One of the most satisfying feelings in badminton is when you make your opponent run around the court with well-placed shuttles in a striking variation they can’t figure out.
It can quickly evolve into a double whammy because the more effort they spend reaching your shuttles, the quicker they gas out and become even easier to outplay.
On the other hand, when you’re the one being outplayed, you need to find a way to reset your opponent’s momentum.
The badminton lob is a cutthroat weapon that can gain this kind of rally control.
If it’s not already sharpening your tactical maneuvers to make players spend all their energy running after shuttles, it should be.
Getting good at this shot technique can make you feel like a shuttle puppetmaster, pushing the rally to the rear court, sending your opponent into ankle-breaking movements, and giving yourself enough time to recover for a better position.
It’s probably one of the more underrated shots because it’s often considered a last resort – that’s a massive misrepresentation.
If you take a closer look, you’ll find that it might become one of your favorite shots for controlling a rally. You’ll also realize that many top players use this shot constantly to set themselves up for point winners.
Let’s have a closer look.
What is a lob in badminton?
If we look at the bare bones, you hit a lob to return a low shuttle and send it back in a high flight toward the back line.
As such, a lob shot in badminton could easily be mistaken for a clear shot – but it is not.
A clear is primarily played from the rear court as an overhead shot to slow down a rally and push your opponent to the back. A badminton lob is almost always played from the front court below the net and travels slower and higher to the back line, which is why you might hear people refer to this as a “net lift.”
You might be wondering – “How did you go from a “lob” to a “net lift” in the same breath as indistinguishable?”
Let me clarify a few things about the badminton lob. Mainly, we need to stop calling it a lob shot.
I understand that if we get into semantics, it’s correct that you strike this shot to lob the shuttle over your opponent.
However, this is badminton, and while they might be lobbing balls around in other racket sports, it makes more sense to say that we lift the shuttlecock (or at least that’s how I see it).
So, whatever your preference might be, wherever I say “lift” I mean “lob” and vice versa – easy, right?!
When do we lift/lob in badminton?
Generally speaking, there are two scenarios where you’d play a lift.
The first one is when you’re under pressure from someone who just played a well-placed drop to the front court or a net shot that almost has to be scooped up from the court floor.
That’s how most beginners and some intermediate players tend to value this technique, but as you become a better badminton player, you’ll start using this as an offensive move too.
Offensively, you can lift to push your opponent back and move them around the court. Doing this with the right timing and in different combinations can put immense pressure on your opponent’s footwork and position. This opens up attacking opportunities you hadn’t considered before.
Once you develop this shot technique, lifts can become big point winners in your rallies (more on that later).
In a moment, I’ll walk you through the main points of a badminton lob/lift shot and show you how you can use this technique to defend and attack shuttles better.
Before we move on, you can get an overview of the badminton lift basics or brush up on your knowledge here.
Different grips for badminton lifts
It’s helpful to start coding your muscle memory for the very basics so you can put your focus on the shot itself in the heat of the rally. One of these is how you grip the racket.
We don’t need to spend too much time wondering about this, but with help from Badmintoninsight, I’ll briefly show how you how to grip your racket to make lifting a lot easier.
Forehand lifts are probably the easiest way to lift because you’re bringing the racket from the swing into the shuttle, almost like hitting a high serve.
For this, you’ll typically grab your racket with a forehand grip.
Backhand lifts are a little more tricky because you rely heavily on correct technique and timing to lift the shuttle effectively.
In your backhand lift, you’ll want a backhand grip – I know, huge surprise.
Knowing these grips isn’t that difficult. What you need to practice is coding how you switch between grips fast enough to get the best racket position for your lift.
You want to change your grip before you start your movement on the shuttle, or at the very least, right at the beginning.
Here’s a video to practice changing grips and make them completely intuitive.
The importance of footwork in badminton lifting
Once you have a comfortable grip, you can move on to the next building block.
Footwork in badminton is the foundation on which you strike every shuttle. It’s what allows you to strike with the right timing, reach shuttles you normally wouldn’t get to, and recover for the next shot.
The key to a good badminton lift is lunging and balance.
You need to lunge at the shuttle with your racket leg forward right when you want to hit it.
This movement is synchronized as your foot makes contact with the court, and you bring your racket up, striking the shuttle as you go down into the lunge.
