So let’s talk tension…string tension.
I’ve skirted the issue in the past, but the tension of your racket affects your game play a lot. The strings are strung at whatever “poundage” is best for you. Pro’s use the most tension (30lbs or more) while amateurs use less (20-28lbs). The higher the tension, the more control and power you have on a shot, but only if you hit the shuttle in the exact right spot.
With lower tension you can hit the birdie not exactly right and still get some benefits from the racket. Not so with higher tension. (It’s called “the sweet spot.” Lower tension means the sweet spot is bigger, but less predictable, where the higher tension has a smaller sweet spot but it’s more accurate.)
So lower tension is less precise, but easier which is why most amateurs have a lower tension.
Every article and video about tension stresses that you shouldn’t worry about your tension. That higher tension doesn’t mean higher skill and you shouldn’t try to play with a tension you are not comfortable with. You shouldn’t focus on the number, and being higher isn’t important. Play with what feels best.
Which is all good advice but they reason they all say it is exactly because higher tension does mean higher skill. Everyone wants higher tension because it means your skill level is better so a higher tension is a sort of pride.
And I did it, yo! With my second racket I said that my coach had it strung to 24lbs. (My first one was 22.) What I didn’t say was that I didn’t like it and I changed it back to 22 soon after. Then, when my friends bought me a new racket, I kept it at 22. My coach was encouraging me to go higher, but I said it wasn’t good and he didn’t push me.
But, that was a few months ago and I had been beginning to think it was time to up my tension. It was weird. I just *felt* like I should have higher tension. I felt like my shots weren’t as in control as I would have liked, especially at the net. And I blamed the tension on that (not my skill, which maybe was actually to blame.)
Last month I even asked my coach if I should restring my racket. Strings lose tension almost immediately and slowly over time they get weaker and weaker. Top players get their rackets restrung every 4 weeks or so. But my coach is a more practical guy and he checked my racket, saying my tension was still tight and I shouldn’t waste the money.
So, when I broke my strings last week I decided to give it a shot and go up to 24. And this time, I love it! My shots are faster (with the same effort) and my precise shots are going over more how I want them to.
So I’m psyched. I don’t really “get” tension totally (and I haven’t even begun trying to understand different string types) but I am beginning to feel something about the racket, and how the racket affects my playing. Not that long ago I played with any old racket and I thought they were the same. Now I know better!
P.S. Even though using a higher tension is kinda cooler you really shouldn’t go higher than you are comfortable with. Not only will it make you play worse but it can actually cause tennis elbow. So only play what you’re comfortable with. If you want to learn more about string tension you can read articles by professionals here and here. If you want to be cool and have higher tension, practice more! haha.