Saturday, 20 September 2008

The Modern Badminton Racket Trend

The professional players of today all seem to have one thing in common, very high string tension in their badminton rackets. Yonex have recently released some information on the medal winners at the recent Beijing Olympics. The information tells the racket used, the string and tension used, and the chosen footwear of the players.

Virtually every medal winner has their badminton racket strung at over 30lbs tension, some as high as 36lbs. Another similar trend is in the actual racquets used, with the Armortec series being the most popular with the current best players. The Yonex Armortec rackets are all head heavy balanced, which makes them "high work" rackets, ie, they are the most difficult to use. Now whether or not these professionals are using the same spec rackets that you can buy in the shops is debatable.

The string tension is not though. All the players are going for extremely high tension. High tension gives more control. I have seen a few debates on forums about string tension and what it offers. People disagree on this subject. Some argue that low tension gives more control because the shuttle stays in contact with the strings longer. This view has been backed up by a famous ex professional player from the 70's and 80's. I totally disagree with this theory, and the science also disagrees with it. From my own personal experience, high racket string tension gives more control, period. Some of the previous posts touch on this. All the current professionals have high tension, so they must also know this. The top players have sound technique, they can generate power, they just need the extra control to harness this power, and this is where the strings come into it.

The fact that the Armortec badminton rackets are stiff adds to the control factor. However, the head heavy balance makes these racquets more cumbersome to use. I just wonder if any of the top players customise their rackets with a bit of extra weight on the handle? The Indonesians tend to have overgrips that go right up the shaft, which would make the head heavy balance become more even weighted, or even head light. I have touched on this before in previous posts, about making the perfect badminton racket for power and ease of use. I have suggested that a head heavy balanced racquet, which is then turned into a head light/even balance by adding weight to the handle will give the best possible combination of power, performance and ease of use. Perhaps the professionals do this.

Based on the information from Yonex, Lin Dan uses the Armortec 700 strung at between 30-33lbs tension. Lin Dan also has surgical tape placed around the top of his racket, and also tends to have very little overgrip on the handle. There are pictures that even show that Lin Dan has only half his handle covered with overgrip, the rest of the handle is just bare wood. This combination would make his badminton racket very head heavy, which must be the way he likes it. It would make it harder to manoeuver, but he would benefit from the extra power that the head heavy balance gives. In singles, there is not as much emphasis on very fast, flat, reaction rallies, so perhaps this is why he chooses this combination.

Lee Chong Wei also has his racket strung at between 30-33lbs, but he uses the Armortec 900P. Again, he chooses a racket with a bit of weight in the head to begin with. Remember, weight is good, it helps you to generate power. Ridiculously light weight rackets do not help you, all they do is destroy your arm, despite what their manufacturers tell you. When you find youself stuck at the back of the court, unable to get the shuttlecock on the ground, because this is what will happen when you come up against better players with good defences, you will then realise that your shiny ultra light weight racket is useless to you. Cue the arm and shoulder injuries as you try your hardest to gain power by swinging away.

Does this mean that you should copy what the professionals do? Hell no. Head heavy badminton rackets are the worst for shoulder injuries. I guess the playing career of a pro is short, but i truly believe that they are all risking problems later on in life if they are in fact using these racquets. I also believe that the pros do customise their rackets. Another difference between the pros and the rest is that they have sound technique. They are far more effective at hitting the shuttle consistently, day after day, year after year, and so less stress is placed on their arm and shoulder muscles and joints.

I have said this before, but the only thing you should concern yourself with is you, and your game. There is no point in having high string tensions if you can't play with your racket like this. You need to find the right balance for yourself, between power and control. Everyone is different, and you may just as easily find you get all the control you need at a relatively low tension, compared to someone else who needs high tension for control.

Now here i am telling you that high tension equals more control, based on my own experience, and also from the racket science i have researched. So what? You may well find this does not apply to you. The only way to know is to experiment with different tensions, and see how you play. There are always exceptions, and one of the Olympic medallists had their racket strung at 24-26lbs, much lower than the others. This just shows that you don't have to follow the trends, and is a clear example of just how personal your tension is to you. All that matters is how you play, regardless of what equipment you use. But bear in mind that there are things you can do to make things easier on your arm and shoulder by experimenting with your badminton equipment.


Justin said...

I totally agree with you on this. Racket tension is subjective hence, different strokes for different folks. I tend to like my racket strung at 26 to 27lbs and that is because I'm afraid the frame might not be able to support the pressure. I tried the Yonex Arcsaber 7 at 30lbs and it was fantastic! Good feel and effortless but it may not last on my Apacs. What i learnt from this article is that I can tailor my racket to being head heavy by stripping the grip to just bare wood and only using a normal layer grip. I will try that tonight and will see what happens. Thanks Antony!

antony said...

Hi Justin
String tension and racket balance are all very personal things. You can go one step further and add tape to the racket head, making it even more head heavy. Just be aware of the potential for injury with very head heavy balance and high string tension.

As far as Apacs rackets go, people have strung them to 28-30lbs and have had no problems with frame breakage. Over 30lbs is dangerous, as you probably know. Hope your little experiment goes well!!