I was recently tracking the various games of five-time world champion and badminton legend, Lin Dan. I discovered that one of the reasons for most of his extraordinary wins is his great speed. Speed is often not focused upon but is a deciding factor in all badminton games. Most average players focus on stamina or footwork and neglect the importance of speed during badminton.
A major reason why speed is important in badminton is that it allows players to hit the shuttle at the highest possible point of its trajectory. As it drops lower, the options for different types of shots are reduced.
If you can get to the shuttle at the highest point, you will have the option to decide if you want to do a smash or a jump shot or a drop shot- or whichever will confuse or stymie your opponent.
Therefore, the ability to move fast allows you to control the placement of the shot better. Ideally, you should be able to hit the shuttle as soon as it starts the downward drop. The more it is allowed to continue the downward trajectory, the lesser the options for choosing shots.
Let’s find out more about this.
The Importance of Speed
Is speed just the ability to reach the shuttle in time? No, when we mean speed we are talking about primarily two kinds of speeds, which are crucial on the badminton court:
1. Speed in moving across the court.
Your speed in moving across the court to reach the shuttle at its highest point is vital to win the game. The range of options available is better when the shuttle is at its highest point. The primary source of this speed is your leg muscles. The ability to sprint such short distances requires strong legs and the ability to generate power using the thighs and hips.
2. Speed in reflexes.
This is also called the reaction speed, which will determine how fast you can execute a shot. In other words, it means the speed at which you can respond to shots and move the body to deliver those shots in a brief period of time. This will also include your swing speed, as well as agility in body movements.
A shuttlecock can travel at a speed of up to 350 km/hr, which is faster than many high-speed trains. An average smash can reach around 326 km/hr. So, being able to propel yourself to position and return this kind of shots requires great power and speed.
Compared to several other sports, badminton is undoubtedly a fast sport. Professional players are known to deliberately accelerate and vary their pace to outsmart their competition. Short, rapid, and sudden movements are necessary to turn the tide of any badminton game. At a high level, speed becomes an integral part of winning.
The Secret of Winning in
Varying the pace.
If you think back on the games that you lost, you will find that speed was certainly one of the major causes. Now, speed is not just being fast but being able to vary the pace, so that you may slow down, then suddenly accelerate and after a bit change the pace again. This will usually rattle and unnerve your opponent. Most players lose because they are unable to gain control of the pace of the game.
Obviously, you can win most games if you are able to place your shots where the opponent has to run around a lot. You may do a shot that makes your opponent rush to the end of the court, and the next shot may be near the net followed by possibly a jump smash.
If you are able to gain such control, you will win effortlessly. But how does one obtain such control? By increasing one’s speed and agility. The faster you are and the quicker your reflexes, compared to your opponent, the greater the control of the game you’ll gain.
Running fast is not enough.
Isn’t age a significant factor that determines speed? Inevitably, older players tend to be slower than younger players. Yes, to an extent it is true that the younger you are the faster you can be when compared to an older player.
But just being able to run fast is not the main factor. Being able to change the pace of the game by increasing and decreasing acceleration is what is crucial. Being able to master the two kinds of speeds discussed above will enable older players to control the pace of the game.
So, to summarize, it is not just speed but mastering the different types of speed too that decides who wins the game. Let us look at some ways in which anyone can improve their speed and agility to benefit their game.
Improve Your Speed While Playing Badminton
ON THE COURT
1. Practice proper footwork
Using proper footwork will help you move quickly and efficiently. This removes wastage of energy through unnecessary movements and keeps you injury free as well. When placing your feet, you also have to ensure that your weight is balanced and the posture is stable.
As you practice more, the footwork becomes easier and faster. This will turn out to be a great advantage when you are up against strong opponents.
2. Keep the center of gravity low.
Keeping your body lower, while keeping your knees bent, will help you tap into your leg power better. Ensuring that you keep your center of gravity lower will help you use more your thigh muscle, calf muscles, and glutes, which will help generate maximum power for all movements.
3. Using the right form and technique.
Learning and using the right form while running, serving, and placing shots will help you become effective in utilizing your body movements. As you become better at your form and technique, the quality of shots will improve along with your reflex speed. The right form removes wastage of energy, making you more efficient.
The arms movements, footwork, and body posture can improve with practice, thus becoming part of your muscle memory and enabling you with quick responses.
5. Varying the pace.
While playing, try to vary the pace deliberately. You can suddenly accelerate, then slow down and then accelerate again. There is no specific order or frequency of changing the pace. Initially, it may seem awkward, but it helps to try it. Do this a few times, and experiment its effects on the game and on your opponent. You will find that once you have mastered it, you’ll be more successful on the court.
OFF THE COURT
Jogging can help you improve your stamina. It, also, helps you to reduce your body weight so that that your overall speed can improve. You need the stamina to outlast your opponent, but, for increased speed, you also need to have lower body weight. Jogging helps to achieve both. A lighter you will be faster and last longer on the court.
Skipping is excellent for strengthening your calf and thigh muscles. These are very important for generating power that is necessary for running fast across the court. You’ll, also, be strengthening the muscles needed for jumping and lunging.
An excellent way to simulate badminton game movements, while skipping, is to increase the pace suddenly and then decrease it. You can also skip forward and backward or from side to side.
Sprinting short distances and timing yourself is another excellent way to improve your speed at badminton. You can mark out a distance of 50 or 100 ms (or yds) and time yourself while sprinting as fast as you can. Shortening the time you take for each try will significantly improve your speed and agility. Try doing 5-10 seconds of sudden sprints, then jogging for 3-5 seconds, and then sprinting again in a different direction.
4. Weight training
Badminton players work on improving leg muscles, as they need to build power for their movements. Resistance training helps you with badminton as it strengthens and builds the muscles groups involved in the various movements, such as jumping, lunging, sprinting, etc. For instance, simple barbell squats leg presses and leg curls would be sufficient to build up power and strength in your legs. Shoulder and arms exercises will, also, help significantly with the swings.
One of the most frequent movements you’ll do while playing badminton is shuffling. Shuffling is when you move around the court with short steps with your feet no higher than 3 inches off the ground. Practicing this move can help you greatly during the game as you will be able to improve your reaction time. A good way to practice is to shuffle forwards, backward, sideways, and diagonally.
Let us see how squat jumps are done. Basically, a squat jump is when you jump from a semi-squat position. Keeping your legs and shoulders wide and parallel to each other. Then, lower your body into a semi-squat position with your thighs parallel to the floor. From this position, leap up as high as you can. When you land, go back to the semi-squat position.
This has a direct effect on the thighs and glutes and may initially cause muscle pain for a few days. But it is a great exercise for enhancing power generation and speed while playing badminton.