As a player, it’s common to do badminton wrist training to avoid experiencing tightness (or even pain) in your wrist after hitting a power strike, or from trying to reach an angle on a shuttle that got behind you (typically an overhead shot).
At the same time, we also want power, but it always takes away from the game when we start worrying.
“Will I hurt myself if I keep playing?” “Can I train and condition my wrist so I’m not limited in my striking ability?”
Badminton wrist training seems like the obvious way to add more power to your strikes, while also preventing pain and injuries from setting in.
A stronger wrist has to be an automatic win-win, right?
If you look around the popular community subreddit, there’s no shortage of people who’ve considered this, and there’s one obvious thing that jumps at you…
All these questions revolve around pain and power.
Naturally, we assume that getting stronger wrists will help us withstand the strain in our striking (to prevent injuries) AND increase our power to send even deadlier shuttles at our opponent.
The same as when we do leg workouts for more explosive muscles to get faster on the court.
However, that’s not quite the truth when it comes to your wrist.
The big misconception about your badminton wrist
“It’s all in the wrist…” – except when it isn’t.
Snappy wrist movement when striking is common with many beginners and casual social players. Whether they play this way knowingly or unknowingly it goes on constantly. I used to hit smashes and lifts relying quite a bit on my wrist to generate power and direction.
But contrary to what you might think, this is not at all a desirable way to strike in badminton.
The common misconception about your wrist is that a strong whipping action when you strike translates into more power. In reality, what most players should be concerned with is forearm rotation.
When you generate real power in your strike, you’re not bending your wrist, you’re rotating your forearm in something called supination and pronation movement.
Essentially this means that you’re rotating your racket arm while keeping your wrist tightened.
Rotation is the keyword here – there’s no bending your wrist.
I know this might sound strange because you generate some power by snapping your wrist before racket impact.
But the power you generate in your wrist is minuscule compared to rotating your forearm.
Let me explain.
Supination is the rotation you make in your backhand and pronation is the rotation you make in your forehand.
The simplest way to get an understanding of this is by simply holding out your hand and rotating to make your palm face up (supination) then rotating to make your palm face down (pronation).
If you have a badminton racket handy while reading this, go grab it and do the movement with your racket – only rotating back and forth between pronation and supination.
You’ll notice that the racket head mimics the palm of your hand.
Now, let’s go back to your wrist for a second.
Still holding your racket, try to move it back and forth, but this time only using your wrist. You’ll quickly realize two things.
- It’s not nearly as strong or easy to generate power this way compared to forearm rotation
- It feels like an injury waiting to happen
Most of the community questions about getting more power and avoiding painful wrists turn out to be less about the wrist itself.
This video from Badminton Family explains the biomechanics of how “wrist movement” is often misunderstood.
Greg and Jenny at Badminton Insight (two current professional players) even say that your wrist, generally speaking, isn’t all that important. It’s much more important to place your thumb and fingers right in your racket grip.
Here you can see them explain an even deeper look into how you should use your wrist, adding on the supination and pronation technique.
There are two main points they highlight – your fingers and thumb.
- Your fingers and thumb are the secret to unlocking more power and accuracy
Even though you’ll move your wrist a little, it’s not snapping or bending that’s going to add to your power. Especially for strikes where you can’t use the rest of your body to generate power (think about service) you’ll rely on squeezing finger power to strike a better shuttle.
- You need a loose hold on your racket to change between grips
Getting the right hold of your racket is probably as important to strike with power and accuracy as your whole body rotation.
Just try to strike an overhead forehand with a backhand grip, and you’ll quickly see how awkward it is.
If you don’t change between grips, you’ll be even more prone to rely on your wrist, which we now know is significantly less powerful, slower, and is likely to make your wrist hurt like crazy if it becomes a habit.
You can quickly test these out if you grab your racket and move slowly through different strokes while paying attention to the difference between using your wrist the right or wrong way.
Should you train your wrists?
If you just tried moving your racket with rotation vs. wrist movement, it becomes obvious which technique provides more power and puts less strain on your wrist.
But if wrist movement seems to be one big misconception, wouldn’t we just abandon the idea of getting stronger wrists and just focus on a powerful forearm technique?
Is there any reason to want to train your wrists for badminton?
Yes and no.
The 80/20 rule (the biggest impact on your game) is to use the correct technique of rotation that you know about now.
If we take a quick look at the pros, we’ll see that they tend to always strike this way.
Here’s an example from Loh Kean Yew.
This is his wrist position in his strike at the moment of shuttle impact. Notice how it’s a tight neutral position.
Many casual players might bend their wrist at this point to add more power, but the pros follow through with forearm rotation instead.
Notice how his wrist is still in a neutral position (it bends slightly, but very little) even at the moment when all the power is released from his strike, and the racket is facing nearly 90 degrees down.
If you watch the clip in super slow motion, you can see that there’s a slight bend but that it’s 99% forearm rotation that generates the power in his shot.
From the same clip, this is the view from the opponent’s side. You can still see how everything is generated through his forearm rotation and only a slightly bent wrist – which is likely unavoidable from the power in his strike.
