As a badminton player, you need to be fast, strong, smart, athletic, have fine motor skills and the list goes on. That’s a lot of things to improve upon, so where do you even start?
I give you my 19 badminton tips for players at all levels.
Warning: This is a beast of an article. Before we start, prepare yourself mentally, get out your racket, and let’s begin.
First, choose your level:
Tips for beginners – mastering the basics
The first few years of playing badminton are all about mastering the basics.
Creating a solid foundation for yourself will save you many hours of unlearning incorrect techniques later.
You should spend a couple of years playing 3-4 times a week before you can call yourself an intermediate player.
As a beginner, there are two very important things to do:
- Practice RIGHT
- Practice A LOT
Everybody knows that repetition is essential, but repeating the right things is just as important. In our beginner tips, we’ll help you with that first point, practicing right.
The second one is up to you.
1. Learn the right grips from day one
First of all, don’t grip your racket too tightly!
When you’re not hitting the shuttle, simply hold on to the racket with enough strength to not drop it. This will allow you to easily change to the right grip and also generate more power.
There are four basic grips that you should know from the start.
Check out this great video from Tobias Wadenka that explains the four grips, or read our text below the video.
The basic forehand grip
The forehand grip, also known as the basic grip or V-grip, is the grip you will use for most of your over-the-head shots.
Namely the clear, the drop, and the smash (don’t worry, we’ll explain these strokes soon).
To apply the correct forehand grip:
- Hold your racket parallel to the ground with the frame of the racket head pointing downwards.
- Now imagine you’re going to shake your racket’s hand and grip the racket.
That’s the easiest way to apply the forehand grip.
To know if you’ve done it correctly, look down at your racket hand, and you should see the shape of a V between your thumb and index fingers.
The forehand grip allows you to generate a lot of power through forearm rotation.
When you hit the shuttle, don’t bend your wrist – this is a common mistake that will reduce the power of your overhead strokes.
Instead, rotate your forearm to generate power (hint: it’s much stronger than your wrist).
The thumb grip
The next essential grip is the thumb grip. This grip is used for most backhand strokes where the shuttle is next to or in front of you.
To apply the thumb grip, you want to put your thumb on the flatter side of the grip.
This allows you to generate power through your wrist and fingers, making the thumb grip ideal for killing the shuttle at the net or driving the shuttle flatly.
The backhand grip
The backhand grip, also called the bevel grip, is mainly used for defending attacking shots and backhand shots where the shuttle has already passed you.
The correct backhand grip is somewhere between the forehand grip and the thumb grip. Place your thumb right between the flat and the narrow sides of your grip.
This grip allows you to generate power through forearm rotation AND your wrist.
The panhandle grip
The panhandle grip is mainly used in the flat and low play and for killing the shuttle at the net.
It’s similar to the forehand grip, you simply turn your racket 90 degrees either way. This allows you to generate power through the wrist and quickly react to your opponent’s shots.
2. Practice the most important strokes
First of all, it’s important to know about the sweet spot on the badminton racket. This is the position on the string bed where you want to hit the shuttle.
If you hit the sweet spot, you will most likely produce a high-quality shot.
There are three very basic strokes in badminton:
- The clear
- The drop
- The smash
These three strokes can be played from the rear, mid, and front court.
They can, of course, also be played both straight and cross, from both sides of the court and down the middle, as well as with both a forehand and a backhand grip.
For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to ignore some of these details, and simply focus on the strokes from the rear, mid and front court.
- Clear. A clear, also called a lob, or in some situations, a lift, is a high shot where you hit the shuttle to the back of your opponent’s court. It forces your opponent to move backwards.
- Drop. The drop is a softer attacking shot to the front of your opponent’s court, close to the net. Drop shots can be just as effective at winning points as smashes and force your opponent to the front of the court.
- Smash. The smash is a powerful attacking shot that can put a lot of pressure on your opponent and is often used to win the point.
Check out this video explaining the different strokes.
3. Train the basic footwork (A LOT)
Good footwork is what allows you to move around the court quickly and retrieve every shuttle your opponent sends at you.
If your footwork is off, you will find playing badminton a big struggle.
Grips, techniques, strokes, and everything else is secondary if you’re unable to reach the shuttle.
Always move back to the center
This is a good rule of thumb for beginners. After you hit the shuttle, move back to the center of the court, so you are able to reach the shuttle no matter where it’s placed.
At an intermediate and advanced level, this is more nuanced. But for now, remember: don’t just stand there after hitting the shuttle. Move!
Practice the 4 corners
If your opponent is smart, he or she will probably try moving you to the corners of the court, since that makes it more difficult to return the shuttle.
That’s why it’s important to be able to move correctly to all four of the corners on your side of the net.
There is a basic footwork exercise called ‘4 corners’, where you repeatedly move to the four corners of the court with correct footwork.
Check it out here:
4. Apply basic tactics
There are a few very basic tactics that you can be applying even at beginner level.
Move your opponent around
Don’t make it too easy for your opponent!
By hitting the shuttle towards the back, the front, or the sides of the court, you make his or her life a lot more difficult (and yours a lot easier).
