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  1. TaiHaoPingPong is offline
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    #1

    Question for people with decent BH topspin

    I'm making some tweaks to my backhand topspin and am wondering something about the shoulder. Generally the advice for BH topspin (as well as most other shots) is to keep the shoulder and upper body relaxed during the stroke, but I've been playing around a bit with the shoulder blades and was wondering what other people do. Without actually using the shoulder itself to power the stroke, I notice a distinct difference in feeling between:
    • keeping the muscles at the back-of-shoulder/upper-back engaged, with shoulder blades pulled down/retracted, and
    • leaving those muscles (traps/delts/core? not sure on anatomy) loose and the shoulders more hanging free and naturally hunched forward

    While on a FH topspin it feels obviously better and whippier when I manage to keep the shoulder area loose, on the backhand when I pull my shoulder blades together and keep these upper back muscles engaged it somehow feels better. I saw a video where Timo Boll talked about keeping the core tight is important, and doing this feels more similar to that, rather than actually using my shoulders to swing the arm in the stroke. If that makes any sense.

    I haven't played enough to try it out yet, but I just wanted to ask here if anyone could try out their swing and report what they notice they do with this part of their body

  2. KM1976 is offline
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    #2
    When you mention Backhand topspin are you talking about topspin against backspin or topspin against block/topspin? Also is it near the table, mid distance or more. Please clarify.
    Most of the times practice, patience and an observant mind answers all your questions

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    #3
    Tightening the shoulder is a bad idea, ask Carl about the consequences of that.
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    #4
    Quote Originally Posted by KM1976
    When you mention Backhand topspin are you talking about topspin against backspin or topspin against block/topspin? Also is it near the table, mid distance or more. Please clarify.

    I had in mind against block/topspin, mid distance.

    But if you do it differently against backspin or from other distances I'd be very interested to hear also

    Last edited by TaiHaoPingPong; 04-29-2022 at 05:35 PM. Reason: clarification, spelling

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    #5

    I'll copy and paste a comment I made in the video feedback thread where I referenced Pitchford's backhand:



    "You can see he has his arm quite well out in front and just does a short whip motion with his wrist, since you're hitting backhands close to the table I think this is what you should aim for. The turning of the upperarm and a push with the legs is what drives the swing. The further you are from the table the more you can turn your upper arm back for a bigger swing. Your upper arm/elbow should be stable and not move much, it's the turning of it that is the backhand swing imo."

    You don't need to do anything with your shoulders, definitely do not tighten them. Just place your arm out in front of you with the elbow at a slightly distance from your body (so that you have space to swing) and turn the upperarm. If you do a quick short turn then you'll see that it'll be just your wrist that whips back and forward, if you do a bigger turn you'll see that your forearm will follow as well. Make sure to use your legs and do a slight bend at the hip as the ball is coming towards you, then push with your legs as you backswing so that your swing is driven more by the body and legs than just arm.

    The more time you have, the more you can bend at the hip and push with your legs. The real test for your technique is opening against backspin. When against topspin or nospin balls you'll have less time so you'll have to opt for the shorter swing (true for a fast backspin ball too I suppose but you get the gist). But all the basic mechanics are in place no matter what. When they're right you just practice every type of variation.

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  6. Der_Echte is offline
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    #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Some-Joker
    Richie BH is crap !!! Why you gunna listen to that Joker ??!!
    The insane joker who said that ought to step on Carl's trapdoor setup for the dummy Goon Squad trying to pillage that pile of Nation H3s.

    Richie has a good BH (even though he says it is a weak link) and he can articulate.

    So many BHs possible, but none of them will be worth a crap tightening shoulder joint. I see adult players do that on both FH and BH shots... all that joint tightening does is STOP power from flowing to arm-wrist-hand-finger-bat... and makes players do a stop and restart.

    You try to restart the power from rest starting from the shoulder, you gunna end up trying to over power the whole shebang with your upper back and look tighter and stiffer than Frankenstein on a cold morning.

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    #7
    Quote Originally Posted by TaiHaoPingPong
    ...on the backhand when I pull my shoulder blades together...

    Echoing Der_Echte and Richie, don't do this. Very easy to strain your upper back this way. You have the better idea when when you write about leaving those muscles (rhomboids mostly) relaxed and letting the shoulders hang free and even a little hunched forward. This will place your elbows forward, too, and give you more room to swing as Richie describes.

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    #8
    Quote Originally Posted by TaiHaoPingPong

    I had in mind against block/topspin, mid distance.