The second thing is balance. If you mistime your movement at the shuttle or awkwardly get into your lunge, you lose control and power in your shot – and you’ll take longer to recover for your next shot.
To ensure that you can lift effectively, you should start at a defensive stance or a net stance and use the split-step footwork technique.
Then you chassés (bringing your non-racket leg to your racket leg in a skipping jump) in the direction of the shuttle, and finally lunge into the shot, stretching your non-racket arm out for more balance.
It looks like this (this is also a forehand lift).
Watch the technique here.
Defensive badminton lifts to win back lost shuttles
Typically you’ll think of this shot as a net lift because you hit it right on the net when the only way to send the shuttle back is to hit it up high with little forward propulsion.
It’s a great defensive shot to get out of net battles, and sometimes, it’s the only shot you can make to return a tight net shot.
To defend effectively with lifts, practice the following.
- Don’t be too close to the net
To lift the shuttlecock, where you control its direction and speed and also recover quickly after every shot, you’ll need to be able to lunge into the shuttle to generate power every time you want to hit a lift.
As you saw in the video about the basics of the lift shot above, you must hit the shuttle as you bring your racket leg forward and lunge at the shuttle.
If you’re too close to the net, you’re too restricted in your movement and would have to rely on a full arm rotation and swing in your racket, which means you can’t control the shuttle or get enough power in your shot.
I’ve written more about the importance of recovering your position and stance during net play here.
- Avoid weak lifts
This is probably the most important factor when using defensive lifts.
The biggest strength in the lift shot is the ability to play it on the net. However, the biggest weakness is if you mistime your shot because you aren’t committed to lifting.
A “weak lift” is if you play it too short (it only gets to the mid-court), too low (it’s in striking reach as it flies over your opponent), or both.
Hitting weak lifts that don’t make it to the backline can be one of the most effortless shots for your opponent to attack with a smash, so you’re giving away points if you slack on your lifts.
Don’t be too afraid of hitting the shuttle out if you have a lift that’s too powerful. Lifts have so much height and only a little forward propulsion that it takes a lot to hit it out when you’re lifting on the net.
If you do have an incredibly powerful lift, it’s easier to take it a notch down. Weak lifts can almost always be attacked with powerful smashes, so it’s better to go a little overboard here.
- Reset the rally
In these defensive lifts, you shouldn’t get stranded on the net.
Together with clear shots, defensive lifts give you the most time to recover your position again – be sure to use it.
An opponent with excellent footwork can still get back and attack your lift from the rear court.
If your lift was good enough, you’ll have plenty of time to get ready to defend their return shuttle. On the other hand, if you keep your position on the net, you’re just rolling the dice.
Here are a few examples of defensive lifts from the battlefield.
Here Shi Yu Qi plays a cross lift that adds pressure on Lee Zii Jia and catches him off guard, causing trouble for his footwork.
Here’s a defensive lift from Kim Ga Eun (on a drop shot) that buys her time to recover fully before the next shuttle.
Here’s one more from the same match.
Notice how both are strong lifts that allow for recovering position and stance while also being hard to attack.
Finally, an example of a weak lift from Shi Yu Qi – ends up losing him a point because Chou Tien Chen effortlessly jumps up and attacks it.
Attacking lift in badminton to squeeze a mistake out of your opponent
The most common understanding of the lift is that we use it in high-pressure situations where there’s no other option than to lift the shuttle because another player just hit a well-placed net shot.
But one of the most underrated uses of the badminton lift is its attacking qualities.
So how can you push your opponent around the court with one?
The best way to use lifts as part of your attacking game is when your opponent leaves more room on their rear court. When those opportunities present themselves, you need the following setup to play an attacking lift.
- Make sure your lifts are always strong
This point carries over from the defensive lift.
The big difference is that an attacking lift has a lower path and more forward speed than its defensive variation. You want to add as much pressure and as little time for your opponent to get back and return the shuttle.
So a strong lift in this context refers to hitting with enough forward power and avoiding making the shot too obvious since your opponent can hit an easy counter-shot because the shuttle travels at the height of a low overhead strike.
Here’s a video that shows the technique of attacking lifts.
- Don’t make lifting your last resort
Be adamant about lifting before getting into net battles.
You don’t have to wait to use lifts as an offensive play until you’ve exchanged a few net shots back and forth. You can still push your opponent by hitting an attacking lift on the fist drop or net shot they play at you.
