How do I prepare myself to get on court and play or train at my best? I warm up.
In this post, I'll be sharing with you the warm-up exercises that I have personally found the most effective in order to get me ready to go on court and play to the absolute best of my ability. But let's not forget that the cool-down is equally as important to promote recovery and reduce injuries, so I'll be sharing these with you as well.
1. Gentle Jog
The first thing I like to do when warming up is a gentle jog, this helps to gradually start increasing your heart rate and gets the blood pumping around your body. Increasing your heart rate is vital before a badminton match or a training session, or any form of exercise for that matter, in order for us to perform at our maximum level as soon as you step on court.
2. Side Steps
After the gentle jog, I normally go straight into side steps, this again is a great warm-up exercise, particularly for badminton. A lot of my warm-up exercises will be mimicking what happens on a badminton court, just at a lower intensity as we get the muscles ready to play some badminton. As you can see I am side stepping across the width of three courts, changing the leg I lead with on the way back. This activity uses a different set of muscles when you move forwards or backwards, so it activates these potentially underused muscles, improving my general balance and side-to-side movements.
3. "The Chasse"
I then go into "the chasse", this warm-up exercise is particularly useful for badminton, as when you think about being on court, you are constantly changing direction, which is exactly what this exercise entails. You can see I am pushing off with both feet, doing two side steps diagonally before switching direction. The key to this exercise is keeping it controlled, staying on the balls of your feet, keeping your knees bent and focusing on the correct movement pattern.
4. High Knees and Heel Flicks
The next set of warm-up exercises I do is high knees and kickbacks or heel flicks, both of these activities are great full leg warm-ups, activating your leg muscles. High knees also activate your abdominal muscles, a lot of your balance comes from your core, so activating these muscles is vital for remaining stable on court and controlling your movements. Again, I am using the widths of the courts for this activity, doing high knees on the way there and kickbacks on our return.
Personally, I think lunges are one of the most important warm-up exercises. As badminton players, we lunge every time we go into the forecourt to do a net shot, so ensuring our lunges are controlled is vital for great performance. I prefer walking lunges, switching legs each time I move forward, and as you can see I am focusing on remaining stable and balanced.
6. "The Karaoke"
Another key skill we need as badminton players is agility, so the next warm-up activity I like to do is "the karaoke". This is a fast-paced activity that helps with my quick feet, an essential skill for speed on court. I also find this exercise helpful to my core or trunk mobility especially when I am always turning around and chasing the shuttle on the court.
Another heart rate-raising exercise is sprints. Now, it's important that sprints are done at the end of your warm-up because sprinting when your body is not properly warmed up is dangerous as it may cause injury. However, doing this at the end is great, it prepares your body for maximum intensity as you go into your game.
8. Skips / Hops
You can also do some hops and skips as part of your warm-up routine.
Moving onto stretches, I find it beneficial to do some dynamic stretches. I like to do some leg swings, arm swings, and "opening and closing the gate". All of these help with flexibility, agility, and acceleration before you go on court.
So here comes a part where I religiously do as part of my warm-up and it's related to the shoulder and the rotator cuff muscles!
The rotator cuff muscles are four little muscles around our shoulder and scapula that help us move our arm and shoulder around. Unsurprisingly, they get used a whole lot during badminton and most people often neglect them. I did too until I suffered a big injury in 2016 when I was competing in a tournament and two out of the four rotator cuff muscles gave up mid-way through a match, and my shoulder also decided to pop out at the same time. It wasn't pretty and I was out of action for two years and could not play any badminton due to pain.
With the help of a physiotherapist, my shoulders healed, and now if I'm naughty and miss my strengthening and mobility exercises on my shoulder, I won't be able to play. So here's the warm-up exercises I do to get my shoulder muscles and rotator cuff muscles activated before I start any hitting. The only thing you need for these exercises is a resistance band or Theraband.
10. Elbow Pull Apart
I start by tucking in my elbows and positioning them at 90 degrees angle, before slowly pulling the Theraband side-ways, about 15-20 reps.
11. Front Arm Raise
The next 3 exercises focus more on the shoulder and deltoid muscle. Step on the band for the right resistance and pull it upwards to focus on the front of the deltoid.
12. Side Arm Raise
Then repeat the same thing by going outwards. I generally don't go above my head for these exercises. I do them for about 12-15 reps each.
13. Back Arm Raise
I then move onto the little back deltoid muscle. I make sure my back is straight and bend my knees to be around 45 degrees angle and straighten my elbow whilst pulling my shoulder backward. You should feel the small muscle at the back of your deltoid working during this exercise. Repeat this for about 12-15 reps.
14. Freestyle Movements
I then go into what I call "freestyle movements" to get myself loose. First, I start with some shoulder circles where I move my outstretched arms clockwise and anticlockwise. Next, I do some racket swing movements focussing on bringing my elbow forward during the swing phase to get some mobility and movement into it to prepare my shoulder which leads me straight into some freestyle swimming movements. I finally finish off with some 'fist circles' where I essentially make circles with my fists with my elbow tucked in at around 90 degrees for some biceps, triceps movements as well.
After these activities, I'm ready to go and smash that shuttlecock!
After your game, you're exhausted, sweaty, and ready to go home - but it’s vital that you really take the time to cool down properly and effectively to make sure you're not sore or aching the next day, and most importantly, to reduce the chance of injury.
1. Gentle Jog
I like to start with a gentle jog after a game. If you've had an intense session, this will move the lactic acid that has accumulated in your muscles around so your body can get rid of it ASAP. Doing this gently will slowly start to bring your heart rate down. If you go straight into static stretches, the sudden decrease in heart rate may make you feel light-headed, whereas doing a jog eases that transition from stress to rest. Make sure it is an extremely gentle jog, don't put more stress on your body after a tough session or game.
2. Static Stretches
After a jog, I usually do some static stretches. These really aid a speedy recovery to ensure you're ready to play again soon! I would normally hold each static stretches for at least 30 seconds before moving on to the next stretch. I tend to set an interval timer on my phone to help keep time. You want to be stretching all those major muscle groups that you've just used for your badminton game, so that's your thighs, calves, hamstrings, wrists, and shoulders.
I would normally use the butterfly stretch for my hips and thighs. Then I like to use a wall to really stretch out those calves, by placing my hands shoulder-width apart on the wall while keeping one leg fully outstretched and the other bent. Remember to hold each leg for at least 30 seconds. Then for my hamstring stretch, I squat down but place one leg out to the side fully extended, creating a great stretch for my hamstring. I use a wall again to stretch out my shoulders, extending it out behind me while placing my hands flat to the wall. And finally, I stretch out my wrists by gently bending back my fingers and holding this for 30 seconds on each hand.
These stretches are really useful in helping with general day-to-day flexibility and mobility. Remember, being flexible is free access to more power and fewer injuries at the same time! So if you're like me who sits at a desk all day, you can do some of these stretches to help with your own flexibility.
This is how I effectively warm up and cool down. Try these out for yourself and let me know in the comment section what you think. If you have any great warm-up or cool-down activities of your own, let me know and I'll give them a go! I hope you've found this post useful and remember to check out my youtube channel!