    But if you do it differently against backspin or from other distances I'd be very interested to hear also

    Hi TaiHao,

    At mid distance, vs a slower light to medium topspin ball (you have a lot of time), you can squat down some, rotate waist a little, and rotate shoulders back as prep... then explode up and forward uncoiling and when you are in strike zone, stop the shoulder turn, allow upper arm to be stable (but not tight) and explode that lower arm and wrist through the ball with a firming at impact to deliver great force. This is repeatable and if you are biomechanically sound, will not injure you.

    You try to explode with wrong timing and or tightening things you should not, you are on track to tear yourself up trying to do that a lot at full power.

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    #9
    I much prefer Ma Longs and Harimotos body work in the backhand compared to Pitchford's backhand. Pitchford's backhand is excellent but the game is becoming faster and faster. These 2 pros squat and rotate the right hip back a bit compared to rotating the left hip back. Ma Longs backhand is faster to set up as it does not have a forehand backswing and the arm stays more to the right of the body, very powerful with parallels to a martial arts punch and it has a larger side to side hit zone in front of the body. It is more deceptive for down the line shots. Transition from a forehand to a backhand etc is faster.

    Ma Longs and Hiromotos shot is simple with less things to go wrong and thus it is more reliable. Everything is going in the ball direction. Even I can do it in a match situation.

    Try both methods on a robot and slowly reduce the time between the shots until your technique breaks down.
    Try this for an off the bounce backhand too.

    As a coach I would not teach Pitchfords backhand and my students have a big advantage with the modern backhand over people that have the more traditional backhand. The off the bounce Hiromotos type backhand down the line is a winner at all levels.

    Of course your shoulders should be relaxed as the body work fires up and forward as the bat goes back to get a fast whip action. Delay the backswing as long as possible to get a fast whip action. Relax the wrist to get the wrist shake at the end of the short whip action.

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    #10
    As a part time coach for many years i think it could be diffiuclt to think about what muscles to tense when playing. I do think it could be good if you are leaning forward with the upperbody a bit like a monkey.

    I also think there are many ways to play the backhand and very individual to how you want to use it. If you want to play a lot of forehand i think you will become faster with the elbow closer to the body because shorter way to go around and smaller pocket and will be able to play fast with the backhand and if you want more power need to get the elbow a bit next to the body.

    Personally for me my backhand have improved when i start the swing earlier, many times the ball comes to close to racket so i do not get any racket speed and also of importance for me is to push with the index finger so i get a better angle and also push with the thumb so i tense at a ball contact. When playing further away from the table i tense the little finger instead and try to put shoulder in front to be able to use more hip. I have had big problems with too lose grip so i can not swing fast without feeling that i will drop the racket and to relaxed at ball contact but tense like above have worked for me.
    I also feel that players with good backhand have more backhandgrip and feel that is helping me aswell.

    As a student of physiotherapy i think too much tensing in shoulder and especially shoulderblades where i think many are weaker could lead to injury so be careful. Think more important to think about tense the muscles so elbow is steady and triceps to stop the motion and/or finger and thumb.

    And as always, a video says more than words and would definitely help you the most.

    Good luck.

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  11. UpSideDownCarl is offline
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    #11

    Question for people with decent BH topspin

    Yep. If you are thinking of muscles to tense instead of the movement pattern and the quality of the movement, it will cause problems.




    If you look at photos of Zhang Jike’s BH he rounds his upper back and will move it a little towards straight during the stroke to add power. But I guarantee he is not thinking about tensing muscles or even thinking about the stroke. He may have the trajectory of his shot and where it will land in mind, but not muscle actions which you actually don’t have control over anyway.

    When you consciously try to contract specific muscles what actually happens is that you contract a whole host of muscles you don’t want to engage which will actually impede the movement you are trying to do.

    When learning a movement pattern, it is better to visualize and practice the actual movement pattern rather than attempting to control what muscles contract.

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    Last edited by UpSideDownCarl; 05-01-2022 at 02:29 AM.
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    #12
    Quote Originally Posted by UpSideDownCarl
    Yep. If you are thinking of muscles to tense instead of the movement pattern and the quality of the movement, it will cause problems.



    If you look at photos of Zhang Jike’s BH he rounds his upper back and will move it a little towards straight during the stroke to add power. But I guarantee he is not thinking about tensing muscles or even thinking about the stroke. He may have the trajectory of his shot and where it will land in mind, but not muscle actions which you actually don’t have control over anyway.

    When you consciously try to contract specific muscles what actually happens is that you contract a whole host of muscles you don’t want to engage which will actually impede the movement you are trying to do.

