Backhand, Middle, Backhand, Wide

backhand middle backhand wideDrill #3 in Level 2 of my How to Play Table Tennis series continues to use alternate backhand and forehand strokes but now incorporates a slightly more advanced movement pattern, with forehand being played both from the middle of the table and the wide forehand.

I love this drill because it keeps you constantly moving and on your toes, allows you to naturally cover the whole table (as you would in a game) and teaches the importance of getting your forehand in on any balls to the middle of the table. Personally, I think this is a great warm-up drill for advanced players to use either at the beginning of a practice session or as a knock-up at a tournament.

Today’s drill is the popular backhand, middle, backhand, wide.

The aim of the drill is to continue developing your side-step quick movement, making large and small adjustments with your feet to ensure you are in the correct position to play your shots, and to develop your ability to quickly switch between backhand and forehand strokes keeping the quality of your technique.


Once again, I couldn’t find a video on YouTube for this drill (I am definitely going to start making some) so I have knocked up an image showing the positioning of the four balls in the exercise.

Assuming the control is using their backhand;

  1. You play a backhand drive across the table into your partners backhand.
  2. You adjust your feet slightly so that they are slightly more side-on and so that you can play comfortable forehand drive from the center line. This forehand is played into your partners backhand.
  3. You return to your backhand side and play a backhand drive across the table.
  4. You make a large side-step across to your wide forehand and adjust your feet so that they are more side-on to allow you to play a forehand drive down the line into your partners forehand.
  5. You return to the backhand and repeat.


It is a bit more difficult to make simply variations to this drill but there are still a few things you can try;

  1. Change the target and have the controller play forehands from the forehand side or the middle line.
  2. Change the stroke a play pushes instead of drives.

I think it is good to keep the forehand and backhand strokes alternate as this really helps you get used to the quick switches in arm, wrist and bat needed to play both strokes in succession.

Things to remember

There are lots of things to remember for this drill;

Stay up to the table

As the rally gets faster and there becomes less and less time in between your strokes in can be tempting to drop back from the table slightly to give yourself more time. Try to avoid this! You will likely end up changing your stroke and playing a much weaker shot. It’s also good to push yourself and force yourself to get faster with your footwork and arm to keep up with the rally.

Keep the ball on the table

Remember, the aim is long rallies. If you are making too many mistakes, slow it down. Your target is still 50 shots in a row, to the right place on the table for your partner. Make sure you are being both consistent and accurate.

Getting side-on for the forehands

If you are playing into a backhand control (from a right-hander) then you really need to make sure you are getting your feet round into a side-on position to allow you to play a natural forehand down the line. It’s easy to move across but keep your feet quite square to the table but this will lead to an unnatural forehand technique without much twisting or turning from your body. If you get side-on for your forehand drives down the line then you will be able to play a much more natural stroke.

When controlling…

If you are controlling for your practice partner (it can’t always be our go to do the drill, unless we’re getting one-to-one coaching), don’t switch off! Being the controller is good practice too. Focus on your placement and control of the ball. Try and get all of your balls to the middle forehand to hit the center line on the table and keep yourself in a good ready position and stance. If your partner should happen to play the ball to the wrong place (for example, to your forehand when you are using your backhand to control), try to play a forehand stroke, instead of an unnatural backhand from your forehand side. To do this you need to be watching your partner and their shots carefully.

Take the forehands over the table

As we get move side on we can sometimes find ourselves taking our forehand shots a little late. Keep yourself leaning forwards and try to play them still slightly over the table, instead of letting the ball pass over the end line before you make contact.

I really like this drill and I hope you will too! A video is definitely on it’s way in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for that, and you might like to subscribe to my YouTube channel. It’s blank at the moment but I’ve now got a video camera and I’ll be uploading soon! The link is below…

Expert Table Tennis on YouTube

And don’t forget this is just one part of my How to Play Table Tennis (HTPTT) series. Make sure you check it out if you haven’t already.