“Palm Up, Palm Down” – The Secret to Effortless Loops (Part 3)

I never intended this to happen, but my table tennis coaching mantras have turned into a series. This is part three of ‘The Secret to Effortless Loops’. If you haven’t read part one or part two yet, I recommended checking them out.

Today’s blog post is all about “Palm Up, Palm Down”. I like to think of it as the “Wax On, Wax Off” of table tennis. And I think that’s helpful because it has some similarities to the fluid arm and hand movements of the martial arts.

The ability to quickly, and smoothly, switch from backhand to forehand (or vice versa) is essential if you’re going to reach a high level of performance in table tennis.

Plenty of players look good playing forehand to forehand, or backhand to backhand, but then fall apart in an actual match when the placement of the ball becomes random.

This is Harrie – when we move from regular to irregular drills.

And it was me too! I used to be useless at switching and then playing an attacking stroke. I could switch from a forehand loop to a backhand block (or from a backhand loop to a forehand block) but I found it virtually impossible to switch and then play another loop.

Then I discovered the “Palm Up, Palm Down” trick.

What is… “Palm Up, Palm Down”?

“Palm Up, Palm Down” isn’t about right-hand, left-hand (like Mr Miyagi’s wax on, wax off). It’s backhand, forehand.

  • Backhand loop  = Palm up
  • Forehand loop = Palm down

This is very important!

If you want a quick and smooth transition between your backhand and forehand loops you need to flip your hand 180 degrees as you switch – from palm facing up for the backhand loop, to palm facing down for the forehand loop.

This rotation of the forearm is known as pronation and supination, and it’ll ensure your bat is always at a good angle for looping over the top of the ball.


I discovered this little gem about four years ago and ever since “Palm Up, Palm Down” has become another one of my table tennis mantras that I like to repeat to the players I coach.

Effortless Looping

Harrie often gets stuck switching from his backhand loop to his forehand loop. He’ll play a nice backhand loop spinning over the top of the ball with his palm facing up, but then he’ll get stuck with his hand and bat in a neutral position and end up flat hitting his forehand or having to try and brush up the back of the ball.

He’s turned his hand 90 degrees (from palm up to neutral) but he hasn’t done the final 90 degrees to get himself into the palm down position. He can’t play a proper forehand loop because he hasn’t pronated his forearm!

It really is that simple!

Once Harrie starts thinking “Palm Up, Palm Down” during our drills, and quickly pronating or supinating his forearm after each shot, the quality of his looping immediately improves.

It looks so much better. And he feels more comfortable and confident in his shots

Have a go yourself!

If you struggle switching from backhand to forehand loops (or vice versa) I recommend giving this a try at your next practice session. Start out with a regular drill until you feel comfortable with the mechanics of the forearm rotation.

You could even practice it at home with some shadow play. Grab your bat and start pronating and supinating your wrist in your ready position. You can add in some forehand and backhand strokes too if you like. Work on increasing the speed of your transitions while maintaining a good technique.

It might actually make the muscles in your forearm ache at first as they get used to it but I’m convinced that this one tip will help to speed up your backhand to forehand switch the next time you make it onto the table.

So that’s my third secret to effortless loops – “Palm Up, Palm Down”. Do try it out and let me know how you get on!