It’s also a great way to add variation to your rally since a player might think they can provoke a weak lift by getting into net play. Instead, you can surprise them by lifting the shuttle much earlier than expected.
- Use it in combos
One of the best ways to make your lifts even more effective is to thread them into combos with other shot variations.
I’ve talked about using combos to push your opponent around the court in a previous article because they provide the following to your attacking game:
- They give you a tactical advantage where you have the mental upper hand on what strike to hit
- You can easily plan attacks which helps regain control of the rally
- They are easy to exit and start over when something goes wrong (as long as you keep them not more than three strikes long)
A lift shot combo might include a tactical change in the rally where you want to pressure your opponent’s footwork by pushing them as far back on the rear court as possible.
Then you lure them back with a net shot and push them back again – hoping they’ll mess up their footwork and striking timing.
The point is you set off your lift to provoke a specific reaction from your opponent.
Here are a few examples of attacking lifts from the battlefield.
Viktor Axelsen did this with a lift/net shot/lift/net shot-combo that gives trouble with the footwork and timing of his opponent, who ends up hitting the shuttle out at the rear court.
Here’s an example of point-winning lifts from Ratchanok Intanon.
She mixes up her lift shots and plays them to opposite corners in a combo of – lifts/net shot/lift.
Here’s another lift/lift-combo to both corners that show how badminton lifts can mess up your opponent’s movement around the court.
Play your badminton lob (lift) for winning points
Outside of defending effectively and putting attacking pressure on your opponent, badminton lifts can also be straight-up rally winners.
When you feel comfortable using lifts the way we just went through, you can try your hand at advancing your lift shots.
Now we move into lifts where you need to pay more attention to your opponent.
These variations are hyperfocused on open areas that you can exploit and the other player’s movement. If you use these when there’s no open area to attack or if you don’t hit them accurately, they lose most of their effect.
Here are a few advanced lifts that you can start on.
Another example of backhand lifts going from a beginner to an advanced level. Look at these to find out where your lifting technique is at.
Adding extra layers to advanced lift variations – enter deceptive lifts.
Deception in badminton is one of the most satisfying ways to play a shot, and it’s an extremely effective way of winning points and messing up your opponent as long as you don’t do it too often to the point where they expect something sneaky.
Here are a few sneaky lifts that will likely win you points. Remember, don’t overuse these shots since that dilutes the deceptive part. Mix them in with other shot variations, and you’ll catch your opponent off guard.
Here’s a closer look at strictly deceptive forehand lifts.
And here’s a video strictly for deceptive backhand lifts.
Quick questions about the badminton lob shot
Lob shots, or more commonly, lifts, are one of the few shots you can hit on the net to return a tight net or a drop shot where the shuttle has to be struck low above the court floor and needs a high trajectory to pass the net and your opponent.
It’s the only type of shot you can strike on the net to push the rally away from net play.
It’s also one of the most important shots to incorporate in your striking roster to move your opponent around on the court and challenge their footwork and position.
Professional players use lifts (often) to return difficult net shots and buy themselves more time to recover.
Beginners might initially find it hard to distinguish between badminton lob shots and badminton clear shots.
It’s an honest mistake since the clear shot “clears” the shuttle to the backcourt, and the lob “lifts” the shuttle to the same area. Both travel with a lot of air time, giving the striker time to recover and prepare for their next shot.
The main distinction is that clears are always hit as an overhead shot (and almost always from the backcourt).
A lob shot is when you strike the shuttlecock from below waist height, sending it over your opponent and landing towards the back line on the rear court. Typically you’re on the net when you strike it, so you need to hit it with enough power to lift it over the net and your opponent.
It’s more commonly referred to as a lift shot in badminton because you lift the shuttle in a high path to the backcourt.
Other variations include a lower trajectory but with more forward propulsion. Successful lifts always play on the margins of the backcourt.
- Footwork, position, and stance all work together to play a successful lift – they need to set you up for lunging into the shot
- Practice switching between back and forehand grip automatically to get more time to focus on the shot
- Defensive lifts can help you recover and win back momentum. However, be aware of striking “weak lifts” as they set your opponent up for effortless attacks
- Use lifts offensively to challenge your opponent’s footwork and open the court for attacking opportunities. By using them in combos, you can surprise players who only expect you to lift under high pressure
- Advanced and deceptive lifts can be instant point winners, but the margin of error is also much higher, so make sure you don’t play these too often or too obviously
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