Thursday, 22 January 2009

Another Badminton Racket Experiment

I have been messing around with my badminton rackets recently, in particular i have been testing different tensions and different amounts of lead tape and the effect it has on my singles and doubles play. What i have done is have two different string tensions in two of my carlton airblade badminton rackets, one for singles and one for doubles. I have also added different amounts of lead tape to these rackets.

The singles racket has a lower string tension, about 24-25lbs, and has more lead tape added to it. The doubles racket has higher tension, about 27-28lbs and less lead tape added. My reasoning is this..

In singles you are playing an all court game and you are hitting more shots overhead, and more shots from the back corners when you get in trouble, which happens all the time in singles. If you want to succeed at singles then you need to be able to get out of trouble because no matter how good you move around court, you will at some point, get put into the extreme points of the court.

To get out of this trouble you need your racket to help you out. By lowering the string tension it helps you get a bit more power, it makes it easier to hit a more powerful shot. By adding the lead tape it also makes it easier to get some power from your badminton racket. These two factors combined help you. The trade off is control. Lower string tension gives less shuttle control.

Using these two factors i find it easier to hit the shuttle. I have mentioned this in previous posts when i did the first experiment with the lead tape. It worked for me, and i have used lead tape ever since, and will continue to do so becuase it costs hardly anything but you gain so much. I find i can get a good length on my shots from baseline to baseline, and also when i end up in the deep corners, both forehand and backhand corners from below net level.

It takes good technique and timing to hit the shuttle out of the corners and get a good length. What i have found is that for the same amount of effort the shuttle is going about a metre further. This extra metre has come from the lower string tension and the lead tape. And this extra power gives you more choices. I will explain..

If your opponent puts you into the corners and you hit out to the baseline then your opponent has to cover for this. This means they have to move further back in court, back to their base position. If you cannot hit out of the corners to a length, then your opponent will just sit closer to the net and be able to move their base further up the court. They will be able to take a chance because they can anticipate your short return, and will know they have time to move back. This will put you in even more trouble, and you will be shuttle chasing. If you play a reply to the net, no matter how tight it is, your opponent will be there early, and you will be shuttle chasing some more.

That extra metre i now have will keep my opponent guessing, and i now have the choice of being able to play to the net because my opponent is not sitting on top of it, or hitting to the baseline. This makes a big difference in singles i can tell you. This is what i have been noticing for the past few weeks with this racket combination.

The trade off is the lack of control, especially on net shots. The lower string tension does not help control, but it is a case of getting used to the different feel from the racket. It takes a few games, but i can accept this becuase i feel the benefit of the extra power is more valuable in singles for me.

As far as doubles goes, i have been playing with high tension a nd less lead tape. My reasoning is that in doubles i play a lot more reaction shots, such as smash returns, net kills and drives. The extra tension gives me more control, and the shuttle comes off the racket faster, it feels more responsive. I also get more control at the net for playing spinning net shots, and also, most importantly, i get more control on my serve.

The trade off with this combination is less power overhead on smashes. I cannot hit the shuttle as hard as i can with the lower string tension and more lead tape, unless i put more effort in. This extra effort takes it toll after a while because it is now not as easy to hit hard. However, i feel that, for me, it is better to be able to play more accurate shots in doubles than it is to have raw power from the rear court. The difference is not that much, but it is certainly noticeable. I have less lead tape because i need the badminton racket to be more reactive and faster to move. It is all a question of getting the right balance, and this is why i have been experimenting, to find the right combination for me.

What i now have is two identical rackets, they are both carlton airblade tours, but they have totally different playing characteristics. I didn't need to go out and buy myself a new racket, i just modified what i already had. I guess what i am trying to get across is that you should take the opportunity to experiment before you rush off and buy a new badminton racket.

On a different note now, is it just me or have RSL shuttles gone downhill recently? I am a big fan of RSL, but i am growing more and more dissappointed with them every time i play with them. RSL have based their reputation on providing durable shuttles over the years, but this hard won rep is going down the pan very quickly for me. Someone needs to tell them to get their act together, so i am doing just that. The recent batches are not up to standard, so please sort this out RSL. The prices have gone up and the quality has gone down, not a good combination if you ask me, this is the fastest way to lose customers, which would be a shame because this is their life blood.

