Here’s sneak peak of an article I’ve written for the next issue of the Badminton England members magazine (sorry I can’t get all the pics up). There’s a few more coming over the next month or two.
If you’re looking to play badminton at a competitive level it’s simply no longer enough to play yourself fit. The speed and ferocity of the modern-day sport, and resultant magnification of players’ physical abilities, mean that specific off-court preparation is most definitely required. The off-season is the perfect time to get yourself in the gym and start building a solid physical base to help improve your performances next season.
Whilst modern rackets may weigh less than a TV remote, this does not mean that strength is not important in badminton. Increasing your strength will not only make you quicker and more powerful on court, but also make you more resilient against injury. What many fail to realise is that strength training also improves movement economy; this means that you use less energy whilst moving around on court. A study published in 2009 demonstrated that elite Malaysian players were significantly stronger than their sub-elite counterparts and that the majority were able to squat more than twice their bodyweight – that’s some serious strength!
Key Lower Body Exercises:
Squat (Fig 1a/b)
The squat is not only the best exercise for strengthening the legs, but it also helps accelerate strength gains elsewhere in the body. To put it simply, it’s the one exercise you can’t do without!
Start the movement by pushing the hips back and then letting the knees bend. Descend as low as you can without rounding your lower back. When you reach the bottom position drive through your heels and stand up tall. Keep your chest high throughout the movement as this will help keep your torso in an upright position.
Dumbbell Split Squat (Fig 2a/b)
Given that lunging is the one of the most important movement patterns in badminton, it is important that we include exercises, such as the split squat, that strengthen on a single leg.
Hold a dumbbell to either side and assume a split stance position. Lower the hips to the floor by bending the front knee. Descend until the knee of the rear leg is hovering just above the floor. Return to the starting position by driving through the heel of the front foot. Repeat for the other leg.
Stiff Leg Deadlift (Fig 3a/b)
Hamstring injuries can be the curse of many a sportsperson and are often caused by weakness in comparison to the quadriceps. It is important for us to strengthen the hamstrings in a stretched position as this is how they need to function on court.
Keep the arms straight and bend at the hips by pushing your bum as far backwards as possible. Keep the bar close to your body and descend until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Ensure that you keep a slight arch in the lower back throughout. When you reach the bottom point reverse the motion by extending the hips and standing up tall.
Calf Raises (Fig 4a/b)
Including specific calf strengthening exercises in your program is important as they can help prevent Achilles tendon injuries; common in explosive sports such as badminton.
These are best performed off the edge of box as you begin the movement with the calf in a stretched position, maximising the benefits of the exercise. From here simply come up onto your toes by pushing through the balls of your feet and hold the top position for a count of one. Use a wall, or other support, for balance if you need to.
Hopefully these exercises will be enough to get you started. In the next part we’ll talk through some upper body exercises and look at putting these into a training programme.