If you’re bored of interval training, running on the treadmill or riding the bike, badminton might be something for you.
Though many people know badminton as a fun backyard game, it is an intense olympic sport with roots dating as far back as far as Ancient Greece and Egypt 2.000 years ago.
Just like with other types of cardio, you can play at any intensity you like, starting from a low-intensity equivalent of a brisk walk, all the way up to your VO? max.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the pros and cons of playing badminton for cardio, when your main goal is getting stronger in the gym.
How To Use Badminton As Cardio
The answer is simple: By playing.
You naturally move around a lot in badminton. The goal of the game is to win points, and one of the best ways to do so is by moving your opponent around his or her side of the court, until they can’t reach your next birdie.
Play a few rallies, and you will definitely get your heart going. The more you play, the more calories you burn, all while improving your badminton game.
Benefits Of Using Badminton As Cardio
First, let’s state the obvious benefits. In badminton you move around a lot, which makes it a great cardio workout.
Its main benefits are similar to those of other cardio workouts:
- Gets your heartrate up.
- Helps you lose weight if that’s your goal.
- Lowers your blood pressure.
- Strengthens your immune system.
So, what benefits do you get out of badminton specifically, when compared to “regular cardio”, such as riding a bike or going for a run?
Let’s have a closer look.
Badminton Can Be Very Intense
Most people regard badminton as a backyard game to play during the family barbecue. While it certainly can be that, badminton is actually a very intense olympic sport.
Here’s a screenshot from my fitness tracker during a particularly tough match I played back in October this year.
As you can see, I reached my VO? max for a total of 10 minutes out of 34. VO? max measures the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize during exercise.
Reaching and improving your VO? max comes with plenty of benefits, such as improved cardio, stronger immune system, and reduced stress levels to name a few.
Many athletes seek to improve their VO? max through interval training, but it can also be done through intense badminton training or games.
In order to reach these intensities, you will need to go all out, of course, and if you’re playing a game, you and your opponent should be evenly matched.
It’s Incredibly Fun
I have enjoyed many different kinds of sport and exercise. Lifting weights, soccer, volleyball, squash, running, tennis, basketball, slacklining, table tennis, skiing, and a bunch more.
You name it, I’ve probably done it.
For me, badminton has been the most fun of them all, by a stretch. I’m not sure what it is about badminton, but ask almost anyone who’s played it, and they’ll tell you they had fun.
It just feels so satisfying to hit the birdie just right during a smash, or returning a particularly difficult shot.
Easy To Learn
The basics of badminton are very easy to learn. Almost anyone can learn to hit the shuttle back and forth in a matter of minutes.
So even if you’ve never played before, the barrier of entry is low, and you’ll start improving quite fast.
As long as you have someone around the same level as you, you can play intense games.
Infinite Opportunity To Improve
Though badminton is easy to get started with, there’s an infinite amount of things to learn and improve upon.
Perhaps one of the reasons why badminton is so much fun is because the sport combines so many different kinds of skill, so there’s so much room to develop.
- Eye-hand coordination
Personally, I think running and biking is great, but I don’t enjoy it very much. It’s just so repetitive. I’ve known how to do both since I was a kid.
The only thing I can really improve upon is my speed. I’m sure dedicated bikers or runners would tell me that there is much technique involved in their sports too, but you get my point.
With badminton there are simply so many things to learn and improve that I never get bored.
It’s An Individual Sport
Unlike soccer, football or other team sports, you only need one other person to be able to play.
You could also play doubles (2v2), though you would lose some of the cardio benefits, since you don’t need to move as much as you do in singles.
Either way, you won’t face many difficulties when it comes to arranging games.
3 More Benefits Beyond Cardio
- Concentration and focus. In order to succeed in badminton, you need to concentrate a lot. You never know where the next birdie is going to land, and you have to be ready for deceptions too. This could help you stay focused at the gym as well.
- Strategy. When you start improving, strategy becomes more important. What are your opponents weaknesses, what are their preferred shots? Badminton requires quite some mental gymnastics too, which is useful in all aspects of life.
- Reflexes. Badminton is the fastest sport in the world, with shuttle speeds on smashes easily reaching 150 mph or more among professional players. Your reflexes need to be sharp and will certainly improve the more you play.
Drawbacks Of Using Badminton For Cardio
At a casual level, there aren’t too many drawbacks when it comes to using badminton for exercise.
If you’re very serious about your strength training however, you should be aware of the drawbacks that do exist.
Risk Of Muscle Imbalances
In badminton, you use your dominant hand to swing the racket. You also lunge mainly on your dominant leg, at least if it’s the same side as your dominant hand.
That means that the gap in strength and muscle mass could increase further, between your left and right side.
Just have a look at the difference between Rafael Nadal’s left and right arm.
Of course, Nadal is a professional player, and badminton does not require nearly as much strength as tennis does. There’s a reason why it’s called tennis elbow, not badminton elbow.
Imbalances are not a big issue at casual level of play, but still worth considering depending on your dedication to the weights.
It’s A Shoulder Heavy Game
You use your shoulder in every shot, and especially in the over-the-head shots.
It could lengthen your recovery time, and even increase the risk of injury if you’ve been going hard on the badminton court the day before a heavy push workout.
Plan your workout schedule smartly if you wish to start playing badminton for cardio and continue with your weight training too.
While badminton is certainly a great conditioning workout, it is more straining on the shoulder, arms and upper body than classic running or biking.
Should You Start Playing Badminton To Improve Your Cardio?
If you’re struggling to get started with cardio or find your current workouts boring and repetitive, badminton could be just the sport you’ve been looking for.
It comes with all the benefits of cardio and more, and it’s very fun to play.
However, it might not be right for you, if you’re concerned about muscle imbalances or shoulder injuries, since badminton might increase the risk of both.