Following Through - Butterfly Table Tennis
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Han Xiao

Following Through

Following Through
by Han Xiao

Last time we took a look at how world class players use their legs and transfer their weight for many of their strokes in order to create better consistency as well as more racket speed. In this part of the mechanics series, we’re going to look at how professional players follow through on their strokes. Learning how to follow through properly on all your strokes will provide you with much better control on your shots, as well as extra spin and power when you have the time to attack.

Following through sounds simple, and it can be, but it’s one of those things that many of us don’t do well. In addition, on the forehand loop, it can force us to use the core and the body better. Here’s an example of Yan An’s forehand loop in training:

Notice how on the forehand loop, Yan An is using almost entirely the waist and the shoulder in terms of upper body movement to rotate through the ball, and how often his shoulders rotate past the point of ball contact. Many of us follow through well with our forearm and wrist on the forehand, but stop our body rotation at the point of contact. Turning the shoulders past the point of ball contact will give you a much more stable follow through and can also help generate more spin and power. Yan An also snaps his forearm and his wrist well through the contact of the ball. What is difficult to see here is how he uses his right hip to generate power on the forehand loop. This is a feeling that is difficult to see on camera, but can be achieved through a combination of weight transfer in the legs, rotation of the waist and shoulders, and a full follow through.

Using a correct follow through involving the waist and shoulders gives you more control, more power, as well as the ability to return to a ready position. The follow through and the stroke overall is adjustable based on what you are facing. Faced with a faster ball, you can follow through more with the wrist and forearm, use a shorter backswing, and rotate the body a little bit less after ball contact. Of course, this will give you less consistency and power, but you will be able to react to the ball more quickly. Here is an example of Zhang Jike doing a multiball drill and having to sacrifice body rotation, weight transfer, and power in general due to the speed of the ball:

On the backhand side, as with weight transfer, the follow through is less noticeable, especially in a match situation where most players don’t attempt to play with full spin or power on a regular basis and instead use a shorter, controlled stroke. However, it is still important to snap through with the forearm and wrist to maintain control as well as add spin and speed. Here’s a good slow motion video of Timo Boll’s backhand topsin:

To get a better idea of how to backhand loop with full power and how the follow through might look, you can watch some matches of Kreanga and Ovtcharov as good examples. As with the forehand, the more time you have to follow through after ball contact, the more power and spin you can achieve without losing control. It’s not advisable to start using this technique on the backhand side often until you can consistently loop the ball, but it’s definitely fun to try once in a while and can produce some fun moments in training.

Finally, as a bonus for those of you who have some extra time, the match between Ma Long and Joo Se Hyuk in last year’s Asian games is a great match to watch, both to see the follow through in action as well as for entertainment. The whole match is nearly an hour long, but it’s well worth the watch. Some of the overhead camera angles really highlight Ma Long’s forehand follow through, especially the exaggerated body rotation past contact to generate extra power. Give it a try in training and improve your mechanics through smarter practice.

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