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July 10, 2019 7 min read

We all know that athletes train hard, for long periods of time and many times per week. But what’s it really about? What else is involved?

As a national player, this post will give you an insight of the life of a professional Australian badminton player.My intention for this blog post is to help you understand the life of an athlete and help with your training also - as you will see that there is so much more to it than just training and playing matches.

You may find that there are elements in your training that you’re missing, and you can add onto, which will help you become a more well-rounded player.

To an athlete, sport is life.

My Background

I first started playing badminton when I was about 8 years old. I have a Malaysian-Chinese background and my father used to play in Malaysia. He introduced the sport to my older siblings and I when we were living in Bendigo, Victoria. At the time, I was also swimming and playing soccer but fell in love with badminton. So I decided give it all of my attention. 

I came into the Australian national team straight after I completed my Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) when I was 17 years old. This was a big step from junior competition to senior competition and it is during this transition where a lot of players, drop out of competitive tournaments and focus on academia and their careers. It is a very steep learning curve when moving from the junior to the senior scene in badminton, as I’m sure it would be in any other sport. 

It was in early 2006 when I decided to dedicate my full attention to badminton, postponing my tertiary studies in medicine, and later dentistry.

Badminton Essentials

I trained and competed full time for 3 years in 2006, 2007 and 2008, with the intention of qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Men’s Singles. After a lot of time, money, sweat, blood and tears, I was heartbroken when I just missed out on selection for the Games.

Despite this, my love for the sport kept me going. I commenced my Bachelor of Dental Science at the University of Melbourne in 2009. From 2009 - 2014, although I wasn’t training and competing full time, I still held a very strict training regime.

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Throughout my career, I have been privileged to have competed in the world’s most prestigious badminton competitions on multiple occasions, including:

  • World Championships 
  • World Junior Championships
  • Commonwealth Games
  • Thomas Cup
  • Sudirman Cup
  • All England Championships
  • Denmark Open
  • Swiss Open
  • German Open
  • Australian Open
  • New Zealand Open
  • Oceania Championships

My Training Schedule

I have fully embraced the life of an athlete. I moved from my hometown of Bendigo, to a suburb of Melbourne where the Australian National Team was based. From that point onwards, whenever I was in Melbourne (and not playing competitions), my weekly training schedule looked like this:

You may be asking: what does each session involve?

On Court Sessions

Our on court sessions were the main component of our training, which makes sense due to the physicality and skills required for the sport. Each on court session would have a specific focus point, which included:

  • Speed training: for training fast-twitch muscle fibres and improving response/reaction and take-off time
  • Technical & skill training: development of skills and technique of movements, footwork and shot play
  • Physical training: in the form of high volume training drills & routines, footwork and multi-shuttle to increase cardiovascular fitness and lactic acid tolerance 
  • Match-like drills & routines: practicing specific plays which commonly occur in matches themselves
  • Tactical routines: using your head and improving tactical/strategy skills on court so that they can be used in competition
  • Match play: playing matches and applying all of the other trainings as would be required in competition

badminton information

Gym Sessions

Gym sessions focus on lifting weights to develop both strength and power. The core exercises in our program were functional, full body movements rather than just working muscles in isolation. These varied from:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts 
  • Overhead/shoulder press
  • Push press
  • Cleans
  • Bench press
  • Leg press
  • Abdominals & core
  • Plyometric training, often as supersets following main lifts

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Areas that we did work in isolation were:

  • Triceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Forearms
  • Calves 
  • Lats
  • Rotator cuff muscles (for injury prevention/pre-habilitation)
  • Activation of glutes & deep core muscles (for injury prevention/pre-habilitation)

Conditioning Sessions

These involved training our cardiovascular fitness and lactic acid tolerance in similar ways as the on court physical sessions. These sessions were very often in the form of interval training and often consisted of:

  • Running and sprints both outdoors, indoors and on the treadmill
  • Cycling on spin bikes 
  • Indoor rowing machines
  • Agility training with cones, speed ladder, etc
  • High intensity footwork on and off court
  • Boxing circuits
badminton weights gym workout fit athlete hard work Fan TV Television Camera Volant Wear Badminton Activewear Cool Fashion Kento Momota Japan Badminton Player Best World Champion Performance Active Wear Lin Dan Lee Chong Wei Srikanth Kidambi Viktor Axelsen Clothing BWF Singles Champion

Additional Sessions

These were not included in the formal training plan above.

  • Individual and group match analysis and tactical training with the head coach to analyse video footage at training, in competitions and opponents whom we would be playing against
  • Recovery (stretching, yoga, ice baths, hydrotherapy, etc) in between sessions and when there was no scheduled training session
  • Maintenance of our physical bodily condition through myotherapy, remedial massage, chiropractic, physiotherapy, etc
  • Sports psychology
  • Fitness testing & sports science analysis (such as VO2 Max test)

Other Commitments

These were not included in the formal training plan above

As badminton in Australia is not a paid sport, a lot of the players are self-funded. There is little support financially from the government or sponsors. As such, many of the players, including myself, had to work between sessions and on our rest days, in order to pay for our living expenses such as rent, food, petrol and travelling costs.

