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The truth about getting the right string tension

So you’ve chosen your badminton racket, and now it’s time to string it.

While most rackets in the UK arrive pre-strung, frequent use will see the strings eventually need replacing – so let us give you the lowdown.

The string tension in a badminton racket plays a major role in the player’s ability to hit a shot well – if strings are too slack, performance will drop below optimum.

Therefore it’s vitally important to not only get the perfect strings for your racket, but for your ability level as well.

For beginners/intermediates – 16-22lbs

When it comes to stringing, the words on everyone’s lips are ‘sweet spot’ – the part of the string bed that produces the best result from contact with a shuttle.

The lower the tension of a racket’s strings, the larger the sweet spot, thus increasing the likelihood of the amateur player hitting a good shot because the strings are able to absorb and repel the shuttle better.

Similarly, a player with little experience is likely not to have developed good wrist action yet, which would make it considerably harder to use a high tension racket.

Because of this, it is advised that all beginners and intermediates use a racket with low tension strings, before gradually increasing by 1lb increments as they master shot techniques and start to develop a strong wrist action.

For club/county players – 21-27lbs

Better players make less hitting errors and therefore the need for a large sweet spot is reduced – players of a high standard are expected to have the consistency in hitting the shuttle on a smaller sweet spot.

The higher tension associated with a smaller sweet spot will produce a different feel for the player, and allow them to hit the shuttle harder.

A strong wrist action, together with a big swing, enables more speed and power in the shot.

Club/county players have a higher control level of their racket, and can therefore play their shot with increased accuracy and feel.

For elite players – 28lbs+

Players at this level have an optimum control of their shots and can play with increased accuracy, and therefore can play with incredibly high tension strings.

Because of the sheer volume of training and competition elite badminton players experience, they can easily go through several rackets at each tournament.

Often upon arriving at tournaments, players will send their rackets to be re-strung to ensure they are at exactly the right tension ahead of play – the effect of pressure change at high altitude can affect the strings.

At the elite level, stringing needs to be extremely accurate and consistent as players at this standard are highly sensitive to even miniscule differences in tension, which can therefore affect their performance.

The dangers:

Read the label – every manufacturer provides information on safe tensions for each particular racket they produce.

Exceeding these limits can be dangerous, because the loss of repulsion that accompanies increased tension means the player is forced to put more into the shot to get the same level of power.

Should the player not be used to such tensions, there is a risk of elbow, shoulder and neck injuries, as well as significant damage to the racket itself.


The professional's opinion


We sat down with England national champion and Olympic bronze medallist Chris Langridge to learn exactly how important getting the right string tension is.

“When we go to tournaments we take anywhere between eight and ten rackets because in a match you could easily break four strings on different rackets, so you could use four or five,” he said.

“The most I’ve gone through is five in a match but that’s a lot. I’d be surprised if you have a good match and a string isn’t broken because everybody strings their racket quite tight.

“The strings are pulled almost to their maximum and one tiny mishit on a full power shot slightly off the centre and the string could go.”
So how does an Olympic medallist prefer to have their racket strung?

“I have my racket strung at either 30 or 31lbs. It’s quite tight but there are other players on tour who have them strung a lot tighter – up to 36lbs,” he explained.

“A racket will normally last me a week before the string goes, either with a mishit or it’s just worn away because we play for that many hours a day.

But while Langridge may play at the very top of the sport, he too had to start at the bottom, and has emphasised the importance of stringing for ability level.

“If you’re in the early stages of learning badminton and you string your racket too tight, you’re likely to break a lot of strings because you’re going to mishit it and it’s going to be expensive to keep stringing your racket,” he said.

“So when you’re learning it’s better to have your racket slightly looser, 20-22lbs. A string to go for when you’re a beginner is BG65 or BG65ti – a slightly more durable string, so it should last a little bit longer.”

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