Badminton Smash: Types of Smashes and How to Play Them

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A Cartoon picture of a person playing a badminton smash

A badminton smash is a favourite among badminton players. The fastest shot in not just badminton, but the world of racket sports. A powerful and precise smash can easily win you the point and is a brilliant shot to both play and witness.

But before we talk about how to play one, what exactly is a smash?

A smash in badminton is an offensive shot played from the back of the court with power and speed in a downwards trajectory.

A smash shares much of the same features as a drop shot, but with one key difference, a smash is hit with power. If you want to see exactly how similar the drop shot is, check out the Badminton Drop Shot article. A smash is an offensive shot that, if executed well, can be an outright winner. Even if your opponent does manage to return your smash, it is often with a weak shot and therefore can lead to you winning the rally with your next shot. However, a poor smash or a smash that was played at the wrong time, can leave you out of position and at a disadvantage during the rest of the rally.

There are two main types of smashes, both of which can be played with both a forehand or a backhand grip. However, for the purpose of this article we will be focusing exclusively on the forehand smash. In this article, we will discuss the different types of smashes, how and when to play them as well as some useful tips, tricks and drills to make your smash a winning shot.

Types of Smashes and How to Play Them

  • The Standard Smash

  • The Stick Smash

The Standard Smash

A standard smash is what you will perform 90 – 95% of the time when you want to smash the shuttle, hence the “standard” part. For ease, we will just refer to it as a smash from here on out. The aim of a smash is to give your opponent as little time to react to your shot in the hope to win the rally outright, cause your opponent to make a mistake or for your opponent to play a weak return.

How to hit a Standard Smash

1) Get Ready

Stand sideways with your non-racket foot closest to the net. Raise both your racket and your non-racket arm. Your wrist and your racket should be pointing upwards. To improve your play from the back of the court, it is important that your ready position is also the same for your clear and drop too. By doing this, it will take valuable seconds away from your opponent as they won’t know which shot you are going to play before you play it.

2) Anticipate the shuttle

Shift your weight onto your rear foot, bend the arm holding the racket and hold your non-racket arm up in the air to counter balance. To help you learn the technique, it is very helpful to use your non-racket arm to point at the shuttle.

3) Pre-shot motion - The backswing

Much like throwing a ball, your racket and wrist are moved behind your head. Reaching down towards your back your racket and wrist should now be pointing downwards towards the floor. This is the backswing.

4) Hit the shuttle

Swing the racket over your head, straightening your elbow and contacting the shuttle at the highest point and slightly in front of you, this gives the downwards direction. Hit the shuttle with a flat racket head. This is the point where the smash  will differ from a clear (which will be hit hard and straight) and a drop (which will be hit gently and downwards). When smashing the shuttle keep your wrist locked to maintain control and direction and make sure your racket comes down and across your body. Upon contact with the shuttle, your racket leg should be stepping forward across your body to become the front leg, giving you a forward motion. You should also squeeze your racket handle on contact with your racket to increase speed at which the shuttle will fly. This will send the shuttle down towards your opponent’s side of the court at high speed.

Two factors determine the speed of the smash, the swing speed and the extension of the arm; a fully extended arm will generate a faster smash than a bent arm. That’s why we hit the shuttle as high as possible.

The Stick Smash

The stick smash is not as fast as the regular smash but does have several advantages to make it worth using.

Instead of using the full arm motion that a smash uses, the stick smash makes use of forearm rotation and the snap of your wrist. This reduces the power but increases the steepness of the smash, making it harder for your opponent to return. 

It also means that the shot is more unpredictable as your opponent is most likely expecting a full smash and therefore will be stood further back on the court, making it hard to return your stick smash. 

Another advantage of a stick smash is that it uses less energy than a full smash and you are also able to recover from the shot more easily, making getting to the next shot easier too.

How to hit a Stick Smash

The general technique of hitting a stick smash is the same as the standard smash. But instead of a complete full swing and follow through, you rotate your forearm with speed and snap your wrist. 

