This article will tell you everything you need to know about how professional badminton players prepare for tournaments.
To win any tournaments, you have to win approximately 7 to 9 matches, with each match ranging from anywhere between 30 minutes and 1 hour. As such, proper preparation is necessary to be at your best and keep fatigue at bay throughout the tournament.
Without further ado, let’s look at actionable steps to be at your best during a tournament.
How Professional Badminton Players Prepare for Tournaments
There are three aspects to the pre-tournament routine of every professional: physical, mental, and technical. Let’s take a close look at the physical aspect.
Did you know that an average badminton player runs around 6+ kilometers per match? As such, you’d have to be extremely physically fit to maintain your performance throughout the tournament. Or else, fatigue or injury might follow.
Here are the three key aspects of pre-tournament physical preparation:
1) Nutrition and Dietary Considerations
Nutrition won’t only regulate your performance on the court. Your diet also plays an integral part in how quickly you recover from grueling exercises or matches.
Professional badminton players are aware of this, which is why they make it a habit of taking a diet that is high in carbohydrates, protein, and energy. They also take adequate amounts of minerals, water, hydration, and vitamins to get the required fuel for training and matches.
Here are a few dietary considerations you’d do well to keep in mind while preparing for tournaments:
- Make sure your calorie intake matches the exertion needed for training and matches
- Take sufficient proteins to give your muscle the fuel they need to grow and heal
- Eat complex carbohydrates – they will keep you on your feet during those energy-sapping training sessions and matches
- Take a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, whole grains, and vegetables
- Avoid sugary foods. While they may give you an instant boost of energy, you’d be more likely to experience sudden energy crashes.
Pro Tip: If you’re serious about your preparation, consult a sports dietitian or nutritionist. They will develop a personalized nutrition plan as per your needs and goals.
2) Strength Training and Conditioning
As the name implies, strength training involves exercises that will elevate your power, giving you the ability to hit powerful smashes, launch fast serves, and complete quick movements around the court without injuring yourself in the process.
Given that all the above movements require exertion of different muscle groups, any strength training exercise should also target the same muscle groups, such as the arms, shoulders, back, and most importantly the legs.
Here are some strength training exercises you can do to unleash your power:
- Weightlifting: Weightlifting exercises help target all the muscle groups that are essential for badminton. In addition, they help lower the risk of injury. Some of the more popular weight-lifting exercises among badminton players include squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.
- Plyometric exercises: The ‘jump training’ exercises are intended to enhance your speed, power, and overall athleticism. Box jump – an exercise in which you jump onto a box, before jumping back down to the ground – is incredibly popular among badminton players.
- Resistance training: As you might already know, resistance-training exercises are designed to improve your overall physical performance. Pull-ups, rows, and lunges are a few of the many resistance training exercises popular among badminton players.
While strength training targets specific muscle groups, conditioning helps improve your overall fitness. It is designed to enhance your cardiovascular health so that you can have the stamina needed to excel in long and grueling matches.
Here are a few conditioning exercises you can do to improve your overall fitness:
- Running: Whether you’re doing hill runs or simply go out for a jog every evening, running will have an extremely positive impact on your endurance. Small wonder, then, that it is one of the most popular pre-tournament exercises among badminton players.
- Cycling: In contrast to running, which requires you to be at the peak of your physical powers, cycling is a low-impact exercise anyone can do. As such, if you’re a beginner who’s unsure about your fitness levels, get on a bike!
- Swimming: Similar to cycling in intensity, cycling is unique in that it targets the muscles in the upper body, thereby giving your arms and shoulders the power needed to impart explosive force to your returns and smashes on the court.
- High-intensity interval training: HIIT exercises in many forms – sprinting, jumping jacks, burpees – and can last for anywhere between 10 seconds to several minutes. Pick one that is suited to your fitness level.
- Circuit training: Circuit training exercises are strength and cardio training rolled into one. Make sure your body is in good physical condition before you subject it to circuit training. Otherwise, a debilitating injury may follow.
If employed correctly, strength training and conditioning exercises won’t just help improve your performance during matches. They will also reduce your risk of injury, increasing your chances of going all the way and lifting the cup.
3) Cardiovascular Training
Given that badminton involves a lot of running, you have to have a high level of stamina to be at your best day in, day out. Otherwise, your performance and energy levels will dip as the match and/or tournament progresses, hurting your chances of landing glory.
There are many cardiovascular exercises you can do to give your stamina and endurance levels a boost. Some of the most popular include running, swimming, and cycling. If you have a lake nearby, rowing can also be a great option.
Regardless of the cardiovascular exercise you intend to do, make sure to tailor it to your fitness levels and training goals. For instance, while a player in peak shape can do running for 30 minutes, a beginner would be exhausted after a few sprints.
As such, it’s recommended to work with a trainer and develop a cardiovascular training plan that works best for you. While you can also go your own way, working with a coach will surely decrease the time you need to hit peak fitness levels.
As you may already know, badminton isn’t just about running around the court. To perform at your best on the court, you have no choice but to stay on top of your nerves. Otherwise, your chances of coming out on top of fast-paced games are slim.
Here are a few techniques professional badminton players employ to develop mental toughness:
Controlled Breathing Exercise
Research has shown that controlled breathing lowers the levels of stress hormones in the blood. It also prevents your muscles from getting tensed up, while giving your energy levels a boost. Here’s one of my favorite controlled breathing exercises:
- Sit comfortably in a quiet spot
- Start inhaling while counting to five
- Once you can inhale no more, pause for a few seconds
- Next, start exhaling while counting to seven – make sure your lungs are only empty once you have fully counted to seven.
