Get in Shape
6 Strange Sports to Boost Your Fitness
Forrest Gump gave us all a glimpse at the speed and power of international table tennis, but the tournament is nothing compared to the off-the-table training done by the competitors, says Doru Teodor Gheorghe, chief operating officer and performance director for USA Table Tennis.
In a sample circuit workout, Gheorghe says players might move between five or six exercise stations, alternating upper body, lower body, and core movements. They'll work for 10 to 20 seconds for each exercise, breaking for 10 to 15 seconds before moving to the next movement. The entire sequence is repeated six times, and is often followed by three or more miles of running.
Seems like a lot to hit a virtually weightless plastic ball just 10 feet, but the idea, Gheorghe says, is for the players to never get tired during the match. Because when your body starts to slip, you can't make the split-second moves your mind is calling for.
"The moment you don't reach the ball because your legs are getting softer--you don't want that," he says. "If I train hard, I won't get tired. You can then react to his ideas."
Once you've tried their workout to get a new respect for the athletes involved, the basement's still the perfect place to practice getting faster. Gheorghe suggests a 500-ball drill, where a partner throws you 500 balls in a row--fast, consecutively, and all over the place--and you try to hit them all back.
Can't find a partner with 500 throws of patience? Join a local club (details below) or find a lobbing robot, says Gheorghe--as with a tennis lobber, this machine can shoot balls left and right, and will never ask for a turn.
Where to Try It: To find a partner or club near you, search by state at the USA Table Tennis website.