Drills for Learning the Penhold Reverse Backhand

Newgy Robo-Pong

In my last article, we discussed the techniques involved in executing the Penhold Reverse Backhand. Hopefully, you have had a chance to study the accompanying videos and to practice both the counter and loop strokes. Now you are ready for some drills to help you begin to incorporate this highly effective technique into your own game. How often you will choose to use this stroke depends on two things. 

First, how competent you become in executing the strokes. You may simply want to use the Penhold Reverse Backhand as a change of pace to disrupt your opponent’s timing. Or you may find it comfortable to switch randomly between the Penhold Traditional Backhand and the Reverse Backhand. You may even become more confident in the Reverse Backhand and use it as your main stroke. 

Secondly, the style you play may determine the amount you want to use this stroke. The Reverse Backhand is ideal for the mid-distance looping game. Using this new technique helps the penhold player match the two-winged attack of the shakehands player without having to cover most of the court with the forehand. In contrast, a pips-out penhold hitter will probably use the Reverse Backhand to open points and then quickly revert to the Traditional Backhand. The possibilities for the use of this stroke are limited only by your skill and imagination.

Here are six Robot Drills to help get you started with some of the stroke combinations you might want to use. Once again, Phillip Gustavson (Atlanta, GA) is helping us by demonstrating these drills in the video clips.

Drill #1 – Alternate Traditional Backhand Pushes with Reverse Backhand Loops. 

Set your robot to deliver a long backspin ball to your backhand corner. Push two balls, and then produce a Reverse Backhand Loop. Remember to move back into the ready position after you push so that you will not be too close to the table to loop. 

Drill #2 - Continuous Reverse Backhand Counter Drives with Change of Direction.

Set your robot to deliver a long topspin ball to your backhand corner. Using the Reverse Backhand Counter, alternate your returns crosscourt and down-the-line. Remember to contact the outside edge (left side of oncoming ball for right-handers) of the ball to place the ball crosscourt. Contact the inside edge (right side of oncoming ball for right-handers) to place the ball down the line. 

Drill #3 – Mixed Traditional Backhands with Reverse Backhand Counter Drives. 

Set your robot to deliver a long topspin ball to your backhand corner. Execute two Traditional Backhand counters or blocks, then one Reverse Backhand counter. 

Drill #4 - Continuous Reverse Backhand Loop with Change of Direction. 

Set your robot to deliver a long topspin ball to your backhand corner. Using a Reverse Backhand Loop, alternate your returns crosscourt and down-the-line. Like the previous drill, remember to contact the outside and inside edges of the ball to control your placement. 

Drill # 5 – Continuous Forehand and Reverse Backhand Counters or Loops Against Random Feed. 

Set your robot to deliver long topspin returns on full oscillation. Execute continuous counterdrives or loops using your regular forehand strokes and only the Reverse Backhand stroke.

Drill # 6 - Mixed Backhand Returns with Forehand Pivot.

Set your robot to deliver a long topspin ball to your backhand corner. This is a three shot drill. First, execute a Traditional Backhand counter or block, then execute a Reverse Backhand loop or counter, then pivot into your backhand side and execute a forehand attack (hit or loop). 

Coaches Note: Start each of these drills with as slow a ball speed and frequency as necessary until you can execute the drill at an 80% success rate. Then increase the ball frequency and/or speed and repeat the drill.

These drills will help give you the skills necessary to start using the Penhold Reverse Backhand in your game. The next step is to begin working with a training partner and practicing using the stroke within the normal sequence of shots in a game. By this I mean, using the Reverse Backhand for serve returns, third ball attack, 4th ball counter-attack, and 5th ball attack.  

The Penhold Reverse Backhand has begun to revolutionize the penhold styles of play. Get in on the fun by adding this new stroke to your game. 

Good Luck. 

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The Penhold Reverse Backhand

Newgy Robo-Pong

Traditionally, penhold players used just one side of their racket, held in a pen like grip. This grip produces a very strong forehand style of play with a rather cramped, less versatile backhand.

Perhaps the most innovative new stroke technique of the last ten years has been the development of the Penhold Reverse Backhand. First made famous by former Olympic and World Champion, Liu Guoliang, this stroke has now become standard fare for almost all penhold players.

This stroke has revolutionized the penhold style by allowing penhold players to develop backhand techniques that are as strong as their shakehands counterparts. The advantages of this stroke are:

  • The ability to produce a true backhand loop
  • The ability to extend the reach of the backhand stroke
  • The ability to use rubbers of different surfaces
  • The ability to easily attack high balls with the backhand
Stroke Description

The name of the stroke, the Reverse Backhand, describes the stroke. Using the traditional penhold grip, the racket’s regular playing surface is rotated towards the player, which makes the reverse side (backhand side) point towards the opponent. The player then executes a very traditional backhand stroke, loop or counter.

Learning the Stroke

When first learning this stroke, you will probably find the wrist position somewhat awkward. However, it should not take long before it begins to feel natural. Your Newgy Robot is the perfect practice partner when learning this or any new stroke technique.

Key Stroke Elements:
  • While either Chinese or Japanese Penhold grips can be used. Most players will extend the fingers (Japanese style) when using the Reverse Backhand Stroke.
  • Do not over use the wrist. This stroke is mostly executed by extending the forearm.
  • Contact the ball early. The natural wrist position for this stroke puts the racket in a closed position. You can lay the wrist back a little by pushing with your thumb. With this in mind, contact your loop against backspin at the top of the bounce. Contact your counter drives when the ball is on the rise.

Ten years ago, many coaches felt that the penhold style of play would soon die out as the backhand was just not strong enough to keep pace with the development of the strong backhand loops of the shakehand players. The Reverse Penhold Backhand has changed all that. Players such as Ma Lin and Wang Hao of China, exponents of this new style, are at the top of the World Rankings.

Regardless of your level of play, if you are a penholder, you should strive to add this new technique to your game. It will open up a new world of possibilities for your style and your opponents will not know what hit them.

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