In this post, we explore some fundamentals of badminton that all players should know – the 5 basic types of badminton shots. We will also go over many more advanced shots at the end of the post.
The 5 basic types of badminton shots are the clear, drop, drive, lift, and smash. Each of these shots has their own distinct purposes and variations. As a summary, clears are high overhand shots that go from one end of the court to the other end; drops are shots that place the shuttlecock near the net; drives are fast and flat shots; lifts are high underhand shots that place the shuttlecock near the baseline of the court; and smashes are fast downward angled shots. All of these shots can be played with both the forehand and backhand.
|Clear||A high overhand shot where the player hits the shuttlecock from one end of the court to the other end|
|Drop||A soft shot that places the shuttlecock close to the net, often in an attempt to make the opponent move or to set up for the next shot|
|Drive||A fast and flat shot that travels just above the net which is used for both offensive and defensive purposes|
|Lift||A defensive shot that is typically performed from the front of the court by pushing the shuttlecock high and far to the back of your opponent’s end of the court|
|Smash||A fast, downward angled shot that is performed with an overhand motion|
To help you visualize these 5 basic badminton shots, take a look at this picture taken from Badminton 101: The Beginner’s Guide to Playing Badminton.
What is a Clear in Badminton?
A clear is a high overhand shot where the player hits the shuttlecock from one end of the court to the other end. It is the most fundamental shot in badminton and should be learned before any other shot. If you can’t execute a clear, learning to do it well and with proper form will single handedly improve your game a lot.
The difficult part about learning how to do the clear is having the proper form to do it. Clears are a bit deceiving because it looks like you need to put a lot of power into the shot, when in reality what you need is good form and also the correct snap. Beginners tend to put their entire arm strength into doing clears in an attempt to hit it far. While it may seem to work for those who have strong arms, it takes way more effort than required and it also makes you much more prone to injury.
To do a basic clear properly, you should rotate your body along with your arm, forearm, and elbow to create a smooth movement. You’ll then snap your wrist (horizontally, and not inward – which is incorrect and will hurt your wrist) to whip the shuttlecock to the other side of the court. To get a a better idea of the correct form and some more tips on how to perform a clear better, I recommend watching the below tutorial.
A common variation of the basic high clear (also called a “defensive clear”) is the punch clear (also called an “offensive clear”). Whereas a high clear pushes the birdie high into the air to the point where players cannot cut if off, a punch clear is much lower and faster. High clears are considered defensive because it gives you more time to prepare for the next shot, but it also gives your opponent more time to get to the shuttlecock as well. Punch clears on the other hand are considered offensive because it gives your opponent less time to move and react to the shot. However, it also gives you less time for a return and you also run the risk of it getting intercepted before it reaches the back of your opponent’s court.
Choosing between a high and punch clear is all dependent on your situation and strategy. If you’re in a bad situation or tired, you probably want to go for a high clear. If your opponent is off balance or out of position, you may want to try a punch clear. With experience, you’ll find out what works for you in different situations.
What is a Drop in Badminton?
A drop is a soft shot that places the shuttlecock close to the net, often in an attempt to make the opponent move or to set up for the next shot. Drops can be played from anywhere on the court, but the most common places are at the back court and the front court (which are called net drops).
A back court drop is typically done using an overhand motion but can also be done with an underhand motion if you are out of position. The overhand motion is preferred because it keeps the shuttlecock moving in a downward direction, which is much more difficult for opponents to hit than a shuttlecock moving upwards. Using an underhand motion to hit a back court drop will first hit the shuttlecock upwards before it goes back down. This gives your opponent much more time to react to the shot than a downward pointing drop.
To execute an overhead drop shot, you’ll do a similar motion to a clear, but the point of contact of your racket with the shuttlecock will be a little more in front of you, which will allow you to produce a downward angle with your racket. At the point of contact, you should put some gentle pressure and follow through by bringing your racket downwards. To improve your drop shot execution, make sure to check out the tutorial below.