    When learning a movement pattern, it is better to visualize and practice the actual movement pattern rather than attempting to control what muscles contract.

    So much this. I've had a few coaches say to tense this and that, to "use" the forearm etc. Maybe I misunderstood what they meant but I could never get it to work when thinking about my strokes like this. It'd just cause this conscious tension that doesn't work well. I've improved so much since letting these kinds of things and other smaller details go and instead focus on a couple of things and just keep it simple. I would hardly even call it thinking about it, it just goes at the back of my head as a reference and then in practice try to find what feels right according to this reference.

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    #13
    I think most coaches give incomplete advice. You create racket head speed in the backhand by fast forearm speed and then stopping the arm to create a wrist whip action. You see a wrist shake at the end of the stroke in some pros.

    The feeling is acceleration into ball contact. Pros do this whip action without thinking about it, especially in serves. They might tell you to accelerate into ball contact or use your forearm but not how they actually do it.

    You can use this wrist shake idea in most strokes to create high racket head speed. My backhand and forehand flick has improved a lot using this principle.

    Most club players tense up to start the stroke and have a tense wrist on ball contact. Pro technique is relaxed and simple in easy multi ball situations.

    I suggest to try to get the wrist shake in your backhand to see if you are relaxed enough.
    Other keys are the delayed backswing and the body fires forward as the bat goes back.

    I am an average club player so take that into consideration looking at my video. You can see a shake in most of my backhands.

    http://youtu.be/HSbHoGqfFFo

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    Last edited by maurice101; 05-01-2022 at 08:39 PM.
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    #14
    Thanks everyone for all the great replies. It seems whether for the Pitchford or Ma Long style of forehand, everyone is in agreement that these rhomboids or whatever should be loose 😀. And just to clarify on the idea of actively thinking about tensing muscles during the stroke, I meant more as a constant throughout. Like how if you're doing strength exercises like pushups or pullups you're advised to keep the shoulder blades pushed down the entire time. I meant it more as, should this be standard way we hold our upper bodies while playing backhand, rather than do I just suddenly engage them and summon their power into the stroke.

    While on the subject of looseness vs tension on backhands, do you have your core tensed or engaged during playing? I experimented a bit last night with my arm and grip also, and it seemed clear that the looser my grip and arm up until right before contact, the easier I could get spin on the ball (esp. vs backspin). But at the same time it felt a bit less controlled to be so loose, but this could just be because I'm not used to it. But I'm wondering where the line or middle ground is: we can't just be keeping our entire bodies loose like spaghetti people the whole time surely?? 😂

    I realise typing this that it's very much an individual and subjectively felt thing, most of you probably dont even think about it and it's clearly hard to communicate. I'm just curious on hearing how others with more experience see it and describe it
    Last edited by TaiHaoPingPong; 05-03-2022 at 08:27 AM.

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    #15
    Quote Originally Posted by TaiHaoPingPong
    Thanks everyone for all the great replies. It seems whether for the Pitchford or Ma Long style of forehand, everyone is in agreement that these rhomboids or whatever should be loose 😀. And just to clarify on the idea of actively thinking about tensing muscles during the stroke, I meant more as a constant throughout. Like how if you're doing strength exercises like pushups or pullups you're advised to keep the shoulder blades pushed down the entire time. I meant it more as, should this be standard way we hold our upper bodies while playing backhand, rather than do I just suddenly engage them and summon their power into the stroke.

    While on the subject of looseness vs tension on backhands, do you have your core tensed or engaged during playing? I experimented a bit last night with my arm and grip also, and it seemed clear that the looser my grip and arm up until right before contact, the easier I could get spin on the ball (esp. vs backspin). But at the same time it felt a bit less controlled to be so loose, but this could just be because I'm not used to it. But I'm wondering where the line or middle ground is: we can't just be keeping our entire bodies loose like spaghetti people the whole time surely?? 😂

    I realise typing this that it's very much an individual and subjectively felt thing, most of you probably dont even think about it and it's clearly hard to communicate. I'm just curious on hearing how others with more experience see it and describe it

    When Timo talked about tensing the core in his video I while back I experimented with that, but I haven't been able to get it to work. What's funny about that is that my physiotherapist is helping me with an injury atm and while she was testing for muscular imbalances she said my core was strong and that she noticed that when I showed her my FH vs backspin video. My first thought was "huh, so maybe I do tense my core when I play FH". But I guess it's so automatic that it's very difficult to tell when it's happening. And I guess consciously starting to tense messed up my rhythm.

