You finally picked out the perfect racket for you and your game, but you aren’t quite ready to jump on the court yet. You still have to decide how you want your racket strung. String tension is directly related to racket performance, so it is important to understand what different tension will do to your racket and your game. So, how tight should you string your racket?
How does string tension affect the badminton racket? The lower the tension, the more power the racket can produce. The tighter the tension, the more control you will have of the shuttle.
The long answer is a bit more complicated and requires you to understand what happens to the racket as you increase tension and how your ability as a player figures into things.
How Badminton String Tension Affects Racket Performance
If you are going to have your racket strung the right way for your style and experience, you need to understand why lower tension equals more power and tighter tension equal more control. Also, you should understand the potential risks of stringing your racket wrong. Let’s learn about this now.
The Trampoline Effect
The trampoline effect refers to the racket power when it strikes a shuttle. At lower tensions, the strings of the racket stretch more. This stretching allows the strings to act more like a trampoline or elastic band. The more they are able to stretch, the stronger the force as they recoil, causing the shuttle to be hit with more power.
As you tighten the strings, the strings are not able to stretch as much, causing less of a trampoline effect and thus, less power. The more you reduce the trampoline effect on your racket, the more power you are going to have to supply yourself.
You have to be careful, though, because there is a point where the tension in the racket can be too loose to give you either power or control. If there isn’t a certain level of tension in the strings, they will lose elasticity. Without elasticity, there is no trampoline effect and thus, no power.
This explanation also demonstrates that the relationship between tension and power is not as easy as less tension equals more power. Tension actually builds power until it hits a point where the power stops increasing with the tension. The player’s ability determines where that point is.
Finding the Sweet Spot
Any piece of sporting equipment used to hit another object has a sweet spot. The sweet spot is the area of the piece of equipment that makes the most effective contact with the object it is hitting.
With a badminton racket, the sweet spot is the area of the strings where you hit the shuttle with the most power. It is the area where you get the most stretch from your strings or the area where the trampoline effect is the greatest.
As you increase tension, the sweet spot shrinks. It is important for a beginner to have a large sweet spot, therefore a beginner should use a racket with low tension. Their technique is not very good, so the larger sweet spot reduces the margin of error in getting solid contact with the shuttle. As you become more experienced and your technique improves, you can use more tension in your racket because the smaller sweet spot will not affect your game.
No matter what your experience level, you will start off getting more power out of the racket as you increase tension. Eventually, though, you will reach a point where your power plateaus or drops because the sweet spot is too small for you to take advantage of and most of the power is only coming from your technique.
An advanced player will get more power out of a racket with a higher tension only because they are able to hit more consistently in the sweet spot of the racket and generate more power on their own.
As you increase the tension of the strings, you flatten them out and remove repulsion or the trampoline effect. This leads to the player being able to feel the shuttle on the strings more and gives them more control over where they send it.
Advanced players, who are able to generate most of their own power and can make use of a smaller sweet spot greatly benefit from this ability to control the shuttle.
Dangers That Come Along With Wrong Tension
Since proper tension is related to player experience, there are some dangers that come along with using the wrong tension with your racket. High tension only benefits players who have the technique to take advantage of it, so if you do not have the right experience, using a racket with high tension can lead to damage to your racket and yourself. If you tighten your racket strings before you are ready you could:
- Break The Racket Frame: This can happen in two ways. The first is just from too much tension. The racket makers produce the rackets with certain ranges of tension in mind. If you exceed these amounts, the stress on the frame can cause it to break.
The second way is miss-hit. Because the strings are so tight, they are more likely to snap or crack the frame if the shuttle does not hit them perfectly. Hits close to the frame are especially dangerous. This is one of the five more common causes of string breakage as I explained in my post “The 5 Main Causes Why Badminton Strings Break“.
- Serious Injury: As mentioned earlier, as the tension gets higher, the racket’s sweet spot gets smaller and the ability to get more power out of it decreases. If you do not have the proper level of experience to use a racket with higher tension, you may try to overcompensate for the lack of power. This could lead to tennis elbow, shoulder, or neck injuries that could keep you off the court for extended periods of time.
So What Is The Right Tension For Me?
Now that you know what tension does to a badminton racket and why this occurs, what racket tension is right for you? Here are some suggested tensions based on ability and experience…
Beginner Players: 16lbs-21lbs
If you are just starting to play badminton, you should start with lower tension, probably around 16lbs. As you gain experiences, move up one lb at a time. Master more shots, and gain wrist strength. With this level of tension, you will have…
- A softer string bed which will lead to a larger trampoline effect, therefore giving the player more power.
- A larger sweet spot that will make it easier for a player to hit the shuttle effectively.
- Less control of the shuttle, but that shouldn’t matter at this point.
- Strings that are more durable and will last longer as you learn to play the game.
Intermediate Players: 18lbs-24lbs
As you gain more strength and experience, you should increase the tension of the racket. This will benefit your game because…
- You will start generating power on your own, so you will require less power from the racket.
- You will also not need as large a sweet spot because your technique is much better.
- As you produce more power yourself and rely less on a large sweet spot, the increased tension will give you more control of the shuttle.
Advanced Players: 23lbs-27lbs
By the time you have reached an advanced level of play, you are less concerned with your racket producing power and instead are trying to move more towards a racket that allows you to control your shots. With these levels of tension, you will have…
- A harder string bed that will not produce power, so you will have to create power with your swing.
- A smaller sweet spot, which shouldn’t be a problem because you have become more accurate and consistent with your strokes.
- More feel of the shuttle on the string bed which will allow for better control and placement.
- Strings that are less durable and more likely to break or damage the frame if hit wrong.
Elite Players: 26lbs-32lbs
It is not until you have mastered most aspects of the game that you will need tensions this tight. Elite players will…
- Produce most of the power themselves, so they are looking mostly for control from their strings.
- Use many rackets per tournament, but they are usually sponsored so the damage that comes along with high tension is not a concern.
- Need the tension to be very specific because they are very aware of small differences in their racket.
- Choose a tension based on their style of play.
If you are going to use plastic shuttles, be aware that they do not respond to rackets the same as feather shuttles. They do not fly as well, thus causing players to over hit and can lead to injuries like tennis elbow.
It is recommended by most people to drop the recommended tensions for your racket by 2lbs if you play consistently with plastic.
And with this, we have arrived at the end of this article. If you enjoy this post about badminton strings, you will also like “How Often Should You Change Your Badminton Racket String?” and “Why Do Badminton Players Cut the Strings?“.
If you have any questions about what I have explained in this post, let me know in the comments below.