Go on court and hit shuttles with a very relaxed grip. Grip the racket firm enough that it won’t slip out of your hand – you don’t want to see the whites of your knuckles or you’re gripping too tight! Play a few overhead shots and the second before your racket connects with the shuttle, squeeze a little tighter.
I expect you’ll find that you’re hitting the shuttle harder as your racket can accelerate quicker towards the shuttle without the tension to apply the brakes.
Looking back over the last 30 years or so, preparation for an overhead shot has changed. This is mainly due to the significant improvements in racket technology. No longer are we playing with steel framed rackets, weighing considerably more than the average 85g in todays rackets. The lightweight, one-piece carbon construction has meant that you can now prepare and hit in a second. There’s no need for a long backswing – an almost tennis-like serve in order to hit an overhead shot in badminton.
What I do see so often is almost a “corkscrew” action whereby the racket is moved with the shoulder turn. So why is this wrong?
Whenever you move a muscle, or series of muscles, they always want to return to a neutral position i.e. go back to where they started from.
A corkscrew action therefore usually creates a reverse action. This means that instead of the racket being thrown in a direct line at the shuttle, it’s almost moving across the path of the shuttle. Catch the shuttle at precisely the right point and you may hit a good smash.
But, this method is extremely unpredictable and inaccurate too.
Stand in a space with sufficient clearance around you to swing your racket. From a defensive stance, place your non racket hand onto the front of your shoulder to feel the muscles move.
Now, with your non-racket hand still on your shoulder, prepare to hit an overhead and feel which way your arm and shoulder are moving. Got it? Now play the shot and pay attention to the follow through and where your racket finishes.
Do the same exercise again, but this time lift your racket straight over your shoulder as though you are scratching your back. Your elbow should be pointing virtually upright. Can you feel a difference? If you can, that suggests you’re more likely to be using a corkscrew action in your preparation.
If you didn’t feel a difference, turn your shoulders as though you are going to hit the shuttle. Your racket will move to its usual position.
When you throw the racket from here, watch the line of the racket. Is it going out in direct line to where you want to hit the shuttle, or is it falling across your body towards your non-racket leg?
If your racket is going in a straight line then you’ve got great technique and chances are you’re already hitting the shuttle pretty hard. Focus on exercises 1 and 2 to see if you can improve in these areas.
If your racket is somewhere near your non-racket foot, then you may find that you hit stronger and more consistently cross court than you do straight. If you do, then the corkscrew action is a cause. Also, you may find that you pull most of your round-the-head shots out of court.
OK, we’ve covered some basic ground here, but from what I continue to see in clubs, a huge percentage of players can improve the power of their badminton smashes by improving in one, two or all three of these key areas.
Have some fun testing these exercises out, and hopefully you’ll find the one area where you quickly find a little more focus makes a huge difference in the result of your smash.
This article is not meant to be a complete checklist of ways to improve the power of your badminton smash. I’ve chosen my “big three” because they are relatively easy for you to check for yourself when you haven’t the luxury of working with a coach.