‘How to practice badminton alone?’ I once asked my coach, expecting a straightforward answer.
He smiled and replied, ‘unlike tennis or football (soccer), where you can simply bounce the ball off a wall for trick shots or deception, badminton poses a unique challenge.’
Years have passed since that conversation, and while I can’t recall his exact suggestions, I’ve come up with a few ideas of my own. Even if you don’t have access to equipment like a shuttle feeding machine, you can still hone your skills.
Let’s face it, practicing badminton alone can be a bit of a struggle. It’s not easy to come up with exciting games when you’re flying solo.
In a perfect world, we would all have an indoor court at home, complete with a shuttle-feeding machine to help us fine-tune our strokes when no one else is around.
But there is a silver lining to practicing alone: you can focus more on your technique and footwork without the distraction of an opponent.
While a feeding machine is great for beginners to learn the different shots in badminton, it falls short in simulating real match scenarios that put you under pressure.
Speaking from experience, being under pressure while taking a shot happens more often than not. During a regular clear shot drill, I have no trouble hitting a backline clear with a less powerful racket.
But when the pressure is on, and I’m rushing to the shuttle while preparing my stroke, it becomes more challenging than waiting for the shuttle to come to me.
If you lack confidence in any of your shots while standing still, here’s a quirky idea: grab a tube of shuttles, toss one high into the air, and practice hitting it yourself.
This exercise helps improve your shot timing and length. Alternatively, you can bounce the shuttle on your racket a few times to gain enough height and practice overhead strokes if that’s an area you want to focus on.
In this article, I’ll explore three different ways on how to practice badminton alone: exercises you can do on a court by yourself, technical skills you can practice without a court, and ideas to enhance your stamina and strength on court.
Let’s begin by examining the most effective techniques for training when you have access to a court.
How to practice badminton alone if you have access to a court
If you have access to a court, I’ve found a few items that are particularly easy and effective to practice on your own.
The first is your serve.
While serving may seem like a mundane and obligatory way to start a rally, it’s a powerful tool to put pressure on your opponent and gain an advantage right from the beginning.
You can even practice your serve at home if you’re only focusing on getting used to the swing. But to work on precise placement and shuttle trajectory, you’ll need a well-marked area at home with a net or an actual court.
After analyzing intermediate doubles games, I discovered that the most commonly used serve is a low backhand serve to the T (where the two service boxes meet). So, being confident in that serve should be a minimum requirement.
It’s also useful to know how to serve low and wide, especially in doubles, along with using flick serves to keep your opponents guessing between your low serves.
The three things to remember when practicing your serve are:
- Keep your non-racket leg behind you to allow for a better swing. Use your thumb to push the racket for added power and control
- The higher up you hold the racket’s grip, the more control you’ll have
- Experiment with hitting the shuttle higher on the string bed, slightly away from the exact middle, to improve consistency
In terms of effectiveness and convenience in solo practice, hardly anything beats the serve. The only alternative I can think of is footwork.
Footwork often gets overlooked in badminton, but it’s crucial because it’s involved in every shot and rally, except for serving.
Being faster on the court allows you to reach the shuttle earlier, play a wider range of shots, and even retrieve challenging attacking shots that you might otherwise miss.
To practice footwork alone, our best option is something called shadow footwork.
Shadow footwork involves moving around the court without a shuttle or another player. It may sound dull at first, but if it’s good enough for the pros, it’s certainly good enough for us.
Here’s an example of Hans-Kristian Vittinghus and Viktor Axelsen practicing to illustrate what it looks like.
You can start by practicing moving from the midcourt to each of the four corners, returning to the middle in between, performing split steps, and moving on to the next corner or even sideways to execute a smash block.
To make it more enjoyable, turn it into a game by imagining a real rally where you’re constantly attacking to maintain high intensity. Here’s an example broken down into steps:
- Start with an imaginary low serve
- Move back to attack a lift with a smash on your right-hand side
- Move forward to cover the net return and lift to the left-hand side
- Return to the middle to block an incoming smash on your left-hand side
- Move to the net to cover a cross-net shot on the right-hand side
- Your opponent lifts, and you earn a drop shot – move back and claim it (then continue from step 3)
You can set a timer for this exercise, aiming for, let’s say, 30 seconds at a high pace or until you’re out of breath. Take a 30-second rest before starting again.