Increased athletic performance? Check. Relief from anxiety and depression symptoms? Yes. Improved ability to cope with stress? Absolutely. Given all these benefits, it shouldn’t be surprising to note that many badminton players make visualization exercises an integral part of their pre-tournament routine.
Here’s my favorite visualization exercise that gets me in the mood for
- Sit comfortably in a quiet spot and close your eyes
- Take a few deep breaths to ensure your breathing is normal
- Imagine you’re walking onto the court with thousands of people cheering your entry
- Picture that you’re the epitome of confidence, focus, and energy
- Visualize how all the shots and strategies you have prepared are helping you win points, rallies, games, and ultimately the match
- Make sure to use as many senses as possible. Imagine the feel of your feet landing on the floor after you have hit a point-winning smash, the smell of sweat dripping down your forehead, and the ecstasy of victory.
According to various studies, positive self-talk improves your self-esteem, helps you better manage stress, and reduces symptoms of anxiety. It may even improve your endurance and stamina, providing direct benefits on the court.
Here are a few ways you can practice positive self-talk:
- Treat yourself like you’d a dear friend
- Limit your exposure to negativity
- Be thankful for the things you’re grateful for
- Find humor in any/everything
- Surround yourself with genuinely positive people.
In contrast to what amateur badminton players believe, technical training isn’t just about learning skills that will improve your performance on the court.
Instead, a comprehensive technical training program should also help you understand how to prevent injuries while taking part in grueling training sessions and matches. Plus, it should help you develop mental toughness, which is key to success in any game.
Here are the multiple aspects of technical training I’ve seen professional players adhere to:
Footwork and Accuracy Drills
Footwork drills won’t just help you move efficiently around the court. They will also help you build up endurance and stamina. Also, by giving you the tools you need to quickly reach the shuttlecock, the best footwork exercises will also help you hit more accurate shots.
Here are a few of my favorite footwork drills:
1) Side-to-side shuffles
Side-to-side shuffles help strengthen the muscles in your butt, thighs, hips, and calves. In doing so, they help improve your agility on the court, giving you the ability to reach all four corners of the court without exhausting yourself in the process.
Here is my favorite side-to-side shuffle exercise:
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart
- Bend slightly forward (make sure your spine is in a neutral position)
- Extend your arms outwards and open your hands
- Take a small jump to your right and try to land on the ball of your feet
- Wait a few seconds before taking a jump to your left
- Repeat as many times as your body allows.
Imagine you’re moving around the badminton court as if you’re in a real match, but there is no shuttlecock in sight. Instead, you’re using the power of your imagination to visualize and hit shots. That is what ghosting is all about.
While beginners may find it difficult to believe, the ghosting drill offers several benefits. These include improved footwork, enhanced stamina, increased focus, and higher speed on the court.
The following is one of the most recommended ghosting drills:
- Stand in your ready position, as if you’re about to return your opponent’s short
- Practice moving around the court while executing all the shots you’ve learned to date
- Move in all directions while changing your speed and direction to mimic real gameplay
- You can also practice specific hitting or footwork drills during ghosting
3) Jumping Drill
As the name implies, this drill involves jumping repeatedly with one foot or both feet. It is one of the most common drills used by badminton players to enhance their power, speed, and overall athleticism on the court.
While there are many jumping drills you can follow, here’s the one that is ideal for beginners:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure your knees are slightly bent.
- Using your core and legs, jump as high as you can.
- Land softly while making sure you’re in full control.
- Repeat this exercise as many times as you want.
Shot Practice Drills
Just like their amateur counterparts, professional badminton players perform regular shot practice sessions to perfect their smashes, drops, net shots and clears. These sessions go a long way in helping them improve their performance on the court.
Let’s take a close look at various shot practice drills you can engage in:
- Clear Shots: One of my favorite clear shot drills is when you repeatedly hit the shuttlecock from your baseline to the one on the opponent’s side of the court. After doing it hundreds of times, you develop the muscle memory of how hard you should hit the shuttlecock for it to land just inside the court.
- Smash Shots: During training, practice hitting smashes to different areas of the court. This skill will prove to be invaluable in hitting smashes that your opponent would find almost impossible to return.
- Net Shots: There are two types of net shots that you can practice to catch your opponent off-guard. These include net drop shorts (hitting the shuttlecock so that it lands right next to the net) and net lift shots (hitting the shuttlecock from the net to the back of the court).
As you might guess, the pre-tournament routine isn’t just about spending hours and hours on the badminton court. It also involves giving your body the tools (adequate nutrition, enough sleep, proper hydration) it needs to rest and repair.
For the sake of better understanding, I’ve divided the recovery techniques into four headings:
Proper nutrition isn’t just about eating foods that could keep your energy levels high during training and matches. It also involves giving your body the fuel it needs to rest and repair your muscles.
As stated above, professional badminton players eat lots of proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to turbocharger their energy levels. They also take plenty of sports drinks during games to recharge their energy levels.
Many professional badminton players I know monitor their urine color to make sure they are properly hydrated. In addition, they drink plenty of electrolyte-rich fluids before, during and after training and matches to stay properly hydrated.
If you’re tight on budget and cannot afford pricey bottles of Gatorade, make water your best companion on the court. However, it’s recommended to limit your water intake to 150 mL to 250 mL before and during the match. As too much water can hurt your performance.
Just like any of their fellow human beings, professional badminton players know that 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night is crucial for their bodies to rest and recover.
If possible, try to make naps a regular part of your daily routine, with research linking one 90-minute daytime nap to enhanced physical performance for sleep-deprived athletes.
Professional badminton players use several techniques – massage, foam rolling, stretching – to help their muscles recover. These techniques also go a long way in relieving muscle soreness, one of the biggest hindrances to improved athletic performance.
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