Get the lowdown on badminton, the high-speed racket sport that traces its lineage all the way back to ancient Greece.
Take a court, a net, and two rackets, mix them together, and what do you get? (Hint: it’s not tennis). While we all know and love its championship, the U.S. Open, its cousin—badminton—is a super-fun, high-intensity sport you should consider adding to your list of top workouts.
What is badminton?
It’s a fair enough question. Badminton isn’t exactly a mainstream sport, especially when you look at its dwindling popularity in the West compared to its huge following in Asia. Thought to have been invented in Pune, a town in colonial India—though some say it has much older origins in ancient Greece—the game was originally called “the Poona Game” in honor of its birthplace.
So where does the name “badminton” actually come from? Well, that’s courtesy of the villages of Great and Little Badminton. Specifically, it’s because the Duke of Beaufort—whose residence was based in the village—was a massive fan of the sport. After colonial expats came back from India and started introducing the sport to the U.K., Badminton was one of the first places in Britain that the game was played, and the name ended up sticking!
By 1860, a London-based toy dealer named Isaac Spratt was taking it upon himself to introduce the game to the general public, publishing a booklet called “Badminton Battledore: a New Game” that was intended to give newbies the lowdown on this brand-new sport. And the rest is history.
Sure, it’s never quite achieved the success of tennis or ping pong, but badminton’s secure spot on the Olympic roster—it was introduced in 1992—makes it an international mainstay. Fun fact: the winners of the men and women’s singles in badminton’s debut Olympics, Alan Budikusuma and Susi Susanti, are now married to each other—and apparently share an Instagram account, but that’s an issue for another time—proving that there’s nothing like the insane, unfettered competition of professional sports to make Cupid work overtime.
What are the health benefits of badminton?
Badminton is a simple sport. The aim of the game is to get the shuttlecock over the net and onto the floor of your opponent’s side. The result is a high-tempo game of precision, skill, and sharp reactions, all of which can help you burn around 300 calories per hour.
Aside from the calories you can expect to burn, there are a wide range of health benefits associated with badminton. If you’ve ever watched a game in action, you might have noticed that it’s much more fast-paced than tennis, with the shuttlecock world-record speed standing at 253 mph, almost 100 mph faster than the world-record tennis serve. There’s no waiting for a ball to bounce across a net—badminton matches are about quick moving and even quicker thinking. That makes it a great sport for developing your reflexes and increasing your muscle tone.
What do you need to get started?
Want to learn how to play badminton? Great! But first, you’ll need to stock up on a few essentials:
- Racket: You won’t get far without one! Just like tennis, badminton racket can be adapted to suit your playing style, whether you’re looking for greater power or increased speed, there’s an option for you.
- Shuttlecock: There are two types of shuttlecocks: feathered and plastic. For precision and consistency, feather shuttlecocks are a better option. Here’s a fun fact: feathers for shuttlecocks come from the left wings of geese.
- Net: All right, so no badminton court should make you bring your own net. But it’s worth knowing that the net needs to be 5 feet off the ground for a height that really tests the punch of your badminton serve.
How to play badminton
The rules of the game are pretty easy to learn—you can check out a simple guide here—so for now, let’s explore some of the key moves you’ll need to learn:
- Badminton serve: The perfect badminton serve is performed by dropping the shuttlecock bottom-down onto the racket and flicking it up, high enough to get it over the net.
- Smash: Now we’re getting serious! A smash is when you put your full force behind your return, with the aim of hammering the shuttle so hard and fast that your opponent won’t have a chance to intercept it.
- Net shot: One of those skillful moves everyone loves, a net shot requires you to lob the shuttlecock over the net with just enough force to score a point, leaving no room for your opponent to return it.
What's the verdict?
One of the main secrets of badminton’s success is how easy it is to get started. Learning how to play badminton is easy, and a racket and a shuttlecock—both easily affordable—are all you really need to figure out if the sport is for you. The sky’s the limit, so get smashing!