Guest post by Aske from Beast Badminton
Have you ever felt a rally intensify to the point where you knew you had to rely on quick racket reactions to defend against a sudden flat attack?
One of those striking varieties that gives you a split second to decide on a return and typically ends with an awkward strike.
Or maybe you’ve been driving an attack where you pushed your opponent to take defensive reaction shots from well-placed flat shuttles around their midcourt?
If you can answer yes to either, you’re familiar with the badminton push shot.
Even though most advanced and professional players use this technique in their flat game all the time, we don’t pay much attention to it compared to the more famous “classic” shots.
It’s a technique that receives little attention because it doesn’t seem like an established shot, and at first glance, it looks like a strike only early beginners would take.
It’s weird because you’re often in a position where you can play it as part of an attack, and you’ll likely have to defend a push multiple times during a match.
It’s not as grandiose as the jump smash. It’s not highly technical the way a backhand drop is.
Instead, it’s a swift mini-variation that forces immediate pressure on your opponent and, maybe, disrupts the rhythm in their game or triggers a weak return to open up an even more aggressive attack.
You don’t need a lot of technique or effort compared to most other strikes, but there’s a lot of finetuning that makes this a quick-witted strike that can flip the rally in an instant and test both the footwork and reaction time of your opponent.
Let’s break it down.
What is a push shot in badminton?
Doesn’t this nearly look like an awkward beginner’s strike!?
There’s quite a bit of confusion around what a push shot is, and it’s often mixed in the same category as a drive shot (which isn’t entirely wrong).
They’re both techniques in your flat game, and the difference between them is not always clear-cut.
The simplest way to understand a push shot is to think of it as a softer, more controlled, and more accurate drive shot.
We could call it a fast drive where you add less power and direct the shuttle by pushing it to areas around the mid-court, like this.
The badminton push shot consists of the following:
- It’s an overhand shot (forehand typically)
- It’s a swift attack
- It’s similar to a drive but a softer strike that attacks the midcourt rather than the rear court
- It has a higher control and accuracy compared to a drive but still a flat trajectory
Even though it’s a flat and slower type of midcourt attack (slower than a drive that is – it’s still a fast shuttle), it can be very annoying for opponents to deal with…
Here’s a player who would rather deal with tight net shots than getting pummeled with push shots. That’s a powerful thing to have in your repertoire.
Because it’s so much more focused on control and accuracy than a drive, you can “push” an opponent around the court and catch them in the wrong positions or interfere with their footwork.
Typically, you’ll see opportunities to strike a push shot when you move to return a shuttle on the front court above the net cord while you’re not quite close enough for a net kill.
The image above is a perfect example. You step “into” the shuttle, with your racket high around your head or chest (in the forehand), and strike the shuttle to push it flat against your opponent.
Here’s a clip from the rally you see in the image.
Notice how both teams push back and forth, placing flat strikes on the front and mid-court.
Right at the beginning of the clip, a push shot from Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen (pair in blue) creates a lot of trouble for Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong (pair in yellow and black) and ends up forcing a weak lift as a reaction shot.
The tricky part is that they mix both push and drive shots in rapid succession.
Both strikes are part of your flat game but have different components of speed and control, and it’s in this combination that you can maximize the pressure on the other side.
Let’s take a quick look at its technical requirements.
The base techniques to play a strong push
Striking a push shot isn’t super difficult.
The trick is to direct the shuttle accurately and control the speed, so your opponent has to think quickly to counter.
To develop a strong push, you need to work on your forearm rotation, wrist movement, and finger power. Of course, these are important for nearly every other strike in badminton, but these mechanics are essential to modify the speed and direction of your push strikes.
Here are a few videos demonstrating each part.
When you have excellent control of these movements, you might one day be able to strike push shots like these two in a row from Kevin Sukamuljo.
Or this one from Lee Chong Wei.
Push shot badminton scenarios from the professional world
By now, you know that push shots are nifty little variations in your flat game.
Let’s look at a few push-shot plays to draw inspiration from.
The most effective push shots force a reaction shot from your opponent because there’s generally little time to think and react for these types of flat shots.
This is especially apparent in doubles, where rallies are high-paced, and there are a lot of flat strikes back and forth.
Push plays in doubles
You see a lot of push shots to open areas of the court. This attack puts pressure on your opponent to react with a quick return and simultaneously move them in that direction on the court.
You can see how moving your opponent to the open court area to defend against the rain of push shots adds pressure to their footwork. That means another push shot could single out that player and try to interfere with their balance and footwork.
