In my opinion, adult beginners don’t spend enough time working on the basic footwork drills. If I think back to my own table tennis training as a 12 or 13-year-old, I probably spent over 50% of my table time doing a variety of regular drills.
These basic drills are important as they allow you to master so many different elements of the game; correct stroke technique, solid movement patterns, consistency, accuracy, rhythm and timing, balance, general ball control. The list goes on.
Too often, adult beginners miss out on all of this and therefore never reach the stage of feeling comfortable and confident doing the basics. So, I’ve written this blog post to encourage you to continue working on the basic footwork drills.
Even professional table tennis players perform these drills in their training – so there’s really no excuse! You can still play your matches, just spend 30 minutes with a partner working on some of these simple drills too.
My Favourite 3 Basic Footwork Drills
Here they are! I said they were simple…
- Backhand, Forehand
- Forehand (Middle), Forehand (Wide)
- Backhand, Forehand (Middle), Backhand, Forehand (Wide)
For the rest of the article, I’ll briefly run through each of these basic footwork drills sharing demonstration videos and some top tips.
1. Backhand, Forehand
This is the most basic of basic footwork drills. All you need to do it alternate between playing forehand and backhand drives/topspins. You can choose whether to play into your partner’s forehand or backhand control.
The video below shows this drill in action. It’s taken from Table Tennis University, an online training program created by Coach Tao Li – a former Chinese national champion.
The following five top tips for this drill are taken from an article on the Table Tennis University blog called How to Combine Your Forehand and Backhand Drive. I recommend checking that out for more detail…
- Don’t change your grip between forehand and backhand strokes
- Make sure you side shuffle into position between strokes
- Keep a closed racket angle throughout the drill
- Adjust the positioning of your feet based on your target
- Switch roles with your practice partner and control for them
There are lots of small changes you can make to this drill to work on slightly different skills and to keep your training interesting…
- You should switch it up between playing into your partner’s backhand, forehand, or middle control.
- Get your partner to play everything into your backhand side and practice playing your forehand from around the corner of the table.
- Make the drill two backhands, followed by two forehands. Or one backhand, two forehands. Or two backhands, one forehand.
- You can both alternate between backhand and forehand strokes by performing the “Xs & Hs” drill. One of you plays diagonally, the other goes down the line.
2. Forehand (Middle), Forehand (Wide)
This is a similar drill but for this one, you only use your forehand drive/topspin. You are going to be playing your forehand stroke from two different positions.
Here’s another drill demonstration video (taken from Table Tennis University).
Tao makes this look simple, but it isn’t. Most right-handed players find it fairly easy to move to their left after playing a forehand (because your swing naturally takes you that way). Unfortunately, moving to your right is a lot more tricky. You have to quickly go against your weight transfer (which was right to left) and your body rotation (which was also right to left) and force your body to move back in the opposite direction.
My top tip for this drill is to practice it a lot without the ball – shadow training. There’s an awful lot going on even without worrying about making contact with the ball. Instead, find a big mirror (if possible) and work on your movement, weight transfer, body rotation, stance, and balance.
It’s worth dedicating a bit of time to this until you feel comfortable and smooth in your movement. Check out my Metronome Table Tennis video below to get an idea of what I mean.
There are loads of ways to mix this drill up…
- Instead of playing forehands from wide and middle you could do them from either side of the middle line, or from the middle and the backhand side.
- If you add in a couple of extra forehands you can do the “4-point forehand” drill where you play four forehands from; wide, middle, backhand, middle (repeat).
3. BH, FH (Middle), BH, FH (Wide)
This third and final basic footwork drill is one of my favourites. I spent a lot of time doing this as a kid and I still like to do it for a couple of minutes before I play a competitive match, to get me warmed up and feeling sharp. It is a bit of a combination of the two drills above.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a video of this anywhere – I’ll have to film one myself at some point. The closest I found was this multiball video from Eli Baraty. The drill is slightly different…
- Forehand (wide), Forehand (middle), Forehand (wide), Backhand
But you should still get the idea. The shots are the same, it’s just the order that has been changed.
Unless you are a top player, please don’t try and play at the speed and intensity of this chap. As an intermediate player, you are much better slowing down to 60-70% of your maximum speed and focusing on getting everything correct and upping your consistency and control.
You can take the three positions – backhand, forehand (middle), and forehand (wide) and combine them in different orders to create slightly different basic footwork drills…
- BH, FH (Middle), BH, FH (Wide)
- FH (Wide), FH (Middle), FH (Wide), BH
- BH, BH, FH (Wide), FH (Middle)
- FH (Wide), FH (Middle), BH, FH (Middle)
You get the idea!
More Table Tennis Drills
If you’ve enjoyed this article, I’m currently in the process of building the Expert Table Tennis Drills Database that will contain hundreds of different table tennis drills to train every area of your game. It’s not quite finished yet – but I’m working on it.
Do you have a favourite basic footwork drill that I haven’t mentioned here? If so, please share it in the comments.