The forehand loop is probably the most important advanced table tennis stroke you will ever learn. In the modern game the majority of attacking shots are loops and the forehand loop is particularly dominant. It is therefore an important weapon at all levels of play from intermediate to world-class.
The forehand loop is built on top of the forehand drive, adding additional speed, spin and power to the basic forehand. You should have mastered the four basic strokes and developed a technically correct forehand drive before beginning to learn the forehand loop. This will make the learning process smoother and aid your long-term development and progression as a table tennis player.
In this post I will give you all the information you need in order to master the forehand loop.
Stance & Positioning
Your stance should be similar to that of a forehand drive.
- Your feet should be at least 1.5 shoulder widths apart (some players are closer to 2 shoulder widths).
- Your right foot should be slightly further back than your left.
- Your knees should be a little bent.
- Your weight should be leaning forwards on the front parts of your feet.
- Your upper body should be relaxed.
The muscles in your legs should be activated, providing your with a solid base and enabling you to move and adjust your position if you need to. Your center of gravity should be low with your upper body being crouched or slightly hunched. Allow your shoulders to drop and relax. This contrast between the upper body and the lower body is key in my opinion.
When it comes to getting into the right position it can be useful to think of a triangle.
Make a triangle between your shoulders and your hands by reaching out in front of you, with both arms, and putting your hands together. Then twist slightly so that your hands and pretty much in line with your right foot. Assuming you are right-handed this is the perfect positioning for your forehand loop.
When you play your forehand loop you will need to adjust your feet so that the ball comes into that point of your triangle. It’s important to get your right foot in line with the ball. This will prevent you from reaching (because the ball is too far away) or getting cramped (because the ball is too close to your body).
The motion of the forehand loop is like an exaggerated forehand drive.
- You need to get a little lower (you can play a forehand drive pretty much standing up straight but in order to loop well you need to get your body, arm and bat a bit lower in preparation).
- You need to use a little more weight transfer (transfer your weight onto your right foot during the backswing and then onto your left root as you make contact with the ball, assuming you are right-handed).
- You need to use a little more rotation (rotate from your waist, not you shoulders).
- You need to use a bit more elbow (the elbow stays largely fixed during a forehand drive but for a loop your shoulder extend the elbow during the backswing and then flex the elbow as you make contact with the ball).
- You need to close your bat angle a little more (a drive is played with roughly a 45 degree bat angle whereas a forehand loop should go slightly more over the top of the ball, assuming you are playing against a topspin ball).
- You need to accelerate faster (a drive is a controlled shot and doesn’t require much acceleration but the forehand loop is a more aggressive shot and needs more speed, snap, zip, or whatever you want to call it, with your body and arm).
- You need to brush the ball more (a drive doesn’t involve too much spin whereas a loop should probably have more spin than speed, so make sure you are brushing and not hitting the ball).
That is quite a lot to take in. Perhaps it will be easier to understand with a video. Here is Ma Long playing some forehand loops in slow motion.
You can clearly see him getting low, using his legs and waist for rotation and power, and closing his bat angle so that he can accelerate over the top of the ball and brush it with lots of spin. His upper body will also be fairly relaxed during this which allows him to react to the variations in the ball quickly. Staying relaxed is very important.
Finish and Recovery
After you have made contact with the ball you should do a little something like this…
- Your forehand loop swing should finish with your hips pretty much square to the table and your bat roughly in front of your face.
- You shouldn’t let your bat go too far across your body or allow it to swing you around. On the flip side, if your arm and bat are finishing still on the right side of your body (instead of central) then your swing is probably too short or you aren’t rotating enough.
If you watch the Ma Long video you should also notice that his backswing/recovery motion is slightly different to his forward motion. He doesn’t go back along the same path. Instead, the arm and bat recover and move backwards more in line with the stomach, whereas they move forward during the forehand loop motion more in line with the chest.
This is important and will keep your bat always moving instead of having a stop-start phase at final point of the backswing and finish position.
The Perfect Forehand Loop
I am hoping to get Brian Pace on The Expert Table Tennis Podcast soon to chat to him about the perfect forehand loop (if you are reading this in the future that episode will almost certainly be recorded and you can find it on iTunes on by searching ETT).
About a year ago he uploaded a forehand loop training video to YouTube under that name and it has since clocked up over 400,000 views and 1,000 thumbs up! Brian is well known for his big forehand loop.
There are loads of other tips and pieces of advice that you can use to improve your forehand loop. As I said at a beginning of this article the forehand loop is one of the biggest weapons used by even world-class players and they have spent years perfecting their technique and style. The forehand loop is not simple something you can learn and then be done with. You should always be looking for ways to improve your loop, adding more speed or spin or even variation to your strokes.
This article is just the beginning but I hope you now have the confidence to be able to go and give the forehand loop a try. If anything is unclear, or you would like further information, please leave a comment and I’m sure either I or another reader will be able to help you.