The Push

Newgy Robo-Pong

All the previous drills have been performed against topspin. Now you need to learn how to return backspin effectively. The easiest stroke to use to return a backspin shot is the push. The push, like the block, is a very simple and easy stroke. It is, however, a very important part of the game and must be mastered.

The push is typically used when the opponent gives you a backspin return that is so well placed that you cannot attack it safely. The push is then used to keep the ball in play until a better opportunity for attacking comes along.

The main purpose of the push is not so much to win the point, but to return it accurately and safely. For this reason, concentrate on developing good touch and control on your pushes, and forget about power and speed.

A push stroke is performed using an open racket angle and contacting the ball somewhere between the center and the bottom. Stroke motion is from high to low in a forward direction. This motion and the open racket angle result in applying your own backspin to the ball. The push is a relatively slow speed stroke with only a small amount of gentle acceleration. It is performed very close to, or often, actually over the table. The point of contact is after the top of the bounce, as the ball is falling.

Lesson 17: Backhand Push

To learn the push, change the spin setting of your robot to backspin. Decrease the ball speed to 2, the ball frequency to 3, and turn the oscillator off when the robot head lines up with the middle of your backhand court. The head angle should be set to "C".

Turn the robot on and practice pushing with your backhand. Stroke mainly with the forearm, keeping the elbow and upper arm relatively still. At first your returns will likely keep going into the net because of the effect of the backspin. Keep opening up your racket angle and aim for the bottom of the ball. Contact is light, almost like you are trying to slice the bottom off the ball. If the ball keeps going into the net it may be necessary to lift your elbow somewhat as you make contact with the ball.

When you get the ball to clear the net, keep the push as low over the net as you can. Don't push hard or fast. Rather, use a soft, guiding touch with your push so you can place it accurately. Regain the ready position after each stroke.

When you get the feel for the push, practice until you can push 50 crosscourt, 50 down-the-line, and 25 patterns of alternating crosscourt and down-the-line pushes without missing. Gradually increase the frequency up to 4 and the ball speed up to 3. After reaching your upper limit, turn the unit off and set the sweep control levers to sweep within the backhand court and practice your backhand push with the ball moving around randomly.

Photo: Backhand Push (Crosscourt)

Notice that the speed of the racket is constant. The even spacing between images indicates a smooth, flowing stroke. Also note the small step forward with the with the right leg and how the upper body is tilted forward so the elbow hangs in front of the body.

Images 1 & 2 (almost completely overlapping): End of back swing. Racket was open.

Image 3: Forward swing. Racket angle has not changed. Right leg begins to step forward at the same time as the forearm begins to push the racket forward.

Image 4: Just after ball contact. Racket tip is starting to rotate forward.

Image 5: Follow through.

Image 6: End of stroke. Arm is almost completely extended forward. Right leg has (as shown by position of face). Racket tip is pointing forward

Lesson 18: Forehand Push

The forehand push is the next stroke to learn. Like the other forehand strokes, contact the ball to the side of and slightly in front evenly distributed on both legs. Push the racket towards the bottom of the ball by straightening out the forearm. At the same time, take a small step forward after ball contact.

The racket head should rotate around so it is pointing forward at the end of the stroke. It may help to bend your upper so you can better see the bottom of the ball. Regain the ready position between each stroke.

Practice the forehand push at slow speed and frequency until you can consistently push 50 in a row crosscourt, then down-the-line, and finally, alternating crosscourt and down-the-line. Increase the frequency to 4 and the ball speed to 3. Next, practice the push with the robot set to sweep within the entire forehand court. Then change the control levers so the robot sweeps the entire table and practice combining forehand and backhand pushes. Recover to the ready position after each stroke and before moving to the next stroke. Your goal is 50 consecutive pushes without missing.

Photo: Forehand Push (Crosscourt)

Notice the upper body has been tilted to the right and the right leg steps in as the ball is stroked.

Image 1: End of back swing. Racket has been taken back by pulling the forearm back. Racket angle is open.

Image 2: Forward swing. Racket angle has not changed. Right leg begins to step forward at the same time as the forearm begins to push the racket forward.

