One of the hottest topics I cover in my online coaching program is increasing power to your badminton smash.
Wherever I travel to coach, there are always two major questions I’m asked
- How to improve the backhand
- How to get more power in the smash
There are a number of simple adjustments you can make that will help you increase power and improve your accuracy in the smash, so let’s get started…
Let’s Begin With Your Feet!
Why your feet? Simple. If you haven’t the speed to get behind the shuttle before you hit it, then there is no way you are going to hit a good powerful accurate smash. You need to be behind the shuttle so your bodyweight is ready to move in the direction of your smash. Adding your bodyweight to the smash provides more power.
How far behind the shuttle should you stand? Ideally, you need to be far enough that the shuttle would land slightly ahead of your non racket leg, but in alignment with your racket shoulder.
You need to test whether you are moving fast enough to get behind the shuttle. Stand on the front service line and ask your feeder to lift the shuttle towards the back line. Now, with your racket in your hand, try to beat the shuttle. But, you mustn’t hit the shuttle! Instead, allow it to hit the floor and note the position it lands in relation to your body.
Where is the shuttle? Is it sufficiently in front of your body that you can hit it down, allowing your bodyweight to move forward? If not, you’ve just discovered one key element you need to improve that will add more power to your smash.
So try again, and this time move faster, going beyond where you would normally stop. Test again. Any better? If so, repeat this exercise until you are comfortable that you’ve got it right.
Finally, test again by moving back and this time hit the shuttle. Work it and it’s likely the first few shots will fall into the net!
There are so many club and league players I’ve seen that seem to move and hit with excessive tension in their bodies. This tension is caused by pressure getting to the shuttle on time, frustration from wanting to hit the shuttle better or score more points and most likely a host of minor reasons that are causing a major issue.
When the body is tense, it is unable to perform anywhere near its optimum capability. A tense body cannot move as fast, hit as fast or as powerfully as one that is free from tension. Think about it. If you were to go onto court to play against a player you know you can easily beat, why is it your shots are so much better and you appear to move so much faster? Yes, you’re not under pressure and therefore playing with a sense of freedom – freedom from tension.
One of the major adjustments I ask of most players is the way in which they grip their racket. I’m not talking about correct forehand or backhand grips here, although that does feature high on my list.
In this article I’m talking about the strength of your grip. If you grip your racket too tight, then your muscles are constantly under tension. This does not allow them to flow and carry out you instructions to move in a certain way in order to hit the shuttle. They are almost fighting to move in the right sequence.
A tight grip then restricts the amount of power available to these muscles, which only leads to a poor result and disappointment for the player. If you consistently grip the shuttle too tight, then you’re running the risk of injuring your elbow. Tennis or golfers elbow is extremely painful and is frequently caused by your grip being too tight, or your racket grip being too small for the size of your hand.
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.
Your backswing can make all the difference
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.