How to Play Forehand Push

How to Play a Forehand Push – Beginner Skills Series

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

This is probably the hardest of the four basic skills shots, with the forehand push often taking beginners the longest to master. Whilst it’s a defensive shot with the aim of consistently hitting the other side of the table, it’s made more challenging because you’re playing the ball outside the line of your body.

Ultimately, this means you need to practise a lot to develop the hand-eye coordination and feeling required to play good forehand push shots. This page will give you all the advice you need to learn how to play a forehand push. Let’s get into it!

What is the Forehand Push?

The forehand 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 forehand side.

That’s right, there are only a limited amount of scenarios where the forehand push should be played. You need to have backspin or float (no spin) on the ball or you’ll find it just spins down into the net. If the ball is coming long on the table, it’s very difficult to get the required angle or spin on your shot.

When you play a forehand push, you would expect to impart a small amount of backspin on the ball for your opponent to deal with.

As with all of the basic shots, a right-handed player would expect to play a forehand push on the right-hand side of the table. With the forehand push, you should always be playing the ball ahead of your body, across to the forehand side.

Most players would use the forehand push when trying to return a backspin serve that is short on the forehand side.

Forehand Push Technique

Graphic visualising how to play a forehandpush

As with all the basic shots, the core forehand 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.

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Phase 2 – Backswing

Once you have seen that your opponent has played a shot that allows you to return with a forehand push, you will need to start your backswing. This is quite different to a drive shot, so pay attention to the different elements.

Angle your racket to face upwards. Unlike a forehand 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.
Rotate your shoulders slightly, which will bring the racket back to prepare for playing your shot. Depending on where the ball is placed and the power you want to apply to the shot, you can also pull your arm back from the elbow.
Transfer weight slightly onto your forehand side and you will naturally feel your head fall in line directly above your right foot.
If the ball is very short, move your dominant foot forward. Push off from your backhand side and move your dominant foot towards the table, allowing you to reach the opponent’s ball.

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.

Move the bat forward and down to impact the ball. This allows you to brush under the back of the ball and create backspin.
Use your elbow and forearm, as these are where most of the shot’s power comes from. You are going to extend your elbow down towards the ball, keeping your arm outside of your body line.
Contact slightly before the peak of the bounce. This will allow you to impart the most spin and maintain a lower trajectory on your shot.
Keep the racket face open and adjust it slightly to get more spin (horizontal) or speed (vertical). Don’t be tempted to rotate the wrist/forearm to get more speed on the ball as this will just result in losing control.

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 the forehand side of your body. Don’t let it circle/swing across your body.
Racket direction at the end of your shot should be pointing towards the place you aimed to hit 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. If you moved your dominant foot forward to reach the ball, make sure to push back into a more neutral stance.

Useful Videos – Learning the Forehand Push

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

By far the best video covering the forehand push comes from the team at PingSkills. They do a fantastic job explaining all the components with really solid technique. As with a lot of demonstrations, they do seem to neglect the importance of shifting back into the ready position, although I can forgive them for that.

If you’re looking for a slightly longer video that goes into a lot of detail around every stage of the shot, then it’s worth watching this from Tom Lodziak.

I completely agree with everything he’s saying during the video, although I don’t think his demonstration technique always matches up.

Lastly, I recommend watching this video from Prospin95. They break the video down visually into 4 stages of the shot, providing useful demonstrations at each stage.

They recommend practising the shot either “solo”, “multiball” or “with partner” which pretty much just sums up the ways you can play Table Tennis. You can skip that last minute or so.

Top Tips and Prompts

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

  1. Play to the side of your body – It’s easy to try and play the ball when it’s too close to your body (in front of you) but this means making a funny angle with your wrist and losing control.
  2. 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.
  3. Play a gentle, smooth, relaxed shot – The forehand push is not an aggressive 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.
  4. Ensure your racket finishes close to the table – Again, this is about letting the racket do the work. You do not need to hit upwards at the ball for a forehand push, so make sure the full shot is played with the racket moving forward and downwards towards the ball.

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The Controller

David's been playing Table Tennis since he was 12, earning his first coaching license in 2012. He's played in national team & individual competitions, although he prefers the more relaxed nature of a local league match! After earning his umpiring qualification in England, David moved to Australia and started Racket Insight to share information about the sport he loves.

Blade: Stiga WRB Offensive Classic | Forehand: Calibra LT | Backhand: Xiom Musa
Playstyle: All-Round Attacker

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