Back court drops also come in two different speeds – fast and slow. Fast drop shots put pressure on your opponent to react faster while slow drop shots make your opponent move farther. Slow drop shots are able to get closer to the net because there is less horizontal speed on the shuttlecock while fast drop shots are usually farther away from the net.
When to use each type of drop shot once again depends on the situation and the opponent. Doubles players tend to use fast drops while singles players use a mixture of both. Tall and heavy opponents usually have trouble with slow drops because they have to use more energy to move their body weight and can’t rely on just stretching their arms out to get the shot. Short and light players have more trouble against fast drops that are just outside of reach since they’re more nimble but cover less area with their arm span.
Front court drops, also known as net drops, are performed near the net and attempts to get the shuttlecock to barely go over the net. It’s often played with an underhand slice to chop the base of the shuttlecock so that it spins while going over the net, making it difficult for the opponent to hit back. A net drop is a very delicate shot and has many subtleties to it which require lots of practice and experience to get right. If done correctly, it’s one of the most difficult shots to return. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a net tumble, which is when the shuttlecock hits the net and tumbles over to your opponent’s side of the court. The net tumble is one of the hardest and most difficult shot to return because of how close it is to the net.
What is a Drive in Badminton?
A drive is a fast and flat shot that travels just above the net which is used for both offensive and defensive purposes. Drives are great for putting pressure on your opponent because it challenges their reaction time due to the speed of the shot and also their precision because of how close it is to the net.
Drives mostly use your wrist and forearm strength to produce power and speed while using your fingers to control the direction. If you’re new to badminton and practice drives, you’ll quickly find your forearms getting quite sore! With practice, you will no longer get as sore and can improve your reaction time and precision quickly. You can see examples of how to execute a drive correctly in the video below.
While drives are supposed to be flat shots, in practice they’re usually angled slightly – either upwards or downwards. Upward drives are considered defensive while downward drives are offensive. Offensive drives are much more advantageous than defensive drives because you give your opponents far fewer options when it goes below the top of the net. While not as dangerous as offensive drives, defensive drives are still a good option to use when under pressure to try to turn your defense into offense.
A somewhat advanced drive variation that can be used is the top spin defensive drive. It’s performed similarly to a regular defensive drive but with a follow through to slice the feathers at the top of the shuttlecock. This produces a drive that will first go upwards and then become flatter. Because the return is flatter, it becomes much more difficult for the opponent to hit another downward drive at you. Once you master the regular defensive drive, give this one a shot!
What is a Lift in Badminton?
A lift is a defensive shot that is typically performed from the front of the court by pushing the shuttlecock high and far to the back of your opponent’s end of the court. It is the most defensive shot in the game because it gives the opponent the most time to reach the shuttlecock. In comparison with the clear, a lift must go farther up before coming back down because it is struck with an underhand motion. This gives the opponent even more time to react than a clear would.
To execute a lift, you’ll start with your racket under the shuttlecock and bring it upwards until you contact it and use your wrist and fingers to produce a small and quick motion for power and control. Depending on how high and fast you want your lift to be, you’ll execute the lifting motion with a bigger or smaller arm movement. The higher and slower the clear, the bigger the movement. Take a look at the below video for more details of how to execute different types of lifts.
While a lift is the most defensive shot in badminton, you can still put pressure on your opponents by trying out different angles and pace for the lift. Similar to punch clears, flat lifts force the opponent to move faster but are more susceptible to being cut off. High lifts are much slower, giving you time to back up to your desired position but also give your opponent much more time as well. Once again, similar to the previously discussed shots, choose each type of lift to use depending on the situation.
An interesting aspect of the lift is that your options are usually dictated by how close the shuttlecock is to the net. The farther the shuttlecock is from the net, the more options you have for angles and pace. For example, if the shuttlecock is really close to the net, you’re forced to hit a high lift just to get it over the net. This is a big reason why players try to get a really tight spinning net shot – to force a high and potentially short lift or have an outright winner!
