A badminton racket. A tube of shuttle. A pair of sneakers. A beginner would claim that these three pieces of equipment, which can be easily found in your local retail superstore such as Walmart or Costco, are all you need to play badminton. While I agree that this may be what you need to start playing badminton, there is so much more to consider than simply acquiring these items if you want to maximize your badminton experience. Within each category, there is a wide variety of options – each with their own pros and cons. Choosing the right equipment can really make or break your badminton game. So let’s explore why it’s worthwhile to invest in proper badminton equipment.
Investing in proper badminton equipment will make the difference between being a decent player and being the best player you can be. Proper badminton equipment can amplify your personal play style and take your game to the next level, prevent unnecessary injury by protecting the most over-used body parts, and save players money in the long run.
If you are new to badminton, start off on the right foot by learning about the essential equipment needed to play badminton.
Amplify your Personal Play Style
Play style is the general term that refers to how a badminton player likes to play the game. Their signature. Their “M.O”. Typically, play style is broken down into offensive (or power players), defensive (or control) players, or all-round players.
Badminton equipment is designed with the goal of taking your play to the next level, or how I like to think of it: amplifying your play style. There are rackets that make you hit harder. Strings that allow you to maximize shuttle control. And grips that can enable optimal racket handling.
Let’s specifically look at three badminton equipment that should be deliberately selected to amplify your play style: the racket, the strings, and the grip.
How the Right Racket Can Boost Your Play Style
A properly chosen racket can boost your play style by targeting a specific area to improve – power, control, or racket handling skills. Major badminton manufacturers have developed specific technologies that magnify a particular quality. These can range from enabling steeper smashes, to faster swing speeds from greater aerodynamics, to quicker recovery times, to maximizing forehand and backhand shots in the same racket. Choosing the right racket can enhance a particular quality, while arbitrarily choosing a racket can result in the opposite effect.
Outside of fancy technology and racket design, arguably the most crucial factor consider in a racket as it relates to play style is the balance of the racket. The balance of the racket refers to where along the shaft of the racket you can place your finger to have the racket be perfectly still and horizontal. Head-heavy rackets have weight concentrated towards the frame of the racket. Head-light rackets have weight concentrated towards the handle of the racket. Whereas even balanced rackets have weight distributed rather evenly along the entirety of the racket as not to obviously favor the handle or the racket head.
Offensive players want to choose rackets that are head-heavy, as the weight distribution at the top of the racket allows the player to generate additional momentum out of their swings. This translates into additional power behind each of their shots, which will whittle away at the defense of their opponents. Did someone mention overwhelming power? For a racket that produces crushing power, I would recommend the Yonex Voltric Z Force II.
Defensive players should go for head-light rackets. Head-light rackets allow players to whip them around at high speeds to defend, place, and even trick their opponents. The ability to move your racket around is also known as racket handling. A racket that provides easy racket handling and keeps its wield in complete control of each and every shot is the Yonex Nanoflare 800.
All-round players should opt for even balanced rackets. These rackets offer dependable power without sacrificing racket handling. Many beginners start with even balanced rackets if they have yet to discover their play style. The Yonex Nanoray Z-Speed is able to slice through the air like butter and deliver insane smashes due to its sleek aerodynamics.
Players who have defined their unique play style will be rewarded by choosing a racket with the right balance. Just imagine – if you are a power player and you choose a head-light racket. Your aggressive shots may frustratingly be lackluster. Or a defensive player wielding a head-heavy racket may find their swings being sluggishly slow.
How the Right Strings Boost Your Play Style
Badminton strings, like the racket, are designed to offer different benefits to its user. Badminton companies have invested in boosting string technologies for badminton players. Some strings generate repulsion power for those power hungry offensive players. Some strings offer heightened shock absorption – subtle plug for the injury prevention section below. While still other strings prioritize control, a defensive player’s best ally.
I have mentioned above that each player generally identifies with a particular play style. Let’s revisit what play styles there are: offensive, defensive, or all-round.
Offensive players should choose strings that index high on producing repulsion power. These strings are generally thinner or have a smaller gauge. Thinner strings causes the force behind the shuttle strike to be spread across a smaller surface area, where this concentration of force is then transferred more directly into the shuttle, resulting in more explosive speeds. You can’t go wrong with the Yonex Aerobite if you’re seeking high repulsion power.
