Step-Around Footwork Drill

Newgy Robo-Pong

Here's a good drill for footwork and variation in your strokes. It can get vary fast paced and tiring but very useful as it simulates a point in real play. Set your Newgy to give a medium height ball about 4-5 speed and 5-6 frequency to start. Aim the Newgy into the back-hand corner. Hit 3 easy backhand balls consecutively cross-court and on the 4th shot, run around with a quick side step and hit a forehand smash down the line similating a kill in a real game. Then immediately side-step the other way, getting back into position to hit 3 backhands again. As you get better, increase the speed and frequency. You can also practice variations in your shots by blocking the first backhand, looping the next backhand and then smashing the 3rd backhand before running around. This drill gives you a good cardiovascular workout from all the running around, helps develop variation in your shots, quickens your footwork and rehearses a point that is played a lot in real game situations. Just look at Deng Yaping.

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Unique Footwork Drill

Newgy Robo-Pong

Always doing the same stroke may be a wrong thing to do as it is rare to have the partner at the club serving you balls consistently the same way in a match, even in practice. Have your ping pong robot send balls (underspin or topspin) to the middle of the table at a low frequency so you have time to:

  1. Hit, loop, or push the ball with your forehand, depending on what stroke you want to practice.
  2. With your free hand, first touch your backhand corner and then your forehand corner of the table.
  3. Execute a backhand stroke (your choice).
  4. With your free hand, touch first your forehand corner and then the backhand corner of the table.
  5. Repeat.

It just adds a little bit of randomization and helps to better integrate the environment. Once you can successfully do this drill with the ball sent to the middle of the table, try this drill with the ball sent slighlty to either side of center. Another variation is to change the depth of the ball. E.g., set up one drill with the ball landing midways between the net and endline of the table and then another drill with the ball landing either shorter or longer than in the first drill.. I suggest 3 minutes each drill. Have fun, Yazel.

(Editor's Note: I did this drill and it is surprisingly fun to do. It has a pleasing variety of body movements and is very good for helping footwork It blends table tennis movements with non table tennis movements, so it feels strange to someone used to doing traditional ping pong drills. Also it is mentally challenging because I had to keep myself focused on the proper sequence of motions. Depending on how forceful your strokes are and how good of shape you're in, you may not be able to do this drill for an entire 3 minutes. Vary the duration of your drill accordingly. This is somewhat similar to the Chair Drill, where actual strokes are combined with other movements.These types of drills are a great way to add variety and spice to your workouts.)

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Forehand Counter

Newgy Robo-Pong

This stroke starts the same as the forehand block in the last chapter. Your stance and position to the table are the is struck at the top of its bounce. Unlike the block, which is executed with a relatively still racket, the counter has a medium-sized backswing and follow through. This is done by pulling your racket backward with your forearm and then pushing it forward and slightly upward. Be sure to maintain the correct racket angle throughout the stroke.

Stroke the ball mainly with the forearm, using your elbow as a pivot point. Hold your racket slightly below the height of the ball at the beginning of the stroke and finish with it slightly above the height of the ball. Stability in the stroke is achieved by making sure your racket is at or slightly above the level of your elbow at contact. An indication of a complete stroke is the tip of your racket pointing forward or slightly to the left at the end of the stroke. Keep your wrist tilted down and do not let it flop back and forth.

Lesson 5: Forehand Counter With No Foot Movement

Aim the robot so it will shoot balls to the middle of your forehand court and turn off the oscillator. Starting at a slow speed, begin to forehand block the ball crosscourt. When you get a feel for the ball, take a quick step backward. At the same time take your racket back by twisting your waist and shoulders, and pulling back your forearm (not the upper arm). Timing your swing with the oncoming ball, swing forward into the ball as illustrated in Photo 8 on the next page. Remember to swing primarily with your shoulders and waist, not with your arm.

Focus your eyes on the ball until just before contact. Keep your head steady and don't let it turn as you twist your torso. Time your twist so the ball goes crosscourt. If you twist too soon or too quickly, the ball will go wide to your left. If you twist too late, too slowly, or not enough, the ball will go down-the-line instead of crosscourt. Be careful to keep your wrist straight and tilted down. When you are ready to place the ball down-the-line, bend your wrist slightly backward and time your twist the same as you did when you placed the ball crosscourt.

Develop a forehand counter following the same procedure as you did with the forehand block. First, at low speed and frequency crosscourt, then down-the-line, and finally alternating crosscourt and down the-line. Gradually turn up ball speed and frequency until you have reached your upper limits. As you turn up the frequency and/or speed, remember to do a complete stroke. Don't turn up the speed to the point that you shorten your stroke. Your goal is 25 successful counters in a row at each stage.

Lesson 6: Forehand Counter With Foot Movement 

Follow the same sequence as you did with the forehand block. Move the sweep control levers to the 1 and 4 positions for right-handers or to the 3 and 6 positions for left-handers. Practice your forehand counter in a crosscourt direction with the ball moving randomly within your forehand court. Then practice hitting the ball down-the-line, and finally alternate between crosscourt and down-the-line. Gradually build up the ball speed and frequency. Be sure to move your feet and get into good position before stroking the ball. Avoid reaching for the ball within your arm. Your goal is 25 successful counters in a row at each stage.