On another note, i have sent an e-mail to Forza UK to get some badminton rackets to test. The reply said that they had some demo rackets, but they were all out at the moment with customers. They said i should e-mail Forza Direct. The problem here is that Forza Direct do not sell or stock badminton rackets, it is just a company website, so how on earth am i supposed to get rackets from someone who does not sell them? I will e-mail them anyway just to see what happens.

On yet another note. If you have a badminton related site or blog, then please let me know about it, and i will link to you. There must be loads of you with an interest in badminton and badminton rackets. If you enjoy this blog and would like to link to it, then feel free to do so, just link with the text of "badminton racket" to help this blog get a bit more exposure, and then i can hold all these badminton companies to ransom, and force them to let me test more rackets, which would help us all out in the long run. Hope this random post helps you out a little.


Anonymous said...

Hi :D

I would just like to thank you for making this awesome blog. It is by far the most extensive and informative website on badminton that I have ever visited. Hope you continue to add to this blog in the future :D

On another note though, I am currently looking for a badminton racquet as well. I've never taken any lessons, but have played off just watching other people play since i was nine for about 4-5 years and just recently decided to be serious about the sport. I am currently considering the Yonex Nanospeed 4500 or 6000. After reading your blog, I chose these two because they are, according to a Yonex specs sheet, the most head light racquets they have (yes I’m a Yonex fan :D) and they are not stiff-flexed, would be bad for my shoulder right?^^ I also plan on adding some lead tape to them, and since no matter which one I end up choosing, they are both already head-light, I will make them even more efficient by making them even more head-light right?

Another question, does technique eliminate the damage that a stiff-flexed racquet does to your shoulder? If so, how? :O

The only main difference between these two racquets, as you may already know, is that one has medium flex (the 4500), while the 6000 has a flexible flex with the "LSC System" that's supposed to reduce shock, (according to the Yonex site) possibly making the racquet even less damaging to my shoulder?

I don’t want to lose any power, but I don’t want to damage my shoulder either. And I don’t know which flex best fits my swing speed (I don’t know if its fast or slow). The lead tape and grip that will be added reduces the damage to my shoulder, but the main problem I am facing at the moment is the flex, which one would be better?

Any advice?^^;

PS. Do you know what the difference is between a grip and a grap?

antony said...

Hi there, and thanks for the nice comment about the blog. The two yonex rackets you are thinking about will do just fine for you. Both are very similar, but i guess the one with the LSC system would be better in theory, if you have shoulder problems.
The lead tape will certainly make the racket more efficient, and easier to use.
Bear this is mind though Abel. The only reason i add lead tape is because my shoulder hurts after i play due to about 20 years of playing, so if your shoulder is fine then i would suggest just playing with the racket as it is. Get used to it, and then experiment.
The point about technique eliminating the damage of stiff rackets, well to get get the most out of stiff flex rackets you need a fast swing speed, so that you can make that shaft flex to get the power. The stiffer the flex the faster your swing needs to be, this is why they are aimed at more advanced players who are able to do this. Good technique will allow for a faster swing speed, but even with good technique you can still get a sore shoulder after a few years of playing with these rackets, even more so if you have a high string tension.
I would suggest going for the most flexible option if you are just starting out and give it a try and see what you think.
The grip as i know it refers to a replacement grip, where you take the old grip off and add another grip. The grap refers to an overgrip or overgrap, which is much thinner than the replacement grip and is made to go on top of your existing grip.
I hope this helps you out a bit Abel, and i wish you the best in your badminton journey. Also, i would be interested on your thoughts on the yonex nanospeed 6000 is you decide to get it, so feel free to post your thoughts on it when you have played with it.

Anonymous said...

No problem for the comment :D. By the way I think there was a little problem with my display name before, hopefully its been corrected XD

If lead tape makes a racquet more efficient, easier to use and it can prevent (more) shoulder problems now and in the future and all that you lose with it is some reaction time for net shots shouldn't it be a good thing? XD pardon my asking but why wouldn't you suggest it then?, If you don't mind explaining^^; because from what i gather from reading this, lead tape offers a lot of benefits and the only bad thing is reaction time, which in time one can get used to?

