For many, badminton is a seasonal sport. As soon as the leagues and tournaments are over, the rackets are put away and “summer” begins. This may mean dusting off your old tennis rackets or cricket targets, or just taking a break for a few weeks.
Some are “forced” to take a break because all the local clubs are closed. Whatever the reason, there are many players who need help to stay fit and train for the new season. This article has been written specifically for those players like you who are looking for ideas to be prepared for the next season and do not know where to start.
A word of warning
If you really want to improve your badminton in the 2011/12 season, then you should already be doing some form of physical training.
Ideally, it is recommended that you join a gym and have a session or two with a personal trainer who will design a training program for you. By following this, you are taking the advice of an expert. You may also need to follow your doctor’s advice to start any exercise program.
While I have taken many courses on strength, flexibility, and conditioning, I don’t claim to be as up-to-date as the experts and would rather you seek their advice first. For this reason, this article is just a guide to the type of training you can do in preparation for the new season. The article also assumes that you are aware of the importance of warming up before exercise and cooling down when you have completed the exercise.
However, if you can’t access a personal trainer or gym, this article will help you improve your fitness levels and be better equipped to enter the court with some degree of confidence. You can also go to my Helpful Links page on my badminton blog and do yourself a huge favor by watching The Ultimate Badminton Athlete DVD.
So how serious are you?
I ask this question because if you really want to improve during the summer break, then you have to put in a little effort. Watching badminton videos on YouTube will help you to some extent because you are seeing good form and technique. However, badminton is a physical sport, so you should cover at least the basic physical fitness exercises to help you improve.
Before I cover what, let me ask you why you want to do this. You see, your answer is going to dictate how hard you are prepared to work. Without specific reasons why you want to be fitter and better next season, you will not achieve your goals. Without specific goals, you won’t reach anywhere near your potential, and this can be said for everything in life, not just badminton.
So before you do anything else, write down, yes, write down your badminton goals for the upcoming season. These can be goals like being able to play for a certain team, winning multiple tournaments, mastering specific shots, knowing that you don’t lose a match because you’re not in shape. Write down your badminton goals and send us an email. The key here is specific.
Let’s start with the basics
Badminton requires a combination of physical attributes that can be trained. These are strength, speed, flexibility, and endurance. These can be trained in the gym, but you have to discard some of your assumptions about training to achieve this combination. You will see that it is important to recognize that most of the gym workouts you have seen will be aimed at looking good and building strength and volume. This is not a good combination for badminton as it neglects stamina, which is vital.
The other important consideration here is that badminton is a whole body sport. By this I mean that you need to train muscle groups in your arms, legs, shoulders, chest, and most importantly, your core. A strong core or abdominal area is the key. It is the area that connects all the other parts of your body. There is no point in having strong legs if you can’t turn and crouch quickly and efficiently. This requires the kernel. The energy also starts at the core and is then distributed to the required areas.
Okay, so you have the message about the areas you need to train in. So what do you train first? We are all different and therefore have our own likes and dislikes. So let me tell you what I would do if it was me training …
Initially, I would plan my week to develop a routine that allows enough time to train different areas on different days.
For endurance I prefer running to rowing or cycling. In the early stages I prefer to increase the distance rather than the speed. So a 2-3 mile run at a steady pace works for me. Once I can hit 3 miles, I start to change the exercise from a one-pace endurance session to a multi-pace session by adding little sprints of, say, 3-10 meters. This is now training my body to generate small bursts of speed.
I would complement this by looking for an area where you can delimit a badminton court. Then, I would create a series of shadow badminton workouts to train my legs and continue to develop footwork patterns. After all, good movement is vital in badminton, so I must practice and improve my split stride, initial burst, travel pattern, jump, landing, and return to base.
For increased footwork speed, I would introduce a jump rope into my program alternating from single jumps to double jumps, building a 20 minute session. I prefer to do this to music and always jump on a softer surface to nullify leg cramps.
On the days that I’m not doing the above, I would create a training session at my home or at the gym. Getting to a gym isn’t always easy, so 10 minutes a day at home can go a long way.
For my core workout, I would include the plank, sit-ups (performed correctly and slowly, of course), leg raises, twists / side bends, and back stretches. I would also do breathing exercises to tone the pelvic muscles that are part of my core.
To strengthen my arms and condition my shoulders and chest, I use the simple push-up. I make sure the exercise is done correctly and begin to build strength by completing each push-up slowly, counting 3 back and 3 up. This loads the muscles more. Start with 1 set of 5 reps and work up to 3 sets of 7 reps with 30 seconds of rest.
Having mastered the simple pushup, I would add variation by changing the angle of my body. All I need is a chair to place my feet when I exercise. To add more variety, I would also remove the chair and switch to one-arm push-ups. This recruits my core muscles as stabilizers.
I have another variation on this great exercise and that is to completely switch from slow to fast reps. I would add a slap between push-ups which then creates a power exercise in addition to increasing my strength.
The other area I would work on is the forearms. For this I would follow all my armchair exercises. Most of these exercises can be completed sitting in a chair. Over time I would increase the sets, reps, and weight.
With all of these exercises, the average time to complete them is less than 30 minutes. I accept that there are many other exercises you can do, however, as I said at the beginning of the article, I would rather you go to a gym and pay a personal trainer to design a program for you. I will reiterate that you may need to consult your physician before attempting any exercise program.
What I have given you in this article are the basics based on my preferences and exactly what I would do if I was training to stay fit and improve my fitness levels before the new season. Other than a jump rope and running shoes, I haven’t wasted any money on equipment. I have basically used my own body weight to give myself all the weights for strength and conditioning exercises.
Many of the exercises I’ve described can be found on YouTube, so it shouldn’t take you long to find them.
As always, I hope you have found this article helpful and your comments are welcome.