Of course, watching the correct technique from the pros, you still notice that we can’t completely avoid bending our wrists a little, and there are certain times when it’s hard to strike the shuttle back with the correct forearm rotation.
This typically happens when you’re under pressure or play very fast rallies where you don’t have time to react, so you’ll end up bending your wrist to return a shuttle.
Because of that, it’s something you constantly have to remind yourself of, if you don’t want to get into the bad habit of bending your wrist (which you might be doing already).
And this is where there’s something to gain from badminton wrist training.
While you don’t want to get your power from your wrist, you still need to tighten it up before striking the shuttle, and this is exactly what can be hard to remember when we’re fatigued or lack strength.
If you think about the supination and pronation we talked about earlier, have you noticed something when rotating back and forth while holding your racket?
If not, I suggest you try it now.
It might be subtle but you can start to feel that the rotation fatigues your wrist and you need to focus a bit more to keep it in a tight neutral position.
This rotation is essentially what you’ll repeat countless times on the court.
Now, imagine what a hundred repetitions like this might do to your ability to keep your wrist tight.
How about 200? Or more?
There’s a tendency to loosen the wrist when we reach the limit of our strength and endurance and when that happens you need to focus very actively to strike correctly.
This is not ideal since we want this striking technique to run more or less on autopilot so we can focus on other (more important) aspects of the game.
Badminton is lightning fast after all.
Just like our performance drops when we get fatigued in our footwork or general fitness, if you constantly have to remind yourself of correct wrist movement in a match situation – you’ll be slower to react and likely won’t have resources to focus on the tactical aspect of the match.
The correct technique is superior to any other efforts, but training for stronger wrists can give you that extra edge that lets you hit with a neutral wrist and forearm rotation in the late-stage sets – and that’s where you stand to gain something with wrist training for badminton.
Badminton wrist exercises to aid your wobbly wrists
The following exercises are all about wrist training that supports forearm rotation.
I’ve found that these are excellent to add during your warm-up to reduce the risk of hurting your wrist at the beginning of practice and then again in a stretching session after if you’re dealing with discomfort in your wrists when you play.
Of course, this all depends on your individual training regimen, so you’ll have to test these exercises where they feel best for you.
- Badminton wrist training with a racket (no weights)
If we bring back the Badminton Insight video from earlier they have four specific racket exercises you can do both on and off the court.
The great thing about these is that you practice scenarios that are essentially the same way you’d strike in a real match which helps transfer the correct technique directly into the rest of your game.
- Wrist exercises with weights
For those of you who want to go heavier than the racket you play with, this video from Badminton Family focuses more on building isolated muscle to support correct striking (wrist rotation, forearm rotation, shoulder, and arm rotation).
Just be careful you don’t go overboard here and build up slowly. All of these can be done with a small (2 kg or 4.5 lbs) and a locked wrist to start.
- General calisthenics wrist exercises (body weight)
This one is a bit of an outlier but I’ve found that you can sometimes gain an upper hand by looking outside of what’s directly related to badminton. Calisthenic workouts tend to need a lot of wrist strength so there’s a lot more focus on this type of exercise here compared to the badminton community.
A nice side effect when you’re only using body weight is that it’s much more difficult to go overboard and accidentally hurt yourself (compared to using weights). Plus you can do these exercises pretty much anywhere with little or no equipment at all.
Note that there are a ton of these online so you can easily spend hours looking around for the perfect workout, but the ones below are selected based on what’s super easy to add to an existing badminton workout and badminton players at any level can get started with.
Three types of wrist pushups.
Wrist warm up and general strengthening.
Quick questions about wrist training
Mainly training your wrist means training your ability to grip with a neutral wrist while you strike with forearm rotation. You can train using your racket and increase repetitions to strengthen badminton-specific movements. You can use weights to add more resistance to your training and you can use calisthenics where you use your body weight to build strength.
Increasing your wrist speed is a misunderstood concept. If you want to increase speed it’s about faster forearm rotation. You can do this by practicing with your racket or by wrist exercises that strengthen your grip and forearm strength.
Ideally, we don’t want to use our wrist to generate power or even for control and accuracy. The only way you should be using your wrist is to go from a loose grip to a tight neutral wrist that uses forearm rotation to generate power and control in your striking technique.
Your grip and hand strength will come from doing a mix of exercises that train your wrists and forearm. Ideally, you should train both grip change and forearm rotation with your racket while adding weight training and calisthenic exercises like body weight push-ups on your fingers and wrists.
- Most players who are concerned about pain or wrist injury likely rely heavily on a striking technique where they “snap” their wrist upon shuttle impact. This diminishes the overall quality of your strike and is likely one of the main reasons for painful wrists
- Striking with the correct technique of your wrist is vastly more important than focusing on training your wrists to get stronger. However, you might be able to develop some additional support in your striking technique by having stronger wrists that make you less prone to “sloppy wrists” when you fatigue
- A neutral wrist in your strikes (meaning you use forearm rotation and fingers and thumb to add additional power and control), makes a huge difference in all types of badminton shots. Because of that, it’s never a bad idea to practice exercises specific to this to remind yourself about this technique and commit it to memory – even the pros practicing this