If you want to be a formidable player, you must have superb ping pong footwork. And not enough players have the footwork of ping pong to match their stroke talents. What’s the purpose of having the finest shots in the world if you’re never in the perfect position to execute them?
The ultimate goal of footwork exercises for table tennis is to allow you to play more of the strokes you’ve worked so hard to perfect. It also aids in the breakdown of undesirable habits such as excessive leaning and reaching, which affects the quality of your shots. Footwork is a vital skill in table tennis and should certainly be a part of your training.
Types of Ping Pong Footwork
Before we get into the many types of footwork in table tennis, it’s necessary to grasp the fundamentals of placement and stance.
The ready position is the starting point for all footwork of ping pong.
The ready posture is the neutral stance you take after each shot.
The breakdown of the ready position:
- Lower your centre of gravity by bending your knees.
- For the best balance, place your feet 1.5-2 shoulder widths apart.
- For rapid movement, lean forward with your weight on the balls and heels of your feet.
- Play with your arm at a 90-degree angle at your side.
- To play forehand or backhand, hold the paddle in a neutral posture.
Now that you’ve mastered the default ready position, it’s time to learn the fundamentals of ping pong footwork.
Side to Side Footwork
In ping pong, the most common movement is side to side. We start rallies near to the table and only start to move away from it when it is favourable to us. This means that we utilise a lot of sideways movement rather than in and out movement to cover the whole width of the table. As a result, the most crucial form of footwork to develop is side to side movement. It might be difficult since you have little time to manoeuvre when you are near to the table and your opponent alternates between your forehand and backhand sides.
This sort of footwork is considerably more crucial in modern table tennis. The game has never been more attacking, and the great majority of us like to play with our forehands. This implies that we are frequently fighting with other quick players to use our forehand on both the forehand and backhand sides of the table.
How to Move Side to Side?
The technique of side to side movement is the same whether you are going left to right or right to left. The outside foot that is following always moves first, followed by your lead foot.
When you return to the ready position, the same thing happens. This time, your legs will be reversed as you return to the centre of the table. If you’re moving to play a forehand stroke on the forehand side, the foot sequence is left, right, right, left.
However, this is a simplified version. You will frequently require a series of smaller steps, sometimes known as shuffling. Because both feet will be in the air at the same time, you may want to employ a jumping/hopping action rather than a stepping motion. Maintaining balance by keeping the dominant foot on the ground for a brief second before hopping (the trailing foot is already in the air).
In and Out Stance and Footwork in Table Tennis
In table tennis, in and out footwork is less prevalent than side to side footwork, but it is still highly essential. This is most often used for the return of serve. When we are in a position to return a serve, we are constantly close to the table in case our opponent hits a quick long ball. We wouldn’t have enough area or time to play an efficient shot if we were too near.
However, because most players serve short, we must move in to play a return, whether it be a push or a flick. We often have more time to move in and out, although this is not always the case.
Drop shots are another situation where you could find yourself using in and out movement. Most opponents will attempt to catch you off guard with a sneaky drop shot or two if you find yourself playing far away from the table. You won’t have much time to respond; therefore good in and out movement is crucial here.
Lobbers and choppers, in particular, will need to be able to move in and out as well as side to side. This is due to the fact that they will experience more forward and backward movement than anyone else.
How to Move in and Out?
As we are square to the table, if you are a right-hander returning a serve, your left foot makes a little movement before your dominant right foot swings in to execute the shot.
When we’re in open play, the sequence for in and out movement is basically the same as the process for side to side movement. To go forward, we move our rear leg first, then our front leg. We reverse the movement to travel backwards. The front leg is the first to go back, followed by the hind leg. You may also discover that you employ the hopping action described in the section on side to side movement to go backwards and forwards more efficiently.
To reach short balls, you may need to break into a brief sprint at times for players who drift unusually far away from the table (yeah, I’m looking at you, lobbers). This will entail bursting off your rear leg to get enough velocity.
Crossover Footwork in Table Tennis
Crossover footwork is the final table tennis footwork pattern. When you don’t have enough time to play a shot utilising the basic side to side movement, you employ this.
It is most often utilised when you play a quick forehand stroke from the backhand side and your opponent follows up with a deep forehand shot to your forehand side. This allows you to traverse the most lateral distance feasible.
How to do the Crossover Footwork in Table Tennis?
The crossing action is performed by rotating your body to your forehand side rather than facing the direction of the table. This helps you to travel faster by allowing you to explode forwards rather than sideways.
You should also wind your paddle back before bursting forward, or you won’t have enough time to play your shot. The ball is then struck just as your left leg is ready to contact the ground.
How to Improve Your Footwork in Table Tennis?
Ping pong footwork may be practised in a variety of ways. I believe in employing a variety of exercises to ensure that you cover all areas of footwork while also keeping things interesting. We don’t want to lose interest in the game! Don’t forget to do some table tennis warm-up exercises before you begin; you don’t want to injure yourself.
Ping Pong Footwork Drills
These entail following a set of steps to cover the motions you wish to work on. You may make them short and basic, or longer and more intricate. It is entirely a matter of personal choice.
Multiball is an excellent method to polish your footwork. To truly put your feet to the test, the feeder may simply change the location, spin, and pace of their feeds.
Begin gently to perfect your form, and then gradually increase the tempo until you are making just a few mistakes. You’re going too quickly if you’re missing the bulk of your strokes and your feet can’t keep up.
Shadow exercises are used to practise your footwork and strokes without the use of a table tennis ball. You don’t even need any tools. You may practise by yourself – and there are more methods to practise table tennis by yourself!
However, when I shadow drill, I prefer to use either a table or a mirror. It helps me verify that my location relative to the table is correct and highlights any faults that I would otherwise overlook. Outside of actual rallies, practising your footwork relieves the stress of the point. Normally, our thoughts are absorbed with strategy and every element of our game. Shadow exercises allow you to concentrate entirely on your movement in a stress-free setting at your own speed.
Many drills are done in a systematic manner — a set of pre-selected strokes that you will do in a specific order. However, it is not random, and while it might enhance your footwork, it may not fully translate to matches.
This is why you should include a variety of drills in your training. This better simulates match circumstances while still emphasising footwork. You won’t be able to play as quickly when doing random drills since you don’t know where the ball will land. This means you might need to slow down your strokes if you’re playing with a partner or have your feeder feed a little slower if you’re performing multiball.
The Falkenburg exercise is one of the most common techniques to practise footwork. It’s a tough, tiring drill, but it’s really effective. It requires a lot of movement, so you’ll be exercising anaerobically. As a result, you will only be able to perform it for a certain amount of time before needing to take a rest.
Below is the Falkenburg drill sequence:
Go for backhand loop, forehand loop (backhand side), forehand loop (wide), and repeat.
It’s tiring because you’re covering a lot of ground. The killer is the forehand loop on your backhand side, followed by the forehand loop wide on your forehand side! It does, however, exactly resemble the footwork you would need as an attacker in a match, and it is an excellent exercise!
Ping Pong Footwork: Get Practising Now!
You should now realise that efficient table tennis footwork is required to attain your best potential – and that there are several methods to enhance your footwork.
You have a lot of options, from random multiball to the Falkenburg drill. Why not try to devise your own unique workouts to address certain areas where your footwork may be lacking? You are the only one who knows oneself better than anybody else. In any case, incorporate footwork training into your practice, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. It is unquestionably worthwhile.