I’ve been playing for a long time but every now and then I practice something and when it’s not working consistently I come back to the basics and see if there is anything I’m doing wrong there that might be hindering me practicing or playing a certain shot. One of the basics which is often overlooked is how you hold the racquet or your “grip”. I had a habit of letting the handle of the racquet turn too much in my grip, I was holding it too loose, and as a result, I wasn’t getting power or accuracy in some shots because when I hit the shuttle it was never with a consistent grip.
The two keys to being able to hold the racquet with a consistent and good grip are:
- Getting the correct shape of the hand (should be like a handshake)
- Holding the racquet with a relaxed gripLet’s go into more depth about grips and also the racquet itself.
The racquet handle is something to take note of, the handle of a badminton racquet isn’t unique but it is essential to explain the shape of it and why it is the way it is. Bats such as baseball or a cricket bat are completely rounded, a badminton racquet is hexagonal. If you look at the bottom of the handle there’s is often a logo and there you can see the hexagonal shape of the handle. It’s designed this way because unlike bats which part of the handle and how you hold it matters.
The forehand grip used for all shots, you guessed it, on your forehand side which is just which hand you hold your racquet on. If you are right handed then your forehand side of you is your right side and if you are left-handed then your forehand side is your left side, easy peasy. It’s important to note before moving on; don’t overcomplicate the grip. It’s easy to master if you keep things simple.
The easiest way to think about the forehand grip is to think about shaking somebody’s hand. You form a V shape with your thumb and index finger and the other three fingers wrap around the handle for stability but you should be able to just hold the racquet with your index finger and thumb. Take the racquet in your V-shaped hand and have the middle between your index finger and thumb sit on the bevel (the bevel is one of the narrower faces on the grip, remember how we explained the handle shape is hexagonal?). When you have the racquet in your hand the easiest way to check the grip is right is to hold the racquet straight out in front of you and you should only be able to see the side of the racquet and not be able to see the strings.
The forehand grip is as simple as that, practice this sat at home and just get comfortable holding the racquet this way. It’s easy to overcomplicate things when it seems so simple, but simpler is always better in my book when executed well.
The backhand grip is used for all shots, you guessed right again, on your backhand side which is just the opposite side to your forehand side. The reason for using a different grip on this side will become apparent when we explain further.
Some people find that the backhand grip is actually easier and more natural than the forehand grip. To turn your forehand grip into and backhand grip simply turn your thumb over onto the flat of the racquet handle rather than sitting across the bevel and let your fingers naturally adjust slightly. Making this adjustment doesn’t seem like very much but it will allow you to “squeeze” the racquet with your thumb to play most backhand shots. The thumb will stabilise the racquet when hitting so the racquet stays put in your new grip. A lot of people find it harder to play the overhead shots with a backhand at first but find that all the shots that aren’t overhead are a lot easier since you can use the power of your thumb to play the shot.
These are the two basic grips that everyone needs and with these two grips and no adjustments you can play every shot on the court. One thing that can often go overlooked is making sure to practice switching back and forth from your forehand grip to your backhand grip. This is essential when playing doubles and are on the defensive as you’ll need to switch from forehand to backhand depending on which side the opponents try to attack you from. A simple exercise is to sit on the couch at home and just practice shifting back and forth from forehand to backhand. Doing this and practicing in training and playing and it will become instinctive in no time.
Some coaches refer to another grip type called a “neutral grip” which is halfway between a forehand and backhand grip where you can quickly decide which grip to use for the shot. This isn’t a necessity to learn as making sure you’re not gripping the racquet too tight and you’ll be able to switch back and forth with ease, which brings us to the next point.
For both grips, you need to hold the racquet in a relaxed way, for the forehand you should be able to hold the racquet with your index finger and thumb and same for the backhand. Keeping the grip relaxed will give you more flexibility in maneuvering the racquet and allow you to switch between forehand and backhand easily.
