Once you have chosen what string to use from our Complete Guide To Badminton String, you need to decide your string tension. This post will outline the importance of string tension, dispel a few myths and guide you in choosing the right string tension for you!
A simple guide to choosing your string tension:
The feel and durability is on a scale, as this will depend on the exact tension chosen and the string used.
We will now discuss the following topics:
String tension is measured in either lbs or kg depending on which country you are from. Tensions range from around 18lbs to 34lbs and the difference between these is huge!!
A higher string tension
A lower string tension
The string tension you choose should depend on 2 things: your standard and the string you are using.
Advanced players are more suited to a higher tension. A higher string tension gives you more touch and control. However it does have a smaller sweet spot so you need to have good technique and timing. This is why a higher tension is more suited to advanced players. A high tension ranges from around 28lbs (or 12kg) and above, going up to the extremes of around 34lbs.
Intermediate players will need a slightly larger sweet spot than advanced players and also probably won’t want to pay for a restring every week! Therefore a string tension in the range of 24 – 28lbs would be suitable.
Beginner players shouldn’t have a string tension above 24lbs. Technique and timing should be developed before increasing the tension.
Overall, the tighter your strings, the more you need to time your shots. If you can’t generate fast racket head speed or consistently hit that sweet spot you will be at a disadvantage using a higher tension!
If you have tight strings and suffer from many string breaks then this could be why, because you’re miss-hitting the shot. When you miss-hit a shot the force of the shuttle goes through either the top or bottom of the racket. As there are only singular strings covering this area (as highlighted below) the strings are more likely to break at this point.
If you get injured a lot in your shoulder it could be because your strings are too tight and are less forgiving when you’re not hitting in that smaller sweet spot.
Men may often have tighter strings than women as they are able to generate more power. However, often with men it is just an ego competition as to ‘who can have the tightest strings’, but actually it’s probably hindering many of these people not helping them!
The second thing you need to consider when deciding your tension is the string you use. We would recommend reducing your tension if you go for a thinner string as it will be less durable than a thicker string at the same tension, but still give you great repulsion and power.
Make sure you check out our previous blog post on how to choose your badminton string here – Badminton String: How To Choose The Best String For You
I also urge you to try out different tensions to see what works best for you. It is a good idea to start off with a lower tension and then increase by 1lbs / 0.5kg to make sure you are comfortable with the tension before deciding to increase it further. Please refer to the table at the start of the post to decide your tension!
Often you will hear people saying they have a different tension in their main string to their cross string. Most restringers will string rackets with two pieces of string, one for the mains strings and the other for the cross strings. This is to protect the integrity of the racket head. Increasing the tension of the cross strings is another way to protect the shape of the racket.
It is recommended that the cross strings should be tensioned at 10% higher than the main strings. For example if you are stringing a racket at 30lbs you would string the main strings at 30lbs and the cross strings at 33lbs.
This is why some players ask for different tensions on the cross strings, to make sure of this. Some players may choose slightly less than 10%, others may choose more. Many players also prefer the feel a tighter cross string gives them.
It is also similar to the durability concept of Aerobite that we discussed in our previous blog post. The cross strings usually break less than the mains string. Therefore increasing the tension in the cross string doesn’t have a large impact on the durability.
If you are stringing at 10% higher on the cross string and this number is between two tensions then round up. For example, if you’re stringing a racket at 27lbs you would string the cross strings at 30lbs.
Pre stretching is where you tighten each string to a higher tension before tightening it to the correct tension. The idea behind this is that you remove any elasticity the string has inside of it, meaning that it will hold its tension for a longer period.
It is similar to why builders reinforce concrete!
Pre-stretching has varied popularity. Whilst it’s not widely used on the tour, it is very popular in Denmark for instance. The majority of the top players there have their strings pre-stretched. Many people tell me this was started by the likes of Peter Gade and Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen.
Pre-stretching is more commonly used in tennis where the string is both thicker and rougher therefore creating more kinks so pre-stretching is also used as a way to remove the strings coil memory.
On most electronic machines there is an option to pre-stretch at either 5%, 10%, 15% or 20%. This will then automatically pull the string to what you have set it to then release it and tighten it again for you. It only takes slightly longer than normal.
If you wish to pre-stretch on a manual machine then you should set the tension to the desired amount and tension it. Then wait for it to click in place and release the tension using the manual crank and then pull to the desired tension again. This will take you significantly longer and personally for 99% of players I don’t believe it is worth it!
Anyway, those were 2 slightly more advanced sections, now let’s go back to some more generic information!
A racket strung with the same string at different tensions is going to sound very different. For example, a racket strung at 22lbs will sound dull compared to a racket at 28lbs. The higher the tension, the more of a ‘ping’ you will hear.
This will also be dependent on the string you use – a racket strung with a thinner string will sound sharper and more vibrant than a racket strung at the same tension with a thicker string.
Believe it or not, listening to the sound of the strings against your hand is the best way to test the tension of a racket! In 2011 an app was launched called the Stringster (which you can check out here). This aims to test the tension of a racket by listening to its sound. There are a few other bits of information you have to input to the app, such as the string used and racket.
I have used this and found it to be very inaccurate and quite far off the exact tension. It may be a good option if you do not know what sort of sound difference to look for and just want a very rough guide.
You can also feel the strings and how much they move as obviously at a higher tension the less the strings will move. Similar to this you can press into the string bed with your two thumbs and gage a rough tension by how much you can push in. The more you can push in the looser the strings are.
If you want to hear the sound of different tensions, make sure you watch our video where you can hear the difference between a racket strung at 24lbs and 32lbs!
Note: Your string tension will decrease over time! Depending on how well your rackets are strung, the tension can drop by 1 – 3lbs within 1 week after a restring. This will continue to slightly drop the longer the strings are in and the more you play.
Whilst I have discussed stringing rackets at 30lbs and beyond, it is important to mention that if you string over the manufacturers recommended maximum tension you are doing so at your own risk! The maximum recommended tension can usually be found on the racket frame, or in the racket specification online.
The higher string tension you have, the more pressure you put through the racket. If you exceed the maximum recommended tension then you significantly increase the chance of the racket frame breaking after a clash of rackets, or even a powerful smash!
You should therefore have a careful think about increasing your tension if you don’t want your racket ending up like this:
You will also see professional players cutting their strings out as soon as they break a string because their tensions are so high. This is to relieve the tension and protect the frame from breaking.
A rule of thumb is that in a year you should get your rackets restrung the amount you roughly play per week. So if you play 3 times a week then 3 times per year, assuming your strings haven’t broken before this. If you have a thinner gauge string over 24lbs then you are going to be likely to break your strings more than this.
However, for advanced players you should probably have a restring at least once a month if they haven’t broken before this. This is because your tension will have reduced over this period and the strings will have lost some of their life. Again this depends on how much you are playing and what string and tension you have.
I string for Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith (WR 9) and in the last 2 months of training they have broken 64 strings, that’s 4 each per week! And that is only training once on court per day due to Coronavirus restrictions!
This is the second post I have written on badminton string. If you haven’t already then make sure you check out our first blog post here which tells you everything you need to know about badminton string. This includes what string is best for you and your playing style! In this post I also tell you the record amount of strings I have broken in a 2 hour session, and the record I have seen players in the top 10 in the world break!
Hopefully these two blog posts have covered everything you need to know about string and string tension. If you have any questions, or think I have missed anything out then please let me know in the comments below!
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