The mechanics of forehand topspin

Table Tennis Strokes and Technique

Last updated 2 weeks ago

Dariusz Rypień

Dariusz Rypień Asked 4 weeks ago


I’m not sure if I’m on the right track since there are a lot of versions of forehand topspins (chinese and european). So at my club people tend to put more emphasis on snap from the elbow and wrist rather than weight transfer. I on the other hand used to struggle with it because my arm was too tensed  and I struggled with consistency. When I analysed some chinese forehand tips and their focus on body more than forearm it started working better for me. So am I thinking correct? First when I perform that stroke I think about legs, backswing, the arms follows, then I put some pressure on my right leg, move my body and hips forward and the arm follows after body, closing the elbow, bat angle and accelarating at the moment of contact?  Is this a correct order?

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario Answered 3 weeks ago

Hi Dariusz,

This sounds like the correct order of movement.  When you are learning the stroke though this is too much to think about.  Try to focus on the whole stroke and see if you can get smooth feeling.  There are too many moving parts to break it down too much.

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Erriza Shalahuddin

Erriza Shalahuddin Posted 3 weeks ago

I'd prefer chinese technique because: 1) chinese is the strongest nation in table tennis world so it is logical to asume that their technique is superior; 2) their philosophy in incorporating the whole body movement in forehand topspin is making sense to make powerful stroke.

However, because it involves whole body movement, it also means it also incorporating a lot more body muscles and requires a lot better body coordination. Naturally I think it's a lot harder than European style, so I envy anyone who'd prefer to use chinese forehand topspin in practical and match situation because I still can't do it. The order of how you move your body in forehand topspin seems very correct.

I wouldn't say European technique is "wrong", it's more like "incomplete". I'm sure european technique also use body movement, but to a lot lesser extent and emphasis. Think about making progression in learning forehand topspin. Firstly I'd learn doing topspin by using arm only. After I get a hang of it, I will progress by using my body and waist. And after I can do it consistently, I'll be using my legs, and therefore, my whole body.


Dariusz Rypień

Dariusz Rypień Posted 3 weeks ago

Yeah in the past I focused more on my arm which made my strokes too tensed and led to many unforced errors. After watching some chinese guides and trying to incorporate them. I mean starting from ground and legs it gave me more power, consistency and of course arms was much more relaxed :). But I'm still wondering if chinese players bend their forearms  at the end  or is all about body? I think they used some snap from the elbow at the end but I'm not so sure :). Currently my technique is probably something between chinese and european but it seems to work at least :).

Erriza Shalahuddin

Erriza Shalahuddin Posted 3 weeks ago

Regarding elbow snap on chinese forehand topspin, from youtube I saw at times they use significant elbow snap, while other times they use relatively fixed elbow.

Here is a video at which Ma Long use relaxed elbow with elbow snap:

And here is a video at which Ma Long has relatively fixed elbow:

After reading and watching plenty of reference about forehand topspin, I've come to conclusion that there is no such thing as "absolutely right" or "absolutely wrong" about doing forehand topspin, as long as it works for you at your competition level. Surely chinese top the world with their technique, but let's not forget that many europeans also reach top 10 with their respective technique as well. Everybody has different physique and condition, and what works for others doesn't always works for you. If you think you've found the best and most effective way to do topspin for you, then by all means keep practicing it.

Dariusz Rypień

Dariusz Rypień Posted 2 weeks ago

Yeah, thanks for the research :). I also made a reserach and jumped to conclusion that chinese do accelerate the forearm at the moment of contact but more comes from body and straighter arms at this initial stage in comparison to europeans :).  Here is a good explanation - of course video is in chinese but if you turn on subtitles it will work because translation is quite good :).

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