You see it all the time on the world stage for badminton. Elite level players are capable of defending smashes of over 350kmph. They’re capable of picking up deceptive shots when wrong-footed. They’re capable of incredible feats of speed and agility! The best elite players are able to keep up with the pace of the game thanks to stupidly fast reaction times.
So how do you improve your reaction time in Badminton? Reaction time can be improved with deliberate training and practice. Using a combination of training your eyes to see and process things faster, training your muscles to react to those stimuli at quicker rates and training your brain to make choices more instinctively you can improve your reaction time for badminton. Some useful exercises include juggling and ball drills, playing reaction test games and doing regular badminton drills at nearly double speed.
It’s important to work on improving your reactions if you want to get better. It’s not often talked about in relation to improving yourself in the sport. Read on for more details on how to do just that.
Tests and exercises to improve your reaction time
So what can you do to improve your overall reaction speed? There are lots of easy practices you can do either solo or with a partner and some can even be done at home!
We can break these exercises down into three different categories. Exercises to improve how fast our eyes respond to stimuli, exercises to improve our muscles response and then exercises that combine the two.
- Juggling balls - A great exercise for hand-eye coordination. Juggling three or more balls requires good coordination and improves your spatial awareness. Knowing where each ball is in the air or in your hand and continuing the juggle trains your eyes by tracking multiple objects and switching between them. This can be learnt at home at any time and as a plus is always a good party trick!
- Surprise catch - This exercise does require another person and the game is simple. The other person needs to hold two objects (make sure they’re not fragile), one in each hand. The other person then needs to stand in front of you at arms length and drop one of the objects and you need to catch it. Which item they drop and when should be random so you can’t guess which one they will drop. Your eyes will need to see the object and process it and then coordinate to catch the object. Simple but effective.
- Playing first-person shooter video games - This one might surprise you. Studies prove that playing first-person shooter games moderately can improve your hand-eye coordination and general reaction time. Keeping track of everything going on in the game trains your brain to react to stimuli on screen with greater speed and accuracy. So now you have a good reason to pick up a controller and not feel guilty about it!
Muscular response exercises
- Plyometric training - These are normally bodyweight exercises and they’re exercises that require maximum muscle exertion. These exercises help improve your explosive strength and power so naturally, this improves how fast you can move out of the blocks.
- Agility drills - Training using ladders drills, bleep tests or footwork drills all help towards building speed and agility. All of these will help make you quicker and lighter on your feet improving your acceleration.
- Sprinting - Sprinters have incredible reactions and speed. Especially 100m sprinters where every millisecond counts in the race. These guys train to be the fastest they can be out of the blocks to get the best start possible. So sprinting not only improves your muscle response time but also makes you faster once moving.
- Directed shuttle runs - Shuttle runs are where you set a stack of shuttles in six areas of the court. Two shuttles at the front of the court on either side (either in on along the tramlines). Two in the middle and two at the back of the court in the same way. Then starting from the middle you run or chasse to one of the placed shuttles and touch it before returning to the middle again as fast as you can. This is great on its own for building speed but we can also train our reactions with the help of another person. The other person’s job is to point to the shuttle for you to move to next but they only point as you get back to the centre. This requires concentration and good reactions to keep moving quickly.
Double time training
This is what I like to call it but the basic concept is doing your regular multi-feed shuttle practices but doing them at nearly twice the speed you would normally. So if you’re doing a multi-feed that requires you to play smashes and nets or lifts and clears the feeder for the exercise needs to hit the next shuttle as your finishing your stroke and before you’ve recovered.
I like to call this “double time training” as essentially your practising at nearly twice the speed you would actually experience in a game which is incredibly fast. This works better with multi-feeds where you don’t need to cover a large distance. A good example is multi-feed playing smashes from the back as if you’re the rear court player in doubles. You don’t need to cover all of the court, just the back.
So practising at a higher than normal feed shouldn’t affect your form too much and induce bad habits but will push you enough to improve both speed and reactions. This can be done with full-court exercises but requires good stamina and good footwork to be able to cover shots with minimal recovery time without being a totally sloppy practice.
Not having time to recover forces you to react to the next shuttle faster and move quickly to each shot. Doing this type of training will make playing a match or doing normal practices feel that much easier as you will get used to a much higher intensity and speed.
Where reaction speed is important in badminton
Reaction time is important for pretty much every aspect in badminton. From defending a smash to getting that really tight net kill. Badminton is a game of small margins which means every millisecond counts. If you find yourself constantly chasing the rally and not being able to get ahead, reactions could make a difference.
The elite players of the world all have incredibly fast reactions. They’ve trained themselves to the point where their responses are instinctive. In certain scenarios, they react in practised responses so they become more consistent.
The speed of the rallies at which elite players play is so fast they can’t afford to be behind during any phase of the rally. Any delay and they’ll find themselves more and more under pressure. A lot of players adapt to this with a combination of fast reactions and anticipation, both combined make the difference.
The science behind reaction time
We know how important reactions are to the sport. Let’s have a look at the science behind this. Reactions are controlled by our nervous system. The central nervous system consists of the spinal cord and the brain. In our example for Badminton, we have visual cues from the shuttle being sent in a particular direction. Our eyes see the shuttle and our visual sensories send an electrical impulse through the nervous system to the brain and then we react!
Reactions are different to reflexes and they are often confused for being the same thing. Reflexes come from our evolution and they tend to protect us from things or situations that could do us harm. They’re normally triggered by what they call the negative feedback loop meaning they’re triggered in dangerous situations.
An example is putting your hands out in front of you when you fall to stop your head hitting the floor. Reflexes happen much faster as they bypass the spinal cord and happen involuntarily and often can’t be stopped.
With this difference established we now understand how our reactions work. We understand that reaction speed is a combination of how fast your eyes see the shuttle, process that and choose the correct response. This means how fast our muscles can react is important as well.
What is the average person’s reaction time? According to various sources, the average person’s reaction time to visual stimuli is roughly between 250-300 milliseconds. This can be improved and elite athletes that rely on visual reaction time can get closer to 200 milliseconds.
What can affect your reaction time? There are various factors that can affect your reaction time. Some include things you can’t change such as your age, gender and personality type. Other factors that you can change such as physical fitness, fatigue levels, concentration and alcohol level.
If you found this article useful or know someone who might find this useful please leave a comment and share. If you feel I’ve missed anything out or have other advice, please leave feedback and share your help with others below. Thanks again for reading.
Written by Liam Walsh who lives in Manchester, England. Working as a Software Engineer but moonlighting as a dad, Badminton player and creator of BadmintonsBest.
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