Golden Web Award


Multi ball training


Boris Turina

Multi ball training (Multi ball training) – training with the use of a large number of balls is a modern approach to table tennis training an unavoidable auxiliary device for intensifying the work of beginners, advanced players up to top men players, and/or women players. Use of interval principles, that is methods of work that include intervals, may result with obvious improvements of almost all general and specific abilities important for acyclic, rhythmic, poly-structural table tennis sport. In order to achieve success through using multi ball training it is important that a coach does not forget certain rules and postulates that are acquired through years of hard work with players of all categories, understanding, love and appreciation for table tennis. Through exchanging experiences with other coaches, studying detailed analyses of work both of others as ones own, and further theoretical and practical improvements.

As I was lucky and fortunate enough to have co-operated with top Chinese coaches and men and women players (Chen Baochin, Li Sushen, Mr. Li, Hsi Enting, Liang Geliang, Lu Qiwei, Shijie Schöp, Yunli – Schreiner, Chen Chi), and have coached for more than 30 years players of all categories from beginners to advanced beginners, hobby players and veterans, first league players from several countries, European and world top class players, I hope to have learned many interesting and useful particulars about multi ball training.

Let me be permitted to pick out from this rich experience some advice and suppositions for all who use the multi ball training method in their work.

First of all I would like to point out that multi ball exercises could be performed in three different manners:

  1. Multi ball exercises can be performed by throwing out balls – the coach throws with his racket the next ball after each stroke performed by a practicing player;

  2. Multi ball exercises can be performed when the coach is acting as sparing partner – the coach throws the first ball and is after that acting as a sparing partner in a certain exercise which can be with or without a pattern. He throws the next ball only after a mistake is done, or the target has been hit that is after a task has been performed. All of this is repeated in a certain defined time intervals of load and relaxation. Basic difference from the standard training exercises is the enlarged number of rallies achieved by shortening the intervals between the points, as there is no need to go and get the balls;

  3. Performance of multi ball exercises by a combination of throwing the balls in and acting as a sparing partner – the coach throws the first ball into the game, acts as a sparing partner for one-two strokes and then depending on the exercise goal throws in one or more balls. After a very brief pause the first ball of the second exercise repetition is thrown in again, etc.

My advice is: use all three multi ball exercises, as they are diverse, and still have common goals and impact on:

  • Technique training (technique is not everything, but without technique everything is nothing),

  • Tactics training (situational training),

  • Training of psychomotoric abilities,

  • Training of physiological abilities,

  • Training of precision,

  • Training of ‘reaction’ and ‘action’

I. Before multi ball exercises are started I would suggest choosing, according to ones own possibilities and ideas, main and auxiliary equipment necessary for training performance. I use different equipment for multi ball training.


I use different rackets each one with different rubbers. Two main rackets are one shake hand racket with offensive rubber and one penholder racket with offensive rubber. As auxiliary rackets I use rackets with long pimples with or without sponge, rackets with antispin, rackets with speed-glued rubber, rackets with pimpled out rubber.

The main rackets I always use and auxiliaries when needed, mainly for situational training. The special purpose of the auxiliary rackets is to practice precision. The rackets can be placed on different positions on the table; the player who is practicing can judge the rotation he gave to the ball after the racket laying on the table is hit.

Mobile container with 150-200 balls

It is 73 cm high with wheels and stands a little lower than the table surface, dark green, so that it does not disturb players. Wheels allow the change of position to be swift and simple, so that the coach (person throwing the balls in) can throw the balls in without any difficulties from all positions at or from the table!

Little table clock

I put it beside the left net post. The clock has big seconds hands, which makes it easy to control seconds and minutes throughout the training. The clock can be used for measuring pulse rate.

Drumsticks – 1 pair

Serve for training wrist flexibility. It is recommended to perform a few short exercises before multi ball exercise.

Tennis balls and their halves – oranges and lemons

I put one yellow and one orange tennis ball plus about ten ball halves of the same colour on the coach’s side of the table. I then arrange them in various positions and directions. It is unbelievable how much motivation and pleasure players of all ages and playing levels get out of it. The precision exercises of this type have a common title ‘oranges and lemons not watermelons’ which means that for hitting the tennis halves (oranges and lemons) players get a point, and for hitting my unfortunately somewhat large stomach (watermelon) they loose a point. Holding the whole tennis ball or their halves in the fist of the free hand helps the optimal control of the position of fingers and forearm of this hand when performing certain strokes and movements.

Cap with shield

With the hollow side turned outwards on the feeders side of the table they become a perfect target for practice of rotated topspin because when hit only the balls with greater rotation remain in the cap! Balls with greater speed and smaller rotation (kill stroke) jump out of the hollow when they hit the cap. This type of precision and kinaesthetic feeling training regarding the ball is especially successful with children! The hit is possible only with complete feeling and precision and they depend on correct and controlled leading of the blade. Combinations of these exercises with exercise “oranges and lemons” offer a palette of various possibilities.

