You might have come across numerous articles on the internet and advice from fellow badminton players regarding the type of racket you should buy. More often than not these advice add confusion to the options available in the market.
Mr. Dipankar Bhattacharjee (Olympian, 3 times National Badminton Champion) had highlighted some important factors to consider while buying a racket in his post on spyn blog.
In this follow-up post to the series, spyn simplifies the decision making by recommending a racket type that suits your level and type of the game. It will also show some relevant options available so that you don’t have to be dependent on the salesman to make your choice.
Badminton racket for your level and type of game
Choosing a Racket simplified for Badminton Rookies.
Look at the two racket head shapes shown below. Do you see any differene?
You are right! Shape in figure (a) is tapered at the top (known as Oval shape) and the other one is broader at the top (known as Isometric or Square shape). Now, why is this an important factor?
An Isometric racket has 30% bigger ‘sweet spot’, which means, more area to hit the shuttle right (without banging on the string ends or the frame). To gauge the importance of hitting the shuttle with the sweet spot, it is enough to say that it is one of the 5 first-principles of badminton.
Wow! everyone then should buy an Isometric racket, right?
Not really. It depends on the level of your game. Challengers/Champs/Pros have the ability to use the sweet spot consistently even if the area is smaller (because of their high accuracy). What they require is more power in their shots. Oval shape rackets serve this need by offering lesser ‘sweet spot’ area but delivering much more power in the shots.
Hence, if you are a Newbie/Rookie/Middler, you should go for an Isometric racket but if you are a Challenger/Champ/Pro then you should go for an Oval shaped racket.
Is it that simple? Well, yes. No point in bringing more complications here.
However, just for the record, some Challengers/Champs/Pros also use Isometric when they are playing Doubles as the broader ‘sweet spot’ helps in hitting the shuttle travelling at higher speeds (unique to Doubles).
Take a racket frame (without strings and additional grip) and try placing your index finger on the shaft of the frame till you balance the racket on the finger (Point 2 is the midpoint of the racket).
If the racket balances at point 3, it is a ‘grip heavy’ or ‘head light‘ racket. This racket type should be used by players who like to maneuver the shuttle more than hitting smashes. Head light racket provides lesser power than the head heavy racket.
If the racket balances at point 2, which is also the midpoint of the racket length, it is an ‘even balanced‘ racket. It should be used by players who are still figuring out their natural game of play, i.e. they don’t know what is their strength (yet) in terms of maneuvers vs. smashes.
Lastly, if the racket balances at point 1 it is a ‘head heavy‘ racket. It should be used by players who like to hit smashes and are fine with losing a certain amount of maneuverability.
Do you always have to perform this test to know the balance? In addition, there are many rackets in the market with pre-fitted strings, how will you know the balance of those rackets?
Well, most companies print the information about the balance of a racket on the racket frame itself. Hence you don’t have to do this test always, just read the content printed on the racket before buying one.
Racket weight plays a very important role in badminton. Generally, 85 gm (without strings and additional grip) is considered as average weight . Anything above and below 85 gm needs to be selected based on your level and type of game.
Heavy rackets (>85 gm) provide more power and less maneuverability i.e. they help in hitting powerful shots but provide slower swings. Greater momentum due to the heavier weight makes the power transfer (from racket to the shuttle) easier. Hence if you have good muscle strength (especially strong wrist) and like playing power (smashes) games you should go for heavy rackets.
Light rackets (<85gm) provide lesser power but more maneuverability. Light rackets help in generating much faster swings and hence if your game is about maneuvers and quick & fast movements then you should go for these. Light rackets are also good for wrist movements and hence reduces the probability of injury.
Most rackets are available in multiple weight category like this racket from Yonex is available in both 3U and 4U category. Yonex has a famous metric system for weight. They use U = 95-100g, 2U = 90-94g, 3U = 85-89g, 4U = 80-84g. Whereas Victor prints the weight in gms on the racket.
4. FLEXIBILITY of the shaft
The angular bend produced by pulling the head (perpendicular to the face of the racket) keeping the grip side fixed defines the flexibility of a racket.
If there is slight to no-bend, the racket is said to be Stiff. Stiffness doesn’t allow the shuttle to remain in touch with the strings for long resulting in lesser power transfer to the shuttle. However, stiff rackets provide greater control due to very less distortion of the racket during shots.
On the other hand, if the bend is visible, the racket is called Flexible. Flexibility lets shuttle remain in touch with the strings longer hence more power gets transferred to the shuttle. If you are not-so-muscular or like to play power game you should choose a flexible racket. However, you might have to lose some control on the shuttle.
The stiffness/flexibility can also be managed through appropriate string tension. We will cover string tension and other supportive features in the next post.
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