How to Play a Backhand Push in Table Tennis

The backhand push is probably the easiest stroke to learn. 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, making it more difficult for our opponent to attack the ball.

Once mastered the backhand push becomes the foundations for the backhand touch, dig and chop. Having a strong, spinny backhand push will also help you to learn a spinny backhand serve.

Unlike the forehand strokes, the backhand push doesn’t really quire any movement from the body. All you need to do is get yourself behind the ball and then you can use your arms to play the stroke.

This post will highlight the correct technique for playing a backhand 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 Backhand Push?

  • The backhand push is one of the four basic table tennis strokes. The other three are the forehand drive, backhand drive and forehand push.
  • The backhand push is a defensive stroke played with a small amount of backspin.
  • The backhand 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 backhand push is primarily played from the backhand side of the table. Only rarely will a player play a backhand push from their forehand side.

PingSkills’ Video

Here is a really good video going through some of the key points for the backhand push. Have a watch and then you may find the coaching tips and common errors I’ve described below helpful for a bit of extra insight.

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 is ideally square to the line of play (like the backhand drive) but you can usually get away with a square to the table stance as well.
  • 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, towards your chest
  • Create a slightly open bat angle.
  • Keep your wrist straight.
  • The angle at your elbow will be quite closed.

The Strike

  • The shot is played directly in front of the body.
  • The arm moves forwards, to meet the ball.
  • The movement comes predominantly from the elbow.
  • 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.
  • 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 with a “brushing” action.

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 right.
  • 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.


Common Errors

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

  1. 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. If you look at Jeff’s technique in the video you’ll see that his arm is never straight at the finish position.
  2. Swiping across yourself. As with the forehand push, swiping across your body is a common problem with beginners backhand push strokes. If your bat is finishing on your right hand side instead of following the ball then you are probably swiping across yourself. Focus on creating a more forwards movement from your elbow. Occasionally players also make the mistake of slicing across and finishing on the left side of their body but this is less common.
  3. 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 you should concentrate on 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.
  4. Don’t ‘poke’ or ‘prod’. As I said with the forehand push avoid the temptation to play short, sharp strokes. Learn to play a smooth backhand push stroke with lots of feeling and control. As Alois said in the video it should be a soft and controlled stroke.
  5. Taking the ball too early. It is difficult to take the backhand push too late as the ball in coming directly at your body. However, some players to try and reach forward too much too take the ball too early. Let the ball come to you and take it either at, or just before, the peak of the bounce. When we look at the backhand touch later on we’ll begin to think about the advantages of taking the ball earlier.
  6. 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.

Hopefully now you should be able to go out and play a decent backhand push. Go out and get lots of practice and maybe even check out some of the other instructional backhand push videos on YouTube. 

This shot is the final part of Level 1 Table Tennis in my How to Play Table Tennis Series. Before moving on to level two make sure you have a correct grip and stance/ready position and that you can play 100 forehand and backhand drives and 100 forehand and backhand pushes without a mistake. You may need to find a higher standard practice partner that is able to consistently and accurately keep the ball on the table to practice this.

Now it’s time for Level 2

Level 2 begins to apply the basic strokes we have learnt here to some regular movement exercises. Up to this point you haven’t had to move your feet very much but that is all about to change! I’ve got six hand selected regular movement exercises for you to try out in Level 2 that will cover all of the basic movement patterns you will need to learn. It’s also a great chance to really drill in the correct technique for the basic shots.

So, get over there now and start level 2 today!

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