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How to Warm-Up and Cooldown Properly to Avoid Injury?

I was out playing badminton the other night at the badminton league club I play for just for a general practice, I have been playing as much recently so was feeling a bit rusty going on to have a knock up to warm-up. I thought about that and actually, I’ve always been taught to do a full dynamic warm-up properly before getting onto court and to do a cooldown afterwards. All the coaches I’ve ever been too always instructed and insisted on that for the simple fact that it’s necessary to decrease the risk of picking up an injury. So how do you warm-up properly and cooldown properly?

The simple answer is that you need to do a full body warm-up that uses dynamic stretching exercises and should probably take around 5-10 minutes before playing and then a full body cooldown that uses static stretching and should last roughly the same amount of time.

So now that we know what we need to do let’s look at why we need to warm-up and cooldown properly and some good routines on what to do for each.

Why warm-up and cooldown?

Warming up and cooling down are both things the majority of people know they should do for exercises like lifting weights and general gym/fitness training, why then do people not take this same approach before playing badminton?

Our bodies are made to move, everything about the human body lends itself to being very good at manoeuvring through space in a variety of ways. We do however live more stationary lives these days, we sit at our school or work desks and can be still for hours at a time. With all this sitting and being stationary our muscles become stiff which becomes a problem.

Our muscles are elastic, they relax and contract to push and pull to allow movement. Much like an elastic band when our muscles are cold from being stationary for too long they become stiff and therefore don’t stretch easily to allow for movement. We need to warm them up slowly until they are able to stretch and contract with ease. You’re more likely to pick up injuries from the lack of a quality warm-up. Cold muscles when stretched are more likely to tear and rip from being too stiff.

The majority of people will go on for a quick “knock-up” as a way of warming themselves up to get ready to play. The problem is that they start with playing clears to each other which requires quite explosive movements for the upper body, this is not a gradual warm-up and also doesn’t aid in stretching all the muscle groups in the body ready for play.

When you’re done playing is always best to do a cooldown, like the warm-up this is something the majority of people rarely do but should. Doing a cooling down routine of 5-10 minutes helps get your body back to your natural resting point more gradually. It gradually reduces your heart and breathing rates, cools your body temperature, let’s your muscles return to their natural resting tension and length and helps prevent soreness in the muscles in the days to follow and improve the flexibility of the muscles.

The dynamic warm-up routine

There are countless routines and ways to do warm-ups but what they all have in common is that they involve dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is warming and stretching your muscles whilst in motion, not standing on the spot, examples of dynamic stretches include various lunges, legs swings, squats, jumps etc. This is so that we can stretch the muscles to loosen up and the motion will get our heart pumping and start getting us warm, static stretching will stretch the muscles but won’t give you the body warm-up.

Here are some typical warm-up routines I try and do each time before I play or train and are great for badminton in particular.

Warm up one:

  • 50 jumping jacks
  • 10 lunges with a twist (five for each leg)
  • 10 Cobras
  • 20 hand and knees arms stretches
  • 5 halasanas
  • 50 high knees
  • 10 squat jumps

I use this one a lot, it doesn’t seem like much but it’s a nice quick warm-up that hits all the major muscle groups.

Warm up two:

  • 2 minutes regular skipping
  • 2 minutes running skipping
  • 2 minutes fast running skipping
  • 10 burpees
  • 10 squats
  • 10 burpees
  • 10 squats

This one takes a little longer but definitely gets the heart pumping and if you can skip well you should have a decent sweat on by the end of this. Burpees are not only a great exercise for training but can be used in a warm-up as long as you’re already warmed up to a degree which is why they come after the skipping.

We’ve mentioned previously why we should warm-up but here I wanted to highlight the benefits of a good warm-up:

  • Improved performance during workout and training
  • Prepares your heart for increased activity slowly, avoiding a sudden shock and increase in blood pressure
  • Improves your coordination and muscles reaction timing
  • Prepares you mentally for the workout or training from the start

The best advice I ever had for warm-ups is that you should have “little beads of sweat”, this means you’ve done enough to get yourself really warmed through and ready to go from the off.

The static cooldown routine

The point of cooling down is to slow your body’s processes down gradually rather than an abrupt stop followed by a lot of panting. When cooling down we use a combination of low-intensity activity such as walking or slow jogging and static stretching to reduce the soreness and stiffness often felt the next couple of days after training.

A typical cooldown I use which is great for a post badminton workout looks like this:

  • Steady, easy slow skipping for 3-5 minutes
  • Child’s pose, 30 seconds
  • Butterfly stretch, 30 seconds
  • Hamstring stretch, 30 seconds each leg
  • Glute stretch, 30 seconds each leg
  • Standing forward bend, 30 seconds
  • Quad stretch, 30 seconds each leg
  • Calf stretch, 30 seconds each leg
  • Shoulder stretch, 30 seconds each arm
  • Chest stretch, 30 seconds each side

This will be enough to target all the areas of the body and crucially the lower half for badminton, all the lunging and twisting needs good flexibility in the hips and legs.

Other tips to help avoid injury and next day soreness

All of this advice will aid in avoiding the dreaded aches and pains that can follow the days after a hard workout of badminton session, especially the static stretching which will stop blood pooling in the larger muscle groups in the lower body such as the quads and hamstrings.

I’d recommend everybody to couple a healthy fitness regime and lifestyle with a just as healthy approach to food and dieting. It goes without saying that all the exercise in the world won’t save you if your body is not getting the nutrients it needs to grow and heal. I’d always recommend having something to hand that is high in protein post-exercise to consume. Your body will use that protein to build and repair muscle to be stronger.

Something often unmentioned is the benefits of a good night’s sleep in relation to exercise. Our bodies are constantly working each day and if we’re training and putting ourselves under more workload we need time to recover, sleep is our bodies way of recovering from the events of the day. During sleep, a lot of the bodies healing and regenerative abilities kick into gear meaning getting to bed at a decent time will help avoid the stiffness and the ache the next day.

It’s what every elite level athlete does

Here at Badminton’s Best we always look at the best players in the world to learn from and every single one of them will do warm-ups and cooldowns. Why would you avoid something that is so fundamental to keeping fit and injury free?

Take away these routines and try them next time your at badminton or training as a way to warm-up and cooldown. These are the basics and there are countless ways to do both.

If you found this useful let us know on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and share with other badminton fans. If you have a good warm-up and/or cooldown routines please reach out and let us know.

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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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