How to Play a Forehand Push in Table Tennis

forehand push table tennisThe forehand push is the third basic table tennis stroke to master and it’s probably the most difficult of the four. A push is more of a defensive shot than the drive and the aim is to play down the back and underneath the ball to create some backspin.

Later on, the forehand push can be developed into a forehand touch, dig or chop. It is also useful when serving as many basic “chop” serves are built upon the principles learnt for the forehand push.

As with the forehand drive, the forehand push will require a small amount of rotation with the hips, torso and shoulders. It can feel like quite an unnatural shot to play at first but stick with it and you’ll develop the feeling you need to execute it consistently.

This post will highlight the correct technique for playing a forehand push in table tennis. I will use my own knowledge as a table tennis coach and a video featuring Alois and Jeff from PingSkills.

What Is The Forehand Push?

  • The forehand push is one of the four basic table tennis strokes. The other three are the forehand drive, backhand drive and backhand push.
  • The forehand push is a defensive stroke played with a small amount of backspin. 
  • The forehand push is usually played against short and low, backspin or float balls, although beginners that have not developed a loop (or open up shot) can play a push off a longer ball. At the intermediate stage any long balls should be attacked and any balls that are short but high should be flicked or hit.
  • The forehand push is primarily played from the forehand side. Only rarely will a player play a forehand push from their backhand side.

PingSkills’ Video

Here is a really good video going through some of the key points for the forehand push. Watch it, absorb some of the tips and then have a read of my coaching points below.

My Coaching Points

Here are my key coaching points. I’ve tried to go into a bit more detail than the video. As always, I break the forehand push down into four sections; the stance, the backswing, the strike and the finish.

The Stance

  • Feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  • Stance can be square to the table or you can have your right foot slightly further back (as in the forehand drive).
  • Knees should be slightly bent and the body should be leaning forward. You may want to be slightly lower for a push as usually we play this shot against lower, backspin balls.
  • Both arms should be out in front of you.
  • About a 90-110 degree bend at the elbow.
  • Stand quite close to the table, an arms length away.
  • Weight distributed on both feet and on the balls/toes, not heels.

The Backswing

  • Bring your bat backwards and out to the side of your body.
  • Create a slightly open bat angle.
  • Keep your wrist straight.
  • You should have a small gap between your elbow and hip.
  • Try to keep your playing arm slightly in front of your body, you don’t need a big backswing for the push.

The Strike

  • The shot is played slightly to the side of the body, not directly in front of you.
  • The arm moves forwards, to meet the ball.
  • The movement comes predominantly from the elbow and forearm.
  • The bat angle stays open throughout the shot.
  • Take the ball at the peak of the bounce (or slightly earlier) and out in front of you.
  • Maintain a small gap between the elbow and the body.
  • To get less spin you can play slightly more down the back of the ball.
  • To generate slightly more spin you can play more underneath the ball.

The Finish

  • Follow through forwards, towards the net.
  • Your bat should finish pointing where you have hit the ball.
  • Don’t let your arm swing across your body to the left.
  • You will likely have also played downwards slightly, so the bat will be closer to the table now than it was during the backswing or strike phases.
  • Always get back to the ready position.

forehand push table tennis coaching

Common Errors

Here are some common errors to look out for in your own shot.

  1. Playing in front of your body. The backhand drive and push should be played directly in front of your body. However, do this for your forehand shots and you’ll be in trouble. Check to make sure the angle of your elbow is pointing your forearm to the side of your body. It can feel a little unnatural at first. It is similar to a fencing position (if you can imagine that).
  2. Overextending the arm. The forehand push should be played with a relatively bent arm throughout the stroke. Overextending the arm is a common error among beginners that are playing the stroke in front of their body. They lunge their arm directly at the ball and finish with a straight elbow. It is very hard to control the ball like this.
  3. Swiping across yourself. This is another common error caused by playing the forehand push in front of your body. Some players lunge forwards (the direction of movement is correct but the movement is incorrect), as mentioned in point two, others will swipe across their body (the movement is correct but the direction of movement is incorrect).
  4. Not using the natural rotation of the body. As with the forehand drive, the forehand push requires a small amount of rotation from the hips, torso and shoulders. If you think about it this is the natural way to play but often beginners end up looking like robots because they are too stiff. Relax and allow your body to turn with the stroke.
  5. Too much wrist. At an intermediate and advanced level the wrist can be added to the push to generate a little more spin. However, when first learning the shot concentrate on the rotation of the body and the movement of the arm. Worry about the big bits first and the smaller bits (such as the wrist) can be easily added on later. Start with the wrist and it’s quite hard/more difficult to add bigger movements (such as the correct forearm movement) later on.
  6. Don’t ‘poke’ or ‘prod’. As I said with the backhand push avoid the temptation to play short, sharp strokes. Learn to play a smooth forehand push stroke with lots of feeling and control.
  7. Taking the ball too late. Either taking the ball after the peak of the bounce or trying to take it in line with or behind your body will make the stroke very difficult. Strike the ball at the peak of the bounce or slightly before (when it is still on it’s way up) and make sure the contact point is in front of the body.
  8. Don’t ‘scoop’ the ball. Many beginners play a “scoop” push where the try and go down the back of the ball and then continue to move up the front of the ball, with the bat finishing high. It follows a U-shape. This is not correct and will stop you from generating backspin. Concentrate on brushing the ball in just one straight line. Your bat should be finishing quite close the table as it will be travelling down slightly during the stroke.

That should be everything you need to know to play a correct forehand push. As I said before it’s probably the most difficult of the four basic strokes but it’s well worth mastering early on. Avoid the temptation to move on to serves and topspins before you’ve learnt the pushes!

There are lot of other great videos on YouTube showing the forehand push in action so definitely have a look at them if you require further help or drop me a line/leave a comment. I’d be happy to help.

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