Photo 8: Forehand Counter (crosscourt)

Notice how the whole right side of the body is twisted into into the ball and how the forward swing and follow through are about the same length.

Images 1&2: End of back swing. The racket is raised to the anticipated height of the ball and the racket angle is adjusted slightly. The back swing is chiefly a twisting back of the waist and shoulders and a pulling back of the forearm (not the upper arm).

Image 3: Forward Swing. Mainly a twisting forward of the shoulders and waist.

Image 4: Just after ball contact. Notice the closed racket angle and the very quick acceleration from its position in Image 3. This was accomplished mainly by snapping the forearm forward and rotating the upper torso. The upper arm still has not moved very much.

Image 5: Follow through. The upper arm continues to move the racket forward and upward.

Image 6: End of stroke. The racket ends up in front of the face in line left.

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Newgy Robo-Pong

This chapter is intended for those who need assistance in moving to the ball. If you can perform a stroke well while keeping your feet in one spot, but you lose consistency when you start practicing the stroke with foot movement, then you need to improve your footwork. When learning footwork, slowly shadow practice several sets of the described footwork until you get the hang of it. Then combine practicing footwork with a particular stroke or combination of strokes using the robot to deliver balls to different points on the table.

Having proper footwork greatly assists in executing good strokes. With proper footwork, a player will move into good position and then execute his strokes from a solid, balanced stance. This leads to consistency, quickness, and being able to use full power. Without good footwork, a player will reach, lean, and hit the ball from an unbalanced position. Strokes end up being jerky and erratic, more like slaps than strokes.

In table tennis, you won't have to cover a lot of ground, but you will have to move to a spot very quickly. Therefore, most table tennis footwork consists of one or two steps, usually fairly short. During all footwork, it is crucial to stay balanced. Always start your foot movement from the balanced ready position.

Place your weight on the balls of your feet with your heels lightly touching the ground. Keep your shoulders centered over your knees. Eliminate any up and down movement. Move the instant the opponent has committed to his shot, not before. Move to where the ball will come before starting your stroke. Avoid stroking while moving.

For side-to-side movement, you may use one-step, two-step, or three-step footwork.

One-step footwork is normally used for short distances, two-step for medium distances, and three-step for long distances. One-step footwork is very common when moving left to cover a wide backhand. It is performed by simply shifting your weight to your right leg and pushing your left foot further to the left. Vice versa if you want to go to the right. One big disadvantage of one-step footwork is it can leave you in a "stretched out" position if you have to move more than a foot or two. Once stretched out, it is difficult to get ready for the next shot.

The two-step footwork is the most common form of footwork. It is used to get into forehand position for balls to your wide forehand two-step footwork, you lean on your right leg, pull your left foot toward your right foot, then quickly shift your right foot to the right. You end up with your feet in the same relative position as when you started the movement except 2-3 feet further to the right. It is a side-skipping type of movement.

Three-step footwork is used to cover shots hit deep to the forehand comer, angled off the wide forehand sideline, or to step out wide on your backhand side to hit a forehand. It is very similar to the two-step except an additional small step is made before both feet are shifted. To move right, take a small step with your right foot to the right (6 to 8 inches), shift your weight to your right leg, then perform a two-step movement.

Figure O: Footwork Diagrams

Below are diagrams showing how to place and move the feet f or one-step, two-step, and three-step footwork. The diagrams are for a right-handed player. You should practice these patterns until they become second nature. When practicing, remember to stay balanced and in a good ready position. Strive to keep your shoulders level and on the same plane (no up and down movement of the body and no dipping or raising of one shoulder).

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Random Footwork

Newgy Robo-Pong

The biggest difference between playing a robot and hitting with another player is that a robot can hit everything the same, while a player's shots always have some variation. However, the Newgy robot is designed to give you random shots over a pre-arranged area, via the oscillator and the oscillator's range levers. You don't have to have it hit every ball to the same spot. This allows you to work on your footwork as well as your stroke.

On the back of the robot is the "robot oscillator range levers." (Editor's note: These are listed as "Oscillator Control Levers" in your robot Owner's Manual, part #'s 61 & 62.) These show the various ranges the oscillator can sweep through, depending on which setting you choose.

Assuming you've taken the time to develop decent forehand and backhand strokes, it's time to learn to move and stroke. More specifically, it's time you learned to cover a certain proportion of the table with each stroke.

Set the robot on topspin. Set the robot's oscillator's range levers to 1-4, so the robot sweeps over just the forehand side of the table. (You can adjust the robot to sweep over a smaller area when starting out, if the 1-4 setting sweeps too much area.) Put both the speed and frequency settings in the 3 to 4 range. Turn on the oscillator to about 6, and the balls will shoot out randomly to the forehand side. Return each ball with your forehand. (Editor's note: this assumes you are right handed. If left-handed, place control levers to the 3-6 settings.)

