Badminton Footwork Basics: Techniques, Drills, and Common Mistakes to Avoid

Badminton player lifting the shuttle
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Last Updated on 24/07/2023 by Kriss

Are you an advanced player who wants to fly over the court like Lee Chong Wei? Or are you a beginner looking to improve your non-racket skills?

Great! Today, we will explore the importance of good badminton footwork, the basics every player should know, and the various steps and jumps to cover the whole court efficiently. Furthermore, we will delve into footwork drills and exercises that will help you improve your game and become a feared opponent on the court.

So, are you ready to step up your game? Let’s dive in!

Why Good Badminton Footwork Matters

Footwork in badminton is not just about moving around the court as fast as possible; it’s the foundation of your game. Here’s why it’s so crucial:

Speed and Agility: Mastering footwork can significantly boost your speed and agility on the court. It enables you to reach the shuttlecock swiftly, ensuring a timely and effective return.

Balance and Control: Good footwork is key to maintaining balance and control during the game. It allows you to execute powerful shots and helps prevent potential injuries.

Conserving Stamina: Badminton is physical demanding sport. Efficient footwork helps conserve energy, enabling you to maintain your best performance throughout the match without getting tired.

Shot Accuracy: Getting to the shuttlecock early, thanks to good footwork, gives you the chance to improve the accuracy and consistency of your shots, which ultimately leads to you winning more points.

Badminton Footwork Basics

There are a few basics that are very important to master first before moving on to more advanced techniques and drills.

  • The Base Position: The base position is a neutral, ready stance from which players can move quickly in any direction. The feet should be shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and the body leaning forward slightly. You should be light on your toes with the racket in a neutral position. Keep your gravity low so you are able to move quickly into any corner of the court. If you don’t have a low center of gravity your body weight is further away from the ground and it takes much more time to move into the corners.
Standing in the middle of the court with your base position allows you to reach all corners effectively.
  • The Split Step: The split step is a subtle yet powerful move involving a small hop executed just as the opponent strikes the shuttlecock, priming the player for a quick response in any direction. By utilizing the split step, players can quickly shift their weight and alter their momentum, allowing them to react to the shuttlecock’s trajectory more efficiently. You are essentially “pre-loading” your muscles so you can be more explosive. Usually, the split step comes naturally over time, but it definitely helps to practice it early on. You don’t believe me? Try to jump as high as possible from a standing position and then try to do it again with a run-up and small hop before you jump. You will jump higher. The same kind of mechanic applies to the split step. This video from Badminton Insight shows the split step very well.
  • Keep the Balance: It is important to always keep your balance since one small mistake can make you lose the rally. Use your non-racket arm to balance and keep your upper body and trunk straight. If you are very late to reach the shuttlecock or have poor technique your upper body will “sink” and it will cost you more energy and time to reach the base position again.
  • Slow is smooth and smooth is fast: Just sprinting to the shuttle as fast as possible or jumping around will not only make you fatigue faster but also can cause injuries. Focus on your technique and be smooth on the court. A good indicator of that is how “loud” your footwork is. Go and watch some videos of pro players and you will be surprised by how quiet they are while still being super fast. 

How to Cover The Whole Court: Different Kinds of Steps

Reaching all four corners of the court can be challenging, especially when you are just starting out. So here a the basic steps you need to master your footwork:

The Lunge

The lunge is basically the last step before hitting the shuttlecock at the front court. It is a forward movement that allows players to reach the shuttlecock quickly, extending one leg forward while keeping the other foot behind for balance. You land with the same leg as your racket arm (right-hander –> right leg forward). Meaning if you are right-handed you land with your right leg.

Women performing a lunge
Women performing a lunge.

Chasse steps

Chasse steps are used to cover a small distance on the court. Usually, players use them to cover the small distance between the corners. Your feet come together mid-air before you keep pushing into the corner you want to go to.

Running Step

A running step is used mostly to come back to the center after a shot from the rear court. After you hit the shuttle you will do one or two running steps to quickly come back to the base position and be ready for the next shot. The number of steps depends on many factors such as the stride length, how far back you are, and how good your balance is after the shot.

Different Kinds of Jumps And When to Use Them

There are a few options to choose from when it comes to jumps in your footwork. They are performed when you play shots on the rear court and help you achieve a nice rotation or quickly recover and get back to the middle of the court.