Ok then! So for stiff racquets its pretty much a trade off, it damages your shoulder bit by bit while providing people with a fast enough swing speed with some more power? and so we should choose our stiffnesses based on our swing speeds as the right swing speed along with the right stiffness will allow one to get the most power out of a racquet?

Ok well from what i gather from this i think the 6000, being the more flexible should be the way to go, also is there a way to identify if you're hitting the shuttle at the right moment? I know for tennis that a shot "feels right" when you hit it on the sweet spot at exactly the right moment, is there something like that for badminton as well? Up until now i've been using an old, really really heavy Carlton (i don't even think it has a name) its just a generic one that weighs a ton, with a thin plastic grip (extremely slippery, i cannot hold continue to hold the racquet properly after i swing because my hand slips). I actually used that for over 3 hand muscles began hurting as i had to hold it really really tight. Needless to say, i wasn't winning many rallies, but i also wasnt really "feeling" any good shots, maybe because i never hit any with it, but yeah, is there a "feeling" to it?

Well, its not that i'm just starting, i've just never had proper instruction on badminton (or...does that mean i'm just starting out?) i can smash somewhat properly now, after a couple months of practice off learning from a site and a couple pointers from more experienced members (i play at a club with 4 of my friends and about 10 or 20 other members, mostly adults, for fun) although i'm positive my footwork is terrible (i do not have a proper lunge, im not quite sure i move around the court right either), im pretty sure i don't hit proper drives (lunging, then lowering my body forwards towards the net and hitting the shuttle with that momentum), my serves for doubles are too high as i cannot properly hit them yet and im focusing on just atleast getting my shots right at the moment, so strategy will start coming after i get my technique down (somehow) and yeah, other than my somewat ok smash (i think), i need help one just about everything else. A more exact description of my abilities, sorry if it's a bit lengthy or redundant, but i'm guessing the better you know the player, the better you can choose out a racquet XD. I guess in my opinion im not new to the sport but im still not very good at it^^;

Ohh ok then, thank you for clearing that up^^ Yonex racquets all come with a somewat decent grip right? (decent being it wont fly out of my hand and it is easily hung on to) so i'm guessing i wont be needing to replace the grip and that if i buy, it's going to be a grap ontop of the original grip and possibly lead tape?

Thank you very much for replying, and it this is all a lot more than just a little bit helpful and i wish you best of luck with your shoulder recovery (if i worded that right) I am quite close to making my final decision and i have already found a local store that carries Nanospeeds, if i do end up getting the 6000, i'll be sure to post up my thoughts on it.

Also, going to that store, i noticed that there were different string types? I read your post on string tension but i don't think you touched different types, sorry but if u did, would you mind explaining once more?^^; I'm not so sure whether i want more control or more power yet, so i plan on probably choosing the string tension in the middle of the racquet's range of tensions, although i am leaning towards a higher one so i might go one or two pounds more towards the maximum.

PS. I think you mentioned this previously but i have to agree that all salespeople seem to sell two things a racquet being light and the head heavy thing XD. Maybe because most racquets are like that?

antony said...

Hi Abel
The lead tape does work well, and it will make your racket more efficient, it did for me, and the science backs this up as well. The reason i suggested not using it is because i feel you are only just starting out, so first of all you need to concentrate on improving all aspects of your game, such as footwork, serve, smash etc. Adding he lead tape into this may be a bit too much at this stage. However, it will be of benefit, so if you think it will help you, then add it.
When you hit the shuttle in the sweet spot, ie the middle of the string bed, then you will know you have hit a solid shot, you will get that "feel" you are after, and the shuttle will come off the racket just the way you intended. Playing with the old carlton racket you have been using will not give anywhere as much feel as a nanospeed will, it is a very old racket you have been using. I remember playing with those carlton rackets, we used to call them "bucket rackets" because they always seemed to be placed in bins or buckets in the sports centre.
The yonex rackets come with a grip, but you have to make sure you find a grip or overgrap that you are comfortable with. If you can't keep hold of the racket you can't play your shots right, so please make sure you find the right grip for you.
Also spend your money on some good badminton shoes. This is the first thing you should be buying, even before a fancy new racket. There is no fun in getting sore feet, so look after them by geting he best you can afford.
As far as strings go, i would not worry about them too much at this stage. The yonex will come pre strung at about 20lbs tension, with yonex factory strings. Stick with this tension while you learn the skills first. The different strings will not make much difference at all yet. It is only when you start to improve that you will start to think about tension and string type.

