Since its inclusion as an official sport in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, badminton has increased in popularity worldwide. For badminton singles matches, the rules state that a match consists of the best of 3 games, with the first player scoring 21 points winning the game. When one side reaches 11 points, both players get a 60-second break and 2-minute break between games (1). As in other racket sports such as tennis, knowledge about the activity profile and physiological responses to match play is important for the design of effective training programs (18,31). Several studies have analyzed the physical and physiological characteristics of the game mainly in male participants (6,14,15,20,24). Globally, these studies have described the game of badminton as an intermittent sport characterized by repetitive short periods of exercise (i.e., 1–9 seconds) and recovery (i.e., low-intensity activities as standing or walking for 6–15 seconds) interspersed with longer breaks in play (i.e., “time outs” of 120 seconds between games) (6). The physiological responses (i.e., exercise intensity) associated with these activity patterns have shown relatively high heart rate (HR) responses (i.e., average intensities around 80–90% of maximum HR [HRmax]), oxygen uptake (O2) values around 70% of maximum oxygen uptake (V[Combining Dot Above]O2max), and low to moderate blood lactate (La) values (up to 5 mmol·L−1) (6,15). Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) is a valid measure of exercise monitoring and prescription due to the observed association between RPE and more objective physiological markers of intensity, such as HR, V[Combining Dot Above]O2, or La (2). For example, Mendez-Villanueva et al. (17) found that there were increases in RPE in response to increases in the duration of rallies (DR) or strokes per rally (SR) during an official tennis match play. Considering the convenience of using RPE to quantify the internal training load during intermittent sports (10,17,18), there have been no empirical studies to date describing the RPE responses to a badminton (i.e., official or simulated) match play.
Despite the previous attempts describing the physical and physiological demands of male badminton players (6,7,15,20,24), only Faude et al. (15) have investigated these demands in female players to date. Results showed similar relative cardiovascular and metabolic strain between genders under simulated badminton match play (15). Nevertheless, physiological responses to match play in other racket sports (e.g., tennis) have been shown to be at least partially related to the activity patterns in which the players are engaged (31). For example, in tennis, La increased as the DR (i.e., a “rally” in racket sports is a sequence of shots within a point) increased and the number of strokes was higher (18,31). However, Faude et al. (15) did not examine possible gender differences in match play activity patterns in their study, which might limit the practical applications of these findings. Given the well-known gender differences in neuromuscular (26), cardiovascular (12), and metabolic performance (8), it is possible that female players could attain similar metabolic and cardiovascular responses to badminton match play despite showing different activity patterns.
Accordingly, the aim of this study was to compare the activity patterns and the physiological-perceptual responses associated with badminton match play in youth elite male and female players. Further knowledge of these specific responses has important implications for the design of gender-specific training protocols for badminton players.
Experimental Approach to the Problem
Measurements were taken during a national training camp, 3 days before an international under-19 badminton tournament, during the competitive period (i.e., mid-April). Sixteen players were grouped based on their competitive level and played individual singles matches (n = 9), under simulated conditions, according to the current rules of the Badminton World Federation (http://www.internationalbadminton.org/statues.asp). After an individual warm-up of about 10 minutes (e.g., running, mobility exercises, and playing several points), subjects played a regular match (i.e., to the best of 3 games). The activity profile of singles badminton was determined by filming each match with video cameras and physiological-perceptual measurements (HR, blood samples, and RPE) were taken during selected changeovers breaks.
Sixteen youth elite badminton players, 8 male (age, 16.0 ± 1.4 years; height, 177.0 ± 4.3 cm; body mass, 68.5 ± 5.6 kg) and 8 female (age, 16 ± 2.3 years; height, 165.0 ± 6.7 cm; body mass, 58.0 ± 4.3 kg) players participated in the study. All players were nationally ranked, with “under 19” national positions between 1 and 20. The training background of players was 7.0 ± 2.6 years, which focused on badminton-specific training (i.e., technical and tactical skills), aerobic and anaerobic training (i.e., on- and off-court exercises), and resistance training. All players and parents were notified of the research procedures, requirements, benefits, and risks before giving written informed consent. The study was approved by the local research ethics committee conformed to the recommendations of the Declaration of Helsinki. To reduce the interference of uncontrolled variables, all the subjects were instructed to maintain their habitual lifestyle and normal dietary intake before and during the study. The subjects were told not to do heavy exercise on the day before the simulated matches and to consume their last (caffeine-free) meal at least 3 hours before the scheduled match time.