20-30 pieces of deformed table tennis balls

One side of the ball is partially pressed inwards (most simple is to press it with a thumb). By throwing in such deformed balls I improve the training of ‘reaction’ and ‘action’ and ‘change of programme’!

  1. Main equipment required consists of main bats with a container of many balls while all other equipment is auxiliary.

  2. Before the practice begins; we have to check the health status of players. Only healthy players may participate.

  3. Before we start with training session we have to explain the content and goal of the training. In this way the players can mentally prepare themselves for the training and can concentrate and motivate themselves. It is necessary as well that the coach asks the players to repeat in their minds the subject of motorical training. This feedback method is an additional plus in the process of learning and automatising of all complex techniques of the fastest ball game.

  4. It is absolutely necessary to hold a complete warming up session with and without the ball before starting multi ball training.

I would like to give some more advice and suppositions based on my own experience regarding the performance of multi ball training.

  1. The relation between the coach and the player must be based on mutual respect and trust and not on drill. The players who have to be pushed all the time have no chance of becoming really good players.

  2. The coach has to gain trust with force of his arguments and not with arguments of force. It means that the coach has to be able to demonstrate what he wants the player to do.

  3. The coach has to speak clearly and loudly. If the coach is not heard in the hall it means that the practice did not start. The coach has to think positive, he has to praise and criticise his players in order to motivate them. Especially when we practice with the multi ball method it is absolutely necessary to have positive relations between the coach and the player because of faster fatigue of the coach and the player, concentration drops and conflict can easily happen.

  4. Funny remarks and ideas will contribute to good atmosphere and positive thinking in spite of fatigue.

  5. I very often start multi ball training with two players with variations in doubles – focus is on correct footwork technique!

  6. It is recommendable for the feeder to use both shake hand and penholder grip when performing multi ball exercises in the three mentioned manners. A player widens his own technical possibilities in such a way and at the same time increases the information pursuant to which he can anticipate and react in a better way. I think that the best grip for throwing in the short and long backspin balls is Yugoslav stop still grip (Dolinar etc.). The thumb is stretched on the front side of the blade and four other fingers are stretched on the backside of the penholder blade. It is very simple to vary the rotation, length and heights of the ‘cut balls’ with this grip and good technicians can perform all other forehand strokes as well. I would like to recommend this grip technique to feeders who have problems with ‘shake hand’ technique of forehand push and those who quite often hit the table with the blade when they feed the cut balls with the forehand and in such a manner damage the table the blade and the quality of rotation is bad!

  7. Throw in the balls with forehand and backhand using optimal technical performance of certain strokes so that the player gets optimal visual information for timely anticipation and reaction.

  8. It is good sometimes for a coach (right handed one) to throw in the balls with his left hand and vice versa. This manner is especially efficient as a part of situational training with which we prepare our own player for the coming match against a left handed player and vice versa.

  9. Most significant element for the success of multi ball training is to throw the balls from all possible and logical game situations positions. From the forehand corner, middle, backhand corner, half distance and distance. In such a manner negative automated movements are avoided, as e.g. good ‘reaction and action’ of a player only against strokes coming from the opponent’s backhand corner or from the positions at the table.

  10. Vary the rotation and speed of the thrown in balls. I think that the feeder must be able to vary all kinds of rotation, and especially ‘forward’, ‘backward’ (topspin, downspin) strokes.  It is of course necessary to have especially good kinestetic touch and contact with the ball regarding the changable speed of the balls that are thrown in.

  11. Vary the tempo according to where the balls are thrown in (there is no rhythm in table tennis!). Special attention should be paid to not exaggerate the speed of throwing the balls in (load intensity)! Performing too quickly or too slow will not produce the wanted effects regardless of the training goal. It is best to define the tempo according to the technical level and initial condition of a player and according to the training goal (task). E.g. if the goal is to improve the stroke technique tempo will be slower and when training reaction or anaerobic capacity (energetic reserves) the tempo will be faster! I think that in all kinds of table tennis training, and especially multi ball, coaches (sparing partner’s) greatest skill is to vary the tempo, rotation and speed of thrown in balls! Good positive effect is especially achievable in work with young, inexperienced players: first, a player gets used to the change of tempo, rotation and speed, second, a player is motivated to start varying himself.

  12. Vary ‘timing’ of the thrown in balls. After the first stroke of a player the coach throws in the second ball and all following ones with one of three possible ‘timings’:

  1. after the contact of the first ball with the table (on the side of the person throwing in)

  2. simultaneously with the contact of the first ball with the table (on the side of the person throwing in)

  3. before the contact of the first ball with the table (on the side of the person throwing in)

Combinations of a), b), c) are possible as well. By varying ‘timing’ of throwing in, real situations of a game arise but also those situations, which are not possible in a game but require faster and better reaction from a player. If a player is able to solve positively such difficult situations, he will not have real problems with standard situations in a game!

