India is celebrating PV Sindhu once again. The badminton star became the first Indian woman to win Olympic medals in consecutive Games, after bagging bronze at Tokyo 2020, beating China’s He Bingjiao 21-13, 21-15. The reigning world champion as well, Sindhu is back on the front page, back on the podium, and hopefully back on the minds of those who will draw inspiration from her achievements.
Sindhu’s achievements haven’t come easy. Badminton is a gruelling sport. What seems like a tiny court on television is actually a vast ocean with ruthless lines separating 'ins' and 'outs' and points. It is incredibly difficult to cover the court. One needs speed, power, balance, flexibility and strength to be good at it. Back in 2019, after Sindhu had won gold at the Badminton World Championships, a video of some of her workouts did the rounds on Twitter. This offered a glimpse into the explosive training that she converts into killer smashes and patient defending and silky flicks on court.
So as we take inspiration from our athletes in Tokyo, here are some excellent exercises to incorporate into your fitness routine which will help you get better at your preferred sport—whether it’s on a court in your local park or at a stadium, whether for a medal or bragging rights.
Lunging doesn’t need to be the drag that it can be on leg day. A sport like badminton needs players to lunge a lot to get down and reach during a rally. Jumping lunges, lateral jumps with lunges, and weighted lunges will all make your most primary moves in the sport better and stronger. The ability to get down in time is vital to stay in a game, and lunges should be top of your list of exercises to do for this. The plyometric exercise will also increase your speed so you can cover more area more quickly.
Jumps, squats, and jumping squats
A study measured over eight weeks of jump squat training published in the Journal Of Sports Science And Medicine concluded that it “resulted in significant improvements in countermovement jump, maximum isometric squat force and average force over 100 ms, as well as 50 m sprint time. The present study suggests that short-term jump squat training can improve several different athletic performance tasks simultaneously. This may be important, for example, where training duration is limited such as in team sports.”
The squat is one of the most basic of fitness moves, but modifying it to increase force would mean performing jumping squats and even jumping split squats. Sindhu’s training includes going a step further, where she attaches a cable to her waist (and the cable is in turn attached to weights which offer resistance) and performs forward jump squats. This is an incredibly advanced move, so make sure your squat is right and you progress towards this rather than just try it one day without knowing where you stand.
There are other jumping exercises that are fun and yet incredibly challenging. Tiny hurdle jumps are a great way to quicken the pace of your step; knee-to-chest jumps will increase your vertical force and performing two-footed calf jumps will build balance and stability.
From Virat Kohli to Indian women’s football star Dalima Chhiber and now two-time Olympic medallist Sindhu, most athletes will perform complex barbell moves like the clean, the hang clean, thrusters, and push presses. Sitting on a bench and performing shoulder presses is one thing, but the push press involves a slight dip and hop on your toes while going into overhead extension. The first advantage is mind-muscle connection since this is a shoulder exercise which is triggered with a lower body move (the dip and hop).
“This allows you to use higher weights, around 15-20% higher than the standard strict military press variant. Leg drive momentum is quickly transferred through the trunk into the deltoids, the triceps and the traps, moving the load off the clavicle area upwards. Due to this ‘rolling start’ the shoulders are able to press greater weights at faster speeds, thus improving overall power development,” says a scienceandstrength.com article on the benefits of the push press.
Weighted core workouts
Adding weights to traditional core exercises, something as simple as Russian twists, can take your ab engagement to another level. After a point, bodyweight core exercises may seem too easy and that is when you add weights. One excellent exercise is to hook a dumbbell between your feet during V-raises, where you transfer the weight from between your feet to your hands and back during every rep. Another one which is more advanced is the weighted straight legged sit-up. You can perform this with a small bar with weights or with weight plates as well. The starting position is on the back on the floor. Make sure your legs are straight. Hold a weight plate above your chest as if in the starting position for a chest press. When you do the sit up, raise the plate above your head. That is one rep. You must engage your abs when lifting the weight and sitting up, rather than the back and hip flexors.
Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and writer.