    What I think happens is this:
    If you have the swing sequence down, like you push with your legs as you backswing - you'll get a lot of racket speed from that. Around when you've contacted the ball it's very difficult to stay loose as you're pretty much forced to grip your racket a bit harder or it'll go flying out of your hand and your core might tense and legs/feet push back down again to break your momentum. If you're too loose in this situation you'll have a bigger forward swing (and sometimes you might have to have a bigger forward swing, that's okay too).

    So it's like a balance of keeping a quite relaxed upper body and arm as you backswing correctly and then push in certain ways with your legs. So your lower body (legs etc) will have tension when you push off. If you timed the backswing and push well you've now created a lot of speed in your arm - racket collides somewhere on the path it's on with the ball. After this at some point it'd be a good idea to break the momentum so your body might then tighten slightly.

    I think when you're in the ready position or you get in position for a FH or BH topspin you're often slightly bending at the hip. At least for me when I do that I feel my core muscles activating.

    My intuition tells me that it's a better idea to strengthen the core muscles overall than consciously tensing them. There is a balance between overly loose and tense. You can see some very good amateur players out there who play super loose and they can get a lot of power and spin, but then their recovery is being compromised.

    There is so much that could be talked about here, it's difficult to cover everything 😁

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    #16
    Being relaxed is the key for ANYTHING music or sport related, too much tension brings problems, even medical issues sometimes. When I teach my students for music lessons, I check their fingers, shake them to see if they're "floppy". Most of the time, floppy fingers bring a more accurate playing, more precise rhythm and better articulation with a clearer sound.

    BUT, as in sport, you also have to exercise a lot in order to get all those motions being instinctive and fast. Multiball and robot with advices from a coach will help you a lot, repetition is the key to master anything.

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  17. UpSideDownCarl is offline
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    #17
    So, it is not whether muscles contract or not, it is that, if you are thinking about what muscles contract, the wrong muscles will contract.

    If you are relaxed and do the movement pattern, the muscles that need to contract to create the movement pattern will contract. But if you are thinking of contracting muscles instead, muscles that should not be contracting will inhibit the movement and cause the movement to be stiff and will cause your racket speed to be notably slower than if you were trying to be relaxed while doing the stroke.

    Also, it is a common misconception that pulling your shoulderblades back is good posture. If you are doing that too much of the time in normal life you will get a messed up neck and upper back. The natural curve of your Thoracic Spine is a gentle flexion (rounding). Pulling your shoulderblades back flattens the curve of the thoracic spine. But the curve in the thoracic spin is there for a reason (Shock Absorption). So, if you are walking around with the shoulderblades pulled back and the upper back flattened for a substantial amount of time while doing normal daily activities, that will give you disk damage in your cervical spin (neck).

    But if you can't see from that photo of Zhang Jike how his ROUNDING his upper back during the backswing and preparation for the BH stroke might help him add power to his BH, then I am not sure what to tell you.

    Video yourself playing and watch the footage. See what you think. Feel free to post footage here or in the Video Safe Thread if you want other people to see what you are doing. You will learn a lot from watching footage of yourself playing. It will help your game and help you improve.

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  18. UpSideDownCarl is offline
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    #18
    BTW: a note on what I said above: if you pull your shoulderblades back and work all those muscles in your upper back for short periods of time, it will make those muscles strong and more able to do the work they are supposed to do. If you try to hold that position for too much time, you will make them weaker and tighter: a muscle that is contracting for extended periods of time in ways it is not meant to, at a certain point starts getting stressed, then it starts getting weaker and over time it will also go into spasm and stop "remembering" how to relax.

    Good posture is actually upright but relaxed. If too many muscles are contracting to hold you in a position you will not be able to move freely when you need to.

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    #19
    You have to be as relaxed as possible and catch your breath as much as possible to be as clear as possible.

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    #20
    One of my training partners recorded a few points from a training match I had with a 2300+ rated Swedish player who plays in the second highest swedish league. I guess it's a response to the troll comment (that was deleted) in the thread, sorry I couldn't resist. 😂


    Seriously though: Of course, I'm just an amateur player and I don't have optimal technique. I just try to aim for it and hope that with small steps I'll approach the technique I mention in my posts. Someone doesn't have to be a very good player or have very good technique to make decent inferences about how to develop good technique. We often give good players too much credit for their coaching ability or believe their word is law just because of their playing ability.

    The advice I give is what I try to use for myself (and have received from other really good coaches like Brett, Nextlevel and other forum members.. YT videos etc). We've gotta find what works best individually, but the core principles I think apply to most players (injuries etc can change this). How to communicate advice is also tricky..

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