Unfortunately for the attacker in this scenario, the defender has insanely quick reactions and countered three pushes in a row.
(You can learn how to deal with push pressure using better front court footwork here).
However, the takeaway is that we’re able to add massive amounts of pressure from a push, and it’s relatively easy to keep it up by striking them in succession.
Here’s how the rally from the images above played out.
For an example of an accurate and controlled push shot to an open area of the court that ends up creating a winning smash, you can check out this clip (note, you might have to put it in slow motion to watch it happen).
Push plays in singles
You might look at what we just saw in doubles and think, “What about that entire open area on the other side of the court?”
If you’re not directing pushes to open areas of the court, the other option is to play it directly at your opponent.
It’s more of a brute-force way to play the shot, but it can be very effective.
Because your opponent knows they might have to cover the open area and don’t commit to a fully defensive stance (notice how the defensive stance is angled so he can move on the open courtside).
Here’s Axelsen playing a push directly at Ginting.
I realize Ginting manages to return with an amazing between-the-legs trick shot.
But outside of Ginting’s fantastic return, keep in mind that these are players at the highest levels in the world of badminton.
A push to your opponent’s body like this is extremely tricky, and most players would likely end up missing the shuttle or returning it poorly.
Later in the game, you see Ginting play a push straight at Axelsen – again, it’s extremely tricky, and Axelsen has to get into a super low stance to return it.
It’s funny how these situations are almost identical.
Ginting also has an entire open-court area to attack but chose to play a push shot directly at Axelsen.
Since these are two of the best players in the world, we can assume that they don’t decide on any attacks randomly.
Even though Axelsen also returns the shot (with difficulty), it still shows how much pressure you can put on your opponent from this seemingly simple flat strike.
Think about playing with your badminton friends for a second. Whether it’s at practice or in tournaments, the level isn’t nearly this high. There’s a good chance that push attacks like this will force a fault from your opponent, or at the very least, a return so weak that you can go for a kill shot after.
You can see Ginting’s push play out here.
I want to dwell a little longer on what happens when you play a push shot AT someone.
Most of the time, your opponent will get into a wide and low defensive stance since this is where you normally have the best racket reaction for shots played to the body.
That also means a push will automatically give you the attacking initiative. You can keep playing at their body and hope it’s too fast for them to react, or you could force them to the corners of the court.
Of course, there’s also a risk involved with these flat pushes.
Failed badminton push shots: “obvious” mistakes to avoid
While the flat game is a lot more aggressive in doubles, and you’ll get more familiar with the shot, your pushes are also more susceptible to punishment.
Since it’s a mid-court attack and doubles players often stand side-by-side on the mid-court, you can’t make it too obvious.
If you do, the other doubles pair will have too much time to anticipate it, and you won’t force that quick reaction return we want.
What I’m talking about is when you come charging in with your racket held high, which is a big giveaway for what strike is coming next.
Here are a few examples.
An obvious aim for an open court area that’s punished immediately (doubles).
Even though you have more space to play in singles, it still happens. Here’s a counter to another obvious push.
It can be tricky to avoid this “obvious” display because of the nature of the shot. You have to step into the shuttle to push it. AND you have to think quickly to strike it flat before it dives below the net cord.
However, the one advantage of the push is that you can make it look similar to the rest of your flat game if you make a few adjustments.
- Wait for as long as you can and strike at the last second
- Variate your flat game (drive/push/long/shot/cross court)
- Hold your racket at an angle to hide the direction of your push
I draw a lot of inspiration from the drive shot and simply adjust the power to play a push instead.
Here’s an example of a drive deception you can use for your push shots.
Now you’re armed with everything you need to go out and have fun with push shots and experiment with how you can add them into your flat game and drive opponents as crazy as that player who’d rather face net shots than being constantly pushed.
- A push shot in badminton is so much more than a basic flat strike. It’s used in many disciplines (mostly doubles) to send swift and accurate attacks that provoke weak reaction returns
- You need to develop your badminton mechanics like forearm rotation, wrist movement, and finger power to achieve the most accurate and effective pushes
- Push shots are generally played either as brute-force push directly at an opponent or to move them into open areas of the midcourt to challenge their footwork in badminton and create other attacking opportunities
- The biggest risk of a push shot is that it can be relatively easy for opponents to read and anticipate. However, by making it look similar to the rest of your flat game, you can get around this and have your opponent(s) second-guessing what’s coming
Aske helps badminton players who are returning after years away from the court. I’m sharing ideas on how to choose non-marking shoes for badminton if you’re looking for a good pair.
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