Anonymous said...

Hello Antony,

oohh ok that makes more sense thank you for clearing that up. One more small thing to clear up though, i've been thinking about how the lead tape helps, and it just occurred to me that by putting the weight at the end of the racket, that lowers the strain it puts on your shoulder, but wouldn't it also put a greater strain on your wrist when you flick it because it's heavier? Or would a head heavy racket put an even greater strain on your wrist?

Ok so getting lessons is definitely a good idea right? And so lead tape is definately a good idea but maybe for the future due to my inexperience?

Ohhhh ok then, so i'll be on the lookout for that "feel" when i play tomorrow, borrowing a friend's racket since after reading this, that bucket racket (that is so true by the way, i've had a similar experience in gym class)already kills my hand and i'm going to guess that it's not doing my arm or shoulder any good either. Is there any harm in using a friend's racket?

So basically in grips i'm looking for something i can easily hold on to? And something that's comfortable? At the moment, my mental image of a grip is a white somewhat..."squishy" (can't seem to find the right word right now) that seems to be some sort of rubber that i can easily hold on to. To my knowledge (which isn't much) i'm just looking for a grip that has a good "traction" on my hand so that it doesn't go flying out of my hand when i hit (like the last one did, it literally slid out of my hand and slammed onto the floor one time i tried to smash).

Badminton shoes, did you have a post on shoes before? I'm not sure where i've seen those being mentioned before, possibly your blog? But i never paid much attention to those before. Thank you for this advice, i'll see what i can find on the internet, and by the way, do you have any advice for a brand or any way to find a good pair of them?

Ooohh ok, sorry about that because i believe u mentioned before that beginners should just stick with the strings and tension that the racket comes with and worry about that in later years, when one has more experience.

Lastly, thank you so much for the advice, the tips and the information - it's been an enormous help! :D

antony said...

Hi Abel
The lead tape, if you put it on the very bottom of the handle should not place any extra strain on your wrist because your wrist will be above the level of the lead tape when you hit your shots.
A head heavy racket will place more strain on your wrist because all thw weight is beyond your hand, so it makes it feel heavier.

The badminton shoes i recommend are yonex, they make the best shoes. Any model is good enough, but i always buy the best pair available. I currently use the yonex SHB100 ltd, which cost around £60, but they are worth it.
There is a previous post on badminton shoes somewhere in the blog archives.
Borrowing a friends racket will be a good idea, it will be better than the heavy carlton racket you have been using. And certainly spend some money on coaching, it will be far more valuable to you than a fancy new racket will be.

Anonymous said...

Hi Antony
Oh ok, thank you again for clearing that up^^

Really? Awesome, i'll be sure to check that out right after this.

Sure, so it looks like i'm going to need to find some place to learn next. Thank you for all the advice and information, if i do end up getting the 6000, i'll be sure to give some feedback. That's all the clarification i need for now, thank you for spending the time to answer me, i greatly appreciate it.

threadbearer said...

I found this site very informative. My kids girl - age 11 and son - age 8 years old are in professional training of badminton in India.

Your idea to make lower portion of the racket heavy is really a very innovative one - wonder why the manufacturers are not implementing them.

So if I may say that for these kids Yonex Carbonex 8000 with 19 lbs string tension, bg-66 and a bit of weight added to the lower handle(I do not know how, as lead tapes may not be available here). What's your response.

Great service for a game which is great but sadly is not very fancied. People like you are doing yeoman service to the good cause.

Best wishes.

antony said...

Hi Threadbearer
Glad to hear you enjoy this blog, thanks for the kind comments. Your kids must be very talented, and i wish the best success for them in the future. The lead tape is just a personal preference of mine, but i use it because i have seen good results for me. It may not be for everyone, as everyone has different tastes, so my advice would be to experiment with it, and see if your kids notice any benefit by using it. If they are being coached by a professional then ask the coach what they think. All i can say is that the science behind using it, ie, how to make the racket easier to swing is proven, and after having used it myself i agree too. The Yonex cab 8000 at 19lbs tension is fine, you don't really want to introduce high string tension on young kids whilst they are still growing, it just adds extra strain on their bodies, so i would stay at lower tensions for now.