To begin, ensure that your start position is exactly the same as your standard smash. This allows the stick smash to be unpredictable. Next, after bringing the racket behind your head, instead of using a complete arm swing with body rotation to give you as much power as possible, rotate your forearm at your elbow.

Try to hit on top of the shuttle, at the highest point to achieve maximum steepness on the shot. The rotation of your forearm and snap of your wrist should be a very quick movement, almost like you are slapping the shuttle down. This provides the speed and the angle to the shot. Jump to further increase steepness of the shot.

The Benefits of using a Smash

Win the rally.

Win the rally.

Win the rally.

So effectively, a smash is used to win the rally.

As the smash is an attacking shot, it is true that the benefits of using one is obviously to win the rally. But, the way in which you can use a smash to win a rally, is either outright, using a lightning fast smash that either your opponent fails to get or makes a mistake and puts it into the net or out.

You may also win the rally if the return your opponent plays from your smash is weak, allowing you to kill the rally off at the net.

When to use a Smash in Badminton

So far we have talked about the types of smashes, how to play them and the advantages that they bring. However, when you play a smash is just as important, if not more important. You definitely don’t want to play a smash when you are out of position for instance. We will go into specifics for both singles and doubles, but the ideal time of when to play a smash is often similar for both disciplines.

When to use a smash in singles

After a weak return

If you play a shot that has caused your opponent to play a weak or half court lift, it is often a very good opportunity to smash. At this point you are often in position without having to move too far, allowing you to have good balance and control over the shot. Also, smashing from this position means that you won’t have too far to recover to reach the next shot, should your opponent return your smash.

If there is a clear opening on the court

If your opponent’s recovery or poor footwork has presented an opening on the court, it is often a good idea to use a smash, which is quick and direct, to exploit this opening.

When to use a smash in doubles

After a weak return

Doubles is a very attacking discipline and so there are often many more smashes played in doubles than in singles. Much like in singles, it is often a good idea to smash a weak lift or clear by your opponent. 

If you anticipate or react quickly to a flick serve

Another good opportunity to smash, is if you have a quick reaction to a flick serve. Playing a smash of their serve can catch them off guard and win you the point quickly. It is often a particularly good time to play a stick smash, as it is easier to perform a good stick smash when jumping backwards, than trying to play an off balanced standard smash.

From a lift

In doubles, it is more often than not, the team that retains the attack wins the point. This is why you will see more smashes in a doubles match than in a singles match. By smashing, you will often retain the attack and hopefully work an opening to win the rally. 

However, having said that, it is also important that you don’t become predictable and make every shot from the back of the court a smash as your opponent will work you out and adjust to counter this. Therefore, we will continue by talking about the times when smashing maybe isn’t the best idea.

When not to play a Smash in Badminton

We have talked about some of the best times to play a smash in a badminton match, but when it comes to playing a smash, it is actually more important to know when not to play a smash.

When you are out of position

Positioning is everything when it comes to a badminton smash. If you play a smash when you are out of position or struggling to reach the shuttle there is a good chance that your execution of the shot will be poor. This may lead to the shuttle going into the net or an easy return by your opponent. In addition, playing a smash when out of position or off balanced makes it more difficult to recover to get the next shot making your poor smash, doubly disastrous. 

You only ever play a smash

Only playing smashes makes you predictable. In a game against an experienced play, they will be able to see that you only smash and adjust accordingly to counter this. Make sure you mix up the shots you play from the back of the court (stick smashes, fast and slow dops, etc) to keep your opponent guessing as to what you are going to play next. 

How to Defend Against and Return a Smash

So far we have talked about using smashes, but what if your opponent uses a smash against you. Here are some general things that you can do to defend against a smash.

Improve your footwork

If you have good footwork, then you have the best weapon to counter everything in badminton. Just by getting back to the middle as quickly as possible allows you to be ready for wherever your opponent next puts the shuttle, even if it is a good smash. Just by being ready and in position is half of what you need to do to defend against a smash. 

Also, having a good split step can help you spring forward to defend against, or even attack, a good net shot. If you want to improve your footwork then check out our article on footwork drills for badminton.

