The Split Step In Badminton (With Pictures)

Are you wondering how you can improve your footwork, quickly? In this article, we’ll give you some tips to perform the perfect split step – an important part of having good footwork!

We’ll be taking you through:

  1. What a split step is and why it’s so important
  2. How to do the split step
  3. Ways to practice the split step
  4. Some common mistakes people make

What Is A Split Step?

The split step is a small explosive movement which enables you to change direction quickly and move with speed to wherever your opponent is hitting to. 

A common misconception is that it’s a jump. It definitely isn’t a jump, as we’ll go on to explain in detail! Jumping can cause you to be in the air after your opponent has played their shot, you then have to land and change direction rather than be already moving to the shuttle.

How Do You Perform A Split Step?

Step 1: Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

Step 2: Perform a very quick drop, slightly widening your legs.

💡 A common mistake when performing the split step is having your legs too straight. Keeping your knees bent lowers your centre of gravity which will help with your speed and control of your movement.

Step 3: As you land from Step 2, with your knees bent and legs loaded, use this energy to push off in your chosen direction. 

💡 Your body weight should be leaning forwards, onto the balls of your feet. This will help you push off quickly.

When should you perform the split step?

You should initiate the split step stance (steps 1 and 2 above) JUST before your opponent hits their shot – this prepares you to move to where you think the shuttle is going. You should push off from the split step stance (step 3) just after your opponent has hit their shot, as you now know where the shuttle is heading!

You should split step in the direction that you think the shuttle is going – this might often only need to be a small adjustment where you are slightly facing one corner. Doing this directional split step will improve the speed of your movement. Some examples can be seen in the pictures below.

Right handed: Split step for moving towards the front court (forehand)
Right handed: Split step for moving towards the rear court (forehand)
Left handed: Split step for moving towards the front court (forehand)
Left handed: Split step for moving towards the rear court (forehand)

Ways To Practice The Split Step

Practice 1

If you’re new to practising the split step, a good exercise is to drop off a bench and move to a corner of the court, like this: 

Step 1: Stand on a bench
Step 2: Drop off the bench and perform the split step
Step 3: Move to a corner of the court

This will help your speed, and quick response time off the floor. It also gets you out of the habit of jumping and instead focusing on creating energy in the push off movement. You can also move to the backhand corner, and drop off the bench backwards, to practice the rear court corners. 

This exercise will help you understand the point of the movement and reinforce that this is not a jump! In a match you would not have the time to jump high and still be able to move to the shot as soon as you know where it’s going. 

Practice 2

Once you’ve practised performing the split step in isolation, it’s time to bring in the shuttle! Ask a friend to hand feed the shuttle to an area of the court and have a go at starting the split step movement just before the shuttle is thrown.

Practice 3

You can then progress this to patterned routines with a single shuttle like hitting lifts moving from the middle if you’re a singles player, or lifts moving from one half of the court if you’re a doubles players!

5 Common Mistakes When Performing The Split Step

1) Keeping your legs too straight.
 As previously mentioned, keeping your knees bent lowers your centre of gravity which will help with your speed and control of your movement.
2) Moving back to base (i.e. the middle of the court) after every shot to do the split step, even after the opponent has hit the shuttle.

There is a misconception that you must do a pronounced split step at all costs. The split step is an anticipation movement which means you need to begin initiating before your opponent hits their shot. There may be times when you don’t really need to do an obvious split step – for example, when you hit an attacking shot in the rear court and follow it up with a running step into the net. 

3) Doing the split step too soon.

You have to wait to see where the shuttle is going before you can move, unless of course you anticipate ahead of their shot and start moving towards where you think the shuttle is going.

If you do your split step too early, you will lose the energy and force created from the split step. This might mean you are late to the shuttle or even worse, you don’t get to it in time!

4) Jumping in the split step.

The split step is an explosive movement, not a jump! Jumping any higher than the width of the grip of a racket is inefficient and will slow your movement down! This is because your bodyweight is travelling in a downwards direction with force and you then need to counter this force to move sidewards to the shot.

5) Having a stance that is too narrow or too wide.

This will limit your efficiency when trying to move in any direction. 

Learn More

If you’d like to watch our video on how to do the perfect split step, with even more exercises to practice this movement, you can do so below!