Another simpler alternative is to practice moving between two corners, such as the right-hand side of the front court, returning to the middle, and then moving to the right side of the rear court.
In real games, opponents often target the player who just returned the shot as they may be off balance, so this scenario is quite likely to happen.
Next, let’s explore the technical skills you can practice at home without access to a court.
3 simple technical skills that you can practice at home
In this chapter on how to practice badminton alone, I’ll focus on practicing aspects of badminton that involve how we hold the racket rather than hitting the shot.
These exercises can be done without a court and are aimed at improving specific skills.
Grip change and finger power
One commonly mentioned option is the wall drill. In this drill, you hit the shuttle against a wall with enough power so that it flies back to you, allowing you to practice changing your grip, such as switching between forehand and backhand grips.
But using walls as a practice tool has its limitations.
The shuttle can damage the wall, particularly the paint, and if the wall surface is uneven, the shuttle will fly off in random directions, making the exercise challenging and inconvenient.
If you’re more interested in practicing control and adding a cool factor to your training, you can work on picking up the shuttle from the floor or catching it in the air without it bouncing off the strings.
The key when catching it in the air is to meet the shuttle at its highest point with the racket and gently follow its descent.
Reading the game
To enhance your ability to read the game, you can watch professional games or even recordings of your own matches.
By observing the players, you can try to anticipate their next moves. This practice provides insights that you may not have otherwise realized. For example, if you smash in singles, you should ensure that it’s a winning shot or be prepared to quickly move to the front court if your opponent blocks it.
While practicing game anticipation through watching videos is beneficial, it’s not as effective as experiencing it during actual games or drills where you actively participate.
Anticipating the game becomes easier when you’re not physically moving, unlike in a game situation where you may be tired and off balance on the court.
Now, let’s move on to exploring non-technical aspects that you can practice at home without a court, but still have an impact on your game.
Two ideas on how to practice badminton alone at the gym
In this final chapter on how to practice badminton alone, let’s focus on the importance of stamina in badminton and discuss some effective exercises you can practice alone to improve your endurance.
During a game, getting tired can significantly impact your performance, leading to putting less effort in when hitting shots, slower movement around the court, and mistiming your shots. This can result in frustrating mistakes.
Stamina is a crucial aspect of badminton that often goes unnoticed until it becomes a limiting factor. It not only affects your physical abilities but also your mental focus and decision-making on the court.
One of the most convenient aspects of practicing badminton alone is that you don’t need other players, a court, or even specialized gear to work on improving your stamina.
I’ve found lunges to be the most transferable skill from the gym to the courts, especially at the front-court when you’re going toe to toe at the net with someone or are defending sneaky drop shots. Being able to pull a quick side lunge to intercept a shot has helped me win more rallies than I can count.
It’s also one of the unsung heroes in moving effectively around the court as pushing back after performing a lunge to recover in time for the next shot is surprisingly effective.
A good place to start if this isn’t something you usually do is by lunging for, say, five rounds of 30 seconds with 30 seconds of rest in between each set.
To improve your stamina, I’ve found biking or swimming to be highly effective exercises because it doesn’t strain the joints as much as being on court.
While running is a classic option, it can put a strain on your joints, so opting for safer alternatives is often better.
You might start with biking 5 KM per day, gradually increasing the distance as you get accustomed to it. If you want to make it more challenging, consider incorporating interval training by biking at a higher pace than your usual speed for one-minute intervals.
By improving your stamina through exercises like lunges, biking, or swimming, you’ll be better equipped to maintain your performance level throughout a game, endure longer rallies, and make smarter decisions on the court.
Remember to always listen to your body, warm up first, gradually increase the intensity of your workouts, and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or pre-existing conditions.
- Practicing your serve and footwork are among the best ways to practice badminton alone if you have access to a court
- Stamina is important in maintaining your skills and avoiding mistakes during exhausting rallies. I’ve found that incorporating lunges into your training off-court is an effective portion of how to practice badminton alone. The same goes for biking or swimming
- Practicing catching the shuttle in the air or picking it up from the floor can help improve your control