Movement Patterns

Rowden Fullen (Late 1990’s)

The ultimate style of the player will dictate which type of movement patterns he or she should use. Close to the table blockers will use many one-step movements or small jump steps. Strong loop players will inevitably use the cross-step to reach the wide ball and defenders should train at moving in and out. However with the modern game both close and deep, movements which retain squareness are preferable. Movement is one of the most critical parts of any young player’s development and yet very few countries in Europe work constructively with footwork patterns at an early age. It is particularly important that you establish a pattern with a young player that can grow with the player, (can a sidestep pattern be easily developed into a cross-step?). It is also a priority in the ‘modern’ game, where we have limited time that footwork is economical, one big step is preferable to many small ones.


The one-step in or out is important for depth play close to the table, especially to the short balls and to make room to use the forehand from the middle. For the right-hander note that the prime mobility function is on the right foot (the left may be sometimes be pulled in after). This gives better coverage of the table with the forehand for the next stroke and is why you see many top players using forehand push from the backhand court. Care not to put the foot too far under the table, you must retain upper body mobility. If you watch young players especially girls, many often change feet, sometimes right, sometimes left under the table.


This can be either short or long and is important for balls on the forehand wing. It’s also important that you think body turn as you move, so that you are in a position to feed power into the forehand stroke. If you just reach you have very limited capacity for power or spin. In the case of wider movement to the forehand side, the left foot will be dragged after — the pattern can therefore be easily developed into a cross-step.


Especially in the girls’ game you will often have a two or three step pattern to the forehand side, either left/right or a small movement of the right then left/right. Again it is important that you turn the body as you move. Girls often play closer to the table and like to face the play. Also consider two additional aspects. Extra steps are not to be encouraged in modern table tennis (economy first). When establishing patterns with a young player try to avoid sometimes commencing sequences with the left foot and sometimes the right. This pattern is not suitable for girls who play a strong loop game.


The small jump step, where you adjust position with a little hop and where both feet are in the air at the same time, is one of the most frequently used steps in table tennis. A long jump step is used mostly by Asian men players. They turn the right foot and bring it back at the same time pulling the left over and jumping to the forehand side. The body will turn prior to contact with the ball, which can occur with both feet still in the air.


Many trainers in Europe still don’t seem to be aware of the necessity of crossing the legs to reach the wide ball. Coaches from as diverse cultures as France, Poland, England and Sweden all tell me the same - ‘Face the play, never cross the legs.’ The Chinese coaches however say — ‘If you know a way to reach the wide ball quickly, without crossing the legs, please share the secret, we would like to know.’ It should be quite obvious in the case of the really wide ball that players have very little choice — if you have just played a forehand from the backhand corner and the opponent blocks you wide out to the forehand how else can you move? The mechanics of the cross-step are that the right foot will turn first, so that the left can be brought quickly over and across. Quite often in match play, a one-step short or long is converted to a cross-step as necessary. If you study film of players at world level as diverse as Gatien and Deng Yaping you will see that they all use the cross-step.


This occurs when you wish to play a forehand stroke from the backhand corner. There are two different ways to accomplish this. Some players bring the right foot round behind the left and then adjust the left. Others move the left first a little out and then bring the right round after.


Movement of the trunk, the upper body. Although not strictly a movement pattern we must also consider such movements, where the player with limited time and sometimes not much other alternative, bends the body sideways or backwards to play a forehand stroke (sometimes combined with a one-step short).


Movement of the arm, hand or fingers. Particularly useful when changing direction and disguising where you intend to play.

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