When you put pressure on your opponent, he or she is more likely to make a mistake, which means you’ll win more points.
Look at where your opponent is positioned
If your opponent is at the back, hit the shuttle towards the back. If he or she is on the right, hit it to the left.
The key is to look up once in a while.
It might seem like extremely simple advice, but I see tons of beginners not giving their opponent’s position a thought.
Don’t do the same shot over and over
Create variation in your game by doing different shots. Sometimes do a clear, sometimes do a drop. Sometimes play straight and sometimes play cross.
This kind of variation makes you less predictable and therefore more of a threat.
5. Ask better players what you should work on
When you’re playing with others, ask them to tell you what your weak spots are.
Perhaps you’re not moving after hitting the shuttle, or you don’t get behind the shuttle enough when doing a clear.
In the beginning, getting this kind of feedback is invaluable, and can help you improve your game fast.
Badminton tips for intermediate players – How to level up
Before we get into the tips, don’t get stuck at the intermediate level.
Gee, thanks Paw. That’s great advice, not obvious at all!
Nono, just hear me out.
A lot of intermediate players stay intermediate because of a few different reasons:
- Getting stuck in “bad habits” that don’t help their game
- Playing the same players over and over again
- Never challenging themselves
- Knowing the basics but never going beyond them
- Doing what they’ve always done and never leveling up
Wouldn’t you agree?
Don’t fall into these traps if you want to improve. Follow the tips in this section and keep raising your game as you become a more advanced badminton player.
6. Get a coach
If you’ve managed to become an intermediate player without a coach, well done. Now go get some coaching.
A coach can help you point out weaknesses in your game and find your blind spots.
With the right coach, you won’t need the rest of the tips in this section. Your coach will point them out to you with a lot more accuracy than I am able to through this article.
Let’s face it, I have no way of customizing these tips to you, I can only pick from common issues I see and address them.
With a coach, you will know exactly what to work on in order to improve your badminton game.
7. Improve your consistency
When it comes to consistency, I’m mainly talking about the consistency of your shots, though consistency in other areas of badminton is important too.
So, how do you get consistency in your shots…? Just repetition, right?
Well, yes. But not just that.
At an intermediate level, it’s still important to keep practicing all the different strokes. You should do that.
But there are tons of other factors that affect the consistency of your game:
- How quickly you reach the shuttle
- Your stress levels
- The wind or drift in the hall you’re playing
- Sweaty hands
- Changing shuttles
- Changing rackets
- Old strings
- Slippery court
A lot of these factors are hard to avoid, but we can control a few of them.
Control what you can
In order to improve your consistency, start using the same shuttles and the same racket as much as possible.
You’ll also want to use a grip that you’re comfortable with, and not change this too much.
Don’t try to play a winner when you’re under pressure
You might know that most points are won through errors, not winning shots, especially at beginner and intermediate levels.
If you’re under pressure, chances are you’re not going to do a deceptive double flick jump smash sliced drop shot to win the point…
Okay, I made that shot up, but you get my point.
Don’t try something complicated to win the point when there’s no opening.
You’re more likely to be inconsistent and make a mistake, which will ultimately lose you the point.
Let’s imagine you’re practicing your forehand drop shot. Give yourself 20 shuttles and see how many perfect shots you can make out of 20.
This gives you a point of reference for your current level.
Let’s say you can do 10 out of 20 at this moment. Now set your goal to 20 out of 20 and keep improving this one stroke.
8. Keep practicing the basics
As an intermediate player, you know the basics, which we already covered in the beginner’s section of this article.
But even though you know the basics, chances are you’re not yet perfect.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, back to basics means “returning to simple and most important things”.
In badminton the most important things are your footwork, your over-head strokes, your backhand, and so on.
To hammer home this point, check out this video of the current world number one Kento Momota practicing the same shot with 600 shuttles:
If the world’s number one player does it, why shouldn’t you?
9. Play with opponents who are better than you
Improving your badminton level now is not as easy as it used to be, so you need to play against players who have already done just that.
Playing players who are better than you will get you out of your comfort zone and challenge your abilities.
This is where you grow. Not when you’re beating your friend John for the 126th time.
10. Play in tournaments
If you haven’t already, start entering tournaments to play competitively against a wider range of players.
Match experience is essential for you to keep improving.
If you’re naturally competitive, tournaments will give you extra motivation for training harder too.
11. Improve your power and strength
I first started playing badminton in boarding school, where I was also playing a bunch of other sports such as volleyball and football.
At this point, I only weighed about 60 kilos or about 132 pounds. It’s fair to say I was quite skinny.
After my time in boarding school ended, I didn’t play much badminton for a couple of years. I kept playing volleyball and I started going to the gym a lot.
I must have gained 10-12 kilos of muscles during the next two years.
Then, I went back to badminton, playing with an old friend who used to beat my a** on court all the time.
In boarding school, I probably won a total of two games against him (IN ONE YEAR!).
But this time things were different. We were almost completely even. At the end of our 3-hour session, he had won 11 games and I had won 10.
I hadn’t been playing badminton for a long time, and neither had he. So what changed?
