Usually table tennis players play about 60% forehands and 40% backhands. This allows them to cover the table as best as they can.
However not every player is equal because they have different styles, fitness level, flexibility etc.
Because the forehand area is larger than the backhand, most players train in the style of the forehand footwork or full table footwork. Rarely do players train their backhand footwork.
Now the differences between forehand and backhand hitting zones
The forehand hitting zone is taller, deeper and wider. With the ability to reach slightly up or down or leaning in, your stroke is taller and wider.
The the ability to hit the forehand shot slightly behind. beside or in front of your body, the forehand hitting zone is deeper.
However it is different for the backhand. The backhand hitting zone is short, narrow, and shallow.
With the primary snap coming from the wrist and forearm, you lose about 75% of your speed, spin, and control when reaching or leaning.
The depth is more sensitive because your body is in the way; so hitting beside or behind your body is nearly impossible.
With a smaller hitting zone on the backhand, I think that you now can understand why backhand footwork is important!
It is very important to expand the hitting zone. That powerful backhand rip that you have is only possible in your zone. Top table tennis players won’t often hit to your zone. So you need to move your zone to the ball instead of waiting for the ball to hit your zone.
Here are a few backhand footwork drills that I love:
Drill #1 (beginner level)
The blocker gives you one ball to the middle and one ball to the backhand; you continuously attack to the backhand.
This drill will help you establish the base movement.
Position your body about two feet from the table. Stay slightly on your toes and slightly on the inside of your feet. By keeping your racket in-front, your body weight should be leaning forward. As soon as you attack the first ball, shuffle into position for the next hit. Target hitting ten balls each rally, that’s a good goal.
If you are consistently make ten shots, then increase the speed slightly.
Drill #2 (intermediate level)
The blocker gives you very slow blocks to the backhand 50% of the table. You continuously attack to the backhand.
Focus on watching your opponent’s racket so that you can predict where the incoming ball will likely hit. As the ball approaches, watch the incoming ball until you make contact.
If you move correctly and the ball is in your hitting zone, then hit with moderate power.
If you did not get in the correct position, then hit with less power.
The drill is excellent for developing your ability to watch, your ability to move, and most importantly your ability to adjust your power based on your zone. In table tennis matches, you need to decide if you should go strong or if you should just play control.
Your ability to make that critical choice, will be the difference this year in winning and losing.
Drill #3 (Advanced Level)
The blocker gives you variation blocks to the backhand 60% of the table – sometimes he blocks very soft and sometimes he applies a bit of pressure. You continuously attack one ball to the backhand and one ball to his forehand.
The reason that this drill is so difficult is because you must adjust to various speeds of the block, you must hit to various locations, and you must adjust to balls coming from various locations to the backhand 50% of the table. For this drill, target hitting 7-8 balls each rally.
If you are missing before 7-8 balls, then ask the blocker to go slower until you get the hang of it.
Drill #4 (Advanced Level)
The blocker serves short to your forehand. You step forward, lean over the table, and backhand banana flip to his backhand.
He blocks quickly to either corner, then the drill turns into a free point, where both players can hit to any location. I see that many table tennis players are trying to develop the backhand banana flip; it really is a good shot.
As a deterrent for this, many opponents are now serving to the short forehand.
Backhand flipping this serve is great, but only if you have backhand footwork and are able to move for the next shot.
Drill #5 (Pro level drill)
The blocker serves backspin long to the backhand or short backspin to the forehand.
If the blocker serves long, then the drill begins immediately.
If the blocker serve short to the forehand, then he can push up to five more times short to the forehand before pushing sharp to the backhand.
Now that the drill has started, you attack deep to the blocker’s backhand continuously for 2-10 attacks.
When you choose to attack down-the-line, then the blocker counterloops crosscourt and the drill turns into a free point with both players hitting anywhere.
As you can see, backhand footwork is important. By watching your opponent, adjusting with your feet, adjusting your racket, and making good decisions, you will be well on your way to a stronger backhand this year. As with any skill, it takes time. Continuously practicing these table tennis skills again and again, and trying them out in matches again and again, will lead to success.
Tools to improve footwork
20ft Agility Ladder & Speed Cones Training Set – Exercise Workout Equipment To Boost Fitness & Increase Quick Footwork – Kit for Soccer, Lacrosse, Hockey & Basketball – With Carry Bag & Drill Charts
Crown Sporting Goods Hexagonal Ladder Set, Fluorescent Orange – Plyometric Hex Speed Rings for Agility Footwork Training & Vertical Jump Workouts, Features 6-Rungs of Hexes