To do so, watch the robot very carefully, and move your feet to follow the direction it is pointing. Keep your weight on the balls of your feet, with your knees at least slightly bent (Editor's note: the taller you are, the more you need to bend your knees). Move with short steps, keeping your weight centered at all times. Try to be in position for each ball without having to reach—move into position so the ball goes through your forehand hitting zone.

Now set the robot's oscillator range levers to 3-6 (1-4, if you're a lefty), so the robot sweeps over the backhand side of the table. Repeat the drill with your backhand. When you feel comfortable with that, do the same drill—with the balls still sweeping over your backhand side—but use only your forehand from your backhand side.

It is important to learn to hit the forehand from the backhand side because often you will need this skill for put-away shots. You normally should not play backhands from the forehand side, however.

Next try covering larger areas of the table, but this time using both forehand and backhand. At first set the oscillator's range levers so that the robot doesn't quite cover the entire table, and practice making clean shots, both forehand and backhand, by moving to each ball, not reaching. As you improve, increase the area until you are able to cover the entire table this way.

When the robot is set to sweep over a relatively small area of the table, the frequency setting is not too important as the balls will effectively come out randomly over the assigned area either way. When you start covering the entire table, however, the frequency setting begins to matter. Start off relatively low, at a pace you can cover somewhat consistently, and work your way up to faster and faster frequencies. Consistency is the key; don't set it so fast that you are leaping and diving after balls!

As you improve, you can also increase both the robot's speed setting and how hard you hit your own shots. You should also try the above drills with the robot set on backspin, and either attack or push. Generally, attack backspin when using your forehand (unless it goes too short, in which case you should either push or flip), while either pushing, driving or looping with the backhand.

There are two basic skills the preceding drills are designed to develop. First are the footwork skills to cover the table by moving to the ball, not reaching, so that you can consistently hit clean shots. Second is what is called "neuromuscular adaptation"—the ability of the brain to quickly make a choice, and react. This is developed in the drills where you have to choose whether to use a forehand or a backhand. Developing these skills will greatly enhance your ability to play strong rallies comfortably.

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Chair Drill

Newgy Robo-Pong

An adaptation of a drill presented by Victor Tolkacheva at a Dan Seemiller clinic known as the "CHAIR" drill. Done to work on footwork, aerobic fitness and concentration, the chair drill requires the placement of a chair about 4 feet behind the table and the robot to be set on topspin. The chair drill starts with student behind chair, first moving left beside chair as ball crosses the net. Moving forward and to the right, the student must then execute a FH counter or loop to the cross - court angle. After doing the stroke, footwork away from the table places the student in position to start all over again! Increasing the frequency of the balls requires the feet to work more and more efficiently and changing the robot from topspin to underspin will dramatically increase the effort needed to perform at a consistent level. I highly recommend doing this drill first as shadow practice to familiarize yourself then be a test of the additional factors that weakens a persons ability to loop / counter. If you have a training partner, both can do this drill at the same time and really tax the timing aspects of footwork. BUT USE CAUTION not to hit your partner with the follow through of your stroke or you might need to find a new partner!

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Footwork Drills

Newgy Robo-Pong

The Newgy Robot is very useful for footwork practice. You are forced to keep moving because the robot rarely misses. Here are some footwork drills you can do with your Newgy Robot:

Side to Side Footwork Drills
One-Step Footwork 
    1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 2,5 (narrow sweep range). 
    2. Adjust oscillator speed so ball are place at each end of the sweep range. 
    3. Hit ball coming to your forehand court with forehand strokes, hit balls coming to your backhand court with backhand strokes.
Two-Step Footwork 
    1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 1,6 (no oscillation). 
    2. Alternate your forehands and backhands to hit balls back.
Three-Step Footwork 
    1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 2,5 (narrow sweep range). 
    2. Adjust oscillator speed so balls are placed at each end of the sweep range. 
    3. Hit balls coming to your forehand court with backhand strokes and balls coming to your backhand court with forehand strokes.
Stepping In/Out Footwork Drills
Two-Step Footwork 
    1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 1,6 (no oscillation). 
    2. Adjust head angle and ball speed so balls bounce twice on your side of the table. 
    3. Step in to forehand hit a ball after it bounces once, then step out to forehand hit the next ball after it bounces twice, step in to backhand hit the next ball after it bounces once, and finally step out to backhand hit the fourth ball after it bounces twice. You should be moving in an "8 on its side" (_) route.
Three-Step Footwork 
    1. Set Oscillator Control Levers to 2,5 (narrow sweep range). 
    2. Adjust head angle and ball speed so balls bounce twice on your side of the table. 
    3. Hit balls in the same manner as described in previous two-step footwork drill, except you now need to take 3 steps to make it to the balls.
  1. If you find the 2,5 sweep range too wide for you, change it to 1,5 or 2,6. 
  2. If you find the 2,5 sweep range too narrow for you, change it to 2,4, 3,5 or even 3,4. 
  3. If you're right-handed you should step in with your right foot closer to the table, or you won't be able to bring your playing hand close to the ball. 
  4. If you're left-handed, you should step in with your left foot closer to the table.

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