Arguably, I also gained some technical advantages by playing a lot of volleyball. Serving and smashing in volleyball is very similar to the overhead strokes in badminton.
But the biggest change was my strength.
Now I was able to smash harder, clear more easily, and my backhand strokes were more powerful too.
Proper technique can definitely make up for a lack of strength, but getting stronger will make your life a lot easier.
This is especially the case if you’re not too strong to begin with.
12. Reach the shuttle early
Reach the shuttle early, and you’ll have more options.
You can hit it right away to increase the speed of the game (pressuring your opponent) or do a deception. This way you’ll have more time to recover after your shot.
A lot of players have good enough footwork to reach the shuttle early, but don’t do it out of habit.
13. Look for your opponent’s weaknesses
Ask yourself every 10 points: how do I win my points?
Is there a specific shot that seems to just work against this opponent? Great, keep doing that one.
If they’re tall, it’s more difficult to return smashes close to the body. If they’re short, they need to work harder to move to all corners of the court.
Analyze your opponent before and during your game.
14. Create variation in your serve
Serving is an underrated part of badminton. Don’t serve in the same spot all the time, whether you’re doing a short or long serve.
Tons of points are won and lost during the first 1-5 hits of a rally, especially at the intermediate and beginner levels.
Creating some variation and focusing on mastering the serve is a low-hanging fruit for many players to start winning more points.
Advanced tips – sharpening the saw
Improving your badminton game as an advanced player is all about sharpening the racket… I mean, the saw.
I don’t recommend sharpening your racket.
All jokes aside, at this stage of your badminton career, progress is harder to come by and will naturally require more dedication.
If you’re up for it, here are my badminton tips for advanced players.
15. Start coaching others
When you look at other players’ techniques and movement patterns, it forces you to refine your own.
There are different levels of learning, and funnily enough, teaching is one of the highest.
Many badminton schools are happy to take on new coaches. There are also many unofficial badminton meetups where the levels of players vary a lot.
You also have the option to coach a few people at a time, or even just a single player.
You can probably think of a few people to coach already, so make a list and ask them if they want your help to improve their game.
16. Record and analyze your games and practices
At an advanced level, the devil is in the detail. In order to spot those details for yourself, you’ll have to look at what’s happening when you play on court.
Make it a habit to record at least one session every week.
You can simply record using your phone, or a sports camera if you have one. The ideal spot to record from is directly behind the court and elevated a bit, so you can see both players in all situations.
If this is not possible on the court you’re playing, try to get an angle a little bit from the side.
17. Improve your mental game
There are still many different levels of accuracy and technique at advanced level, but the mental game plays an increasingly bigger role.
Can you keep your composure when you have 2 game points against an opponent you’re not supposed to be beating?
Do you stay cool or do you make more errors?
Focus on the next point
If you’re a player who has issues under pressure, try focusing on one point at a time.
Think to yourself “just win the next point”, no matter where you are in the game. If you constantly focus on “don’t make a mistake”, you will probably make a mistake.
The mind doesn’t understand negatives like “not” or “don’t”. All it hears is “make a mistake”.
Visualize the right response
You don’t experience pressure in badminton all the time, especially not if you’re simply training with people you feel very comfortable with.
Through visualization, you can practice stressful situations to better prepare for them in real life.
Visualize a situation where you feel under pressure, and practice the response you want to have inside your own head.
Share your thoughts with other players
Several minds are better than one, and others are often able to give better insights on a problem than you are yourself.
They’re called blind spots for a reason. You can’t see them.
You might get a useful response like the one StefanDO gave to a player on the Badminton Central forum.
18. Analyze your opponents
You must be able to spot the weaknesses in your opponents’ game. You can do this during a game or if you’re able to watch them play a game beforehand.
- What is their favorite shot?
- When you serve, do they start out using a forehand or backhand grip?
- Where do they score most of their points?
- How do they lose most of their points?
Adjust your tactic accordingly, as well as to your own strengths and weaknesses.
19. Learn advanced footwork
Adjust your body height
If you expect your opponents shot to be low, you should also keep your body low. If you expect a high shot, keep your body up.
This will save you time, helping you react faster to hit a high-quality return.
Keep your upper body stable
Unnecessary movement of your upper body will slow you down significantly on the court.
If you throw your body forward when expecting a low service, but your opponent flicks, what will happen?
You won’t reach the shuttle, or you’ll reach it way too late.
Anticipate the shot with your legs, not with your body. This way, only your legs can be fooled.
You will be able to quickly adjust your legs and reach the shuttle in time to make a good enough return to stay in the rally.
Watch your gliding foot
When you lunge in badminton, your back foot will naturally glide with you. But if you glide too much, you will be off-balance and you might need to take an extra step.
So, watch your gliding foot.
Just glide a little bit and you will save yourself time, speed, and energy.
Phew, did you read all that?
If you did, congratulations.
Show the same dedication on court, and I’m sure you’ll get far!
Of course, it’s limited how much you can learn from a single article on the internet, but I hope it at least got you thinking.
Now go apply the badminton tips on court and let me know which one you liked best!