Table Tennis Footwork (Patterns & Exercises – Ultimate Guide 2022)

Last Updated on July 5, 2022 by Sorin Petroj

What is good table tennis footwork?

What is the best way to improve your footwork?

How do you know which to focus on with all of the different possible training methods you could use?

In table tennis discussions, one of the most often asked questions is related to footwork. Specifically, most players want to know how to achieve faster footwork and get smoother and more accurate during their rallies.

But first, you must understand the importance of footwork in table tennis. The online table tennis lessons are great for improving all aspects of skills.

Why is footwork necessary in table tennis?

Playing table tennis is more than just the eyes, arms, and hands. It also requires selecting good shotsgood footwork, and precise timing when executing the table tennis strokes.

Maintaining a good balance between these three qualities is the key to success in a match. And mastering precision footwork techniques and tactical maneuvering of feet is the key to maintaining that balance effortlessly and consistently throughout the game.

Thus, a table tennis player with good footwork is one step closer to becoming the best. That is why it is crucial to learn good table tennis footwork if you want to compete at a high level.

table tennis footwork chinese player prepare for topspin

Good table tennis footwork helps you create opportunities to score easier. It also enables you to perform better. On the other hand, inadequate footwork can hurt your game and lead to poor performance and failure when competing.

The 5 objectives of table tennis footwork that you should be thinking about time your play a match:

  1. To improve your overall performance.
  2. To position yourself in a manner that enables you to execute better and more efficient shots.
  3. According to your playstyle, improve reflex actions, footwork techniques, strategies, and maneuvers.
  4. To weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of different kinds of footwork when competing.
  5. To prevent possible injury and performance error when making fast movements.

Footwork is so vitally important in the sport of table tennis that I decided to cover it in two separate articles and 11 segments.

 
The first chapter was on table tennis drills for progress, emphasizing the table tennis strokes, forehand and backhand drives, or, to be more precise, developing better wrist movements for serves and returns.

This chapter is a complete guide on table tennis footwork and stance or, more precisely, movement patterns and examines different table tennis exercises to improve footwork.

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Moving forward, you’ll learn the following table tennis footwork basics:

  1. The objective of using footwork drills in table tennis.
  2. The objective of use footwork techniques.
  3. Basic differences between the footwork fundamentals: ‘footwork drills,’ ‘footwork techniques,’ and ‘footwork patterns.’
  4. The basic types of footwork patterns and sequences.
  5. The objective and benefits of each of the basic footwork patterns.
  6. A proper way of executing each of the basic footwork patterns.
  7. The basic rule for improving your table tennis footwork.
  8. The six table tennis footwork drills and exercises for building the proper footwork.
  9. Essential tips for table tennis footwork training drills for success.
  10. The mistake to avoid when training for table tennis footwork.
  11. The key points and the way forward to progress.

Understanding The Objectives of Table Tennis Footwork Drills

What is a footwork drill?

A footwork drill is a targeted way of learning to move quickly and changing directions needed to make efficient returns and serves. It is the second step for conditioned players to master after conditioning the stroke drills or drill hittings.

Table tennis footwork drills help players implement good footwork in the actual match. Thus, players should practice footwork drills to learn and improve their footwork skills, not to compete in the real game.

Understanding The Objectives of Table Tennis Footwork Techniques

What is a footwork technique?

Professional players and successful athletes execute different tactical foot movements based on their gameplay and challenge and gain competitive advantages over their opponents.

These tactical movements work as footwork techniques in challenging situations, helping them gain power and dominance/confidence when competing in a rally or a match.

What’s The Difference Between Footwork Drills and Footwork Techniques in Table Tennis?

The term ‘footwork drill’ and ‘footwork technique’ is often used interchangeably. But, there are some key differences between them.

The objective of footwork drills is to learn and practice movements. Footwork techniques aim to implement tactical movement strategies during the match.

Before mastering the footwork drills and techniques, beginners and advanced players should learn and practice the fundamental types of footwork patterns.

Understanding The Footwork Pattern in Table Tennis

What is a footwork pattern?

In simple terms, it means the types of movements used in table tennis as the following:

  • Most blockers play close to the table for smashing. But smart blockers tend to use small jumps and one-step movements laterally or sidewise for executing the smash.
  • Most loopers play further back from the table. But smart loopers tend to move by covering great distances, which helps them load bigger forehand loops and execute big topspins.

