Breaking Longstanding Bad Footwork Habits

Table Tennis Footwork

Last updated 6 years ago

Lou Rowan

Lou Rowan Asked 10 years ago

Many of us older average players came to the "real" game after decades of "garage" table tennis, and don't move naturally the way kids who learned skills from the beginning do.  In the heat of games we continue the lunging, off-balance stuff--even though we don't want to.  It's a little like a hesitant ballroom dancer, who just can't catch the beat and get going. What can I do to "unstick" legs unaccustomed to bouncing sideways  and facing the ball?



Lou Rowan 

Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb Answered 10 years ago

Great question Lou. We find that many players find the sideways shuffle a strange way to move. The key is start very slowly and simply. In fact to start learning the correct movement, you can have a training partner throw you a ball to one position and then after you hit the ball back they wait for you to make the correct movement to a new position, and then throw another ball. Practicing this over and over will help you get accustomed to the movement.

As you get more comfortable with the movement, you can then have your training partner hit the ball to you, and eventually you can get faster and faster. Of course all of this takes a lot of time to get right. It's easy to write the steps down but the real key is putting in the time.

We've filmed a video response which elaborates on some of these points. Let me know what you think and if it helps.

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Thoughts on this question

Jon Ferguson

Jon Ferguson Posted 10 years ago

I am in my early '50's, with an old injury to my right knee.

I switched to long pimples on b/h some years ago, in order to slow the game down, through chopping the ball.

I find that has given me an edge in my game, as long as I don't move too far from the table, and has reduced the pressure on my footwork.

Ujjal Chatterjee

Ujjal Chatterjee Posted 10 years ago

Good footwork is the key to good Table Tennis. Your video is well explained and undoubtedly it will help the coaches to improve the footwork of the trainees. Yes, it will take time but once it comes into natural flow, the game will improve.

Thanks & regards. 

Ricky G

Ricky G Posted 10 years ago

Abdusalam Green

Abdusalam Green Posted 10 years ago

I really liked the tip to think about moving your legs first THEN the stroke... Simple but effective... Thanks

Arthur Rentz

Arthur Rentz Posted 10 years ago

I think this is very good, but my game is mostly played as doubles. how can you move across the table like this and not get in your partners way?

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 10 years ago

You both have to move together to stay out of each others way.

Ronald Taylor

Ronald Taylor Posted 10 years ago

I noticed Jeff's right foot turned fully parallel to the table end line when the pace was increased and skitter (like a bar is between knees) vs shufle (left moving fully to right then right to right) step was done.  I thought the right foot was to be half a foot further back than the left (right-hander) and nearly perpendicular to the table end line.  If parallel, seems to put more stress on right inside knee but I see this right foot position in lots of top level video play.  What is the reason?


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 10 years ago

Hi Ronald,

The jump is more efficient.  Being square on allows you to play both forehand and backhand.  The game is getting too fast to turn your legs between shots too much.

Ahmed Anter

Ahmed Anter Posted 10 years ago

How can I beat a player with a fantom rubber?

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 10 years ago

This poses a problem with footwork because you need to be able to move in and out well because the ball stops with the Long pimples.

We have a lesson in our Match Strategy lesson on Playing Against Long Pimples.

mat huang

mat huang Posted 10 years ago

Very good video answer! I have the same problem and i'm a junior... But Alois, in match situation you don't always get time to move your feet and then your arm because it is very fast. Shouldn't you make your backswing WHILE moving?

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 10 years ago

Yes you can get your bat into the ready position as you move.  This will give you more time to play the shot when you get into position.

Vijay Madge

Vijay Madge Posted 10 years ago

Can it be, Alois, that we older players tend to stand erect rather than bend down with feet well spread out and hence experience difficulty in moving correctly and in time? This often results in getting ourselves hopelessly locked up. Since I am practicing footwork with my partner/trainer, I find bending down helps quite a lot and we can easily complete the semi-circle around the table. By the way, my next tourney is on 26/7 August. Let's see how I fare this time. Your video like all your explanations is of invaluable assistance in improving one's game. Thanks. 

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 10 years ago

The knee bend does make a big difference to movement.

Good luck with the next tournament.

Ahmed Anter

Ahmed Anter Posted 10 years ago

I am 42.

I hadn't  entered any table tennis club before i started 6 months ago. 

Like a lot of people who play well in the local hall and imagine that they can won some real championships. I boldly told the club coach that i would like to join his team. He was so practical and answered look there to these two players. If you are as good as they I would accept you.they refused to play with me after playing some counter hits. Finally they called a 10 year player to try me.I beat him something like 17-15in a one set game .when he could not convince me that there was no chance he called another 17-year player. He beat me easily  3 sets to 1 .he impatiently and decisively pointed out that it was enough.when I went sadly to change my clothes, the player asked me what club I play fori realised that i can be like those club players one day. I didn't give up and continued my adventure.


