Forehand Topspin – The kinematic chain
There are tons of instructions how to play a forehand topspin (short form: FHT). All these instructions have many things in common while they differ only in a very few points. But when you take a look to the pro’s topspin strokes you can easily see that every player has found his own style.
Although they have always the same target: generating the best possible acceleration when the racket hits the ball!
Professional players are the best proof that the way to this target can vary. The physical constitution, rubbers, blades and the technical education have a huge influence on the player’s technique. Though a few key points – based on biomechanical rules – are valid for every player:
- Weight transfer from the right to the left leg (valid only for right handers)
- Hip rotation
- Rotation of the body’s upper part
- Forearm acceleration
- Using your wrist joint
Supporting the whole body movement by turning the hip and the upper part of the body is very important! Although this important movement cannot be done as fast as the acceleration of the forearm, the player generates a lot of energy to support the complete arm swing. The following examples might help you to get an idea of this energy:
- Just stand up straight and let your arms hang down loosely beneath your body. Now pull back your right hip first and then push it dynamically to the front. You should feel now that right arm first moves back and then starts to swing to the front. This is exactly the starting move of your arm at the beginning of a FHT.
- Stand up straight in front of a wall, turn your back to the wall and let your arms hang down again as done before. Starting from this position you should try now to throw a table tennis ball as far as your can in front of you. You might feel that the impulse is coming from your right leg and that your right hip is turned to the front at the end of this move.
By the way: the point where the ball leaves your hands is exactly the point where the acceleration has reached its maximum. This is also the point where you should hit the ball when you are playing a FHT.
Such a line of several movements is called kinematic chain.
The last important point then is to take care of the quality of the incoming ball (spin, curve, speed, etc.). Make sure that you hit the ball tangentially in a very low angle. Take care that the angle of your racket is identic to your body’s movement plane. If the incoming ball has topspin, your own movement goes forward, if it is played with downspin, your movement needs to be orientated slightly more upwards.
A higher distance away from the table can be compensated by a more powerful body support. From that position you have more time which also makes it easier to learn a technique. This is the reason why you should try in the beginning to learn a technique by playing from the middle distance to the table against regular block.
Finally I have a special tip for you:
All professional players that I know use their abdominal muscles to support their strokes – no matter if knowingly or unsuspectingly. In our youngest competitive sports groups we try to teach this as early as possible although it is not part of the common table tennis theory. The advantages of tensing your abdominal’s: it makes it easier to control the final sequences of your swing and it avoids that you break out of the movement. Furthermore you can feel better the perfect hitting point in front of your body. Your topspin will be much more efficient and precise.
I hope that my instructions might help you to improve your forehand topspin. Wish you a lot fun trying these exercises!