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Proper footwork is one of the most overlooked aspects of table tennis. Most table tennis players that I see simply stretch and reach for balls, without using any type of lateral movement. Proper footwork results in optimal shot quality and ball placement. For example, players are often faced with the challenge of returning balls that are placed into their bodies. Usually they return the ball awkwardly or miss it completely. With the right footwork, this can be avoided.
Personally, my game is forehand-oriented, so footwork is a huge part of my training regimen. To get my feet moving, as fast as possible, in order to dominate the entire court with my forehand, here are a few things I do on an almost-daily basis:
-Practice two topspin balls side to side on my Newgy Robo-Pong 2050 table tennis robot continuously for at least a minute at a high intensity. (One on the forehand side, one of the backhand side - all hit with forehand.)
- Moving shuffling side to side with a 25 lb. weight in my hands for leg and core strength.
To help explain how to properly move laterally, here’s an example from Larry Thoman’s Newgy Robo-Pong Training Manual:
One-step footwork is mostly used for when the ball is placed quickly into your body and you have little time to react. Its purpose is to put your body in a less-awkward position, which lets you return the ball without struggling. Two-step footwork is used when you have a little bit more time to return the ball. For example, this type of footwork is used when turning on your backhand side for a forehand loop. This is probably the most common type of footwork. Three-step footwork is mostly used when out of position and far away from the table. I personally use this type of footwork a lot when trying to hit a forehand when out of position while the ball is coming to my backhand. This type of footwork is rarely used and takes a long time to perfect.
Proper footwork is important if one wants to master the sport of table tennis, so study the patterns described above and most importantly, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!