Footwork can be misunderstood when you start to play badminton and people often neglect it at their own expense. In order to highlight its importance and help you understand it, I have created this post.
So, why is footwork important in badminton? Footwork is important because it allows the player to move faster and more efficiently throughout the court. Thanks to good footwork, a player can reach the shuttle faster, in a better position and with less effort.
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If you want to understand how proper footwork can help you achieve that, be sure to read on.
Why is footwork important in badminton? – The in-depth answer
So, as I mentioned before, footwork is important in badminton because it helps you move faster and more efficiently throughout the court. If you are just starting, though, you might read this and think I am crazy. At the beginning, it is faster for a player to just run around the court. Long term, however, not learning proper footwork will become a liability on your skill set.
Let me break the answer down into parts and explain why footwork will help you reach the shuttle faster, in a better position and with less effort.
Why will proper footwork help you reach the shuttle faster?
As I said before, beginners feel like they reach the shuttle faster just by running towards it. However, this is because proper footwork has not yet been built as a muscle memory so you need to think about it a lot once you are doing it.
Take the example of driving a car. If you have done so, you will remember the first times you were driving and how difficult it was to make sure you did everything correctly. If you are in a country with roundabouts, these were terrifying moments at the beginning. Break, accelerate, change gear and turn the wheel, all in a matter of seconds.
If you have been driving for some time, though, I am sure that is no longer a challenge. You go about it probably while talking to the other passengers, listening to the radio or thinking about your next errand.
The same holds true for footwork. Once you have built it in your muscle memory, you will become much faster and you will not even think about it. And, since you will be taking maximum two or three steps to reach any corner of the court, you will reach that point much faster than just running around.
Why will proper footwork help you reach the shuttle in a better position?
In addition to reaching the shuttle faster, proper footwork will help you reach it in a better position. What does that mean? It means that, when you reach the shuttle, your body position will be stabilized and in a good starting point to perform whichever shot you want.
The reason behind this is that footwork is designed in harmony with the shots. It is a bit like a dance that helps you reach the moment of shooting with the best possible body posture. If you have ever seen ice skating performances, you will notice you the athletes prepare for the next jump with certain body movements. The same is true here. Footwork is designed in a way that integrates the shots within the movement.
Why will proper footwork help you reach the shuttle with less effort?
The last advantage to proper footwork and the last reason why it is so important is that it is a more efficient way to move around the court. That means that, once you have mastered it, it will become less tiring to move around the court using proper footwork than simply running around.
What are the basics of footwork?
Footwork is a very complicated matter and, if you want the full overview, I strongly recommend that you visit our Footwork Guide, where we go in detail into all the basics. Below you can find a summary of the basics of footwork. These are the basics of footwork:
- Base point
- Waiting position and split-step
- Body balance
The base point is the position in the court where you always return after every shot. It is where you have to wait before the opponent hits the shuttle back.
If you have just recently started playing, you might be hitting the shuttle and staying in that position and then run to the next position where the shuttle is going. What you need to do is return always to the base point, which is roughly in the middle of the court.
It is very important to become used to this because all proper footwork starts from the center of the court. From here, you can reach all the court in a maximum of 2-3 steps. If you don’t always come back to the base point, you will find yourself running around and struggling to keep up with the speed of the game.
So, the first basic principle about footwork is to always, always return to your base point. In singles, that will be in the center of the court (with small variations depending on your playing style and on the strengths and weaknesses of you and your opponent). In doubles, that will be the center of the area of the court you are covering.
If you want to learn a bit more about the base point, be sure to check our post “What is the central base position in badminton?“, where I explain this in much more detail.
Ready position and split-step
Once you have learned about always returning to the base point, the next principle to master is the waiting position and the split-step. The waiting position and the split-step are the position and movement you do just before your opponent hits the shuttle.
Thanks to the waiting position, you will be able to start your footwork movement from the best possible stance, with the racket in the right position and your feet orientated to give you an initial push.
Thanks to the split-step, you will be able to react to the shot of your opponent much faster and you will move towards the shuttle before you would otherwise.
So, second basic principle, have a good waiting position and do the split-step just before your opponent hits the shuttle.
