Saturday, 24 May 2008

Badminton Racket Basics

Before you rush off to buy your next badminton racket it's a good idea to know the basics. If you are a beginner you do not need to spend much money on your next racket. A cheap badminton racket will do just fine when you start out. How cheap? Well, i would aim to spend about £30 maximum. There are a lot of decent rackets available at this price.

When you buy a badminton racket you need to look for a few things, the weight, the balance, the head shape, the stiffness rating, the grip size, and later on as your skills progress you will need to look at the string tension limit of the frame.

Most racquets weigh between 80-100 grams. More weight will generally give you more power at the expense of manouverability. A heavy racquet will be harder to swing through the air, but it will be more stable than a lighter racket. A lighter racket will offer more swing speed and manouverability, at the cost of power and stability.The lightest badminton racket i have come across is the Karakal SL-70 which as you can probably guess from the title weighs 70 grams. Be aware that this is the weight before you add the strings and your grip. All advertised weights are for the frame only.

Yonex use their own system for determining the weight, which is the U system, and it ranges from U= 95-100g all the way to 4U= 80-84g. Other manufacturers have their own way of doing things. When you first start playing it is not that important to concentrate on the weight, the most important thing is to improve your sklills.

The balance of a badminton racket refers to just that. There are two kinds, head heavy and even balanced. A head heavy racket will give you more weight at the top of the swing, and more power and stability on contact with the shuttle. Even balance will give you less power, but it should be easier to manouver.

The head shape is usually an egg shape, but you can also buy isometric head shapes. The isometric has a more square head, which gives a larger sweet spot. The sweet spot is where you gain the most power when you hit the shuttle. If you can hit the shuttle in the middle of the racket you will be hitting the sweet spot all the time. With an enlarged sweet spot you will have more chance of getting power from slightly mishit shots. When you are beginning this could be useful, so it is worth considering.

The stiffness of the racket relates to how much flex there is. A stiff racquet will not have much flexibity and so it is unforgiving for a beginner. A flexible racket will obviously have more flex and this will give a beginner a bit more power, as you will have a kind of sling shot effect, but at the expense of control. You should only buy a stiff racket when your technique is good enough to cope with it, otherwise you will be risking shoulder problems, as the vibration from hitting the shuttle will travel down your arm and into your shoulder joints.

Grip sizes come in all different systems. Yonex badminton use their G system, which range from G2 (the largest)to G5 (the smallest). Other brands use small, mediun and large. This is all down to your personal preference, and i would suggest that if you have big hands your going to need a big sized grip!

The string tension limit of the frame relates to how tight you can string the badminton racket. Modern racquets allow you have much higher string tension, some upto 30lbs, although most manufacturers recommend around 20-25lbs. You can string modern rackets to higher tensions, but don't be surprised when the head buckles and breaks. Most rackets come pre strung at around 20lbs, and if your a beginner this is just fine for now. Strings are very important, and i will talk about this on a future post.

To give you an example of how this information is put together i have found a description of the lowest priced racket from a badminton equipment retailer on the internet. The racket in question is the Yonex Armortec 150 and it costs £34.99

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION
Yonex Armortec is loaded with power and speed, to give your game a new dimension. Armotec unleashes a new level in smash power. Lightweight technology suits today's rapid play perfectly. Armortec's performance is due to a new hybrid construction developed by Yonex to enhance the frame's acceleration.

Suitable for improving club players, it is a very easy racket to use.

FLEX: medium
COMPOSITION FRAME: graphite super alloy
SHAFT: graphite
WEIGHT: 3U (85-89.9g)
GRIP: G3
RECOMMENDED STRINGING TENSION: 20-25lbs


Ok, let's look at the product description first, or should i say the marketing crap. This badminton racket is loaded with "power and speed". Wow, that's not bad for a cheap badminton racquet. Immediately i can see myself being able to reach this "new dimension" by hitting the shuttle harder and faster than i could ever dream of. Really? What a load of rubbish. The only way i will be able to hit the shuttle harder and faster is if i get my technique almost perfect and get down to the gym and train like never before. Only then will i reach this new dimension.

