Weight Transfer and Using Your Legs
by Han Xiao
It can be frustrating to perfect a stroke in table tennis, and even more difficult to learn a new stroke. Sometimes, you work really hard to get that forehand loop right, but it just feels inconsistent. It may be that you haven’t practiced enough, but you may be able to improve your stroke mechanics as well. In this series, we’re going to take a look at some of the good mechanics that you should incorporate into your game. Hopefully, you can also learn how to learn so you can improve on the strokes and mechanics that we don’t cover specifically in this series and continue to improve in the future.
Let’s try to improve our forehand loop by trying to copy some professional players. One somewhat confusing thing that you’ll notice if you watch world class players is that not all strokes are alike. Here’s Timo Boll’s forehand loop, for example.
On the other hand, here is a short clip of Ma Long’s forehand loop.
These are both world class players known for their strong forehands, yet their forehands are very different. There are many reasons for this: different grips, different stances, different equipment, and so on. As a result, almost every world class player has a different stroke.
What we can do to learn from world class players is try to see what their strokes have in common. Go back and look at both of these videos again, but this time pay specific attention to their legs. Note how both players transfer their weight on every loop. Boll is left handed, so he transfers his weight from his left to his right, and from back to front. Ma Long transfers his weight from his right to his left, and also from back to front.
By shifting your body weight, you can use your whole body to generate racket speed for your stroke rather than only your arm. There are multiple benefits to doing this: you can swing your racket faster while keeping your arm more relaxed, you get more control and consistency in your stroke, and you can return to ready position more quickly, just to name a few. Even advanced players forget to shift their weight adequately at times, especially those that have not been practicing consistently, so it’s something that most players can improve upon.
Although weight transfer is incorporated most heavily in forehand attacks, such as loops and smashes, the general idea of focusing on the lower body rather than only on the upper body when analyzing strokes can help you improve your mechanics as a whole. To illustrate this, watch Ma Long’s legs on his serve, especially how his weight moves, and you may learn something useful for your own serve.
The legs form the foundation of just about every table tennis stroke. The next time you try to improve one of your strokes, focus on how you should use your lower body more than how your upper body should move. You may find that you have an easier time and start to see better consistency.