The characteristics of badminton have been studied in detail in an attempt to further the knowledge of coaches and athletes in order to improve performance and training regimes (Chin et al, 1995; Hughes and Cosgrove, 2007). Badminton is a sport that requires repeated high intensity, short duration movements that places both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems under physiological stress (Manrique and Badillo, 2003). During matches performers undertake bursts of high intensity activity followed by recovery periods regularly throughout the match. Matches at an elite level can vary in length from 20 minutes to an hour (Hughes and Cosgrove, 2007). Through the understanding of the sports technical, intermittent and explosive nature, athletes can train and prepare appropriately in order to meet the physiological demands placed on them during competition.
During badminton match play, individuals require a combination of the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, as well as the physiological requirements of power, flexibility, agility and movement speed, all of which are essential to provide effective match performance. During match play, it has been identified that individuals will maintain heart rates of over 75% of Heart Rate maximum (HR max) in the doubles discipline and over 80% of HR max in singles (Hughes and Cosgrove, 2007). In order for athletes to be able to perform successfully at these intensities for an extended period of time, their aerobic energy systems must be able to hope with such demands. In order for this to be possible training must be conducted appropriately and specifically enough to allow for successful adaptations to occur.
This training can be undertaken through work within a gymnasium where aspects of cardiovascular fitness and strength and conditioning can be improved, alongside on-court training to improve technical ability and fitness. Knowing the effectiveness of certain methods of training can give athletes an advantage when it comes to competition. Girard et al., (2005) highlighted the limitations of using treadmill testing within racquet sports such as squash and badminton. They emphasised that exercise testing on the treadmill is not specific enough for the muscles involved in these sports and is therefore inadequate for evaluating the specific demands of the sport. Consequently, assessing the effectiveness of training adaptations in relation to match performance can only be conducted through the use of specific testing. This has enforced the view that, the development of appropriate fitness tests in sport is generally considered to be one of the essential tasks of sports scientists (Chin et al., 1995).
Chin et al., (1995) suggested that the customary standardised tests for aerobic fitness are not sufficient for an accurate prediction of successful performance in most sports, especially racket sports. They go on to claim that due to the intermittent characteristics of badminton, an accurate fitness test cannot be appropriately simulated in a laboratory situation. Therefore, it is necessary to assess physiological profiles of such sports during field tests.
Wonisch et al., (2003) suggested that the direct measurement of respiratory gas exchange variables under field conditions may be useful in future research. They also suggested that further studies under competition-like conditions may provide additional information about the impact of aerobic power in badminton.
Recent technological advancements have enabled the development of lightweight ambulatory metabolic devices allowing for an accurate evaluation of racquet sports such as badminton whilst on court. This has proved essential for assessing the specific demands of sport due to the ability to analyse and record specific physiological contributions to exercise, such as VO2, VCO2 and RER, within 5 second intervals. Studies which have used this method of assessing the physiological demands of badminton include; Roecker et al. (2005) and Faude et al. (2007). Previously, physiological profiling using mixing-chamber based metabolic devices have been undertaken in football (Ferrauti et al. 2006), tennis (Smekal et al. 2001), and badminton (Faccini and Dal Monte, 1996) but were all unable to attain accurate and sport specific values reflecting the physiological demands.
Sport-specific fitness tests have been created for the Badminton England and the Welsh Institute of Sport. These field tests have been designed to be highly sport-specific and easily administered by players and coaches (Hughes and Cosgrove, 2007). These tests are able to assess; jumping ability, movement speed, and aerobic performance. These tests have been used to provide specific fitness testing results which can enable the coach to identify whether an athleteâ€™s performance is being restricted by movement technique or general fitness (Hughes and Cosgrove, 2007).
Recently a sport specific, incremental aerobic fitness test has been developed by the Badminton England. Hughes, (2003) designed the protocol that will be used to investigate the physiological responses of badminton performers whilst on court. This is aimed at participants reaching a point of exhaustion by the end of the testing. It is proposed that when athletes reach exhaustion during this type of test, VO2max values could be attained. This is what is to be studied during this research process and if found to be the case, this testing procedure could provide a more accurate and effective method of assessing VO2max, and could phase out the use of treadmill VO2max testing within badminton.
Using a badminton-specific incremental test to generate VO2max results rather than the generic treadmill VO2max test can provide increased validity in the assessment of an individual badminton playerâ€™s fitness level. It is important to be able to assess athletes in such ways in order to improve performance and adapt training regimes, especially at an elite level. However, as of yet there has not been testing conducted into the relationships between the three different endurance tests used in the study; the treadmill test and the on-court incremental test, which both provide measures of performance in terms of time to fatigue and the VO2 max result; and the speed endurance test which measures performance in terms of maximal speed, average speed and fatigue throughout the test. VO2max on-court is not only related to aerobic fitness, but also technique and the efficiency of on court movement. This is why it is important to investigate whether these tests are suitable for widespread use within badminton for accurately assessing individualâ€™s playersâ€™ fitness levels, as well as identifying the effectiveness of specific field testing for application within all sports. .