes for example. Without the proper timing than no matter how much training is involved, it will be futile and inconsistent. To learn the proper way, slow down and learn the proper timing.
In order to execute a strong shot with full power, one must be in a proper position and the shot be executed with proper timing.
For backhand counter hit we would wait for the ball to be at number 1.
Also by watching or tracking the ball, this allows or gives more time to hit the ball back versus just standing there and waiting for the ball to return.
Try it out next time you play or practice. Just by waiting for the ball and hitting it at the correct number will increase consistency by a long way.
The below table summaries the timing for different table tennis strokes.
- drop shot : 1 – 2
- back hand flick : 2 – 3
- back hand push : 3
- forehand topspin (near) : 4 – 5
- forehand loop (far): 4.5 – 5
- block: 2 – 3
- chopping : > 5
- forehand loop back spin ball: 3 – 4
- forehand counter loop: 4 – 5
In addition to timing, one aspect that should increase reaction time is to keep the angle of bat consistence during training and playing. This way the brain figures out that with angle and with speed, the ball goes a certain way. So by keeping the table tennis bat the same most of the time and varying the speed of the stroke, the brain will learn all the different way to hit with different speed to keep the ball landing on the table. Now and then, the bat angle has to be changed to compensate for a weird ball that is coming. So by changing the bat angle as a secondary measure, it is better than changing it all the time. So to recap, keep the bat angle the same but just vary the speed of the stroke. Change bat angle only as last resort to land the ball on the table.
Here is a link about some good technical notes about table tennis for further reading.
And what about the science of this all? Here is a great reading (pdf) Timing and attacking forehand drive for it.