Exceptional footwork is an essential table tennis skill. It is impossible to be a great table tennis player without excellent command of this ability. For this reason, mastering and knowing when to switch footwork techniques can help you to significantly improve your game. Because table tennis is a fast sport, accurately predicting shots and ball placement is difficult in a competitive match. Proper footwork gets you in the best position to hit the ball, increasing the quality of your shot.
Besides, correct footwork technique helps you align your leg movement along with your strokes. Table tennis demands variations in footwork in response to serves and returns. So, as a player, you need to understand the different types of footwork techniques and drills if you want to improve your game. Keep it in mind that there are no hard and fast rules on the ideal footwork for making a shot. Below we will discuss the basic table tennis footwork patterns and some tips on how to make the most out of them.
Drill # 1: Shuffle Drill
Every player must learn the “shuffle step” by moving both feet simultaneously. Shuffling is the ability to move fast from side to side. During the shuffle drill, be sure to incorporate stroke motions as well as forward and backward movements to simulate actual match play.
Remember that table tennis is all about rhythm! Learning how to get into the groove and fluidity of motion is what makes this sport so appealing. As such, a key point to remember is that it takes time to develop this rhythm and thus excellent footwork technique. This is why regular and frequent training sessions are essential. Though videos can help you learn how to get into position, only consistent practice can really help you improve.
Drill # 2: In and Out Step
Perfecting this drill gives you the ability to move forward and backward quickly after making a shot. To practice this movement, make a small step with your non-dominant foot to get closer to the table and then move your dominant foot to a position under the table. In this position, make your shot and quickly return to place by moving your dominant foot first in a backward motion followed by the non-dominant foot. The move works as follows: left, right, right and left(if right-handed).
Players often ignore short game practice but this is a mistake as it is an essential part of table tennis. Not being able to hit a short ball and quickly back off to prepare for a possible attack can lose you the point right there. Training this footwork pattern will vastly improve your short game which in turn will help you win more games.
Drill # 3: Crossover Footwork
Practicing this drill is useful for shots that are too fast and too wide for you to get in position with the shuffle step. For this pattern, a shot’s direction(backhand or forehand side of the table) determines which foot passes over the other. Executing this step requires a player to move the left foot over the right(if right-handed). Use your left foot as a pivot for your body’s weight and then place your right foot wide. By the time both feet are on the floor, the ball should have been hit.
Drill # 4: Serving Footwork
In table tennis, this is the most critical move to practice. While in serving motion, most players make a small step forward and return to the ready position, ready for shuffle stepping. By mastering this move, you can reply to shots after the service with much better accuracy.
The movement looks much like a little jump. You serve and immediately after, you jump into position ready to respond by pivoting around your left leg. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen players stay in place after serving. This is one of the easiest ways to lose a point as you don’t have enough time to reach a shot to your far right side.
Importance of Practice
Lots of practice hours are required in improving your footwork. This is why it is essential you practice regularly and correctly. Remember that the goal of drilling is to accustom the body to the conditions of the game. In turn, this translates into fluid motions during match play.
During training, maintain a low center of balance by crouching and leaning forward. This posture shifts your body’s weight to your feet’s balls rather than the heels. Besides that, try to always practice honestly and adequately to build a repertoire of useful movement skills. Each move is helpful in a specific match scenario so practice with this in mind. In case of difficulties in mastering these drills, train in front of a mirror to efficiently learn these moves and see if you can spot any glaring mistakes. The key to mastering footwork is patient training to develop muscle memory that instinctively replicates these moves in live matches.
Your physical fitness level affects the quality of your training. The better shape you are in the more you can train before you get tired. First, you need to improve your body’s aerobic conditioning. Activities such as swimming, biking, skiing, jump rope, and jogging are great aerobic exercises. Besides, these exercises also stimulate the muscles used in table tennis. All physical exercises are beneficial to the body, though for table tennis you should focus on activities that work the leg and abs muscles.
If you want to improve your table tennis footwork skills, you need to create and adhere to a training regimen based on the above drills. It will help you to enhance your agility, power, and stamina. Becoming a table tennis champion is no leisurely pursuit. For this reason, incorporate these drills into your training mix, and soon you will be playing the most fantastic table tennis of your life!