 

  • Defensive choppers are usually at the returning side of the table. They will try to outrun the opponents’ offensive actions by executing clever shots or forcing the opponent to make an error. A tactical defender waits for the attacker before executing chopping tactics ( heavy spinny loops and serving deep balls). And while waiting for the attacker, the defender move by making small sets of two-step movements or by implementing the table tennis In and Out footwork pattern in table tennis.
  • Modern table tennis requires adapting to different approaches and executing strategies based on the challenge. And a strategic player will use a range of footwork patterns and jump sets based on the game situation and challenge.

Here is an example of how a top-level athlete executes a footwork technique by using a range of patterns when facing a challenge

 
An intelligent table tennis player will study the blocker’s movement to outrun a blocker. He would be playing close to the table, but it’s crucial to identify if he’s playing cross-court (diagonally) or down the line.

To beat cross-court shots, you’ll need to hit deeper. The best way to do so is to position yourself closer to the table. On the other hand, you will need to change your direction to your backhand side if the blocker plays down the line.

Now that you know the common types of movement in table tennis and why it’s crucial to learn the basic footwork patterns, it’s time to get back to the question.

What are the basic footwork patterns in table tennis, and what are the proper ways of executing the patterns?

Over the years, table tennis has developed nomenclatures for different aspects, including the footwork in table tennis. And these days, there are four footwork pattern titles commonly known as the basic table tennis footwork patterns.

In the upcoming section, I’ve compiled the list of all of the table tennis footwork patterns with brief explanations of the sequences and the purposes and benefits of using the patterns.

The Basic Types of Table Tennis Footwork Patterns and Stances

1. The Ready Position or Ready Stance Footwork

Description: The ready position in table tennis is a neutral stance that serves as the base for all other footwork patterns and movement execution. It is the most basic type of footwork for table tennis – Chinese footwork part 1.

Objective: The ready position/ready stance helps players position themselves on the court and makes themselves ready for serving balls or returning the serves.

The Ready Position or Ready Stance Footwork

Execution: 

  1. Stand mid-distance or an arm’s length from the table; about 20 inches.
  2. Move your feet shoulder-width apart, about 14.5 – 16.1 inches apart.
  3. Bend your knees 120 degrees or proportionate to the length of your arm from the table.
  4. Lean forward to an optimum level where you feel you can move fast or with 50-50 proportional weight on the heels and the balls of your feet.
  5. Bend your arms at a 90-degree angle by your side
  6. Strike or bat in a neutral position, forward or backward.

2. The Side to Side Footwork Pattern

Description: A side-to-side footwork pattern in table tennis is a type of lateral movement – moving left to right and vice versa. It is the most common footwork in table tennis. Good side-to-side footwork in table tennis is about maintaining small stepping/jumping motions laterally and when executing shots. It is also known as side by side footwork pattern.

Objective: The goal of the side-to-side footwork pattern is to develop balance and weight transfer to your dominant foot during a match. Developing a good side-to-side pattern helps players move/jump swiftly left to right, right to the left, and up and back at any given moment during a match play.

Execution

  1. Stand on the right-hand side or the left-hand side of the table. For instance, you may stand on the left side of the table if you are a right-hander.
  2. Go to the primary ready position as we explained above.
  3. Weighing on your dominant foot (suppose right foot), hit the ball.
  4. Wait for a split second, move to the center of gravity between your feet, and hit the ball.
  5. Move to the right side and hit the ball.

REMEMBER:

If you develop an excellent side-by-side pattern, you will be able to transfer your weight efficiently from one foot to another as your move sidewise when hitting the ball. And the key to transferring your weight from one foot to another as you move side to side is to make small jumps or shuffles as you move to the center of gravity from your dominant feet to the center and vice versa.

When practicing the side-to-side table tennis footwork pattern, it is essential to wait for split seconds as you move sidewise and hit the ball.

Feed balls gently with the racket and make small movements or small jumps/hops in the following sequence: left to right > center of gravity between your feet > right to the left and vice versa.

3. In-and-Out or Forward and Backward Footwork Pattern

Description: In and out is a two-step movement pattern in table tennis requiring a player to move forward (closer to the table) and backward (farther from the table) and vice versa. It is also known as a two-step footwork pattern, ‘on-and-off,’ and forward and backward.

Players use this primary type of footwork pattern when serving forehand and backhand and moving close to and far to the table and vice versa in a rhythmic fashion.

Objective: This footwork pattern aims to develop a better stance when moving forward (close to the table) and backward (far from the table) when serving forehand and backhand.

Execution

Follow these steps when executing forehand stokes for moving both forward and backward.