  1. To vary the length of loading intervals and pauses and the number of repeating. To combine and repeat various exercises, and to vary the load depending on the initial condition, age, technical level of a player and on the goal (task) of the training. Experience and technical abilities of a coach (person throwing in the balls) and sparing partner are very important as exaggeration can easily lead to the sphere of loading ‘classical interval training’ which I would recommend only for training top players. An experienced coach (person throwing in the balls) can evaluate whether he has exaggerated by simply looking into his player’s eyes. Sometimes it is good to check the pulse. In any case ‘super compensation’ is achieved by expert variation of intensity and volume of load.

  2. I would like to warn my coach colleagues that in the application of multi ball exercises, especially in exercises of reaction and action, they should pay attention to their own technique of performing strokes, precision, steadiness of performance, feeling for rotation and speed change of the thrown in balls, and change of tempo and timing of throwing in. It is very important to work in this sense on co-ordination, synchronisation of the player’s and sparing partner’s hand. I recommend not holding too many balls in the hand, at most 2-3 pieces! More balls (6-7) in the hand that is throwing the ball make negative effect on the ball rotation very often (due to sweaty hands the balls are moist) and on precision and steadiness of the coach (person throwing in the balls). It is very difficult to throw optimally well each ball out of a full hand. Also, I oppose a) throwing the balls directly out of hand on the bat (except from the distance in downward trajectory of the ball) from which the ball directly falls to the opponent’s side of the table, as well as b) throwing in the balls from the position near the net as: - the ability to anticipate is diminished, this gives negative effect to the already short time of reaction, timing, contact with the ball, precision; - the angle under which the ball falls on the player’s side of the table does not correspond to game reality, and bad habits may arise out of it, and wrong automatisation. On the contrary optimal performance of multi ball exercises, especially exercises of reaction and action improves and fastens the ability to adjust in space and the ability to differentiate.

  3. At the end of multi ball training which lasts from 15 to 90 minutes per player, depending on the manner (a, b, c) of performance, intensity and volume of load, I practice different variations of killing high balls with aiming targets on the table (tennis balls). In such a manner I provoke additional motivation and engagement of energetic reserves – explosive strength. A definite end of training follows after a player has hit the target, e.g. the target tennis balls are hit to the floor! It is very important that such strenuous training ends positively!

I would like to end by give the suggestion to coaches to pay attention in their work with young players, especially beginners, in the following area:

  • holding of a bat, correct position of the thumb and forefinger, other fingers are relaxed

  • each bat movement starts in all strokes from backward

  • the bat ‘attacks’ the ball, and not vice versa, no matter what kind of stroke it is

  • bat top attacks the ball from upward (except high defence, side spin)

  • to train stroke technique with help and not against the gravitation

  • to train stroke technique with syntheses method, and corrections with analytic and combined method

  • contact with the ball is performed in the middle in front of the body (golden triangle)

  • each stroke in table tennis, except service, begins and ends with footwork from and into the so called balanced position according to principle entry-exit

  • all basic strokes and their connection are performed with the whole body, and not only with the playing hand!

  • the other hand plays, that is helps the body balance in controlled strokes and the return into the balanced position.

In order to create better balance, multi ball training and coaching players I recommend studying:

  1. Biomechanical acceleration patterns of light projectiles, greater muscle mass and greater length of lever slow down light projectiles, the sum of small angle changes and greater speed of contact accelerate light projectiles. (for confirmation try to accelerate table tennis ball with tennis racket and vice versa!)

  2. TWWTT- SML SYSTEM (The Wonderful World of Table Tennis - Secures Much Laughter)(Turkos Wish-Wash Tisch-Tennis – Spielt Man Lachend). The system is based on the principle of returning balls to the opponent as quick as possible (to ‘clean’ the ball from the table in its upward trajectory), and not as strong as possible, often using the speed and rotation of the oncoming ball that is the opponent’s work. Perform the strokes gently.


Advised and suggested by

Turina Boris – Turko

Boris Turina is working as coach in Munich, Germany. As a player he was yougoslav junior team member, playing in the team together with Surbek, Stipancic and Cordas. He stopped to play rather early and became drummer in a band, well known at that time. After he finished playing in the band he returned to his first love and became a succesfull table tennis coach, coaching young players in different clubs in Zagreb, Croatia. After that he coached first division clubs in Austria and Germany (Wartberg, Milbertshofen, Langweid). He is engaged as a guest coach in German Olympic table tennis center in Heidelberg, where he helps in coaching the German cadet and junior selections. For many years he used to be head-coach in TIBHAR International Table Tennis School.

Source : Tibhar


Last Update : 06 November, 2002

Copyright © 2001-2006 Ertan Patir

Webmaster :