One Sunday, I played badminton with a group of friends, and there was a massive trophy on the line…
Bragging rights (and a small cash price because we all chipped in $10).
We play recreationally, and the primary goal is always to have fun and push ourselves with high-intensity practice. We’re all fairly competitive (read very competitive), so we play a handful of matches as a sort of mini-tournament between ourselves.
I was amped up because I love these Sunday badminton games!
What I didn’t know was that a lack of badminton stretches would be my downfall.
I was about to experience something that would make me feel like I was dragging a dumbbell around the court while everyone else seemingly moved around as light as feathers.
I remember having this feeling of being “too tight.” My joints and muscles felt restricted somehow, even after getting warm. Every time I got into a lunge or rotated my shoulder before striking the shuttle, it felt awkward and off.
My movement was limited.
Every time I came from the backcourt to reach a shuttle at the net, I didn’t get quite as far in my lunge as I wanted to strike the shuttle with good timing and accuracy.
My overhead strokes felt weird, and I didn’t get the full rotation I wanted, almost as if my shoulder locked up halfway through my swing.
The feeling quickly morphed into frustration which didn’t do me any favors.
My shots weren’t as accurate or fast as they should be – every badminton player knows when a strike feels good, and mine clearly didn’t feel like I was hitting shuttles how I wanted.
To make matters worse, I felt that I couldn’t go as hard as I wanted to out of fear that something might “twist,” “slip,” or “pop.”
All my far-reaching movements felt so tight that I worried about pulling my groin muscle, tearing my achilles tendon, or ripping my shoulder.
$100 and bragging rights aren’t worth missing weeks of training and matches.
I lost every match that day. But far worse than that, it felt like my gameplay was only at 50% performance.
After complaining, one of the other players suggested that I stretch more often and see how it felt.
Since I started doing exactly that, I’ve never felt the same limitation in my game, except when I play at very high intensity or do heavy lifting/workouts a day before a match.
Have you ever felt restricted in your performance because everything is stiff or “too tight” when you move around on the court?
Stretching and flexibility are massively underrated in this sport (at least on an amateur level), but it might be the easiest way to prevent feeling like I did on that Sunday.
Badminton flexibility: what happens to your body when you stretch?
Stretching for badminton was something I had completely skipped for months so why was it even a problem?
Take a look at these.
As badminton players, we get into some of the most physically demanding positions. The lowest lunges, the widest stances, and shots that bend and twist your body like a mattress spring on over time.
All our movements are highly explosive and we need to switch between these extreme positions fast if we want to catch the shuttle.
It should go without saying that flexibility matters.
When your muscles and joints are too tight, there’s no chance of reaching these positions in the split seconds required for the sport.
But how does stretching for badminton affect your physique?
It’s important to note that when I say “tightness,” I’m not talking about muscle soreness.
It’s not about how your body feels the day after an intense practice where you walk around like you sh*t your pants or did 500 squats.
Contrary to what you might have heard some coach say about the build-up of lactic acid causing your muscles to get sore – and that you need to stretch that out – it doesn’t seem like you can stretch yourself out of muscle soreness after a hard workout.
A physical therapist say your muscles feel sore because “…the connective tissue around it get damaged during exercise,”
When you work out hard or work out muscles that aren’t used to the intensity you put them through, it’s just part of average recovery.
Studies have also found that stretching does not affect muscle soreness.
Maybe you’ve experienced still being sore even if you do stretch, so you feel like you might as well skip it. I know I did multiple times.
So why bother stretching?
It’s not about being sore, it’s about avoiding the general “tightness” in muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments that makes you feel uncomfortable in your movement.
It’s about getting more fluid in your training and during intense matches, so you don’t feel limited when you get into the wild positions badminton requires or worry about injuring yourself.
Stretching is where you can start getting rid of these limitations. The more flexible you are, the easier your movement around the court will be.
Just take another look at those images above, and it’s easy to see that badminton players need flexibility almost as much as a gymnast.
When it comes to getting more agile and limber, that also means being able to play as often and as hard as you want to.
Stretching for badminton injuries
One study among amateur badminton players showed that the most common injuries happen in the lower limb areas (leg, ankle, and foot) – as many as 40.3% of the cases.
Within those cases, the most common was knee injury followed by other injuries to the leg.
In 34.5 % of the cases, the injuries were severe enough to keep players out for 28 days.
Well, that sucks. A month of lost practice and playtime?!
Another collection of studies on elite badminton players found that anywhere from 58-92.3% of all injuries were in the lower limb area – also mostly knee injuries.
“Hey, aren’t those all the areas where tendons, ligaments, joints, and muscles are under tremendous pressure?”
I think we’re getting hotter.
