3 badminton drills to avoid getting butchered on the court


Before we dive into the badminton drills, check out this smooth trick Viktor Axelsen managed to pull off in a high-stakes semi-final at the All England tournament against Shi Yuqi a few years back.

One thing is learning that trick and using it against friends on the weekend, it’s something else having the confidence to attempt it when everything is on the line and the world is watching. Viktor breaks down the specific badminton drills he practiced in order to learn this move as well:

Badminton drills for beginners: reverse-engineering your way to rapid improvements

In order to improve your game, it’s sometimes easiest to reverse engineer what’s required at higher levels, find the missing gaps in our existing skills and practice those systematically.

Where the beginner level focuses on learning the basic strokes in order to keep the match going, a lot of new elements are added at the intermediate level.

Besides mastering the basic shots, we learn more variations, and complex gameplay, along with footwork so we’ll use less energy while reaching the shuttle earlier than beginners and produce a better shot.

This makes a world of difference as it frees up our minds to focus on the opponent in real-time, adapt to how they play, and take advantage of their weaknesses. The only way that is possible is if we don’t have to think about what we do on the court.

Later, you and I will discuss how you can take advantage of that but first, let’s dive into which badminton drills best prepare beginners to play intermediate opponents without dying in the process.

At the intermediate level, we know how to perform most of the strokes and can use them in a game but we have not mastered all their variations to the same extent an advanced player has. 

As a beginner, we tend to have learned how to perform at least one basic variation of the standard shots along with a backhand version of the standard ‘clear’ shot.

Standard shots

  • Serve
  • Drive
  • Clear
  • Smash
  • Net shot
  • Lift

If we’ve been smart, we’ve focused on mastering the basics and avoided trick shots as they don’t make much of a difference until the advanced level where we might need something extra in order to consistently play well and win.

Now for the fun part. Let’s look at a few select things we can train in order to level up as an upper beginner.

Upper beginners: 3 badminton drills to avoid getting butchered on the court

The problem with badminton drills for beginners is that there are too many different things to work on, so it can be hard to figure out what to prioritize and at what point we can move on to the next drill.

It’s impossible to know your individual strengths and weaknesses while writing this article so instead, I’ve selected a few high-impact areas to work on specifically if you are an upper beginner working to improve your game and move up to play against intermediate players. 

The areas are

  • The serve
  • Defensive game
  • Footwork

Allow me to elaborate on why these unsexy things will be a game changer.

Serving drills: get off on the right foot

The reason the serve makes sense to work on is that we are guaranteed to play it several times during each match.

Our serving mistakes are the easiest points for the opponent to gain and if they don’t even have to touch the shuttle to win a point, that’s even better. Not to mention that it can be very distracting mentally if we can’t get the game started properly. It gets embarrassing.

I’ve hand-selected a few service drills here.

Defensive game drills: use these two shots to stay in the game twice as long

I’ve noticed that many players especially enjoy the sport when rallies get intense. It’s fun when both players are fighting for it and are evenly matched. One of the more underrated tactics for beginners is to focus on the defensive side of the game in order to stay on the court longer and attempt to force the opponent to make errors or tire them out. 

It’s a lot less exciting than trick shots and jump smashes but it’s particularly effective for beginners because we tend to gain confidence from saving difficult shots we didn’t think we’d be able to reach, and more time on the court means more practice — imagine how much extra practice you’d get if each of your games were twice as long. At the beginner level, it’s all about getting as much play time as possible to get comfortable with the racket, grib, court, and how the shuttlecock behaves in the air. 

It can feel scary when it flies at a fast pace directly towards your face but it’s hella exciting when you figure out how to handle it instead of turning your back and giving up the point right away.

Some of the best elements for that are in the neutral game (not attacking or defending) such as a clear shot to the back, or if you get the chance, scoring the point with a net shot kill.

Drills in badminton: clear to the back

Drills in badminton: net shot

Footwork drills: the unsung hero

If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on the fact that most people find footwork boring. It’s the cardio side of things that makes badminton a great workout for weight loss: lots of steps back and forth at high intensity. If we took the racket and court out of the footwork, it kinda looks like some of the crossfit-type exercises.

On the other hand, it’s one of the most effective basic drills in badminton as it allows us to spend less energy playing and we’ll reach the bird earlier which allows for cleaner shots. It also allows for us to better return to an ideal waiting position before the opponent returns the shuttle.

Check out these footwork-specific drills.

Wall drill in badminton: intuitively feel how the shuttle travels through the air

The sport is just not fun alone but sometimes we want to practice more than other players and we get stuck alone. This is where wall drills come in. 

The biggest benefit of a wall drill in badminton is for beginners as we learn how the shuttle behaves in the air. I don’t see solo drills as serious ‘competition’ to other badminton drills but they can help as a part of a general workout for stamina and if there are no better ways for you to practice badminton available.

The psychology of drills in badminton: the hidden gem to rapid improvement

Badminton drills may come across as awfully boring with the player repeating the same steps over and over again, and “drilling” them into their brain.

While it might be less fun for social and casual players, it’s extremely effective compared to standard training if you are serious about improving your game.

The reason is that we are able to focus on a narrower skill and perfect it, which makes it automatic even in highly intense games where there is no time to think as shuttles are flying everywhere. 

Imagine performing the perfect jump smash without ever thinking about it… it just happens.

That’s auto-pilot. 

Now, imagine everything you do is near-perfect all the time; the timing is on point and the shuttle is precisely going into the corner again and again, at lightning pace. Meanwhile, your mind is thinking a few shots ahead, accurately predicting where best to place the shuttle to set yourself up to win the point while your body is performing the correct steps to reach the shuttle and hit it. 

To some extent, we have to assume that’s how our opponent plays. Anything less is a bonus.

The way it works was first discovered by Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahnemann, who found that our brain can be looked at as two modules: brain one and brain two. To make it easier to visualize, we can think of them as the conscious mind, which is the part that is actively thinking about stuff right now, and the subconscious mind, which contains things that we feel confident in to the point where they become automatic. For example, taking a shower or brushing your teeth.

I’m not gonna bore you with the details but the key point here is that new badminton drills start in the conscious mind where we learn the correct moves, and as we practice, they will eventually move to the subconscious level when we master them, and the space they took up in the conscious mind will be freed up for new stuff.

I’m sure there are some brain experts out there who would complain that this explanation doesn’t do it justice and they would probably be right. But this is a blog on badminton, not brain research and I’m sure you get the gist, so let’s move on.

Now, compare that to the standard type of training where we juggle several different skills at the same time and learn each of them to a moderate level. It takes longer to master all of those to the same extent than it does if we systematically focus on one skill at a time, master it, and then move on to the next one before tying them all together at the end.

Drills are especially powerful to master specific badminton tips and help us build the confidence that they will be ready in our toolbox when we need them the most. It’s the confidence to know that we’ll master it to the point where it just happens on autopilot without us thinking. Like Viktor Axelsen describes in his badminton drill video: he doesn’t look at where the shuttle is arriving, he lets the body do what it needs to automatically.

Takeaways: let’s recap the hot sauce

  • Drills are hugely beneficial if we are committed to mastering a particular skill and improving our game as it allows us to learn faster
  • There are so many drills in badminton that it’s easy for us to feel overwhelmed about where to start
  • A great place to start is with the defensive game, the serve, and the footwork which is counterintuitive but gives us more time on the court which in turn will give us more practice
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