Defensive players should opt for strings that rank high in the control department. Strings which deliver control give players the assurance that the shuttle will be placed where they intend it to go with each shot. The Yonex Nanogy 99 is second to none when it comes to control.
All-round players need not to prioritize either of the extremes of power or control, and can instead go for strings that are durable, which are typically thicker in gauge. If you ask any seasoned badminton player what strings they would recommend for durability, 10/10 you will hear a common answer of the Yonex BG65.
Outside of the actual string products, badminton players should also be aware of what string tension they are opting for their racket to be strung at. Lower string tensions produce a larger trampoline effect that adds power through rebounding off the string bed and back at the opponent. Power players who are seeking a boost in strength from strings can opt for tensions between 17 – 21 lbs.
High string tensions minimize string and shuttle contact time, causing the shuttle to bounce off the string bed faster, maintaining more control over the shuttle’s direction. My recommendation if you’re looking for an optimal string tension for control without violating manufacturer warranties is 25 lbs.
Neglecting to choose the right strings is like bringing a knife to a gunfight. It will not only make you ill-equipped for the match-up, but can put you at a severe disadvantage. If you pride yourself in a control game, but use strings that demonstrate high repulsion power at low string tensions, you may lose your competitive edge!
How the Right Grip Boosts Your Play Style
The grip is the material that is wrapped around the handle of a racket. This is not to be confused with how a player wields their racket, which is also referred to in terms of grip (such as forehand or backhand grip).
Surprisingly, grips are also able to complement a badminton player’s play style. Thick, but light, grips such as the Yonex Towel Grip are meant for power players. These grips allow players to easily apply a strong holding grip to the racket, which helps translate strength from the player into the shot, without tipping the balance of head-heavy rackets power players use.
On the other hand, thin but heavier grips such as the Yonex Synthetic Leather Excel Grip are geared towards defensive players. These grips preserve a head-light balance while maintaining the ability for subtle and nimble finger movements to keep maximum control in each rally.
Do not settle for any run of the mill grip. You may be doing yourself and your partner a huge disservice by unintentionally sabotaging your own game play!
Prevent Unnecessary Injuries
We can all agree, injuries are bad. They hurt. They can prevent us from doing what we love (such as badminton). And they can be quite expensive if you need rehabilitation, physical therapy, or in the worst case scenario – surgery!
Using the right badminton equipment can prevent sprained ankles, rotator cuff tears, and inflammation in the wrist and shoulder. These are among the most common injuries sustained in badminton and is definitely worth taking a moment to read about.
Let’s take a look at how four different considerations in badminton equipment can help prevent unnecessary injuries: stability in badminton shoes, and racket balance, racket weight, and racket flex determined in racket selection.
Badminton Shoes Provide Stability to the Ankle
Badminton shoes are designed to provide additional support and stability around the ankle. This helps to secure the ankle by limiting the range of over-extension of the ankle and largely decreasing the chance of ankle sprains.
Badminton is an extremely explosive sport. It is full of quick movements such as lunges, jumps, twists, turns, side steps, split steps, and much more. While these movements keep the sport exciting, it also creates an injury prone environment for badminton players.
Many sports have shoes designed specifically for the sport – running, tennis, basketball – and badminton is no different!
Badminton shoes with good stability have firm material that does not twist or move much when agitated. This is specifically important to prevent ankle sprains, which typically occurs when a player missteps and irregular pressure is placed on the ankle. Imagine your foot trying to stop your movement, but it’s unable to handle the momentum, so the rest of your body weight topples over your ankle and creates a roll-over feeling. This can result in straining the muscle or ligaments around the ankle. Ouch! Shoes that are specifically designed to offer stability will decrease – but not completely prevent – ankle sprain frequency.
Yonex’s Power Graphite technology helps improve stability by making the sole of the shoe stronger and more dense, which minimizes the twisting of the foot upon landing. I would recommend picking up a pair of the Yonex Power Cushion 65 Z 2 – this shoe is phenomenal for stability, but also has state of the art features to help its player move quickly and reduce landing lag.