Scissor Kick

The scissor kick is essential for the rear-court footwork. When pushing off from the base position you want to pivot on your non-racket leg and then jump off with your racket leg. You will then rotate your hip so you are turning your body around. This has multiple advantages: Your rotation will increase the power of your shots. Your recovery out of the corner will be better. You can check out this video to see it in action.

China Jump

The China jump is performed when you are under pressure and don’t have time for the scissor kick. If you want to still play an aggressive shot, you need to quickly jump into the corner to reach the shuttlecock early and hit an overhead shot. You actually don’t rotate your body with this jump, so your recovery from it is a little bit different. Another difference is that you usually jump off with both legs. Although that is not a must.

Here is a very nice video explaining the China Jump in detail: 

A common misconception is that people think jumping will make your smashes more powerful or efficient. Jumping is there to quickly reach the shuttle early. The only advantage a jump smash has over a normal smash is the angle of the shot. A jump smash can therefore be more effective by putting the opponent under more pressure since the angle is steeper.

How to Get Better Footwork

Now that you know the basics it is important to know how to actually improve your footwork. You want to be quick and agile with the right technique all the same time. This can be hard to master and takes a lot of practice! The most effective way to get better is footwork drills that help you train specific movements.

Footwork drills to help you improve fast

Dedicate a portion of your training sessions to footwork drills. Consistent practice is crucial for refining your footwork and developing muscle memory. Here are a few exercises to incorporate into your routine:

Mirror badminton: This drill takes two people on each side of the court. One player dictates the moves on the court while varying pace and corners. The other player needs to mimic the moves and therefore be the “mirror”. This is done without a shuttlecock to help you just focus on the reaction and mimicking of the moves.

Cone drills: Set up cones in various patterns on the court and practice moving between them using different footwork techniques. This helps develop agility, speed, and court awareness. You should touch the cones with your racket and focus on the technique and overall efficiency. When you focus on good technique speed will come naturally.

Ladder exercises: Using an agility ladder, perform various footwork patterns to enhance speed, coordination, and foot placement. This video includes seven helpful drills for your training:

6 Corner Footwork: In this exercise, you will simply do the footwork for six corners of the field while always going back to the center position. Focus on your technique and efficiency and not so much on speed. This drill is shown in this video.

Various Shuttle Exercises: You can do a lot of exercises that include placing shuttles in different locations on the court. This can be either to focus on certain footwork patterns like this drill:

Rope Skipping: It might sound almost too easy. But rope skipping is a great drill that also helps to improve your coordination. You can vary the exercise by changing the speed, jumping on one leg or changing how wide your feet are apart from each other.

It is important that you memorize the correct footwork without hitting the shuttlecock first so that you can replicate it without even thinking about it for a split second during matches. Again, this takes time but the effort is well worth it.

How Often Should I Train Footwork for Badminton?

The answer is not straightforward. You should train your footwork at least once per week for half an hour or even an hour. Keep the sessions short with high intensity. If you are just starting out you should focus on the technique first before developing the speed. Some players prefer to do a shorter footwork session for all their sessions (around 15-20 minutes).

If you already have good footwork you should still do some drills each week to improve or maintain your speed and strength in your legs.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

There are a lot of common mistakes that we can see with beginner and sometimes even advanced players. Not doing a split step is one of the most common beginner mistakes. It allows you to push off faster and react better to your opponent’s moves.

Another mistake is not keeping your center of gravity low to the ground. Keeping your center of gravity low allows you to change direction quickly. Keep your knees bent and you will automatically have your center of gravity lower to the ground.

Happy women playing badminton

Not staying on your toes is another common mistake. Before and during the split step you should be light on your feet and stay on your toes/front foot. If your whole foot is on the ground your balance and center of gravity will be different and you will be less efficient when pushing off. This does not apply to lunges, scissor kicks, china jumps, and so on since you are landing on your heels or the whole foot.

Conclusion

In conclusion, mastering badminton footwork is essential for any player seeking to improve their performance on the court. By focusing on proper footwork techniques and practicing drills consistently, you can enhance your speed, agility, balance, and shot accuracy. Remember, slow is smooth, and smooth is fast – always prioritize technique over speed, and eventually, your footwork will become more efficient and faster. With dedication, persistence, and the right approach, you can transform your badminton game and enjoy the benefits of effortless movement on the court. So go ahead, put these tips and techniques into practice, and watch your badminton prowess soar to new heights!


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