Another subtle aspect of the high lift involves the way the shuttlecock drops down. Depending on the shuttlecock’s angle, it can be more difficult to hit well. A shuttlecock that is dropping straight down has the base pointing downwards – making it much more difficult to hit a clean shot (i.e. not hitting the feathers). Compare this to hitting a shuttlecock that is coming down at an angle towards you – you’ll be able to hit the base easily since it is pointing towards you.
High lifts use a combination of arm and wrist movement to execute. To execute a high lift, you will need a big swing and time the snap of your wrist as you hit the shuttlecock. Angled lifts are much more like drives as you use more forearm and wrist strength to get power and speed.
Executing a good high lift is a skill that a lot of players actually don’t focus on – usually because it’s boring to practice and aren’t as flashy as the other type of shots. However, obtaining such a skill actually has two very advantageous benefits. For one, you can save more shots – if you’re able to execute a good high lift even when your opponent does a really tight spinning net shot, you’ll extend the rally and have a much better shot at winning points. Secondly, it’ll be much more difficult and tiring for your opponent to attack from the back of the court and make your defense that much easier. Mastering the lift will definitely annoy and frustrate your opponent so don’t forget to practice it!
What is a Smash in Badminton?
A smash is a fast, downward angled shot that is performed with an overhand motion. It is the most offensive shot in badminton and typically lands between the opponent’s mid to back court depending on how steep it is. The smash is often the shot most beginners are most impressed by and try to learn because it sounds and looks impressive.
The smash is performed similarly to a drop except with much more power exerted onto the shuttlecock and with the contact point farther forward. To perform a smash, you have to combine timing, rotation, and coordination between your core, arm, and wrist. The shuttlecock will have to be above and in front of your body so that you will have enough space to generate power and contact it at a high enough point to send it in a downward direction. Take a look at the below video tutorial to help you perform the smash correctly.
Smashes have two major aspects to them – power and steepness. A powerful smash gives your opponent less time to react to the shuttle and makes it more difficult to hit a defensive shot that returns to the back line. A steep smash makes it so the shuttlecock reaches the ground sooner and thus more difficult to cut off. A steep and powerful smash would be the best of both worlds, but in reality you often have a tradeoff between the two properties. Powerful smashes are good when your opponents aren’t that far from the net but are difficult to hit accurately and precisely. Steep smashes are most effective when the opponent’s stance is towards the rear of the court so that the shot falls short of their reach but have a higher chance of hitting the net.
To improve the power of your smashes, you’ll have to increase your upper body strength through physical conditioning as well as make sure your form and rotation are correct. Increasing your upper body strength will allow you to produce more power while improving your form and rotation will allow you to transfer that power to the shuttlecock more effectively. Check out the below video for some tips to improve your smash.
To improve the steepness of your smashes, you’ll have to contact the shuttlecock at a higher point of contact and improve your accuracy to hit closer to the net. To hit the shuttlecock at a higher point of contact, try hitting the shuttlecock above you rather than at your side or near your body. However, to do so, you will have to get in position quickly before the shuttlecock comes too low. To hit more accurately will simply take practice and adjustment of the angle. Keep in mind that angles you can produce differ based on how close you are to the net. The closer you are to the net, the steeper the angle you can produce – so make sure to practice smashing from different areas of the court.
What are Some Other Badminton Shots?
Badminton has a huge variety of shots that are not fully covered by the 5 basic shots above. Let’s take a look at some other common shots you’ll see.
The serve is the first shot of a rally and is one of the most important shots to master (especially in doubles) because it can determine who has the initiative in the rally. As the first shot of the rally, you have full control over the shuttlecock but must obey the standard serving rules. If you’re unfamiliar with the service rules, make sure to learn them to ensure a fair game. You can view them over at Fundamental Rules of Badminton – The World’s Fastest Racket Sport. Check out the video below for how to do a high singles serve.
And take a look at this video to learn how to do a low doubles serve.