On a side note — outside of preventing unnecessary injury, owning a pair of badminton shoes may very well make the difference between being able to play badminton all together. On more casual badminton courts such as community centers and school gymnasiums, there may not be a strict requirement to wear specific shoes. You can see people wearing anything from regular walking shoes to sandals and occasionally even barefoot (gross, right?).
However, in badminton facilities that are built with one purpose only – for badminton play – a common requirement is to disallow marking shoes. Marking shoes are typically black-soled and leave streaks or marks on the ground when the shoes make contact with the hard surface. Badminton gyms hate this because it leaves residue on the court and is a hassle to clean up. For professional gyms that use special court paddings, this can even be irreversibly damaging to the expensive mats.
To be safe and not have to wonder if your shoes are marking or not, just invest in a pair of badminton shoes!
The Right Racket Balance Can Prevent Rotator Cuff Tears
Racket balance, we meet again, old friend! As I mentioned above, racket balance can complement and bring out your unique play style. In this section, I will also cover how choosing the right balance in your racket can also prevent injuries – the biggest culprit being rotator cuff tears.
Players, especially beginners, who do not have the necessary technique and strength will be doing themselves an injustice by choosing head-heavy rackets as their racket of choice. Head-heavy rackets, while phenomenal for generating powerful shots, will put a load of stress on the shoulder. Over time, the repetitive stress on the shoulder can cause inflammation and then tears in the muscles around the shoulder.
This situation is not only painful, but can cause a downward spiraling situation. An inflamed shoulder area leads to decreased power generation, which may entice players to over-exert themselves to force out more power, further damaging their already injured body.
Instead, beginners or players who had not yet developed the proper muscle strength should opt for even balanced or head-light rackets to lighten the stress on their shoulders. My recommendation would be to look at the Yonex Nanoray 10F, whose aerodynamic frame and head-light balance blend to enable fast swing speeds that helps avoid fatigue on the player.
If you’re a beginner, you’ll definitely want to explore these racket options that are tailored towards beginner players.
The Correct Racket Weight Reduces Stress on the Shoulder and Wrist
Racket weight refers to how much the overall racket weighs (pretty straightforward, right?). If you are a fan of Yonex like I am, you may notice that the company classifies its racket weights from 1U to 3F. 1U is at the heavier side of the spectrum, while 3F is the lightest weight classification you can find in their rackets.
Heavy rackets can pack a big punch, given its higher mass, but the tradeoff is the strain it puts on the body – specifically the shoulder and wrist. Similar to the cautious above of not having the necessary strength to wield heavy-heavy balanced rackets, rackets that are too heavy in total weight can lead to accelerated muscle fatigue and injury.
One common problem, outside of the rotator cuff tear, is that heavier rackets can put immense strain on the wrist. With the fast paced nature of the game comes the demand to be able to nimbly move around the racket to defend or hit the shuttle. Undeniably, the heavier the racket, the harder it is to maneuver the racket around and takes more finger and wrist strength to do it at the same speed as lighter rackets.
My suggestion is to throw your pride out the window and choose the racket weight that will not be overbearing on your body. If you are unsure about what racket weight to choose, know that most professionals will play with 3U rackets, which is near the heavier end of the weight spectrum. Opt for one that is lower on the weight spectrum – such as 4U – if you are new or unsure. Or better yet, borrow and try different rackets from your friends and take note of which ones work for you at the end of a badminton session.
The racket is your most trusty companion on the court – as much as it is an investment, make sure it works for you.
Proper Racket Flex can Prevent Inflammation
Racket flex refers to the flexibility of the racket’s shaft. Generally, flex is defined along a spectrum. For Yonex, their rackets range from HI-Flex (high flexity) to Extra stiff, with medium and stiff falling between the two extremes.
The flexibility of a racket is a factor to consider and should complement a player’s swing speed. A racket’s flex will determine how quickly the racket snaps back and returns to its neutral upright position from a swing.
Players with a slower swing should play with a medium or HI-Flex racket, as the racket takes more time to recover, which allows for proper transfer of power from the swing to the shuttle. On the other hand, players with faster swing speeds can take advantage of stiff or extra stiff rackets as their swing and timing of shot will transmit explosive power without loss of force into the shuttle.