Image 3: Just before ball contact Racket tip is starting to rotate forward.

Image 4: Follow through. Forearm and upper arm continue to push the racket forward and the racket tip continues to rotate around.

Images 5 & 6: End of stroke. Arm has been almost completely extended been lowered slightly (as shown by position of face). Racket tip is pointing forward. Stroke could actually have ended at Image 5. Racket movement between 5 and 6 is unnecessary.

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The Basic Eight: A Complete Training Program In Only 55 Minutes

Newgy Robo-Pong

As a professional coach, I use my Newgy Robo Pong almost every day. I have found no more efficient teaching tool for introducing new stroke techniques to my students. In fact, many of my students have purchased a Robo Pong for home use. I have developed the following drill program to give my students a complete skills practice session in a short period of time. The program consists of eight drills. Allowing for a few minutes to reset the robot between drills and you can complete the whole program in only 55 minutes.

1. Serve Practice (5 minutes)

It may seem strange to you to start a training program off by practicing serves. However, there is no better way to warm-up your spin touch and hand skills. Simply practice your serves putting emphasis on making as much spin as possible as well as good placement. 

2. Push Practice (5 minutes)

Set your robot to produce backspin and have it oscillate over the whole table. Practice your pushes with both backhand and forehand. Direct your returns to all areas of the table. Don’t forget to vary the spin of your returns and also make both short and long returns. 

3. Loop Practice (10 minutes — 5 minutes with both FH and BH)

Set your robot for backspin and direct the ball to your backhand no oscillation. Using your forehand practice looping and direct your returns to all areas of the table. Start off by making high spin (slower) loops and progress to making faster loop drives. Repeat drill using your backhand

4. Mixed Loop and Push Practice (5 minutes).

Set your robot for backspin and have it oscillate over the whole table. Using both forehand and backhand, alternate loops with pushes. Remember to practice directing your returns over the whole table. 

5. Counter Practice (10 minutes — 5 minutes with both FH and BH)

Set your robot to produce topspin and direct the ball to your forehand with no oscillation. Start off with short blocks and gradually lengthen your stoke to produce a counter drive. Finally, finish off with full kill shots. Once again, practice directing your returns to all parts of the table. Reset the robot to direct the ball to your backhand side and repeat the drill using only backhand. 

6. Movement Drill (5 minutes)

Set your robot for topspin and have it oscillate over one half of the table. Use only forehand strokes and direct your returns to all parts of the table. Concentrate on using proper 2 step movement technique. Also, set the ball feed at a rate that puts you under pressure to move fast enough. 

7. Pivot Drill (5 minutes)

This is also a movement drill. Set your robot for topspin and direct the ball to your wide backhand with no oscillation. This drill consists of making two backhand counters or loops and then pivoting and hitting one forehand from the backhand side (repeat). Both counters and loops strokes should be practiced and your returns should be directed to all areas of the table.

8. Serve Return Drill (5 minutes)

Set your robot to produce a short underspin serve, sidespin can also be added. Oscillate the serves over the whole table. Practice making random drops, flips and long pushes. Emphasis should be placed on making good placements. Try to keep your drops very short and cut the diagonal sidelines with your flips and long pushes. 

At the conclusion of this drill program you will have practiced all the basic skills of the game. Of course your own individual style will determine which advanced skills you also need to train. Use this program several times a week and you will see a quick improvement in your overall game.

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Train Your Chopping Game

Newgy Robo-Pong

 

The best description for the modern chopping style of play is "an attacker who uses an aggressive backspin game to set up his/her own attack." Normally this style of player uses two different surfaces on their rackets, usually one is an inverted rubber and one will be pips-out, either long pips or short.

The returns from such different rubbers can cause the straight topspin attacker a lot of confusion. However, it also demands a great deal of training by the chopper to learn to control the many options he/she has for each stroke. This is especially true at the higher l evels where choppers can flip their rackets at will to produce a large variety of returns and attacking strokes.

I consider the Robo-Pong an indispensable tool in training choppers. The very nature of their games makes it hard to find practice partners who can consistently drill against a good chopper.

