As one of table tennis’s most critical fundamental shots, the backhand drive is often taught after the forehand drive. Mastering both shots can significantly improve a player’s overall game and greatly make a beginner more interested in table tennis.
When I first learned table tennis in primary school, I practiced the forehand and backhand drive for the entire first semester. My coach always told me: “The more solid a player’s fundamentals are, the more likely they are to be successful in the long run.”
Our previous blog introduced how to play the forehand drive in table tennis. You can click the link to make a reference. Also, we have discussed how to improve the table tennis skill from the perspective of power, speed and spin.
What is backhand drive in table tennis?
How to play a backhand drive in table tennis?
Basic Forehand Drive Technique
The ready position of the backhand drive is similar to that of the forehand drive. Players should stand in line with the table, with the feet shoulder-width apart and the non-dominant foot slightly behind the dominant one.
Keep the knees slightly bent and the weight evenly distributed between your feet. The elbows should be bent with the arms in front of the body. This gives players a good range of motion and enables them to reach for the ball.
As the ball approaches, move your feet to get into the right position and keep your eye on the ball. Then, rotate your shoulder and pivot on your back foot, bringing your paddle close to your body and facing upwards. This is somehow like playing boxing, as players need a distance to generate more power both for a punch and for a backhand drive.
The length of the backswing will vary depending on the speed and spin of the incoming ball, but generally, a larger backswing generates more power. Players need to practice and predict the proper length of the backswing.
Hit the ball
This step requires a combination of timing, technique, and body control. As the ball reaches its peak, start moving your arm forward, bringing the paddle to meet the ball. Generally speaking, unless the ball is backspin, the proper timing to hit it is during its peak. Because at this time, the speed is slowest with less spin.
Hit the ball forward. Beginners can start by returning the ball with a crossed line, which means the ball will fall at the backhand area of the opponent as well. Later they can gradually change the ball’s direction and return to the forehand area to learn to control the ball better.
After making contact with the ball, following through with your shot and completing the motion is important. I have noticed that lots of beginners stopped their motion at the point of contact with the ball. Many times the ball will fail to go over the net. To finish the motion, the racket should continue on its path until it finishes outside your body line.
Players should restore after every single stroke to prepare for the next shot. Sometimes when we are not ready for the next stroke, the opponents can make use of it with a super fast stroke and win the point. Thus, even today, after 20 years of training, I still tell myself during the match: Restore quickly!
After making a backhand drive shot, players should quickly lower the racket and get back into a ready position with the feet shoulder-width apart, and the knees slightly bent, as we discussed in the second step.
3 Advanced Tips-How to Perform A Powerful Backhand Drive in Ping Pong
Incorporate Your Body Weight
Advanced players like Ma Long or Ovtcharov are able to use the force of their entire body weight to generate additional momentum and power in their shots. To do this, you must shift your weight forward onto your front foot as you make the shot, transferring your body weight into the shot.
Some beginners or intermediate players rely solely on the strength of their arms. But this limits the power and effectiveness of the shot. The body weight can generate much faster and more violent strokes, giving your opponents no time to react.
Accelerate the Stroke with the Wrist
We can notice that some players can hit the ball with astonishing speed. It is because they can make good use of their wrist. Players should start the backswing with the wrist slightly cocked and then snap their wrists forward as they make contact with the ball.
Actually, if you know how to use your wrist to hit the ball correctly, you can also change the ball’s direction according to the opponent’s position. Pros like Ma Lin are good at this technique, and it’s pretty troublesome and frustrating for their opponents.
Keep a Closed Angle When Hitting the Ball
A closed angle during the backhand drive shot can result in a quicker ball bounce, giving your opponent less time to react. This is because the angle between the blade and the ball is smaller, resulting in a more direct transfer of energy from the blade to the ball.
Thus, we must maintain our wrists relaxed and exert strength only when hitting the ball. Apart from that, we also have to keep the wrist stable and don’t open the angle. Otherwise, the ball is easy to be overshot.
With consistent practice, we can cultivate the correct feeling to hit the ball, resulting in quicker ball bounces and more effective backhand drives.
Training Plan for the Backhand Drive
One-Two Punch Drills
The “One-Two Punch Drills” is a classic and famous training method in table tennis. It involves hitting one forehand drive followed by one backhand drive in quick succession. This common training exercise is used to improve players’ ability to transition from forehand to backhand during a game and develop their forehand and backhand shots.
I can still recall when my coach taught us the forehand drive and backhand drive, and we started to do this practice. We had to do 100 strokes consistently without making mistakes. Even after I became a table tennis coach, I always used this classic exercise to train my students.
Multiple ball training
Beginners can practice multiple balls with both their coach or a table tennis robot. We have introduced some training methods in our previous blog about training with a table tennis robot. You can click and make a reference.
Basically, players can start with a series of 10-15 balls where their partners or coaches feed the balls to their backhand side one after the other at a moderate pace. The focus should be on proper technique, speed, and accuracy while hitting each ball with your backhand drive.
After each series, take a short break to rest and recover, then repeat the drill several more times, gradually increasing the number of balls per set. Keep an eye on any areas where you may be struggling and work on improving them.
For instance, if you have trouble with the speed of your shots, try to concentrate on accelerating the stroke with your wrist. As you progress, you can make the drill more challenging by increasing the speed and variety of the balls you receive, making it more similar to game conditions.
Both the backhand and forehand drive are critical shots in table tennis. A player’s grip, stance, and body movement are crucial in executing a successful backhand drive. You can also look at the motion of the top-level players and imitate their movement. Pay attention to the details that we mentioned in our blog.
These details are tiny but play an incredibly important role in improving one player’s skill. A well-executed backhand drive can be fast and powerful, making it difficult for your opponent to return the ball effectively.
So, from today let’s keep moving and make progress!