Monthly Tip - July 2013

Pronation and Supination - mysterious words!

These terms are applicable to hitting in badminton and will (should) be found in good coaching manuals and also used by well-educated coaches. My experience is that the vast majority of, certainly junior, players have no real understanding of what these terms mean.

Put simply pronation and supination refer to arm rotation (turning) movements, mostly lower arm (the bit from the elbow downwards) but also upper arm (from the elbow to the shoulder).

If we think about the palm of the hand then, if this is pointed towards the ground, the lower arm is pronated whereas, if the hand is facing upwards, the arm is supinated, if a person is lying on the ground face down they are prone and if face up they are supine.

Not that good an idea to sleep in a prone position then!!!

In badminton, many forehand overhead strokes will be hit by pronating the arm whereas overhead backhand strokes will be hit using supination. These movements use different muscles in both the lower and upper arm, for instance supination uses the large bicep muscle in the upper arm whilst pronation used the triceps muscle, which is also in the upper arm. If you feel both of these muscles in your upper arm you will note that the biceps muscle is much bigger than the triceps muscle, therefore backhands should be (and are) easier to hit.

In DIY screws and screwdrivers have been designed in accordance with this fact, tightening the screw uses supination and loosening uses pronation.

Low down in Badminton playing a cross block from the forehand side uses a small pronation movement whilst on the backhand side a small supination movement is used (along with a bevel grip), so forehand is pronation (FP) and backhand is supination (BS).

There are of course variations and combinations used all over the place, for example a backhand clear could be described as follows:

"In preparation the lower arm is supinated slightly, then as the elbow lifts there is a pronation movement immediately prior to hitting after which the arm is supinated during the hitting phase"

It’s not possible to teach young players without understanding the role of both rotation movements and how they apply to all strokes and even if the terms pronation and supination are not used straight away (perhaps “turning” can be applied in the very beginning) the sooner they are, the better.

Knowledge is power, and players need to have both!!!