While every chopper will use a different blend of offense and defense, here are some good basic drills that I have successfully used in training such choppers as Derek May, Pan Am Games Silver Medallist.

Warming Up Drills 

For all styles of players, I recommend that you warm-up the short strokes first, before trying to hit or chop with longer and harder strokes. These are strokes that consist of using only the wrist and elbow joints. This will help you quickly get into the proper timing and allow you to establish ball control early during your warm-up. For the chopper this means starting off with pushing and blocking drills like the ones listed below:

(Editor's Note: You may wish to browse our Coaching Forum Archives for articles on how to execute a push or block.) Push against

Backspin / Inverted Side Whole Table

Set your Newgy for backspin with the oscillator on 3-4. This will sweep the whole table. Practice using only the inverted side to push, regardless if you use a backhand or forehand. This is great practice for footwork, and for flipping the racket. At the higher levels of the game, most choppers will push primarily with the inverted side.

Push against Backspin / Pips-out Side

Set your Newgy as above, but this time only push with the pips-out side. Be sure to work on keeping the ball low.

Backhand Block / Counter Against Topspin

Set your Newgy on a medium topspin with the oscillator set at 3-4. First, warm-up your counters and blocks with the inverted side. After a few minutes flip and warm-up your pips-out counters and blocks. If you use a chop block now is the perfect time to warm up this stroke as it leads naturally into the chopping strokes.

Choppers often find it difficult to find a practice partner who is steady enough to consistently attack their chops. Over the years, I have coached a number of choppers, among them; Derek May a Pan American Silver Medal winner. In setting up their training plans, working with the Newgy Robo Pong 2000 has always been an essential element of their training. The Robot provides the consistent attack that is necessary for the chopper to work on his/her placement and movement. The Robot is so versatile that an almost limitless variety of drills are possible. Here are a few of the basic drills that I have my chopping students do at each workout.

Drill 1 - Forehand In and Out 

Set your Robot for topspin at a ball speed and feed that is about 75% of what you can comfortably return. Direct the Robot's shots to your forehand with no oscillation. Practice chopping from mid-distance and gradually work your way in towards the table. Repeat moving in and out to practice your ability to take your opponent's ball at different distances from the table. Repeat this drill using your backhand.

Stroke Tip: The closer you are to the table the higher your back swing must start and the shorter and more downward your follow-through. Close to the table your contact point on the ball is towards the middle. When back from the table your contact point is towards the bottom of the ball and your follow-through will be longer and more forward.

Drill 2 - Chopping to a Location 

Set your Robot for topspin at a ball speed and feed that is about 80% of what you can return. Set the Robot on full table oscillation. Practice making all your returns towards one of three positions (deep to forehand or backhand corner, or deep to the middle). Repeat this drill until you have practiced making all returns to each location.

Drill 3 - Covering the Middle 

Set your Robot for topspin at a ball speed and feed that is about 80% of what you can return. Set the Robot to oscillate over one half of the table (positions 2 & 5). Practice taking all your returns with either your forehand or backhand. Focus on getting your body out of the way for the return to your middle. Repeat using both forehand and backhand.

Drill 4 - Serve Return Using One Side of the Racket 

This drill is designed for choppers using two different types of rubber on their rackets. Set your Robot to produce short sidespin-backspin serves. Set the Robot to oscillate over the whole table. Practice receiving all serves with your inverted side of the racket. Repeat using the other side of the racket.

Drill 5 - Chop and Loop Drill 

Set your Robot for topspin at a ball speed and feed that is about 80% of what you can return. Set the Robot to oscillate over the forehand half of your table. Practice mixing your chop returns with forehand loops. Repeat setting the Robot to oscillate over the backhand side of your table. Practice mixing backhand chops with step-round forehand loops.

Drill 6 - Chop Reaction Drill 

Set your Robot for topspin at the maximum ball speed that you can handle with full table oscillation. Start on a slow ball feed and have a helper gradually turn up the feed to the highest speed. Practice on getting your racket on as many balls as possible. Object of this drill is to decrease your reaction time. With practice your will find that you can handle even the highest feed rate.