The activity profile of singles badminton was determined by filming each match with 2 video cameras (Sony DCR-HC17E, Japan) positioned 2 m from the side of the court, at the level of the service line, and approximately 6 m above the court. Each player was individually tracked for the entire duration of the match. The video recordings were replayed on a monitor for computerized recording of player activity patterns. The same experienced researcher analyzed all the matches performed. A modified match protocol that has been previously reported to be reliable in tennis (33) was used to obtain descriptive match characteristics including the duration of each game and each point, the duration of the rest intervals between points, the number of strokes per rally, and the total duration of the matches. From these data, the following variables were calculated: (a) rally duration (RD); (b) rest time between rallies (RT); (c) strokes per rally (SR); and (4) effective playing time (EPT). EPT was determined by dividing the entire playing time of a game (from the beginning of the first rally until the end of the last rally) by the real playing time (sum of the single DR) performed in specific game, and expressed as percentage. RD was recorded from the time the service player hit the shuttlecock in the first serve to the moment when one of the players won the point.
Each player completed an incremental test to volitional exhaustion on a treadmill (Technogym Runrace; Cesena, Italy) in a 3-week period before the training camp started. The test started at a running speed of 6 km·h−1 (females) and 8 km·h−1 (males) with a stepwise 0.5 km·h−1 speed increment every 30 seconds until the player stopped because of volitional exhaustion. If the last stage was not fully completed, the peak treadmill speed (PTS) was calculated using the formula of Kuipers et al. (25): PTS = Sf + (t/30 × 0.5), where Sf was the last completed speed in kilometers per hour and t the time in seconds of the uncompleted stage. Inclination was maintained at 1% over the duration of the test. Gas exchange was continuously measured during the test using a breath-by-breath analyzer (Vmax29; Sensormedics Corporation, Yorba Linda, CA, USA). Expired air was continuously analyzed for gas volume, O2 concentration, and CO2 concentration. The volume calibration of the system was conducted before each test day, and the gas calibration was performed before each test using instructions provided by the manufacturer. During the incremental test, the breath-by-breath gas samples were averaged every 30 seconds, and HR was recorded at 5-second intervals during the exercise (S610; Polar Electro, Kempele, Finland). Maximum oxygen uptake (V[Combining Dot Above]O2max) and HRmax were determined as the highest 30- and 5-second mean values, respectively (13).
Determination of the Exercise Load
Physiological-perceptual measurements (HR, blood samples, and RPE) were taken after the 11th, 15th, and 21st point of the first and third games and after the 5th, 11th, 17th and 21st of the second game (Figure 1). All the measurements were collected without disrupting the normal course of badminton competition, during the breaks permitted after the points (i.e., not exceeding 60 seconds during each game when the leading score reaches 11 points and not exceeding 120 seconds between the first and second games and between the second and third games). Measurements collected after the 15th point of the first game and 5th and 17th points of the third game were performed during small rest times between points. The number of measurements taken for each player was variable, depending on the duration of the match (either 2 or 3 games) and the number of points contested in each game. Sessions were conducted under standard environmental conditions (temperature approximately 22° C and relative humidity approximately 60%), and fluids were available to the players throughout the matches. HR was monitored and recorded at 5-second intervals during the matches using a chest monitor and wrist receiver (Polar S610, Kempele, Finland), placed on each player before the warm-up. The data obtained from the HR monitors were downloaded on a portable personal computer using the manufacture's software. HR data were classified based on percentage time spent in 5 zones: (a) <60% HRmax, (b) 61–70% HRmax, (c) 71–80% HRmax, (d) 81–90% HRmax, (e) >91% HRmax (2). Time spent in each zone was calculated for each player. La was determined from 20 mL capillarized blood samples taken from the earlobe and collected into heparinized capillary tubes for subsequent analysis of lactate concentration using an Accusport Portable Lactate Analyser (Boehringer Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany). The Accusport Portable Blood Lactate Analyser has been reported to be accurate up to at least 18.7 mmol·L−1 and reliable at both high (14.4 mmol·L−1) and low (1.7 mmol·L−1) concentrations (3). RPE was obtained using the 20-category Borg RPE scale (5). The scale was explained to each player before any exercise. The participants were asked “How hard do you feel the exercise was?” during selected changeovers while they were recovering from the last point. Their responses correspond to their sensations during the last point.