If you want to learn a bit more about this, be sure to check our post “What is the ready position in badminton?“, where I explain this in much more detail.
Once you have mastered the base point, the ready position, and the split-step, it is time to move onto the body balance. Body balance is important because it allows you to reach the shuttle in a position where you can still hit it comfortably. It also allows you to recover much faster to the base point.
In order to keep a good body balance, these are the main points you should aim add.
- Keep your center of gravity low
- Use your non-racket arm to balance your movements
- Keep your trunk always straight
If you want to learn a bit more about body balance, you can check our Badminton Footwork Guide, where I explain this in much more detail. You can also check our post “Why is balance important in badminton?“, where we go in detail in the importance of a good balance.
Chassé steps or running steps, how to move through the court
To move around the court, there are basically two slightly different ways to do so. Some people prefer one or the other, but in my opinion, both can be used depending on the circumstances. For beginners, it is usually better to start with the running steps since it is the easiest of them to learn. If you want to know how these are applied to the six corners of the court, you can check our Badminton Footwork Guide.
The running steps are the first of the two main schools of thought and the one most recommended to beginners due to being the one that comes more naturally to people. Within the running steps, there are also two main variations for each corner, with the difference being the number of steps to be taken.
In running steps, your legs do not cross but they go next to each other as they would do when you are running. To give you a short example, if you want to reach one of the front corners with the running steps, you have two options. You can do it in two steps or in three steps.
If you do it in two steps, you will first move your non-racket leg towards the front and then you will land with your racket leg while you hit the shuttle.
If you do it in three steps, you will first move your racket leg towards the front, then you will move your non-racket leg towards the front, as if you started running, and then you will land with your racket leg while you hit the shuttle.
The chasse steps are the second school of thought. It is also an important way to keep in mind, as it is more recommended for specific movements.
The difference here is that, with the chasse steps, your non-racket leg never goes in front and it is always a bit more on the back than your racket leg.
If you are moving to the front with a chasse step, you would push yourself with both legs. While on the air, you will bring both legs together. You would then land first on the non-racket leg, which is on the back and end up landing on your racket leg, which is on the front. If this is a bit difficult to understand, you can check the video below.
How can you improve your footwork?
There are several tactics you can use in order to improve your footwork. These are the ones I personally recommend:
- Practice, practice, practice
- Focus on the technique and not on the speed
- Ask your coach or another player to check your movements
- Record yourself while practicing
- Do exercises that help you improve specific parts of the footwork
Practice, practice, practice
Practicing is the most important action you can take in order to improve. Just make sure you are practicing consciously and actively, making sure you are performing the footwork as you should.
This is best done by doing shadow drills or other exercises that specifically target footwork and leave outside other parts of the sport. If you don’t know what a shadow drill is, the video below explains it very well.
Focus on the technique and not on the speed
While learning, it is very important not to take on bad habits or shortcuts that will hurt you further down the line. So, when you start learning proper footwork, make sure you focus on the technique, and not on the speed.
Slowly, while you build your muscle memory, you will be able to speed things up and do the movements faster and faster. But always keep a good form.
Ask your coach or another player to check your movements
A good way to make sure you keep a good form and you are focused on the technique is to ask your coach (or another player if you don’t have a coach) to check your movements while you do the exercises.
If they know what to look for, they will be able to tell you whether the technique is good or you are doing something wrong.
Record yourself while practicing
A nice addition to someone checking your movements, or a good substitute if nobody is available to look, is to record yourself. You can easily do that with a smartphone if you have one.
After you have finished the drill or the training, you can check the video and see if you have done the footwork properly. This will give you a very clear picture on what to work on.
Do exercises that help you improve specific parts of the footwork
Apart from practicing footwork exercises, another way to improve your footwork is by doing exercises that focus on specific parts of the footwork.
For example, working on your agility, your reaction time or your lower body strength will all help you to improve your footwork. If you want to know a bit more about which exercises you can do, you can check our Badminton Drills post, where we give you 19 drills to improve your badminton game, including some that will help with your agility or reaction time.
And with, we have arrived at the end of this post. Do you have still any doubts about why is footwork important in badminton or how you can improve it? Then let me know in the comments below!
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Attribution: Murray Foubister, Flickr, CC BY-SA 4.0