The "new level in smash power" will only be reached by perfecting my technique, not by this racket. It may help a tiny little bit, but mot much. I particularly like the fact that it suits "today's rapid play". The best badminton players in the world may play at a rapid pace, but the rest of us may only play at this pace for a short while before collapsing.

I guess what i am trying to say is, don't believe the hype. Learn the basics first, because without good technique and footwork all of this marketing drivel will mean absolutely nothing to you.

If we actually look for the useful stuff, we can see that the shaft is a medium flex. This gives a little bit more power and forgivness, which is ok for a beginner, this is what you want. The racket is made from graphite and super alloy, whatever super alloy is. It means that it is made from a cheaper material, hence the lower price. The shaft is also graphite, which most badminton rackets are made from. The weight is 3U, and this relates to 85-89.9 grams, which again is an average weight. Remember, this is a Yonex racquet, hence the U system. The grip size is G3, so it's a middle of the road grip size, and suitable for most players. The recommended stringing tension is 20-25lbs, and this tension is very suitable for a beginner.

Ok, now we have seen the information for a bottom of the range Yonex racket, we will now look at the latest top end Yonex badminton racket, the Yonex ArcSaber 10. This costs a whopping £127.99. Now i have to have a little chuckle to myself here because to actually find out the price of this racket i had to press the "click here for checkout price" button. Only when i press this button can i find out what the price is. Incidently, the software on this website has already decided that i want one because it has entered a 1 in the quantity field. Why do they have to hide the cost? No doubt it is to keep prying competitors eyes away. I have done a little bit of searching around for this ArcSaber 10 and all of the badminton equipment retailers sell at the exact same price. Is this price fixing? Most websites have a price match guarantee, so i guess it would be foolish to offer this racket at a lower price because then everyone else will habe to lower their price too.

A bonus if you buy this bat is that you get free delivery and a full length head cover. No shit! at this price i would expect it to be delivered by a limousine and have a gold plated carry case. Anyway, let's take a look at the product description:-

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION
Yonex ArcSaber 10 is made from a new material called "cup stack carbon nanotube" which is adopted in both sides of the frame in order to give strength and perseverance, it holds a large amount of energy at the impact, and releases it back like an arrow. It gives you depth and control to your game. By sharpening the control support cap, it also helps to increase your swing speed. The air resistance is decreased by 3%. The Yonex ArcSaber 10 will give you more power and control.

FLEX: stiff
FRAME: CS carbon nanotube super HMG
SHAFT: ultra PER high modulus graphite
WEIGHT: 85-89.9g
GRIP: 3G

You will note that there is no recommendation as to what level of player this is aimed at, unlike the one that the Armortec 150 had. I can tell you that this badminton racket is for advanced level players. Why do they not give this recommendation? Because this particular retailer could not care less if a beginner buys it, they just want you to buy it.

We can see from the description that Yonex has developed a new technology called "cup stack carbon nanotube" whatever the hell that is. You will notice that this amazing new carbon stuff is incorporated into both sides of the frame. This means that only a tiny little piece of this stuff is actually in this racket. If you were thinking that this Yonex ArcSaber 10 was made entirely of cup stack carbon nanotube then you will be dissapointed. You need to know that all these fancy technologies such as titanium, ultimum and whatever else is the latest thing, all amount to just a fraction of what the whole racquet is made from.

This carbon nanotube actually stores energy and then releases it back like an arrow. This racket really is something else, i need one immediately if it can do this. Air resistance is decreased by 3% as well. 3% does not seem like a big difference to me. Will i actually notice this? No way, but it's nice to know i have it, it would help me justify to all my friends why i paid so much for it.

I will also have more power and control. Forgive me but power and control do not really go together. Think of it this way, if you drive a car fast, it will be harder to control. If you hit a shuttle faster it will be harder to control, yet this racket has taken care of this for me. How the hell can it do this? It can't, the only thing that will give you power is your technique, the same for control.