Badminton is a game entirely composed of short bursts of movement and sudden sharp changes in direction. All of it is highly explosive.
When muscles and joints aren’t flexible enough, and we suddenly call upon them to perform – a sudden stretch and movement they aren’t used to could backfire.
Doesn’t it make sense that someone with low flexibility is more likely to pull a muscle or tear a ligament or tendon when they rush at a shuttle?!
Injuries like these suck because they stop you from playing badminton as often as you’d like (or from going as hard as you want).
Speaking of going as hard as you want.
I’m talking about walking onto the court and feeling like you can hit hard smashes and crisp clears. Nothing stops you from jumping or rushing to a corner – you just have fun playing the margins.
Those margins might depend more on stretching than you realize because it unlocks your range of motion.
Badminton stretching and range of motion
We’ve already touched on stretching to improve your flexibility. One thing about being more flexible is that you get a larger range of motion in all your movements.
We’re talking about how far you can move your joint or muscle in any direction.
Think about all your overhead strokes. Your clear shot and smashes are hugely affected by how you rotate your shoulder to get the optimal swing and angle on the shuttle.
If you can’t operate at the full spectrum of your muscle and joints, it’s taking away from your mobility which diminishes your footwork, stance, and striking technique.
Your performance will be worse for it, and playing badminton will be less fun.
Because your range of motion decreases with age, younger players typically won’t care much for stretching because they don’t experience any limitations in their game (even if they could benefit from it).
Once players get into their 30s, they might begin to experience how low flexibility and range of motion chip away at their performance.
I’m going to put myself on the line here and say that all athletes, whether professional or amateur, would hate to think that they didn’t play as well as they expected because a joint acted up or because a shoulder or hamstring felt tight and slow.
It’s one thing to hit too many terrible shuttles or if your strategy or tactics were wrong. Those are things you can fix already in your next game.
It’s entirely different when you’re held back by physical limitations.
Badminton stretching and flexibility have one big problem
The thing about flexibility is that you can’t achieve it in a few days.
You can’t do one big stretching session the night before a big match and hope to walk onto the court feeling all limber and agile like a cheetah.
If you want to become more flexible, you need to stretch consistently.
You’ll have to implement a stretching routine you can do every day (even on days where you don’t train) and keep at it for a month before you start to feel a noticeable difference on the court.
This is where one of the biggest problems for stretching and flexibility stops most amateur players.
Pretty much no one likes doing it.
COME ON PEOPLE! Are we already falling apart in our 30s?!?
I’ve asked players at my local club about how often they stretch, and not a single person does it every day.
The ones who were the most avid about it would stretch around 10 minutes after every practice and sometimes a few minutes during their warm-up.
When was the last time you stretched for more than 10 minutes (or even 10 minutes for that matter?)
I didn’t care much for stretching either, which is why it one day culminated in my game feeling tight and awkward.
The thing is, stretching is boring.
Most players “forget” to do it regularly, and only stretch when something hurts/feels tight, to loosen it up. We use it as symptom treatment. The problem is, at that point, your flexibility is already limited.
If your range of motion has been limited for a long time, you probably experience that as your ‘normal’ range of motion.
Then one day, you’re moving around the court, you reach a deep lunge, and something pulls or stretches in a way it hasn’t before, “Oh shit! Did I just mess up my hamstring, knee, ankle?”
Because it’s boring and you don’t think about it until it starts becoming a problem, stretching might be one of the most underrated parts of your physical training and conditioning.
It needs to be preemptive if you want to build the flexibility that could revolutionize your performance and let you enjoy badminton even more.
There’s no shortage of stretching exercises out there. Just go on Youtube, and you’ll instantly get a flood of videos.
It’s up to you whether you want to wait until it’s a problem.
If we already know that stretching is an afterthought at best, and no one really wants to do it when things are going fine – how can you ensure that you’ll stretch often enough to improve flexibility?
Make badminton stretches easier – tips that help you get it done!
Most people think that the easiest time to stretch is right after practice. Your body is already warm and more flexible here than outside of training so I would agree with that.
However, don’t worry too much about missing a window for stretching. As long as you get it done, you’re building the habit.
The first step in a system that helps you get your stretching done is deciding ahead of time how to stretch after every practice.
You don’t want to start thinking about stretching exercises after practice and leave room for yourself to procrastinate and say, “It’s fine I’ll just do it next time.”
Decide on a handful of stretching exercises in advance so there’s nothing to think about. You just do it. This will be your go-to stretching routine.
I’d even put a timer on each exercise so you know exactly how long it should be.
You can go as crazy into researching different exercises as you want and find ones specific to where you feel tight – but DON’T go overboard and find some crazy stretching routine that takes an hour to complete.