  • Start with a good ready position (as we explained above).
  • Keep your left foot bent slightly forward, closer to the table, and your right foot backward.
  • Hit the ball at peak.
  • Get back to your ready stance by making quick jumps with your right foot.

Follow these steps when executing backhand strokes.

  • Start with the basic ready stance.
  • Keep your right foot bent slightly forward, and your left foot bent slightly backward.
  • Feed the ball forwards.
  • Get back to your ready stance by making quick jumps with your right foot.

REMEMBER:

When executing forehand and backhand drives, it is best to put weight on your left toe, as in, push your left foot to the ground and make the quick jump with your right foot both when moving forward and backward.

Move laterally (side to side) between the above steps when practicing the in and out or forward and backward footwork pattern. Always return to the center of gravity of your feet by making quick and small jumps.

4. Table Tennis Crossover or Crosscourt Footwork Pattern

Description: Players sometimes need to use the Crossover footwork pattern rather than the table tennis side-to-side footwork. Unlike side-to-side movement, crossover footwork requires the player to use fast-running motion rather than jumping sidewise.

Players use this table tennis basic footwork to run quickly across the service or baseline. The crossover pattern of footwork in table tennis is also sometimes known as the cross-court footwork because the player has to hit cross-court or crossover shots (balls approaching diagonally across the table)

 
Objective: The use of the crossover footwork pattern is to reach and hit long/wide balls by running fast to the alley and back to the baseline as fast as possible. Crossover helps players win points and recover when hitting hard-to-reach or cross-court shots during a match.

Execution

  • Twist/rotate your hip slightly to your dominant side by bending your knees. If you are a right-handed player, twist your hip to the forehand side, which is your right side.
  • Hit the ball as you land your feet on the ground.
  • Get back to the neutral stance fast.

REMEMBER:

When practicing the crossover footwork, try hitting balls simultaneously and consistently in a running motion, both forehands, and backhands. But when competing in an actual match, it is best to hit the ball when your feet are on the ground rather than in a running motion.

Hit the ball deep and heavy to your opponent’s side when serving a crossover shot, and this is a great way to make your opponent get off balance. But don’t rush when reaching out and executing the shot.

The key is to run toward the approaching ball quickly, estimate the time you require to land on your feet and execute the shot with power by transferring weight to your dominant side.

How to Improve Table Tennis Footwork?

Coaches design table tennis footwork training programs and exercises for beginner and intermediate players to develop good footwork fast. But the basic rule of improving table tennis footwork is to commit to a step-by-step process of building footwork skills.

Here are the four steps that players of any level, both beginners and intermediates, can follow and develop good footwork skills for the match:

  • 1:  Learn the particular objectives and benefits of the basic types of footwork patterns in the sport of table tennis (as explained in the above segment of this article).
  • 2: Practice and master the basic footwork patterns.
  • 3: Practice targetted footwork drills and exercises based on playstyle and situations.
  • 4: The final step is when you can develop your own set of footwork drills based on your playstyle (aggressive/defensive) and implement the proper table tennis footwork confidently in the actual match.

In this following section, you’ll get a brief overview of the basic table tennis footwork drills that can help improve your movement consistencies and ball control while using different stances.

The Six Table Tennis Footwork Drills and Exercises

#1. Shadow Footwork Drills

Shadow drill is one of the best table tennis footwork drills and most recommended. It is a basic yet very effective table tennis footwork drill that you can practice without any equipment and even alone; without a partner!

#2. Systematic Forehand and Backhand Footwork Drills

When footwork training, develop a movement sequence for forehand and backhand drives. The forehand and the table tennis backhand footwork pattern require moving your right foot fast. This will require pushing your left foot on the ground.

Pushing your left foot on the ground or putting weight on your left toe will help you move with your right foot both forward and backward fast. However, push your right foot to the ground, as in, transfer your weight on your right toe when stepping back. Also, the left foot will follow naturally when jumping backward.

#3. Random or Semi-Systematic Footwork Drills

Random drills or semi-systemic footwork exercises are about undertaking a range of different drills without knowing where the ball will land. The best way to practice this type of footwork drill is to use a table tennis robot. For example, you can set it to fire random shots.

#4. Falkenburg Footwork Drills

Falkenburg drill is one of the most rigorous yet highly-effective table tennis footwork exercises to help tune your balance to execute the shots and make precise movements throughout the match.

This type of drill requires executing all the four types of basic footwork patterns that we discussed above. The ready stance, side to side, in-and-out, and the crossover while executing both forehand and backhand drives.

