When to string and string ‘life’
When to know to string your racket can be confusing, especially if you have little experience in doing so we’ve created this guide to help you out!
You may notice when your racket is first strung that your shots sound crisp and it produces a nice ‘feel’ as well as you feeling that the shuttle has been hit well. As strings are designed to be elastic in order to produce power they will gradually lose elasticity like an elastic band - more some than others. When the string has reached the end of its elastic potential they need to be replaced as they’ll be more inclined to break and will reduce your shot’s power greatly. Another big sign is the fraying at the intersecting points of the strings as this shows the string is sawing through itself and is therefore nearing the end of its life.
The main factors that contribute to your string’s life are:
- How you hit it - if you regularly miss-hit the strings on the edge of the racket rather than on its ‘sweet-spot’ in the centre they won’t have the room to stretch and will be more inclined to snap, especially with thinner strings.
- String type - This will be covered in the next section but the ‘rougher’ and thinner the string, the more inclined it will be to break.
- String tension - If your strings are tighter than average (24Ibs+/-), then they’ll have less elasticity in them, and so will be less ‘forgiving’ for miss-hits.
- Grommets – if your racket’s grommets are worn through, or even worn away and the string contacts the frame itself then broken/sharp grommets will cut through the strings prematurely.
String types and gauges
In badminton there is a much smaller selection of strings compared to tennis but there is still a wide enough range to suit every playing style and different players’ requirements. Almost all badminton strings nowadays are made as multi-filament strings which basically mean there are thousands of minute strands in the core with braided ones on the outside finished by an outer wrap, which can provide different properties. You an also find strings with a solid core with smaller strands wrapped around it (known as a single-wrapped monofilament). Then there is natural gut, which is made from beef gut and is the best performing string out there although it has a very short life-span and costs twice that of a normal string!
Strings are generally designed to perform in one of the three areas: Repulsion, Durability and Control although some strings attempt to cover all three.
- Repulsion strings are more elastic and thinner than others and provide excellent ‘feel’ besides having greater repulsion power and giving more racket speed. These strings generally need to be strung a little tighter than thicker strings to maintain a good level of elasticity and control. Being a ‘performance’ string they need to be replaced more often than others due to their thinner gauge and faster loss of elasticity. These gauge at between .62mm to .68mm in diameter.
- Durability strings are the thicker of the strings, providing a ‘denser’ string bed and are able to withstand more of a beating. These are generally favoured by hard hitters who break strings frequently and they last a bit longer in terms of performance but at the same time don’t perform as well as a repulsion string due to the thicker gauges, a slightly heavier racket and more air resistance during shots. To create this durability, a lot of these strings are produced with a titanium hydride or nano-carbon fibre coating. They gauge from .69mm up to .82mm in diameter.
- Control strings can either be thick or thin and are generally combined with the other two types, although some manufacturers produce control-specific strings. A control string will produce a better ‘feel’ to allow for more assistance in shot placement while having a rough, braided or ‘raised-obtrusion’ surface to allow the string to ‘bite’ into the shuttle more in order to prevent excess shuttle movement on the string bed. Control strings are more of a ‘performance’ based string and so require changing a little more often. They can come in any gauge, but the better control gauges are those between .62mm to .68mm in diameter.
If you’re unsure of what string to go for, make sure you ask a racket technician or someone experienced in this area, but ultimately it’s down to personal preference!
String tension can be very subjective and there can be a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to this area of racket performance. Contrary to popular belief the tighter the string the LESS power it has but it does have more control and ‘feel’. It is also less durable. The looser the string, the more power and durability it has, but has less control and ‘feel’.
Loose strings go from about 18Ibs to 22Ibs, whereas the medium range goes from 23Ibs to 25Ibs and then 26Ibs onwards would be considered tight. You should only really consider putting your string tension up if you’re not having control of your shots or producing too much power that you’re consistently putting shots out. Only when your technique and physique is up to the level of being able to handle a higher tension should you consider raising the tension of your strings as otherwise you can give yourself an injury, such as tennis elbow.
One other reason for increasing string tension can be if you are using a very stretchy/elastic or thin string so that tension can be maintained for longer and increase its playability. Do remember that this can reduce the strings life as it’ll be more prone to snapping but a way around this is with pre-stretching the string. This is where the string is pre-stretched either during the stringing process on an electronic machine, or manually using various means prior to stringing. This will in turn take up a portion of elasticity of the string to reduce tension loss while being strung at your preferred tension. Note: this will reduce some of the string’s repulsive properties.
Always be sure to talk to your coach or stringer if you’re unsure on what tension to have in your racket so that it compliments your game, not hinder it.
The grip is the vital interface between your hand and your racket, so it is essential your grip is right for you otherwise your game will suffer. Although it is still personal preference when it comes to grip size, your grip must fit comfortably into your hand so you don’t need to over-grasp it in order to hold it firmly during shots but small enough in order to make effective use of grip tightening (important in all shots, especially over-head and back hands). The grip needs to allow for essential grip changing during play.
There are several of ways to tell if your grip is too thick or thin; if your racket grip width fills your palm then it’s too big as you won’t be able to change your grip quickly enough or generate enough power from grip-tightening. Also, if your arm, most likely your elbow, starts to ache from playing or even just swinging your racket then your grip could either be too thick or too thin. Grip thickness can be changed by removing or adding a layer of grip until it feels right. Finally, if you can’t feel the bevels (corners/edges) of the handle underneath the grip (the grip has a rounded feel) then your grip may again be too big. This could be detrimental to your game as you might not be able to determine exactly where your racket head is facing during play. Unfortunately, there’s no definitive way to tell what grip size you should have – all you need to do is experiment and see what works best for YOU!
One thing to always take into consideration is the grip itself that you use as there are three main kinds; replacement grip, over-grip and towel grip. The replacement grip is the thickest of all three and is generally aimed at comfort and absorption, which makes it very popular amongst players ofall ages and abilities, though be sure not to build these up too much otherwise your grip will start to become thick and will lose its ‘feel’. You can identify replacement grips as they have a cushion-like feel to them, have a sticky backing to hold them in place and measure at around 1.6mm+ thick.
Over-grips are thinner than replacement grips and can be applied in one of two ways – either with a 1/8th overlap or ½ wrapped to make the grip smooth. They are very absorbent and can either be tacky or dry to the touch while giving excellent feel and playability yet they need to be changed often. They usually come in reels or singularly wrapped and are very thin, usually measuring from .6mm. Towel grips can either be thick or thin, but are highly absorbent and comfortable but need to be ‘worked in’ and preferably used with grip powder to ensure a secure grip. Unfortunately, as they absorb so much sweat, bacteria will start to grow on the grip and it is therefore essential to change a towel grip regularly. Overall, they are very effective if controlling sweat is the main concern when looking at grip types.