Abdusalam Green

Abdusalam Green Posted 10 years ago

@Ahmad Anter... I'm 52, started about 6 months ago... Thanks for the inspiration

Ahmed Anter

Ahmed Anter Posted 10 years ago

Hi Abdusalam

very happy to hear from you , my coleague did you start table tennis or going to clubs , 6 months?

Abdusalam Green

Abdusalam Green Posted 10 years ago

@Ahmad... I start playing table tennis. I haven't approached a club yet.

Ahmed Anter

Ahmed Anter Posted 10 years ago

Abdulsalam great I hope you find your way to improve your game.By the way this website is wonderful and can give you tons of useful information.

Ardak .

Ardak . Posted 10 years ago

Thank you, coaches! Very helpfull and  usefull information,video. 

Linda Odom

Linda Odom Posted 8 years ago

great info thanks!


Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 8 years ago

Thanks Linda.

Michael Wadick

Michael Wadick Posted 8 years ago

It is a great video and very helpful. I'd also love to see one moving from side to side for backhand and forehand where your feet (hopefully I know this much :)) are a bit different.



Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 8 years ago

Hi Michael,

Thanks.  Glad you liked it.  We do show this drill in our Training Secrets lessons.  They are Premium so maybe down the track this is something that you can watch.

Kaustubh Kulkarni

Kaustubh Kulkarni Posted 8 years ago

Great explanation. I always move my hand towards the ball first. From today I shall try to move legs first as described in the video. 

jamsheed nakhkoob

jamsheed nakhkoob Posted 8 years ago

thanks very useful

Richard Lieberman

Richard Lieberman Posted 8 years ago

It seems that Jeff always initiates with his right foot;  whether he is moving left or right.  Am I seeing things?

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 8 years ago

Hi Richard,

Yes he does.  This is just a preference and a balancing up before movement.  I tend to initiate with my leading foot.

Johannes Tan

Johannes Tan Posted 7 years ago

Great explanation with leg movement fist, then hitting the ball second, thanks! But how to determine whether to move the legs to the left and still hit an inside-out forehand *or* simply stand in the middle and hit a cross-table backhand? In a real game, doesn't the cross-table backhand save time and energy? Sorry if this is a foolish question, but I'm new in table tennis and am just trying to understand it from the lawn tennis perspective. 

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 7 years ago

Hi Johannes,

You are right the backhand is important to implement in the game situation.  The footwork though is important for all movements.  Even if you are moving across the table to switch between forehand and backhand, you need to apply the same principles.

Johannes Tan

Johannes Tan Posted 7 years ago

Thanks Alois! The more tools in the toolbox...


MD SHAKEB Posted 7 years ago

I too have bad footwork and working hard to improve it, I believe that your suggestion to move legs first then strike the ball will help me, I will practise in this way, Thanks a lot guys for your priceless suggestions

Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb from PingSkills Posted 7 years ago

You're welcome @MD Shakeb. Let me know if your footwork improves after you get more opportunities to practice this.

martinand bernard

martinand bernard Posted 7 years ago

without the bat ,a basket in front of your body, you move to catch the balls into, the basket don't move, only with the footwork

kathy mckelvey

kathy mckelvey Posted 7 years ago

Good. Footwork and balance is important  I'm trying to hit the ball while moving which does not work  when I miss.  do iI Need to be stationary when I return the ball?  

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 7 years ago

Hi Kathy,

Yes it is important to be stopped when you are actually making the stroke.  Take a look at the lesson on Footwork Basics which shows you the stopping that needs to happen.

Kurt Zasadil

Kurt Zasadil Posted 6 years ago

Besides the great advice given by J and A,  I love my robot (newgy 2050) for drilling footwork.  I warm up with two balls to backhand at deep backhand and center.  Then the same drill for forehand.  These two use small steps.  With the robot and the catch net,  I don't worry about the ball so much as to make sure I'm moving my feet to set-up well instead of reaching.  I go back to the backhand box but I turn for the forehand attack.  When I'm good and warmed up (already tired),  I go to the king,  the Falkenberg or deep backhand,  center forehand,  deep forehand drill.  When done multiball style,  it will expose any and all lack of set-up,  footwork or balance.  Hey Jeff and Alois,   how about a video on how to get the most out of the falkenberg?

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 6 years ago

Sounds like you like the Falkenberg drill Kurt.  We do cover it in our Training Secrets section in the Footwork Drills tutorial.

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