The split drop is an essential technique for starting quickly in badminton.
It may sound mysterious and technical; but every professional player does this, every time.
The split drop is also known by the names split step, pre-loading hop, bounce start, and many other variations. They all refer to the same thing.
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The importance of a quick start
After your opponent makes a shot, you need to react quickly.
You don’t need to move very far — typically just two large steps — but you don’t have much time to get there.
Think about how important the start is for 100m sprinters. Unlike marathon runners, sprinters use special starting blocks to help launch themselves forwards. The shorter the distance, the more important your starting movement is.
But in badminton, you typically move only about 3–4 metres from your starting position. Compare that to 100m sprinting, and you can understand how essential a quick start is in badminton.
Split drop technique
The split drop involves widening your base (the split) and lowering your base (the drop) at the same time.
Start in the ready position. Now push upwards slightly to get your feet just off the ground. As your feet are coming off the ground, widen your legs so that you land with your feet farther apart. As you land, bend your knees so that you land in a slightly lower posture than before (with the knees bent more).
A casual observer would not even realise that you momentarily took your feet off the floor. Your feet barely leave the surface before you land again.
The whole process takes a mere instant, and then you are ready to push off and move to the shuttlecock.
Timing the split drop
You should start your split drop just as the opponent is hitting the shuttlecock, so that you complete it just after you see where the shuttlecock is going.
This timing must be precise. If you split too late, your movement is delayed; but if you split too early, you lose the bouncing effect.
Practise timing your split drop so that you can move off immediately after seeing where the shuttlecock is going.
How does the split drop work?
Widening your base allows you to push off into the ground with one foot, at an angle. For every movement, you need an initial counter-movement in the opposite direction. So if you want to move forwards, you have to push off backwards with one foot.
That’s why the ready position has your right foot slightly in front of your left foot. If the feet were completely side-by-side, it would be difficult to initiate forwards or backwards movement.
The stretch-shortening cycle
Muscles are able to generate more force if they are lengthened (stretched) and then immediately shortened (contracted). This is called the stretch-shortening cycle.
More technically, this occurs when an eccentric muscle contraction is followed immediately by a concentric muscle contraction.
The important thing to understand is that you cannot wait. Your pushing-off movement must immediately follow your split-drop; otherwise, the benefits are lost.