The net kill is a fast and quick shot used against a net drop in order to end the rally. In order to execute a net kill, you have to reach the shuttlecock above and near the net and push it down steeply. Since the shuttlecock will be right above the net, you can almost send it straight down. However, beware of touching the net when performing the net kill as it would be a fault. Check out the below video for more details on the net kill.
The smash block is a defensive drop shot that is performed in response to a smash. It is a soft shot where you guide the shuttlecock to the desired location and uses the smash’s power to provide most of the pace. Be careful to control this shot so that it crosses just over the net. If it’s too high, it can be an easy kill for the opponent. Check out the following video for an example of a smash block.
The smash lift is a defensive lift that, similarly to the smash block, is performed in response to a smash. You will need to have good wrist strength and timing to perform this well because you have to absorb all of the smash’s power before hitting it back towards the rear of the opponent’s court. Check out the below video for an example of a smash lift.
Cross Court Net Drop
The cross court net drop is a tight drop that is hit from one of the front corners of your court to the opponent’s opposite front corner position. It’s a favorite shot of many amateur players because most players typically expect a straight drop instead of a cross shot. However, it is more difficult to execute well and can be heavily punished if done incorrectly. Check out the following video for a tutorial on forehand cross court net drops.
Check out this next video to learn how to do backhand cross court net drop shots.
What are Some Advanced Badminton Shots?
We’ve gone over most of the common shots you will see in beginner to intermediate play. Now, we’ll explore some shots that take much more practice to get right.
A jump smash is exactly what it sounds like – a smash that is executed while jumping. This can give the player more height for added steepness and potentially added power as well if the player’s rotation is good. While jump smashes can help with offense, it takes more time to recover from the landing of a jump smash so you will need to increase your agility to be ready for the next shot quickly. To learn to do a jump smash well, you will have to practice timing your jump so that you hit the shuttlecock at its highest point while still preserving power. Check out the below video tutorial for how to jump smash properly.
A fake smash is a shot that looks like a smash, but is changed to a drop or a punch clear at the last moment. The purpose of the shot is to deceive the opponent who has planted their feet for a smash. It can put the opponent off balance and set you up for an easily kill. In order for this shot to work, your clear, drop, and smash form have to look similar enough to deceive your opponent. Check out the following video to find out how to do it.
Reverse Slice Drop
The reverse slice drop is a steep drop shot that usually looks like a smash. This shot is very deceptive because the arm action can be done really quickly as if you are performing a smash but falls much closer to the net. The difficult part of the shot is the execution of it and understanding when to do so. Take a look at this video for a great explanation of how to practice it.
Double Wrist Action Fake Out
The double wrist action fake out is a shot that uses forward racket motion to make it look like one type of shot, but is pulled back at the last moment to change the shot type and direction. You will need a strong forearm and wrist in order to do this shot because most of the power will have to be generated with a small motion. Take a look at the below video for an example.
Dives are used as a last ditch effort to retrieve a shot that is too far and fast to retrieve with normal footwork. Be careful when attempting dives as they will hurt as you would be slamming your body onto the floor. Moreover, if you have sweat on your clothes, the court will become wet and potentially slippery, creating a hazard for yourself. Professionals have to specifically practice doing dives properly because there is a high risk of injury when doing so. Most professionals don’t even attempt full dives, but rather half dives because of this. The next video has some awesome dives that saves points that would be otherwise unretrievable.
Trick/Other shots – Trick shots are a broad category that contains any type of shot that is unconventional. Examples include behind the back shots, between the legs, a 360 turn around shot, and even blind hail mary shots. Other type of trick shots are purposely deceptive, such as Peter Gade’s famous cross court trick shot, which you can see at position number two in the extremely entertaining video below featuring some of the best and most famous trick shots performed in professional matches.
Wow, that’s a lot of shots that we just covered! It’ll certainly take a lot of time and effort to master them all, but it’s quite fun to keep on learning and trying new shots. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new trick shot to show off to the world. Have fun practicing!
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