I spent time working at Bunnings Warehouse, which is a large hardware store in Australia. It was extremely tough to have energy for both training and work, and quite often, I wouldn't have any days of rest as I'd be working for the whole day on Sunday - the only day off from training.

The Tough Parts Of It

There is a lot of commitment required to play, train, compete, eat, sleep and live the life of an athlete. And although it is tremendously rewarding, it can also be very tough and tedious. Here is a list of things that make being a full-time athlete not as ‘glamorous’ as it may seem:

  • Strict requirements and lack of freedom with regards to lifestyle: food, drinks, social occasions, sleep/adequate rest, scheduling of tasks, very early start times in the morning, etc
  • Impact of training and competitions on time available for recreation, fun, family and friends
  • Having to very carefully monitor everything that goes into and onto your body - not only for nutrition but to make sure you’re not taking any banned substances unintentionally
  • Frequent and often unexpected drug testing which can result in you sitting with a chaperone for hours before being able to provide a sample that can be tested
  • Hard work - this is not an understatement. Athletes push their bodies and minds to the absolute limit and the amount of mental strength required shouldn’t be underestimated! 
  • Pressure and expectations: athletes are in it to win, and with that, comes a lot of stress and pressure to perform from the athletes, coaches and fans
  • Dealing with negative press and public opinion: athletes have to manage the media and the judgement of their peers and fans constantly
  • Focusing on training, improving and winning can make you forget why you started playing the sport in the first place and how much you love playing
  • Training can become a chore and tedious. How many people do you know that could stick to the above training regime for a sustained period of time (and not get paid for it)?
  • Injuries - all athletes get them because of what they push their bodies to do. They often find it hard to take the time to rest because they’re falling behind the competition every day that they cannot train or perform to their best
  • Not hitting goals - which I experienced first hand when I missed out on Olympic selection in 2008. And I've got to say, it feels horrible.

badminton weights gym workout fit athlete hard work Fan TV Television Camera Volant Wear Badminton Activewear Cool Fashion Kento Momota Japan Badminton Player Best World Champion Performance Active Wear Lin Dan Lee Chong Wei Srikanth Kidambi Viktor Axelsen Clothing BWF Singles Champion

The Best Part Of It All

During the 3 years that I was competing full time, I was away for almost 6 months of the year, either competing or training around the world. I travelled to every continent in the world with the exception of Africa and Antartica. 

The countries that I have competed in include: Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, New Caledonia, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Macau, Taiwan, Philippines, South Korea, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Denmark, Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Poland, Romania, Italy, Greece, USA, Canada and Peru. 

I have also trained in the following countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, Denmark, England, Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy. 

Being a young adult at the time, it was a great learning experience as not only did I learn about my sport, I also learnt more about myself. Although it was fantastic that I could travel to, train and compete in so many different countries, the best parts about it all, and what I will remember the most, are the players I travelled with (my teammates) and the people and players that I met. 

When a group of players, from different countries and different backgrounds all share a common goal - to represent their country at the Olympic Games, friendships are made that will last a lifetime. The number of amazing people that I met on my journey, to this day, still makes me smile. As an example of the bonds that are made, in 2016, I was made a groomsman at a close friend’s wedding in Los Angeles - whom I met on the international circuit in 2007.

Badminton Wedding Love

All in all, the best part of being an elite athlete are the friendships and bonds that you make with other athletes, team mates, officials, fans, and yourself.

Final Remarks

It’s not what it all may seem to be. Being an athlete is not all glamour. It’s hard work. But at the end of the day, all athletes do what they do because they love the sport that they play.

And, for me, it’s the people, the players, the fans and the community that also contribute to why I love badminton so much. 


We'd love to hear your opinions, comments, tips and tricks so please feel free to comment below. If you would like us to write about something in particular, please let us know!

Main image source: Unknown

Body image source 1: Athlete Life

Body image source 2: Jeffrey Tho

Body image source 3: Badminton Information

Body image source 4 & 5: Leon Martinez from Pexels

Body image source 6: We are the living

Body image source 7: Eric Go via Facebook

Jeffrey Tho
Jeffrey Tho

Jeff is an ex-international badminton player who represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games (twice as a player & once as a coach), World Championships, All England Championships and multiple Thomas and Sudirman Cups. He was the Australian National Coach, Senior State Head Coach and is the co-founder of Volant badminton & The Badminton Podcast. Jeff is extremely passionate about building the worldwide badminton community & showing the world how incredible our sport really is.

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