How to Play Backhand Push

How to Play a Backhand Push – Beginner Skills Series

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The backhand push forms one of the four basic rallying shots of Table Tennis, along with the backhand drive, forehand drive and forehand push. Master these four shots and you will graduate from a beginner to intermediate player.

With most beginners, the forehand side is where it’s easier to develop a more aggressive shot with higher confidence. That leaves the backhand often used to contain / control rallies so you can create opportunities to attack with your forehand. That means the Backhand push is a critical, often used shot where beginners need to develop consistency and accuracy.

Whilst you must also build up your skills to play attacking shots on your backhand, it’s a huge advantage to have a very reliable backhand push in your arsenal. This page will give you all the advice you need to learn how to play a backhand push. Let’s get into it!

What is the Backhand Push?

The backhand push is primarily a controlled defensive shot designed to continue a rally and prevent your opponent from playing an attacking return. It can be played whenever a ball is received at a low/medium height with backspin (or no spin), short or mid-length on your backhand side. Some players who lack confidence on their backhand drive will also use the backhand push with balls that travel long on the backhand side.

The backhand push is also very effective at handling shots of any length that arrive with strong backspin. Master this shot and you can stop dumping the ball into the net in backspin rallies. As you master the backhand push, it can also be used aggressively by pushing the ball long into an area your opponent is uncomfortable (normally right at their playing elbow, the ‘crossover’ point).

When you play a backhand push, you would expect to impart at least a small amount of backspin on the ball for your opponent to handle.

As with all of the basic shots, a right-handed player would expect to play a backhand push on the left-hand side of the table. With the backhand push, you should always be playing the ball directly in front of your body. Preferably right in front of your nose.

There are plenty of scenarios you’d expect to play a backhand push, including:

  • Opponent serves short to medium length with backspin on your backhand side.
  • Opponent touches the ball short/low over the net at any point in a rally.
  • Opponent chops/slices the ball towards your backhand (which you don’t feel comfortable attacking with a loop).

These are very common scenarios, particularly for beginner-intermediate players where the focus is playing high percentage shots to get the ball back on the table.

Backhand Push Technique

As with all the basic shots, the core backhand push technique is quite simple and breaks down into four distinct phases.

Phase 1 – Ready Position

Your shots will always be better when you start in what’s called the “ready position”. This is the position you should always try and return to after playing your shot.

Crouched, with your feet and body facing the direction you are aiming to play the ball. This means you will be completely in line with the table if playing it down the short side, or slightly angled with your dominant side further back if playing across diagonally. Your feet should also be just wider than shoulder-width apart.
Close to the table. With your elbow forming a right angle and your forearm parallel to the ground, the end of your racket should be roughly level with the end of the table.

Phase 2 – Backswing

Once you have seen that your opponent has played a shot that allows you to return with a backhand push, you will need to start your backswing. This is quite similar to the backhand drive, except for the racket angle and the starting/ending height for your racket.

Angle your racket to face upwards. Unlike a backhand drive, you’ll need your playing side facing up towards the ceiling. You still want to maintain around a 45-degree angle to the table, so your bat isn’t completely horizontal. This is called an open racket face.
Move your feet so that the ball arrives in line with your belly button. If you miss the ball with a backhand push, it should pass through and hit you in the middle of the body. Just like the backhand drive.
Bring the bat towards your stomach. Ensure you maintain that ‘open’ angle with your racket and rotate your arm in closer towards your body. Your elbow should feel like it’s coming away from your body.
Point your bat towards your non-dominant side. If you’re a right-handed player, the racket should be pointing at a 90-degree angle to your body position, towards your left side.

Phase 3 – Striking The Ball

Now you are prepared to play your shot and the ball is travelling towards you, it’s time to play a forward motion that contacts the ball and hits it back towards your opponent’s side of the table. Against most opponents, you are aiming to push the ball so it stays short-medium length on the table without floating high enough they can attack it.

Your entire shot is produced from the elbow. Push the racket forward and slightly downwards by extending from the elbow. Your arm should start in an ‘L’ shape and extend out into more of an ‘I’ shape. However, you should not fully straighten or overextend your elbow.
Contact just before the top of the bounce. Maintaining that ‘open’ angle, brush under the ball, making contact just before the ball reaches the highest part of its arc.
Keep your body stable and your feet on the floor. As a beginner, you do not need to worry about any rotation or the transfer of any bodyweight for this shot.

To adjust the amount of spin/speed you put on the ball, this is where you would adjust the angle of your racket face. A more ‘open’ racket will generate more spin, less speed with the risk of pushing the ball higher. A more ‘closed’ racket will generate more speed, less spin and go much lower over (or into) the net.

Phase 4 – Follow Through and Recover

As always, the shot doesn’t finish when you make contact with the ball. It’s important to finish your movement and recover quickly to be ready for playing the next shot.

Finish your shot by continuing to extend your elbow, pushing the racket towards the net. Your racket should always stay in front of your body, never moving outside of two imaginary lines extending in front of your sides.
Keep the wrist straight. With the basic shot, you don’t need to move your wrist. This means that your shout should finish with your index finger pointing towards the direction you’ve pushed the ball.
Recover back to the ready position. As soon as your follow-through has finished, it’s important to recover back to the ready position so you are prepared to play your next shot in the rally. Since you haven’t adjusted your body shape, there is much less recovery needed for the backhand push than other shots.

Useful Videos – Learning the Backhand Push

There are a few Youtube videos that are fantastic at explaining how to play a backhand push, particularly useful if you’re a visual learner.

Just like the forehand push, the best content is from the brilliant Pingskills team of Jeff and Alois. They explain the backhand push very clearly and talk through the mechanics of altering the bat angle.

If you need a bit more detail, various angles and drills for the backhand push, it’s worth checking out this next video from Tom Lodziak. He talks about teaching a more attacking style of Table Tennis, especially as your opponents get more advanced the push will become much less effective.

Between those two videos, you should have a really clear visual idea of how to play a backhand push. There aren’t many really great videos online covering this stroke, so I only have one more option for you. The team at Prospin95 give a super clear breakdown of the 4 shot stages.

They talk through the concept of brushing the ball, which is an exceptionally important idea to be comfortable with. On the backhand push, you’re not striking the ball flat but you are brushing under it.

Top Tips and Prompts

Here are some things you might use to help get familiar with the feeling of playing a backhand push, as well as some of the common pitfalls beginners often fall into.

  1. Play a gentle, smooth, relaxed shot – The backhand push is not an agressive shot (most of the time), so you can take your time and play a gentle, more relaxed shot. Make sure to think about the position of your opponent and place the ball where it is most difficult for them to return.
  2. Minimise overall movement – You don’t need to bring your racket too close into your body, or over-extend your arm forwards. It’s much more effective to play a shorter shot and this will make it easier to recover for the next shot.
  3. Keep your racket angle open – Avoid any temptation to rotate your wrist or forearm during the shot. You need to let the racket do the work. If you need to, adjust the angle of your racket to add more spin or speed.
  4. Play in front of your body – The racket should never start or end outside of two imaginary lines extending forward from the sides of your body. If it does, you’ll add sidespin to the ball and lose control of your placement.
  5. Keep the wrist still – Unless you’re trying to play an aggresive push, there is no reason to move the wrist at any point during the shot. At an intermediate level, players will use the wrist to generate more spin on the ball, although this is a more difficult technique to learn.
  6. Think about where you’re pushing the ball – The quickest way to win more points is to work on your placement of the ball, aiming to push it somewhere that plays to your opponent’s weakness. That is usually done by keeping it very short, wide to the backhand or straight into their playing elbow (the crossover point).

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