How To Build A Ping-Pong-Worthy Body
Okay, we’re only half kidding. Ping-pong — er, we mean table tennis — actually requires both strength and stamina. We’ll tell you how to get it.
By Ryan Kameen
You’ll never possess the kinds of ping-pong skills — oops, we mean table-tennis skills — as the dudes in the video. Still, whether you’re a total novice, a weekend pong warrior, or a bona fide table-tennis hustler, you’ll want to destroy your opponent when you play. (As we all know, games are for winning, not for having fun.) Unfortunately, this workout plan alone won’t help you do that; you’ll need to practice in order to go all Forrest Gump at the tables. But the workout will help you develop the muscles and cardiovascular strength needed to stay competitive in a long and tiring game. Or at the very least, it’ll help you look decent in your Lycra ping-pong attire. For optimum results, do this routine twice a week.
EID BARBELL SQUAT
Legs matter in every sport — and according to the International Olympic Committee, ping-pong, racewalking, and badminton are all Olympic-caliber sports. And since your upper-body power comes from the muscles in your thighs and hips, it’s vital to build strong legs. Your table-tennis stance will depend on your mobility; you’ll need to figure out a comfortable degree at which you can bend your knees. Once you’ve found that, you can use the EID method to focus on building static strength.
How to do it
The EID method simply means you’re taking your squat stance and breaking it into thirds, which we’ll call A (the lowest position), B (mid-range), and C (the highest position). Using light weight on a barbell, get into the squat position — drape the bar across your back with your feet roughly hip-width apart — and take four seconds to squat down to position A, holding that position for an additional four seconds when you get there. Repeat the process for postions B and C. After finishing at position C, perform 5-10 reps at normal speed. That’s one set. Do three more.
Squat tip: Do not allow your back to round or your knees to go over your toes during the movement.
INCLINE CHEST FLY
It doesn’t matter if you perform the chest fly with dumbbells, an exercise band, or cable attachment — they’ll all get the job done. The idea is to strengthen the shoulders to add more power to your forehand and build stamina in your muscles for long vollies.
How to do it
Grab a pair of light dumbbells and sit on an incline bench with your palms up, elbows bent, and your arms extended and to the side. (Your body should look like a “t” at the starting position.) From there, keep your position while slowly bringing the hands up until they meet over your face. Concentrate on allowing the chest to do the pulling, not your biceps. Once you’ve reached the top, go back to the starting position in a slow, controlled manner. Do two sets of 15-20 reps.
Chest fly tip: Do not clang the weight together at the top of the movement. If you do, slow the speed of the rep.
REAR DELT FLY
The muscles on the back of your shoulders can help your backhand. Plus, too much anterior (front) shoulder work can lead to muscular imbalances and pain. Read: Don’t neglect your rear delts.
How to do it
Lie face down on a bench that’s been adjusted to a 30-degrees incline. Using a pair of light dumbbells, perform the same movement as you did with the incline chest fly but in reverse. But do it painfully slow. At the top of the movement, contract your shoulder blades and pause for one second. Repeat for three sets of 10-15 reps.
Rear delt fly tip: If you’re unable to pause at the top of the movement, you’re going too heavy. Use lighter weight.
Stronger external and internal obliques — aka love handles — can help transfer force from the legs and hips to the upper body, leading to harder strikes when your opponent stupidly serves you up a lob. At the gym, use a cable station. If you don’t have access to that, use a stretch band.
How to do it
Get in your stance and adjust the cable to hip level. Grasp the other end of the cable with the arms extended. Twist at the trunk. Done correctly and your upper back and obliques should be doing the majority of the work. Repeat for two sets of 8-12 each side.
Cable twist tip: You can also have a workout partner use their hands to provide resistance if you have no equipment to use.
If your body is solid as a rock but you get gassed after a few minutes of moving, you have no chance. Two to three days per week, perform at least 10-15 minutes of cardiovascular work. Whatever you do — run, jog, use a recumbent bike — get your heart rate up and exhaust your legs. Aim for or build up to a mile or two per session.