Excerpt from the Journal of Badminton Association of England, by Martin Andrew.
A badminton player requires high levels of speed, power, stamina, and skill to succeed at the highest level. The nature of the game is such that a player has to constantly move a short distance (normally up to 3 metres), play a shot, and then return to a suitable court position before their opponent has players their next shot. A rally can vary in length from a couple of seconds to longer than a minute, it is because he/she is often in position early to play their shot. In badminton, you need to start, stop, and change direction rapidly in order to compete.
When considering on-court speed, it must be remembered that the first step taken is the most important. Many coaches and players believe that the “first step” is in the mind, this statement is correct in that the body’s nervous system has to be stimulated in such a manner to develop specific limb movements to propel the body towards the desired area.
In order to develop fast movements around a badminton court, the following areas need to be examined:
- Movement off the mark;
- Stopping; and
- Posture (centre of gravity, balance and control, recovery).
Movement off the mark
The first initial movement is the most important, this is the role of the “split drop”, for which people tend to use a number of names. The timing of a “split drop” is of paramount importance; a player should land immediately after their opponent has hit the shuttle, therefore their brain knows in which direction to move. The “split drop” should place the feet in such a manner that the player can move anywhere on the court in as short a time as possible.
Following the “split drop”, the first steps are crucial. In most cases, to move somewhere fast, the player may take a small step in the “wrong” direction in order to widen the base and enable a wider angle of push against the body’s centre of gravity.
A player needs good posture, especially in the upper legs and lower trunk areas. Control of these posture muscles is important to ensure that the body can move efficiently.
Due to the short distances moved on a court, a player needs to rapidly reach their peak speed. Once achieved, the next problem for the body is playing the shot and stopping. To play the shot successfully, the player’s body needs to be well balanced, this relies on good position and body control. Stopping is a case of applying a ‘brake’, bring the body to a stop and then being able to recover.
In the forecourt, the ‘brake’ is developed by lunging. The front foot (normally racket leg) takes the player’s weight; the player’s knee must act as a shock absorber to soften the sudden stop. The foot needs to be pointing in the direction the player is travelling with the knee moving directly in line with it. The lunging foot needs to be placed heel first on the floor, followed by the forefoot. The player’s non-racket leg also assists in braking. The back foot rolls on to the big toe area whilst remaining in contact with the floor, the foot should slide a little but not to the extent that the feet move together. The end position should be balanced so a controlled shot can be played and immediate recovery commenced.
In the rear-court, the back ‘brake’ foot should be placed at almost right angles to the direction of travel to enhance push off the floor and decrease the chance of injury to the calf muscle and Achilles tendon. The foot should be placed flat onto the floor; the knee should be placed directly over it and in line with the foot. If this braking action is done well, it can be pushed off from strongly to start recovery back to a suitable position.
A player should be in a position to use the power from both legs to recover to a suitable court position. Using both legs to power back into position is not only quicker but it should also mean that the player’s dominant racket leg is not getting tired through doing all the work.
Once recovery is happening, the player should be aware of when their opponent is going to make contact with the shuttle in order for them to start their next movement with the split drop.
The following routines can be done to train a player’s speed:
Basic plyometric training
- Jumping, feet should width apart over low objects.
- Jumping on the spot with a sudden sprint up to 5 steps.
- Fast jumping on the spot with short lunge movements to the side and in front (shadow shots can be played).
- Multi feeding – fast feed, low number of shots, e.g. 5 shots, fed very fast, continue with a number of sets.
- Forecourt very fast feed.
- Hand feed for side to side movement.
The advantage to move fast are clear. The quicker a player can move, the earlier they may be able to play their shot, thereby giving their opponent less time for their reply.
Points to remember:
- Taking the shuttle early is of paramount importance.
- Minimum foot and floor contact time is required.
- Posture needs to be balanced and controlled and able to move in all directions.
- First steps need to be fast and short.
- The first step is in the mind!
About Martin Andrew
Martin Andrew has been involved in coaching for many years and comes from a well-known badminton family. His father, Bill, is the former BADMINTON England President, while mother Brenda is still competing on the veterans’ circuit and brother Kevin is a Cumbria county regular.
For the last 11 years, Martin has worked in both England and Australasia, beginning his career as South Australian State coach from 1996-97 before joining the then Badminton Association of England in 1998 as the Coaching Manager. He left in 2001 to become Badminton Australia National coach and moved on in 2003 to be Badminton New Zealand High Performance Manager and National Coach.