31st July 2017. Of all the racket sports out there, badminton might be one of the easiest to learn, yet it is immensely difficult to attain mastery over the mechanics. The irregular paths the shuttlecock can take as you lob it through the air, plus the intense speed it can gather when your opponent smashes a return shot, make it a fun and exciting challenge. It's also an excellent workout since you'll be hopping and darting all around the court for an hour or two. Attaining the skills you need on the court and the athleticism you hone along the way will require more than just time: you need the right equipment, too. The badminton shuttlecock is a standard piece of equipment, but rackets vary from person to person. Which one will be right for you? Whether you want to replace an old and broken racket or you're planning to pick up the sport for the first time, this is an important decision. Looking at a racket alone can't tell you if it will be a good fit, though. For that, you'll need to pick it up and see for yourself. When you do, what criteria should you use to evaluate the racquet? Let's break down the important components of choosing this crucial piece of badminton equipment.
The shape of your racket is an important asset
One of the first things you should look at when examining badminton rackets is the shape of the racket head. Luckily, there are only two shapes common to the rackets of today, so you don't have to work hard to decide. We refer to these shapes as the "isometric" racket and the "oval" racket. An oval racket is just what you'd expect from the name; it has a generally oval shape and not much more to it than that. An isometric racket, on the other hand, has a slight taper at the top, making the equipment almost egg-shaped. What's the difference? If you are a beginner, an oval racquet will suit you best. Its larger surface area translates to a larger sweet spot. That's the area on the strings that allows you to hit the shuttlecock with the most comfort and force. Oval rackets are easier to adapt to using and won't fatigue the amateur's arm. However, if you want to pursue more power and control over your shots, choose the isometric racket instead. You will gain the ability to deliver more scorching smash returns but at the expense of a reduced sweet spot. With the right amount of practice, though, you can put the shuttlecock right on the spot during almost every volley.
What type of weight feels best in your hand?
After choosing the shape of the racket head, it's time to move on to the overall weight of your equipment. Since you'll be moving around a lot with the racket, you need to strike a good balance in its weight. A heavier racket will allow you to smash with more power, but will require a much stronger wrist and arm to use with effect. A lighter racket is the best choice for a beginner as it will allow you time to adjust to its motion. However, while it allows for faster movements and efficient volleys, it can leave you lacking when you want to smash back close to the net. To choose a racket's weight, you'll obviously need to hold it in your hand and give it a few practice swings. You do not need to guess about whether it is the best choice for you, though. Rackets break down into four different categories denoted by "U" and a number. U1 rackets are heaviest while U4s are the lightest. Do not choose an overly heavy racket, especially for your skill level. Too heavy and you will begin to overcompensate. That's not good for your arm or your game! Try all four weight classes in the store to see which you like best.
Balance matters: the different balance points of rackets
The distribution of all that weight is just as important as the total mass, too. In fact, the balance of the racquet might be its most important asset. There are three categories here: head light, evenly balanced, and head heavy weightings. Which one you choose will depend on the type of game you enjoy playing most. However, if you're on the search for a good all-around choice, we recommend you go straight for the balanced racket. Whether you play at the back of the court or right up near the net, an even balanced racket will always deliver consistent performance. A racket with more weight towards the head of the shaft will be top-heavy but will deliver more power. A head-heavy isometric racket can accelerate a shuttlecock to high speeds, zooming it past your opponent. It also makes precision hits more difficult and can require a lot of extra practice to grasp. It is a good choice for those who play to the back of the court. For the opposite situation, a head-light racket allows for quick swishes and smooth flicks. It's ideal for doubles play or tactically working at the net to end volleys or return an opponent's smashes. Balance the racket on your finger at the midpoint of the shaft ? the direction it leans will tell you it?s balance.
To flex or not to flex? Choosing racket stiffness
Have you looked at any rackets yet? If so, you might have noticed that the labels often list whether they are flexible or stiff. Stiffness is also an important but underrated aspect of the badminton racket. To text flexibility, grab a racket, hold it by the top, and gently try to bend it side to side. The flex should give you a good idea of how much movement is available in the shaft. It all has to do with how the racket behaves under the stress of moving through the air during your swing. If you swing quick, hard, and fast, do not choose a flexible racket. It will bend back just enough during its flight through the air to leave you striking too early. The result is a poorly hit shuttlecock lacking the right placement. Instead, choose a stiffer model to hold up to the stresses. If you use a slower movement, though, as many amateurs often do, a racket with more flex is best. This way you can still deliver the level of power you prefer, but without the loss of control other rackets may deliver. Practice will show you the way forward here; it's largely a matter of matching racquets to your play style!
Additional features and facets worth consideration
With these things in mind, choosing the best racket for your game shouldn't be hard. There are a few other things you might want to consider as well, just for the sake of comfort and control. Grip size is important; too large and you might struggle to control your racket accurately. Too small and the racket will slip out of your hands. Pick up several rackets to find a good grip for your hand. If you cannot find one that is ideal for you, try adding grip tape on your own. String tension can vary as well. You can always have your racket restrung, but choosing the right tension to start can make your practices easier. Rackets will display their tension range. Tighter strings provide a more solid surface for strong shots, while a looser tension will give you better control. Start with a tension that is on the lower end; as you develop your skills and style of play, you can choose to increase the tension to suit your tastes.
Practice with your new racket makes perfect
At first glance, purchasing a badminton racket might seem like an easy, straightforward task. If you want to get serious about your game, though, you'll need to delve deeper than that. By evaluating a racket on all the criteria we've gone over here, you can find one that suits your style of play the best. A comfortable racquet won't just help you with shot placement and sustaining volleys; it will be easier and less strenuous to use, keeping you in the game for more time. Next time you reach for a new racket, don't forget to give it a flex test and give it a few practice smashes. Follow @SportNessUK