The flex is stiff, which means this is an unforgiving racket. If you are a beginner and you buy this ArcSaber 10 your game will actually suffer. You will probably find that your arm and shoulder start to ache after a while as the vibration kicks in from impact. Another point to realise is that the factory strings that will come with this racket will be strung at around 20lbs. This will take away all the control that you have been promised from the description. This is the importance of string tension and i will cover this in another post.

The weight is 85-89.9 grams, which is a 3U in Yonex terms, and the grip size is G3, which is the same as the cheaper Armortec 150. If i was going to buy this racket i would hope to god that i knew enough about my game to be able to specify what weight i want. But here is another problem. The lighter it is, the less power you will able to generate, it's the laws of physics, so the marketing hype will be incorrect if you specify the lightest weight available in relation to power, although the ArcSaber defies the laws of physics so what do i know.

If you are a power player then go for the heavier weight, it will help you hit the shuttle a little bit harder than a light racquet. The amazing new technology may add up to an extra 1% increase in your game, but this will come mainly from the psychological boost you will get from buying your new bat. After all, you must be able to play better with all this new carbon stuff helping you, right?

I would like clear up the flex rating of a racket and what it all means to you in a nutshell. If a badminton racket has a stiff or extra stiff rating it will best suit someone who has a very fast swing as the racket will be completely in line with the shuttle on impact, giving you the optimum power. If you cannot swing fast enough the racket will have reached the optimum hitting point before you make contact with the shuttle, so the racket head will not in line with the shuttle on impact. This means your swing is not fast enough to get the most out of his type of flex.

If a racket has a medium flex it will best suit someone who has a slower swing speed, as it will take slightly longer to reach optimum power. If you have a fast swing speed and use a medium flex, then the racket will have not yet reached the optimum hitting point, so the racket head will not be in line with the shuttlecock on impact. This is the theory but the difference is small. All things being equal, if i have a fast swing and a stiff flex badminton racket i will generate the most power possible. If i have a slightly slower swing speed with a more flexible racket i will also get the most power available, as the extra flex will compensate for me. The result should be the same power from both types of racket. Another general rule is that more flexible rackets have less control than stiffer one's.

This is going into the arsehole of it, and i wouldn't worry about it because any advantage you get from it will be very small, probably about 1 or 2%, you probably will not even notice anyway.

I think this post has gone a bit too long, and i hope i have given you some badminton racket basics here, to help you make the best decision in your search for the perfect badminton racket.

10 comments:

Vaarun said...

Great nuggets of information, just what I am looking for before I get my new racket today. And an inimitable writing style, "Getting into the arsehole of it!" Haha

Anonymous said...

Great Stuff.. Thanks for the info!

Denny Vettom said...

Thanks for the info. It is nice to to see simple explanation. I play wheelchair badminton, and one thing I found useful is to have small grip so that I have more grip on wheels.

Ruski jezikoslovac said...

Great useful advice, even better writing, can't wait to read the next post!

Anonymous said...

Please keep writing more about badminton stuff specially techniques on how can i reduce stress on my wrist area.. I'm more of a power player and for some reason, the racket is hitting my wrist and it's causing me pain after a game.
-sag0708@gmail.com

antony said...

Hi there

if your wrist is hitting the handle you need to see a coach to help sort out how you are gripping the handle. Try holding the racket further down the handle, and grip it gently.

Anonymous said...

@sag0708

your racket is hitting your wrist definitely means you are not playing upto your ability.As antony pointed out,your grip is the problem.

1.you may be gripping further up
2.you may be gripping straight on,rather than sideways..oops.i dont know the technical words..ok i will try to explain- the gripping part of the racket is of rounded rectangular shape,not circular.you may be holding the wider part of it on to your palm,which might result in the problem you have now.
3.you may be wrapping your hand around the grip,including thumbs.position your thumb almost parallel to the length of the racket,which can help you i think

hope you will see a coach or a better player before playing another game because it is really dangerous to your wrist

Teja said...

This is extremely helpful. I have been told to try the ArcSaber 10 by one of the most impressive players I know but now I realize it wouldn't be THE one!

Anonymous said...

not just a limousine. it should be delivered via helicopter with britney spears personally handing it to you. great blog btw.

Arun Jayaprakash said...

Well said...