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File Photo Credit: John Yeong/SportSG

By Averlynn Lim


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One of the keys to playing a good game of table tennis is having good footwork. Proper footwork would allow you to move more efficiently such that you would be able to execute better, more accurate returns.

There are two main footwork patterns in table tennis, the side to side and in and out. In footwork, its important to always keep your weight on your toes such that your weight is going forwards. The bending of your knees is also essential to lower the centre of gravity and to give you better balance. 

Keeping this in mind this would give you better mobility during a game and allow you to reach your maximum potential. Here are 4 steps to improve your footwork in table tennis.

1. Side to side Footwork 

When to use this? This is the main footwork pattern used in table tennis. 

This is done swiftly when you are close to the table. Always move your outside foot whether you are moving to the left or right.

Starting from your base position, to move from a backhand to a forehand, you move from your left foot to the right foot followed by your left then back to the right foot, creating short quick steps in a shuffling pattern from side to side. 

As for moving from a forehand to a backhand, you start moving your right foot first before your left and then right and lastly left. 

2. In and Out Footwork

When to use this? This is employed to return a short service. 

To make this return, move your body forwards (IN) to reach the ball to play your stroke and afterwards return back (OUT) to the ready position. 

When moving inwards towards the ball, step your right foot forward positioning your right leg under the table. After playing your shot, return back to the base position. 

Your left foot moves followed by the movement of your right foot under the table. After playing your stroke, your right foot then moves back outwards and your left foot returns back to base position. 

Simply put, the footwork is: left, right, right and finally left. 

table tennis footwork activesg

3. Crossover Footwork 

When to use this? When you need to return at a faster pace.

If the ball advances wide to your forehand side, you can use this crossover footwork pattern as it is faster than using the side to side footwork. As the name suggests, your legs cross over each other for you to reach and catch the oncoming ball at a faster pace. 

To move from the backhand side to the wide forehand side, you cross your leg foot wide to the right side. Then using the left foot as a pivot, shift your weight to your left foot. You should transfer your body rightwards and move your right foot across as you play your shot. 

4. One Step Footwork 

When to use this? This is used as a last resort when you have no time to react.

Sometimes during table tennis matches, we may not have much time to react. Therefore, you may be forced to use a one-step movement to move from one position to another. This would generally result in a non-optimal or an awkward position. It is typically used for employing a blocking stroke.

A one step movement is executed by pushing off with a stationary foot into a wider stance followed by playing of the ball and finally returning back to base position for better balance. 

The goal of proper footwork is to position the body in optimal positions before the beginning of a stroke. Footwork should never be neglected during table tennis training. Other than improving your footwork, you may also want to have a look at these solo table tennis drills you can practice without a partner.

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