It’s one of most popular pastimes in India, but if you want to take your badminton skills to the next level like today’s shining stars Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu, you need to strengthen and work on specific parts of your body. As Sindhu gets ready for her gold medal match tonight (watch the Olympics badminton final here at 6:55 pm IST), it’s pertinent to know what goes into preparing for badminton, especially in the big league.

As you might have noticed, badminton players make a lot of lunging and reaching movements – both low and high. This means you need to engage the quads, hamstrings, glutes and your hips. Adductors and abductors, muscles on the inside and outside of your thighs are also heavily involved. Recovery is crucial in your routine as the muscles need time to relax after your workout.

Players also need to be agile to twist and turn swiftly, thereby putting a lot of pressure on your knees and hip. Finally, the act of hitting the shuttlecock across the net uses your chest, back and shoulder. All three have to be equally flexible for a player to leap up and return or reach down and lift a drop or smash. Get ready for a long playing career, and build your stamina, endurance and flexibility with these exercises for badminton.

Lunge sets

While playing, you will be lunging forward, sideways and behind, with various degrees of bend in the knee. You could choose to use weights for lunges or just use your bodyweight. This helps develop lower body strength, and gives your muscles good memory for situations in the match.

Leg workouts

Focus on your legs as you will be running a lot and leaping as well. Leg extensions, leg curls and leg presses in the gym will help strengthen them and prepare them for the rigour on the court. For jumps, you will need to develop power and speed – this is crucial to cover distance and vertical jumping ability defines good players. For this split squats or squat jumps are the order of the day. Perfect to help build jumping ability over time.

Quad extensions

Quad extensions are another way to make sure your leg muscles can withstand the impact of the hard court and can balance you as you rock back and forth. The quads will be doing a lot of heavy lifting, when you get on your toes to meet some returns or serves. Make sure it gets enough exercise in your routine.

Shoulder strength

Upper body strength is crucial to your badminton success. In most racquet sports, there’s a lot of stress on the shoulder due to prolonged periods of holding the racquet, as well as the action of using the racquet to return volleys. Over period, without proper attention, badminton players are likely to develop rotator cuff problems. Medial – internal – and lateral – external – shoulder rotation exercises using dumbbells, cables or resistance bands should help you develop strength and flexibility in the rotator cuff. Do not overdo the shoulder exercises as it can seriously hamper your chances on the court.

Of course, it’s easy to concentrate only on your conditioning. Don’t forget to include a nutritious and well-rounded diet. Like most sports you will need a lot of energy, while your muscles also need protein and fat. So a balanced diet with carbohydrates and protein will benefit you with more energy to burn as long as you are adequately exercising. High protein will promote muscle building which adds more strength and power to your smashes.

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