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Racket talk: Get your swing weight right

The machine used to determine a racket's swing weight

Most players choose their badminton rackets based on ‘feel’, or more commonly, by what the stars endorse. That’s okay for someone who’s not serious about the game, but for those who hope to become decent players, these approaches just won’t do.

One of the commonest mistakes entry-level badminton players make it to go automatically for the lightest rackets around, without wondering if their style and body type require light rackets.

This is where swing weight comes into the picture. While players might lift a racket and ‘feel’ whether its weight is right for them, the stationary weight of the racket might be different from when it’s in motion. ‘Swing weight’ is how heavy or light a racket feels when it is in motion.

Swing weight is a combination of a racket’s stationary weight, length and balance point. It’s important to understand that a racket that ‘feels’ light might actually have a relatively higher swing weight.

How do you measure swing weight? And what does it mean to your game?

There are some do-it-yourself methods to determine swing weight, but the most accurate way is to test the racket on a swing weight machine. You clamp the grip on to the machine, push the frame, and let it swing. The machine will give you a number  (kilogrammes times centimeters squared) that indicates how much energy it took to move the racket through the arc. The higher the number, the higher the racket’s swing weight. Some rackets, even though their stationary weights might feel high, actually might have lower swing weights.

According to David Bone, executive director of the US Racquet Stringers Association, (quoted in Tennis magazine), one should use a (tennis) racket that has the heaviest swing weight you can handle without it feeling unwieldy. “In almost every way, a racket with a high swing weight is better,” he says.  “It’s more powerful, transmits less shock, and twists less on impact.”

According to P Bhaskar, an expert stringer and owner of the popular sport store Sportsline in Bangalore, most badminton players don’t pay adequate heed to the importance of swing weight. “A lot of tennis players check swing weight, but it’s not so well known in badminton. In badminton, players add their own grip to the handle  according to their convenience,” he says. “They don’t realize that they change the balance and swing weight by adding a grip.”

Bhaskar says it is important for players to learn the importance of swing weight. “It can make a big difference,” he says. “Most brands don’t mark the balancing point on their rackets, so a player adding a grip on the racket handle might alter its performance. Knowing the swing weight is especially important if you want to change your racket and choose the right one. Instead of looking for one that looks or feels similar to your previous racket, you can go by its swing weight.”

For more questions on swing weight, you can mail: bhaskar@sportslineindia.com

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