Data are reported as mean ± SD. Because of the limited matches played at 3 games (e.g., 2 for male and 1 for female players) and therefore its low statistical value, we did not include the results from the third game in the analysis. The distribution of each variable was examined with the Kolmogorov-Smirnov normality test. Homogeneity of variance was verified with a Levene test. When the variables were normally distributed, pairwise t-tests were applied to independently assess the effect of gender and set on RD, RT, SR, LA, HR, and RPE. When the assumption of normality and/or equal variance were not met (e.g., HR), data were analyzed using Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test. A significance level of p < 0.05 was used to identify statistical significance. In addition, the standardized difference or effect size (ES) of changes in each parameter was calculated. Threshold values for Cohen ES statistic were >0.2 (small), 0.5 (moderate), and >0.8 (large) (9).
Table 1 shows the variables describing the characteristics of the matches (i.e., RD, RT, SR, EPT) when all the games were pooled together. Results showed significantly higher RD (p < 0.05; ES = 0.80) and RT (p < 0.05; ES = 0.81) in male than in female players. Male players also executed significantly more SR (p < 0.05; ES >1) than female players. Moreover, there were no differences in the EPT (p > 0.05; ES = 0.46). Comparing the first and second games, RD (p > 0 0.05 and ES ranging from 0.06 to 0.31) and SR (p > 0.05 and ES ranging from −0.01 to 0.34) were not different between games, whereas RT was significantly higher (p < 0.05) during the second game for both male (i.e., 8.7 ± 1.3 seconds and 11.2 ± 1.8 seconds in the first and the second game, respectively) and female (e.g., 7.9 ± 1.1 seconds and 9.5 0.6 ± seconds) players (Figure 2), with a large ES (ranging from 1 to 1.39).
Figure 3 shows the mean distribution of work (i.e., DR) and recovery (i.e., RT) periods at given time intervals during all the games analyzed. For both male and female players, the duration of the majority of the rallies lasted between 3 and 6 seconds; the frequency of rally durations in this interval was significantly higher than for any other time interval (p < 0.05; ES >1), with no differences between male and female players (p > 0.05; ES = 0.17). RTs between 6 and 9 seconds were most prevalent (85.1%), higher than any other rest interval (p < 0.05; ES >1), also with no differences between male and female players (p > 0.05; ES = −0.38).
Physiological and perceptual responses are presented in Table 2. No differences (all p values >0.05 and ES ranging from −0.33 to 0.08) were observed between female or male players in average HR, La, and RPE values during match play.
Regarding differences between the first and second games (Table 3), there were no differences in RPE and HR (p > 0.05; ES = 0.04–0.30), whereas La was higher (although values only approached statistical significance; p = 0.06; ES = 0.41) for male players in the second game. There were no differences in La comparing the first and second games in female players (p > 0.05; ES = 0.34). Although nonsignificant, HR, La, and RPE values showed a trend toward an increased playing intensity during the second game, highlighting the higher exercise intensity experienced during the last part of the match. Figure 4 shows the percentage of time spent by male and female players in the different HR categories during the first and second games of all the matches. Comparing male and female players during all matches, results showed higher values and moderate effect sizes at intensities between 81 and 90% HRmax (p = 0.04; ES = 0.64) for male players, whereas female players showed higher (approaching significance) values and moderate effect sizes at intensities >91% HRmax (p = 0.06; ES = 0.67). Comparing the first and second games, results showed higher values (approaching significance) and large effect sizes in the second game at intensities between 81 and 90% HRmax (p = 0.06; ES >1) for male players. Female players showed higher (approaching significance) values and large effect sizes at intensities >91% HRmax (p = 0.09; ES = 0.92) during the second game.
This study provides a novel insight into the physiological and perceptual responses to badminton match play in youth elite male and female players. Results show differences between male and female players in the activity pattern of badminton match play, with male players engaged in longer rallies, executing more strokes per rally, and resting more between rallies than female players. These clear between-gender differences in activity patterns induced only slightly different physiological responses.