These are just a few of the chopping drills that are possible on your Newgy Robo-Pong 2000. By using your imagination your will be able to come up with many more. Good luck and Good Chopping!

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Develop Your Push With Robo-Pong

Newgy Robo-Pong

Perhaps the most overlooked stroke in the game is the simple push. The ability to execute a good quality push stroke is critical for players of any style. The push is used to move your opponent around and for returning underspin serves. If you can't produce good spin on your pushes, your opponent will have many opportunities for an easy attack.

The basic elements of a good push stroke are:
  • Make as much friction (spin) contact as possible.
  • Contact the ball as it is descending.
  • Contact the bottom of the ball.
  • Direct the ball to one of three locations:
    1. Deep to the backhand corner
    2. Deep to the forehand corner
    3. Deep into your opponent's playing elbow.
Stroke description:

The push stroke should actually be thought of as an over-the-table chop. It is a short stroke executed with the forearm and wrist. The most common error is to reach too much for the ball and over extend the arm. This causes a loss of control. You need to catch the ball close to the body. Another common fault is to start the stroke with the arm held too high. This will keep you from contacting the bottom part of the ball and producing good spin.

Suggested Practice Session:
  1. First of all, set your Newgy Robot to produce a deep underspin return to your backhand.
    • Practice making as much spin as possible on your pushes (5 min)
    • Practice directing your push to one of the three prime locations listed above. (5min)
    • Practice changing the amount of spin on your returns. Changing the amount of wrist used does this. (5 min)
  2. Now adjust your Newgy Robot to oscillate backspin returns within in your backhand court (oscillator lever positions 3,6 for right-handers; 1,4 for left-handers).
  3. Next repeat the above sequence directing the ball to your forehand side (oscillator lever positions 1,4 for right-handers; 3,6 for left-handers).
  4. Finally, set your Newgy Robot to full table oscillation (oscillator lever positions 3,4) and Repeat the above exercises.
Important Points to Remember:

Good pushes require good footwork. Reaching for the ball will produce weak shots. Both the amount of spin and the location of your push returns are equally important. Good quality pushes will force errors or weak attacks from your opponent.

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Fast Push Techniques

Newgy Robo-Pong

The push is not often thought of as an aggressive tool, but rather as a basic keep-the-ball-in-play stroke. The reason for this is simple. Adding speed to a pushed ball is difficult as underspin causes a ball to rise up during flight. Push too fast and the ball will sail off the end of the table. Because of this, most players emphasize producing heavy backspin (as opposed to fast speed) with their pushes if they want to force errors or weak attacks from their opponents.

Rather than only using heavy spin on your pushes to force weak returns, mixing in a fast push can be a great surprise tactic. Often a surprise fast push will force a weak shot from your opponent and enable you to step-around and attack with a strong forehand loop or kill. Here is how to execute a fast push stroke.

First and foremost, contact the ball at the top of the bounce. Your racket should make friction contact with the ball (spin), contacting the middle of the ball and pushing forward and down. This is very different from producing a spin push where the ball is contacted on the way down and more towards the bottom of the ball.

To practice this shot, set your Newgy Robot to produce a push return and have it oscillate over the entire table (Oscillator Lever positions 3 & 4). Now practice mixing spin pushes with a sudden fast push until you can produce both shots with ease. Good luck and good pushing.

Important Notes: Adding sidespin to this stroke can make it even more effective. Also, when you use the fast push in a game situation, look to attack the next return.

Basic Elements of Push Strokes

Stroke Element Spin Push Fast Push
Timing As ball is descending Top of bounce
Ball Contact Location Bottom of ball Middle of ball
Ball Contact Type 
(Friction or Force)
Friction Friction


(Editor's Note: If you have trouble learning this stroke, you may want to start off with having the robot deliver the ball 12 to 18 inches high above your side of the table. This will allow for a greater margin of error. When you gain consistency with your stroke against a high ball, lower the ball delivery angle a little at a time until you can fast push even a ball that is barely over the net.)

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