Shuttle run footwork, or as some call it, “Pick up the birds”, is an essential training exercise for all badminton players. This drill trains your movement on the court, strengthens your legs, and trains your endurance through the length of a game. The players who already actively do this exercise dread it, but know its benefits. The ones who do not yet do it can learn how to do it here!
What is Shuttle Run Footwork?
Essentially, shuttle run footwork is the act of picking up shuttles from one corner on a badminton court and moving it to another corner on the court, while doing the proper footwork like you would while playing in a match. The added benefit of this rather than normal shadow footwork is that you will be lunging and bending down for each corner, causing you to work more on your quads and glutes than you would be working if you were playing a normal match.
Patterns and Shuttle Run Routines
Because the drill is inherently free-form, just the act of moving birds back and forth between corners, you can essentially create your own length and patterns and already get the benefits from doing so. There are, however, many common patterns that the top athletes around the world do to train for more realistic game situations. Let’s take a look at some below:
Side to Side
This is one of the most common patterns for pick up the birds. All you need to do is move the birds from one side to the other side, as shown in the video below:
When we do side-to-side pick up the bird, we want to focus on our speed for a short duration. For me, I normally will do 10 birds from anywhere between 6-10 sets in one training session, using 100% of my speed on each set. If you can imagine, doing side-to-side footwork is simulating the burst of speed you need to defend down the line smashes from your opponent. Because your goal is to transition from defense to offense, you do not want to do extremely long sets of side-to-side. Rather, you want to be able to active and replicate these short bursts of speed to ensure that your defense is solid and consistent.
Back to Front
The next most common pattern is the Back to Front / Front to Back pattern. Again, you will be moving shuttles from the back to the front, while maintaining proper footwork all the way through. Here is a modified version of a back to front shuttle run where I knock down the birdies in the front, but do not move them to the back:
This drill simulates the movement from when you smash the bird in the back and want to follow up quickly to the front, or when you have a tight net drop in the front and you want to move quickly to the back to smash their next shot. Again, because of what this routine simulates in a real match, you want to do somewhere around 10 birds for 6-10 sets, all at 100% of your speed. You can combine this routine with the side-to-side routine to work on both of these speed exercises in the same day.
6 Corner Pattern
The 6 corner pattern, my “favorite” (not really, it’s so hard!), is a shuttle run pattern that is done specifically to train leg strength over long rallies. This drill is done with 5 birds placed in one of the 4 corners (front left, front right, back left, back right) to start with. The goal is to move the birds from the original corner to the opposite corner in the back or the front, while traversing through every other corner before reaching there.
Let’s explain this with an example, assuming we have the birds starting in the front right corner. With the 5 birds in the front right, we move them each 1 by 1 to the front left. After moving them to the front left, we move them to the side right. After the side right, move them to the side left. Side left moves to back right, and finally, back right to the back left. All of this is 1 total set, with 25 total birds moving a corner.
One set can take anywhere from 1 minute 15 seconds to 2 minute 30 seconds, depending on how fast you go. If I give a set my 100% speed, I generally take somewhere around 1 minute 15 seconds, whereas a high-intensity pace would be around 1 minute 30 seconds. One set is extremely long already, but we still aim to do this exercise for 10 total sets. Again, this exercise is focused purely on long rallies, endurance, and leg strength. Make sure you go in with the right mindset, and know exactly what you are working on.
In to Out, then Out to In
This is the last common pattern that I have seen many top athletes from Indonesia and Malaysia do. We call this the “In to Out, Out to In” shuttle run pattern. Again, similar to the drill before, we have 5 birds to begin with at one corner, but this time any one of the 6 corners. We will move, 1 bird at a time, to each of the other 5 corners until the original 5 birds are spread out, and the original starting corner is empty. This is the “In to Out” portion of the drill.
As you might be able to guess, the second half of the drill is moving each of these birds, 1 at a time, from the spread out corners back to the original corner. This is the “Out to In”. Finishing both halves of the drill takes around 40 seconds to 1 minute 30 seconds. Again, this is more of an endurance drill that you can go at relatively high intensity, so train with the intention of improving your endurance and leg strength.
Shuttle Run Footwork is an extremely important part of every badminton player’s conditioning routine. Whether you are training for speed or for endurance, this is something you must work into your training sessions. If you are interested in any more conditioning clips or badminton training videos, please check out the full length videos on my YouTube channel! These are all drills that I go through weekly to improve my current badminton game and you can all do the same to improve your games as well!