Today I’m thinking about our training volume and intensity. This is a concept that has been around for decades in bodybuilding training but I don’t feel is discussed enough in skill-based sports such as table tennis.
The basic argument is this; is it better to practice for several hours each day but at a relatively low intensity (volume training) or to practice for much less time but work significantly harder in those short sessions (intensity training). In current professional table tennis practice it appears that there is a clear winner. Volume training. The top players claim to practice for anywhere from 25 to 45 hours per week and rightly so, we say, because it is their ‘job’ after all.
The questions I’m asking are; “Is it necessary to practice for 5-7 hours a day in order to become a top player?”. Are there any shortcuts or hacks we can use to achieve similar results with a much lower volume of practice? Does high intensity training hold any of the answers and can it be applied to table tennis?
The Bodybuilding Training War (Schwarzenegger vs Mentzer)
We’ve all heard of Arnold Schwarzenegger, right? But have you heard of Mike Mentzer? During the late 70’s and early 80’s they found themselves in a bit of a battle in regards to training styles. Arnie had long been a believer in high-volume training, pumping iron, and spending hours upon hours in the gym each week. Mentzer, on the other hand, was challenging this idea and advocating more intense workouts. A Mentzer workout would last only 20-30 minutes!
Which style had the best results? Well, in the end there wasn’t much between them. Throughout the years bodybuilding champions have come and gone. Some have achieved with volume training, others with intensity training. Even to this day, both training styles are widely used and supported.
High Intensity Table Tennis?
The concept has definitely been proven in bodybuilding and strength environments and it’s started to become accepted in endurance and fitness circles as well. The question I’m interested in is, can we find a way to adapt table tennis practice to fit the high-intensity model?
The need for it is clear! Table tennis is a sport without much financial support or funding. Most players are not professionals and do not have 5-7 hours per day to spend practicing. Children have to fit their practice around schoolwork while the rest of us have work or university to contend with. It becomes very hard for players to become professional as they simply don’t have the time needed to dedicate to practice.
But does the high-intensity philosophy work in skill-based sports? Do you need to spend hours and hours practicing each week in order to maintain your touch, feeling and coordination? At the moment I don’t have the answers to those questions but I hope to find out.
60 Minute Table Tennis
My idea for high intensity table tennis is called, ’60 Minute Table Tennis’. It’s based around the premise that even though we may not be able to play full-time, all of us can spare one hour a day, six days a week, to practice our table tennis. If this hour is used super-productively in a high-intensity, planned session, there is a good chance we could see huge improvement to our game while stile maintaining our 9 to 5 job or our studies.
When put alongside the ‘volume training’ principle of 10,000 hours, 60 Minute Table Tennis definitely comes up short! If followed completely you would clock up a mere 312 hours a year practicing table tennis using this method, meaning it would take you just over 32 years to achieve ‘expert’ status. By this point you’d be well past your peak physically and probably would have already given up if you hadn’t seen significant results during the first 25 years!
However, I think that it would be possible to develop with just 60 minutes of practice per day, provided the practice was of a very high intensity, breaks were very short (if used at all) and sessions were planed and focused to work on your key areas.
So those are my thoughts. You may think I’m a bit crazy but this is definitely something that I’m going to be looking into. I’m hoping to speak to a few sport scientists that know their way around this topic and run the theory of high intensity practice in skill-based sports by them and see what they come up with in regards to rapid development.
If you’ve got any questions or comments please drop me a line. Thanks for reading.