It is so important that I would recommend sitting and holding your racquet with just the finger and thumb and seeing how it feels, the other fingers should just stabilise and wrap around the grip. Having the grip too tight will lead to an elbow injury commonly known as “tennis elbow” as it’s very common for tennis players to get this. Tennis elbow comes from gripping the racquet too tight and the muscles and tendons in your arm are unable to stretch naturally. If your muscles are already tight because you are gripping your racquet too hard and tensing as you play the shot your muscles and tendons are going to be put under severe strain. If you come away with this article with anything let it be this, stay relaxed, it’s awful to see people who enjoy the sport so much start to suffer due to a lack of knowing and ending up with injuries that can hurt over the long term. Let’s keep this in mind and stay injury free.
After practicing the grips in isolation you should then make sure when you come to hitting shots that you keep the same grip you practiced. It is very easy to slip back into old habits so make a conscious effort to keep the grip right and don’t be tempted to mess around with it too much. Remember, keep it simple is always best. I see other players spinning the racquet in their hands in between points and often find myself doing the same but you can find that when you start the next rally that your grip is slightly off because you’ve been spinning the racquet in your hand, try to avoid this.
When hitting any shot make sure tighten your grip on impact but only slightly. Grip the handle to keep the head of the racquet still on impact so no power of accuracy is lost with the racquet head moving around too much. Firm but not tight to avoid tennis elbow like we mentioned earlier. Following all the points mentioned earlier will allow you to have a smooth and clean swing. Keeping the grip loose keeps the arm from tensing up for the swing, muscles don’t like to be tight or tense when they need to move.
Now we’re moving onto more advanced tips here but there are benefits for holding the grip either shorter (closer to the shaft of the racquet) or longer (closer to the butt/bottom of the handle). For beginners, I would say keep the grip in between so have the little finger of your hand about an inch or two up from the bottom of the handle rather than at the extremes and use this length for all shots. This will keep a consistency of racquet length when first starting out for hand-eye-coordination and will be easier to hit all shots. For the more advanced players holding the racquet longer provides a bigger lever for swinging which means you’ll be able to deliver more power its basic science. The longer grip will make it harder to play shorter shots such as defensive blocks and flicks and playing in the flat mid-court. It’s more common to see singles players with slightly longer grip because they have more time between shots. If you were playing doubles holding the racquet longer constantly becomes more difficult when you need to play multiple shots in a row with very little time in between each shot.
The advantages of playing with a shorter grip are equal opposites for having a longer grip. It’s easier to play shorter, sharper shots with a short grip because it becomes a smaller lever to try and rotate. The natural disadvantage is that with a shorter level it’s harder to get the same amount of power in a smash or a clear.
Other types of grips beyond the basic forehand and backhand, depending on the situation and the type of player (singles or doubles player etc) these might not be used often:
- Neutral grip - as mentioned before, the resting grip that allows players to quickly switch to forehand or backhand
- Pan-handle grip - I mean the name says it all, you hold the racquet you would like a pan-handle, rarely used but the few rare times it is used is for playing the frontcourt in doubles to intercept shots going overhead where switching to forehand or backhand would be too slow
- Bevel grip - used as a variation for playing backhand clears and drops, it allows for more rotation of the racquet by resting the thumb on the bevel rather than the flat so the racquet can turn enough to play a cross-court shot.
So, in summary, please remember the two points mentioned at the start of this article:
- Getting the correct shape of the hand
- Holding the racquet with a relaxed grip
These are the keys to getting the correct badminton grip. Watch videos of the best players and try and look at how they’re holding the racquet when they play. Some of the best to look at are Ratchanok Intanon, Tai Tzu-Ying, Lin Dan and Taufik Hidayat. Keep in mind the points made and here make time to practice, you can do it anywhere you have your racquet. Get this fundamental right and you’ll be setting off on the right foot.
Written by Liam Walsh who lives in Manchester, England. Working as a Software Engineer but moonlighting as a dad, Badminton player/coach and creator of BadmintonsBest.
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