Results of the present study showed that gender had influence on the activity profile of badminton match play, with male players engaged in longer DR, RT, and SR. Regarding DR and SR results from male players, these are in the range of those previously reported under both, actual or simulated conditions in elite badminton players (6,7,15), with an RD average of 6 to 8 seconds and an average SR of 5 to 6 strokes. Differences, however, were observed in RT values, with lower average values than those reported in the previous research (i.e., values >10 seconds), which can be related to the lower level of the players analyzed here (e.g., juniors). In this regard, it seems that the higher the player's level, the longer and the greater the number of rallies, which increases the duration of play, work, and rest (6,7,32). Previous research supports our results, finding positive correlations between the average RD and RT, showing that as the work time became longer so does the rest (6,7,32). Furthermore, there is a trend to show longer RT as the competition level increases (6). Regarding the activity profile from female players, average data in our study are in the range of previous research conducted with male players (6,7,15). As previously mentioned for male players, average RD in females is also lower than values reported in the literature. Gender-specific comparisons are not possible as the only study that reported female player's values did not compare male and female players (15). Again, differences between male and female players could be related to the higher level of male players compared with their female counterparts.
The frequency distribution shows that RD between 3 and 6 seconds and RT between 3 and 6 seconds and 6–9 seconds, for both male and female players, occurred more often than any other interval over the course of a match. These values are similar to those previously reported under both, real or simulated conditions (6,15), in which the 3- to 9-second interval represented approximately 60% of all the rallies documented during the matches. Interestingly, in the present study, RTs were significantly longer in the second game compared with the first game, both for male and female players, whereas RD remained similar across games. As the rules do not establish a fixed RT between points (1), it can be speculated that players consciously or subconsciously increased RTs between points to allow them to exercise at harder intensities, as evidenced by the higher HR, La, and RPE values recorded in the second game (see below). Although data from the third game were excluded because of the limited matches played at 3 games (i.e., only 2 for male and 1 for female players), it can be observed that the trend is similar than in the second game, with longer RTs (9.0 and 10.8 seconds for female and male players, respectively), and RDs remained similar (5.8 and 7.0 seconds for female and male players, respectively). The frequency distribution of work and rest periods obtained in this study might be used to develop individual, intermittent, training protocols for badminton players.
The present results show no significant differences in the average physiological-perceptual responses to badminton match play between male and female players. Similarly, Faude et al. (15) found no influence of gender on the different physiological parameters, including La and HR, obtained during simulated badminton match play. Although the shuttlecock was in play less than half of the time (average EPT for all players = 37.8%), the average HRmax of players was approximately 90%, which demonstrates the considerable physiological stress induced by badminton match play in both male and female players. These values are in the range of previous studies, with average HRmax more than 90% during national and international tournaments (6,7,15,24). A more detailed analysis of the HR responses during match play, with the description of intensity periods expressed as %HRmax, may provide a better representation of the start-stop nature of badminton and showed slight differences between male and female players (23). During the second game, results showed higher values at intensities between 81 and 90% HRmax for male players, whereas female players showed higher values at intensities >91% HRmax, highlighting that female players were exercising at higher relative exercise intensities than males. The elevated HR responses observed in female players could be related to a higher psychological stress or emotion (23) and/or lower fitness levels. Although the previously mentioned differences in the second game only approached significance, there seems to be a trend toward an increased time spent at higher intensities (i.e., 81–90% HRmax and >91% HRmax), supported by the large effect sizes (e.g., >1) observed. The present results might be related to a fatigue state as the match progressed to a third game, with players showing similar RD, but longer RT, and spending more time at higher %HRmax intensities, probably because of the mentioned lack of sufficient recovery time between points. Moreover, despite the start and stop nature of the game, HR might be not significantly different between rallying and recovery, or it could be even slightly increased during the recovery periods between rallies, as shown in tennis (18,32). Together with the results of the activity patterns provided above, it seems that a high percentage of badminton training programs should include specific (i.e., game-related) training exercises characterized by short high intensity (91–100% HRmax) efforts interspersed by short recovery periods.
