1 Backhand, 1 Forehand Drill

1 forehand, 1 backhand drillToday’s drill really builds on ‘2 Backhands, 2 Forehands‘ drill covered in Level 2.1. We’ll be cutting down the number of strokes played on each wing from two to one and that’ll means you’ll need to be much better at your side-step movement. If you movement isn’t up to scratch you’ll very quickly end up one step behind the ball and struggling to keep up with the rally.

If you’ve stumbled across this page by chance then let me briefly explain what’s going on. Today’s drill is part of my ‘How to Play Table Tennis‘ series, a step-by-step guide that will take you all the way from a complete beginner to a competent allround player. You might like to head over to that page and start from the beginning if you’re new to table tennis.

Back to today’s drill which is; one backhand and one forehand.

The aim of this drill is again to get you comfortable moving from side to side and making quick changes between your backhand and forehand strokes. We are also trying to improve our feeling and control of the ball.


There are a few videos on YouTube showing this drill but I’ve chosen this video showing a young girl performing alternate backhand and forehand drives against a robot. Have a watch and then I’ll discuss it in more detail.

Here are a few pointers from the video;

  1. The robot is simply set to deliver no spin balls, one to the forehand side and one to the backhand side.
  2. The practice is one forehand, one backhand (using a side-step footwork).
  3. The girls technique isn’t 100% perfect but she is doing a number of things well;
    1. She makes a noticeable side-step in between each shot to ensure she is always in the correct position to play her strokes.
    2. She is stationary when making a shot and moves only in between the shots.
    3. She is recovering her bat to a good ready position after her forehand drive, ready to play a backhand.
    4. She is taking the ball at the peak of the ball.
    5. She has a good stance (wide feet, knees bent, body crouched).
    6. She is turning her body well on the forehand. Sometimes this important part of the stroke is forgotten when movement and a backhand is added, don’t forget it!

It did look like she was slightly changing her grip in between strokes (which is not ideal) and I would personally like to see her play through the ball a tad more with her wrist on the backhand (she was playing a bit of a punch shot but this is more common in the girls game).

If you are practising with a partner, instead of a robot, then decide whether you want them to control the drill with their backhand or forehand. As the mover it is your job to set the pace of the drill. If you want it to be move challenging then speed up your shots. If you are struggling with your consistency or accuracy then slow it down. The controller should simply be using the pace you give them to play the ball back.


Here are a few potential variations;

  1. Change the controller from forehand to backhand. This gives you a different target to aim at.
  2. Change the stroke and play pushes instead of drives.
  3. Change the positioning of the ball. Perhaps you could play a backhand and then a forehand from the middle. Of you could have the controller play just to your backhand half and play a backhand and then a forehand from round the corner (on the backhand side).

Things to remember

Keep it slow

The movement in this drill is much tougher than ‘2 backhands, 2 forehands‘ and if you play too fast you will quickly find that you can’t keep up, at the beginning at least. Start off slow. You are not trying to show off how hard you can smash the ball you are trying to work on your side-step movement and control over the ball.

Your target is 50 shots

If you cannot play 50 shots without a mistake (25 backhands and 25 forehands) then you have yet developed the necessary control, feeling and accuracy. Keep working on drills 2.1 and 2.2 until you are comfortably able to have rallies of 20+ shots every time and 50+ at least occasionally.

Watch your technique

The extra movement and switching between strokes in this drill can lead to a deterioration in your technique. Make sure you are still playing the ball with a small amount of topspin, following through after the stroke and twisting your body on the forehand. Ask your controller (or someone else) to check your technique for you, or even better get yourself a video camera and film yourself! You might be surprised at what you see. Make sure you can play with correct technique and move, together.

I hope that’s all made sense. I think the video really helps explain the drill better so hopefully I’ll be able to find some more for the future drills (or get round to making some myself).

Tomorrow the drills begin to get slightly more complicated so make sure you are comfortable with these two (2.1 and 2.2) before worrying too much about moving on.

As always if you have any questions please get in touch and to stay up-to-date with all of my posts make sure you subscribe to the Expert Table Tennis RSS feed! You won’t regret it.

Now make the practice count!