Be Ready

When you are in position to receive a smash, the next thing to do is to be ready. Stand in a defensive stance with your legs more than shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent with your racket out in front of you with a loose grip.

Then just as your opponent is about to play their shot you should perform a split step. Split step is a technique where you perform a small jump before moving which allows you to move around the court in any direction quicker. This allows you to react to and reach the smash in a smoother way to block the shuttle back over the net.

Tips for Improving Your Smash

Start behind the shuttle

When you are in position to receive a smash, the next thing to do is to be ready. Stand in a defensive stance with your legs more than shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent with your racket out in front of you with a loose grip.

Take the shuttle high

Taking the shuttle as high as you can means that you can have a steeper smash. This is harder for your opponent to get back. Jumping will also increase this angle.

Rotate your body

Rotation of your body is a large part of where the power of the smash comes from. Rotation of your hips followed by your torso and  then shoulders in quick succession gives the fast racket speed and forward momentum you need for a fast smash. Increasing your core strength is a great way to improve your core stability which will help with a fast smash.

Hold your racket loose and low

Holding your racket grip loose in your hand before the shot and squeezing on impact  will improve your racket speed which inturn increases the speed of your smash. Also, by holding your hand further down the grip creates a longer lever. In physics, the longer the lever, and the further the effort acts from the pivot and therefore the greater the force on the load will be.

Placement over power

Although it is great to be able to smash so hard that it goes through your opponent’s defence, it is often more effective to place your smash so that your opponent can’t return it. Down the sides of the court are a good place to put the shuttle, as far from your opponent as possible. Another good place to aim your smash is at your opponent’s body and their hip on their racket holding side, a notoriously hard place to return a smash from.

Practice your footwork

Quick and agile footwork to get you in position to play a smash, and recover from one too, is just as, if not more important than the racket swing itself. By having good footwork, you give yourself time to get into position and prepare to play the shot. This is also important for getting back to the middle after the shot so that you are ready for the return too.

Improve your strength

One way to improve your smash is to improve your smash strength. By improving your muscular strength, then you are able to hit a stronger more powerful smash. Check out our full article on this, One Exercise to Improve Your Smash: Pull-Ups, to find out exactly how to achieve this. 

Practice, Practice, Practice

And lastly, the best way to improve your smash is to practice, practice and practice some more.

Badminton Smash training drills

Here are five smash training drills that you can do to improve your smash. If you want to see a full description of each of the drills check out our smash training drills article.

  1. Lift/Smash Routine (Pair Drill) – A good drill to practice the smash motion. One player lifts and the other player smashes the shuttle back. Variations can be added for complexity.
  2. Smash-Block-Lift (Pair Drill) – A good drill to practice a smash with movement. Player 1 lifts, player 2 plays a smash, player 1 plays a block back to the middle of the court. Player 2 now lifts and player 1 plays a smash. Variations can be added for complexity.
  3. Multi-shuttle Smash Drill (Feeder drill) – Complex drill for more advanced players. You need to be able to, or have someone that can feed multiple shuttles. Good for practising your smash with full court movement.
  4. 2-on-1 (Pair Exercise) – The side with two players plays nothing but lifts and the player working on their own keeps smashing at the pair to try and win the rally. A good way to practice a large volume of smashes and also works on your stamina.
  5. Footwork (Solo Drill) – Not just good for practising your smash, as anytime you are working on your badminton footwork, you’re improving every area of the game from helping you reach the shuttle quicker to returning to the middle of the court faster.

Conclusion

So as you can see from this article, there is a lot to know about the powerful smash. I hope you have gained new insight into the smash and a greater desire to go out and improve yours!

In this article we have talked you through what a smash is, the types of smashes and how to play them. From there we went on to discuss the benefits of playing a smash, as well as when you should and, more importantly, when you shouldn’t play one. We have given you some useful tips on how to defend against a smash and how you can improve yours as well as some training drills to achieve this.

Now that you have mastered the smash, why don’t you look at our drop shot article to become a master of deception!

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