Blood lactate, which has been frequently used to estimate exercise intensities in competition in other racquet sports (16,17,31), can be considered as an indirect indicator of the energy derived from the glycolysis (27). In this study, average La values were 3.2 ± 1.8 and 2.5 ± 1.3 mmol·L−1 for male and female players, respectively, which are higher than the values reported by Faude et al. (15) (1.9 ± 0.7 mmol·L−1) in internationally ranked players and slightly lower than values reported during national and international tournaments (3.8–4.7 mmol·L−1) in high-level male and female players (6,28). Although average blood lactate values seem to be relatively low for the HR intensities observed in the present study, especially when compared with other racquet sports such as squash (average values of ±8.0 mmol·L−1) (21), it is important to note that during matches, individual values exceeding 10 mmol·L−1 were recorded (e.g., male player at the end of the first game). However, caution should be taken when interpreting La attained during matches as many factors, including individual fitness and time of measurement, may affect the results (9). Although La concentrations comparing the first and second games were not significantly different, there seems to be a trend toward an increased La for both, female and male players in the second game. This could be related to the increased exercise duration in the second game (i.e., longer RD), which was accompanied by a higher exercise intensity (i.e., increased time spent at 81–90% HRmax and >91% HRmax). These increases in La values during the second game seem to reflect an augmented glycolytic activity, which should be taken into account when designing training programs aimed to optimize match-play physiological preparation.
While RPE has been reported to be a valid index of exercise intensity in other intermittent sports (9,11,26), to our knowledge, no study has previously reported changes in perceived exertion during the course of a badminton match. Mean RPE values in the present study (14.8 ± 0.6) characterized badminton as a “hard” exercise, with no gender influences on the values obtained. Mean RPE values of this study are similar to those obtained during elite squash simulated match play with an average of 15, or “hard” (18) and slightly higher than those obtained in actual tennis match play with average values of 12 to 13, or “somewhat hard,” for both male and female players (14,19,28,29,30). Moreover, as with La levels, we reported individual peak RPE values reaching maximum levels (19 or “very very hard”), which confirm that there are periods of very high intensity during badminton match play. Also, similar to HR and La, RPE values showed a trend toward an increased perception of effort during the second game, highlighting the higher exercise intensity experienced during the last part of the match. However, it should be noted that RPE values do not only refer to the perception of effort and the “feeling” of fatigue. Rather, perceptual estimations reflect a complex array of physiological and psychological internal and external stimuli (22,28). It is reasonable to assume that competitive badminton match play is associated with a higher number of psychological stressors (e.g., current score) than experiments conducted in controlled laboratory conditions (32,34). Thus, although RPE can be used as an estimate of exercise intensity during badminton play, more work is needed to fully understand its use during this type of exercise and the correspondence between perceptual and physiological variables (29).
The results show differences between male and female players in the activity pattern of badminton match play, with male players engaged in longer rallies, executing more strokes per rally, and resting more between rallies than female players. The activity pattern of badminton matches induced slightly different physiological and perceptual responses between genders, which might be taking into account when designing training programs. Besides multifaceted sessions targeting technical and tactical factors, conditioning programs designed to improve both aerobic and anaerobic capabilities are required in high-level badminton players. The amount and duration of “high-intensity” periods (>91% HRmax) observed in both male and female players suggest that game-specific training drills, including repetitive movements (with stroke) of high intensity (85–95% HRmax) and moderate duration (15–20 seconds) with short recovery periods (8–10 seconds), might be useful to improve competitive physical conditioning in badminton players. It seems also important to include some interval training to improve the ability to recover between efforts (if the goal is to improve fatigue resistance). High-intensity interval training, interspersed with rest periods (e.g., 1 minute) that are shorter than the work periods (e.g., 2 minutes) might be efficient at improving the ability to recover between efforts by increasing aerobic fitness (V[Combining Dot Above]O2max and the lactate threshold) (4). Moreover, it might be appropriate to prepare players to overcome the relative high La values reported after long-duration points. La production training (drills between 15 and 50 seconds) should also be carried out regularly with the goal of improving player's ability to perform high-intensity exercise for longer periods. Finally, based on the results obtained here RPE appears to be a valid tool for the measurement of exercise intensity during badminton play.
The authors thank coaches, players, and institutions (Spanish Badminton Federation; University of Elche; Policlinica Mapfre) involved in the tournament for their support and collaboration on this project, especially to David Serrano and Francisco Alvarez-Dacal.
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Keywords:Copyright © 2013 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.
males; females; activity profile; heart rate; blood lactate; ratings of perceived exertion