You’ll end up never doing it.
If you want an easy place to start, here’s an example of 6 stretching exercises that every badminton player can do.
Regardless of what stretching you decide on, my advice is to keep it to a handful of exercises.
There are many different opinions about how long you need to stretch, but the lowest effort that still gives results seems to be around 60 seconds for each exercise.
If we use the examples from the BadmintonInsight video above, it could look like this.
- Lower back – 60 seconds each side
- Glutes and hips – 60 seconds each side
- Quads – 60 seconds each side
- Hamstring – 60 seconds each side
- Shoulders – 60 seconds each side
Anyone can do a 10-minute stretching routine.
If you end up getting more into stretching, you can always add more time and exercises.
That’s a basic system to become flexible without a lot of effort. Plan a handful of go-to exercises and put a timer on it.
If you find it hard to keep up the discipline to stretch even a little, here are a few tips from the boredom realm of stretching that you can add on.
- The entertainment stretch
Do your stretching routine while you unwind. I know you’re going to scroll through your phone, watch TV, or listen to a podcast. Use this downtime to knock out your stretch.
It’s a great way to stay in your stretching positions longer instead of moving through each one too quickly because you just want to get it done.
It’s also a lot less boring, and if you’re watching TV anyway, why not reach for your toes while you do it?!
This is also how I’ve managed to keep my stretching sessions longer than a few or ten minutes because it doesn’t feel as long when you’re entertained by something else.
I’ve found that if I’m stretching this way 10-20 minutes go by in a flash.
- The Youtube “follow-along”
This is another one that’s easy to do by yourself. There are thousands of videos for different types of stretching and time intervals on Youtube so you don’t need to search far and wide.
The idea here is the same as going to a gym class with an instructor because it’s so much easier to follow an exercise where someone tells you what to do and when.
Again it’s all about putting as little thought and effort as possible into deciding how to stretch – just get it done.
Here are a few examples of a 10-minute stretch follow-along to get you started.
- The team stretch
This is my favorite way to get stretching done.
If you and your badminton friends stretch right after practice it’s a win-win because you get it done while you’re on the court, and while your body is still warm enough to make it feel easy to push your stretching further if you want.
What’s even better is that since you’re all badminton players, you can spar with each other and learn new exercises that improve flexibility on the court.
The power of doing this together is accountability.
If you know someone else will be stretching after practice, it feels stupid to just grab your gym bag and go home.
Moreover, if you have an agreement with a few other players to do a stretching session, you’d feel like an asshat for walking out on them.
You’re codependent in holding each other accountable in your little stretching scheme.
If you’ve ever been part of a training group that meets a few times a week, you know what I’m talking about.
The best is the final results because once you leave the court to do whatever you need to do – you’ve already ticked it off your list.
Here’s a suggestion you can bring to your next badminton practice and do as part of your cooldown.
If you want to add a few more on top, here are three super simple stretches from Viktor Axelsen’s coach.
It’s up to you. Do you want to become more flexible, or do you want to wait until the day it’s one of your biggest problems on the court?
Quick questions about badminton stretches
Good badminton stretches focus specifically on the parts that are under intense pressure during your practice and workouts. Exercises that stretch your hamstrings, inner thighs (groin), quads, shoulders, glutes, hips, and lower back are the most beneficial.
Stretching before badminton is not as important as making sure you warm up. If you want to incorporate stretching as part of a warm-up routine, that’s completely fine, but you want to proceed gently compared to stretching after playing since your muscles and joints aren’t as warm and flexible.
Yes, if you want to maintain or improve flexibility, you should incorporate a stretching routine after badminton practice. When you stretch after badminton practice, your body is warmed up and flexible, so you can get the most out of your stretching.
Becoming flexible requires consistent stretching sessions (preferably once every day) over several weeks before you start to feel results on the court. The more often you stretch and the longer your stretching session is, the more flexible you become. You also need to keep a stretching routine to keep the flexibility you gain, especially as you get older.
- Becoming more flexible as a badminton player can do a lot for your performance on the court. You’ll stop feeling limited when reaching shuttles in deep lunges or when hitting demanding strikes, which makes it more fun to play harder and go for the margins
- Flexibility is increasingly important when you stop being a youth player. Range of motion and annoying injuries can be prevented with preemptive stretching.
- Stretching often stops you from pulling or tearing a muscle when you have a snappy movement in the heat of battle, which can be a big help if you have a mental block worrying about injuries
- Most players hate stretching because it’s boring and feels intangible, but you don’t have to do a lot to see massive improvements. Adapt a system where you decide on a handful of exercises that you can do every day and make that your badminton routine. Start with 10-minutes a day and keep that schedule for a month and see how you change on the court