#5. Table Tennis Forehand Loop Footwork Drills

It is a type of crossover footwork drill that you can practice. To perform the footwork for a table tennis forehand loop, you’ll start with your right foot behind your left and move backward. The left leg will come forward in a long step creating the angle of your stance around 45 degrees (with an angle of 90 degrees being square to the table).

The right foot will push hard off the table and remain in contact with the floor. The right leg should rise upwards at an angle and go above the left leg. At the same time, with the movement of the right foot forwards and upwards, the upper body should also lean back on that side.

#6. Table Tennis Doubles Footwork Drills

Learning this footwork technique can be a daunting task, especially when considering your partner. For beginner players and even experienced ones, the biggest thing to remember is that usually, you need to play against two opponents at once.

That means that you have to consider your opponent’s actions, but you also need to factor in your own partner’s responses. If you want to be good at this type of footwork, you should first concentrate on mastering the basics. I recommend that you go over the basics of singles table tennis footwork as that knowledge is also apt to apply.

Table Tennis Footwork Training Tips for Success

Here I have compiled a list of four essential tips for developing good footwork at a match:

  1. Build good balance and weight transference

One of the key elements for top-level table tennis footwork is to traverse the court as quickly and efficiently as possible. You must have a good balance and weight transference between your feet. Both of these qualities are, in turn, dependent on your lower limb strength and knee drive.

Table Tennis Footwork Training Tips for Success stance and ready position

Thus, excellence in footwork starts with balance and lower body strength. Your game will become more powerful and dynamic by developing your knee drive and weight transfer from one leg to the other.

Keep reading to learn the basic rule of weight transfer when practicing table tennis footwork patterns.

How to transfer your weight effectively when practicing footwork?

The golden rule to start with the weight transfer from one leg to the other is to put 70% of your body mass to the right foot and 30% to the left foot during movements.

And a successful weight transfer in between your feet and legs is when you can hit the incoming balls weighing 50/50 on your left and right foot.

  1. Keep the balls of your feet pushed to the ground when standing

Putting the body mass on the balls of your feet when standing or pushing the ball of a foot on the ground helps you move fast. It increases your agility when moving. It also helps to react efficiently to any situation.

  1. Visualize the footwork techniques and strokes

If you want to improve your table tennis footwork, a fast way to do it is by visualizing specific table tennis strokes (like crossover strokes) and multiple scenarios. Visualization is a simple technique that can help you prepare and strategize table tennis drills for footwork.

To start with the visualization technique, go to a quiet room and visualize the basic footwork patterns covered in this article. Next, imagine executing forehand and backhand drives using a range of systematic patterns.

  1. Practice makes you better; so practice consistently and devote time

The true essence of footwork in table tennis is to train your legs to quickly get around the table, as in practicing your footwork.

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While some players, including the Chinese National Team, train their players 12 hours per day on the court, others might not be able to do so much due to jobs or school. As long as you have 4-6 hours per week to devote to footwork drills, you will be able to see improvements in your speed on the table and ability to play longer rallies.

Most intermediate players can improve their footwork in less than two months. They do this with a consistent focus on practicing the table tennis footwork patterns and training the drills as explained above.

The Mistake to Avoid When Training for Developing Good Footwork

The biggest problem when training footwork is that many try to learn it by watching a table tennis footwork video and following the footwork of top players.

Of course, tips and tricks from many of the best table tennis players in the world can give you insights. But, this can often lead to ineffective training due to different playing styles. The most important part of improving your footwork is analyzing your footwork and deciding what works for you.

I have seen many beginners searching for the best footwork drills and techniques that have helped professional players. They think that working on these techniques and drills alone will help them progress.

But, that rarely happens, and it does not have to be the case if you start with analyzing your own footwork and deciding what works best for you to move fast. This makes you more functional and competitive when rallying in the match.

Wrapping Up: The Key Points and The Way Forward to Progress

The bottom line for table tennis footwork is that one must be fluid in motion and have quick reactions. Being inflexible, leisurely in your movements, and overly slow will make the game very difficult to win.

The Key Points and The Way Forward to Progress table tennis footwork

The rewards of improving one’s skill with their feet in the game of ping pong are well worth the effort. So, how can you get better?

First, know that the most effective footwork is often rooted in a good stance.

But beyond that, there are some simple drills and exercises that anyone can use to improve their footwork. Whether you’re practicing your forehand, backhand, or serve – always remember that your feet are there for a reason: to help you reach your destination more effectively.

This table tennis footwork tutorial was designed to give you a simple framework for improving your game through stellar footwork.

 

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