Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Badminton Racket Strings Part One

The strings in your badminton racket are one of the most important parts of improving your game. As you learn new skills and improve your footwork and technique, you will also realise that your strings can greatly affect the feel of your racket. I have talked about how your racket will give you, at most, an extra 5% to your game, no matter how much money you decide to spend, but badminton racket strings can also offer you an extra 5%, perhaps even more.

The entire feel of your badminton racket will be affected by your string tension. As a general rule, the higher the tension, the more control you will have, the lower the tension, the more power you will have. Now there is a trade off here as well. High tension will give you less power, and low tension will give less control.

If your strings have lower tension, when the shuttle makes contact it will sink in to the strings and then be repelled back out. This acts like a slingshot and this is how you get the power. The problem with this slingshot effect is that because the shuttle is moving further in and out of the string bed, there is less control.

At higher string tensions, when the shuttle makes contact with the racket strings, it will not sink into the strings as much, and so the slingshot effect is not as pronounced, hence less power. However, because the shuttle is not moving in and out of the string bed as much, you will have greater control.

As a beginner you will probably not be too concerned with any of this, you just want to play and improve your skills, and hopefully just hit the shuttle over the net in a general direction. The tension in most factory strung rackets is low, and this is to ensure the frame is not broken, or indeed that the actual strings don't snap.

Let's look at the typical scenario is for a complete beginner. You will most likely have a low cost badminton racket, which is exactly what you want. This racket will be made from cheaper materials and so it will be quite heavy, but it will have more flexibility. For a beginner this extra weight can cause problems because poor technique combined with more weight can put your wrist, forearm and shoulder under stress. There is the potential for injury here. The low tension strings will give more power, and combined with the weight and flex of the racket, in theory you will hav the best chance possible of creating more power, and all of these factors will produce less control. But so what? Your only learning, and rightly so.

Now, if we take an intermediate badminton player, their technique will be improved, footwork will be better, fitness will be increased, tactical play will now be involved, and shot selection will be improved. This player now starts looking at different badminton rackets, and is more aware of the strings and the effect they have on their game. Because they play more often, the strings start the fray and break more regularly, requiring a re-string. They find someone who re-strings rackets and are then asked what tension they would like.

By now they will want more control and power to compliment their improving game, and so they will ask for a higher tension. The question is, what tension to go for? Now we are in a whole new world of matching strings to ability and rackets. We have already seen how to choose your badminton racket, and all the different terminology used. We now need to apply this jargon to the strings as well.

The expensive Yonex rackets like the ArcSaber, Armortec and Nanospeed, all have a variety of stiff flex frames. We know this makes them unforgiving if you don't time the stroke just right. If we now have a high tension string in them, it is even more unforgiving. The sweet spot is smaller at higher tensions, and combined with the stiff flex it places everything on your technique to able to produce power. Control is at maximum, because the stiff flex combined with tight strings means the shuttle will not deviate in your intended direction. The badminton racket will feel more responsive as the shuttle will come off the strings much faster, and you will feel the difference. Everything is more stable.

The problem now is that the racket and the strings can break much more easily. A mishit shot has the potential to snap the strings and the racket frame. This is why it now comes down to your technique, or it can be very expensive. This is the price you pay, but the gains are considerable. You have to experiment to find the best match between the strings and the racket. The top end badminton rackets are designed to take this high tension, this is when they come alive, the question is are you good enough to get this benefit?

2 comments:

Wire said...

Anthony,

Great advices overall.

I do not agree with that lower tension == higher power. Rather, lower tension == easier to generate power.

The trampoline effect still exists at very high tensions but the racket head must move much faster to stretch the string bed. The resulting shuttle speed will, however, be faster as the string bed recoils faster due to the higher tension => more tension == more power.

Conversely, if the swing speed is too slow, the stringbed will not compress enough resulting in the observed loss of power.

antony said...

Hi there Wire
Yep, i agree with you on this. High tension can give more power only if you can generate the racket head speed, i guess this why the pros have higher tensions. Low tensions can give power, but i think that this has it's limits. There must be a point where very low tension stops giving power as the shuttle spends too much time on the string bed.

Far too many average players have high string tension, and they just don't have the racket head speed to make the strings work for them, this is why higher tensions appear to be related to a loss in power. But just like the low tension, there must a point where too much tension will give less power because the player just can't swing fast enough to flex the strings.