Players with a slow swing may be frustrated with the performance of stiff and extra stiff rackets as they would seemingly not be able to generate much power from the racket. This is because the racket’s stiffness causes the racket to return to its neutral state sooner than the racket comes into contact with the shuttle, losing out on transferring the power from the swing. To compensate, players may forcibly swing faster (either by means over overexerting or improper technique) which will put additional stress on their body, namely the shoulder. Similar to improper selection of racket weight, over-stressing the body may lead to inflammation and tears in the body’s muscles and ligaments.
My suggestion would be to avoid the hype of top end rackets if you find it difficult to handle stiff or extra stiff rackets, which are generally used by the top players in the professional badminton circuit. These players have become experts at the sport for a reason.
Don’t get caught up in the marketing scheme! Especially if you are starting out, choose a medium flex racket at max. Then depending on how you feel with it, move up or down in flexibility as it suits your game. Consider picking up the Victor Auraspeed 30H – this all-round racket has the ability to generate repulsion speed and swift swing speeds, all with a medium flex.
Remember, at the end of the day, your health is the no. 1 priority. Don’t fall prey to ego or needing to impress your friends.
Save Money in the Long Run
If you have played badminton for as long as I have (15 years and counting!) you would have picked up how pricey it could be to play badminton. It’s somewhat deceiving for sure as the basic equipment needed include just a racket, shoes, and shuttles. However, badminton equipment – especially shuttles and strings – are quite fragile.
Let’s dive into ways we can save money with the shuttle and strings.
Pick Goose Feathered or Synthetic Shuttles; Ignore Duck Feathered Shuttles
The shuttle typically comes in a synthetic (plastic) or feathered version. These are quite delicate, and depending on the play style of the group you are playing with, can become completely obliterated in a matter of rallies. Feathered shuttles in particular, which can fetch a pretty penny, may last as little as a few shots!
My recommendation to save some money on the shuttle front is to opt for synthetic shuttles if you’re a beginner, casual player, or a young player that is training in badminton. If you fall under this type of player, synthetic shuttles will allow you to enjoy the game, learn, try different shots, all with the peace of mind of not running through your piggy bank.
The Yonex Mavis 350 is what I think offers the best value out of Yonex’s line of synthetic shuttles. The Mavis 350 performs well in flight and consistency, and its high durability allows it to endure wear and tear and last a while.
If you are an intermediate to advanced player, you would most likely prefer to play with feathered shuttle. However, with that expensive tastes comes a bigger price tag. My recommendation here would be to avoid feathered shuttles made of duck feathers as these are far inferior to those of goose feathers.
Even within goose feathered shuttles, there are many different tiers of quality depending on which feather of the goose is selected to make the shuttle. Take Yonex’s feathered shuttle series for example. The duck feathered shuttles – Aeroclub – should be forgone all together. Whereas the goose feathered shuttle series – Aerosensa (AS) – is broken out into different products: AS-10, AS-20, AS-30, AS-40, and AS-50. Forget about the AS-10 and AS-20s as their durability is not worth your dollar. Instead, depending on your budget and the caliber of players you play with and the level of play you play at, decide between AS-30 through AS-50.
The AS-30 holds the best value for what it offers in terms of durability, flight, and consistency for its cost. You can rely on the result of this tier of Yonex feathered shuttles. On the upper-end of the range, the AS-50 offers supreme quality of player that is noticeable in each and every shuttle. If you are looking for the best performing shuttle, you will not be disappointed with the AS-50.
Precise String and Tension Selection can Save Some Big Bucks
I mentioned in the first section how strings can enhance your play style – whether that be through power or control. To achieve this, strings are made thinner or thicker based off what you are aiming to achieve.
A bad combination that would be tough on the wallet is pairing a player who has not achieved proper hit timings with a pair of thin strings such as the Aerosonic or Aerobite strings. Thin strings are less durable as they have lesser surface area to absorb the impact of the shot. A mishit, defined as hitting outside of the racket bed’s sweet spot, will unevenly apply force to the racket strings and make it most susceptible to snapping. In the case of badminton strings, once a single string snaps, you will have to replace the entire string bed.
Do not, I repeat, do NOT try to replace the singular broken string as it is never efficient nor sustainable.
My recommendation here would be to choose strings that suit your level of play. If you are a beginner, opt for more durable strings such as the trustworthy, tried and true Yonex BG65. Then as your level of play rises, feel free to experiment with thinner strings at your own expense (literally).
What goes hand in hand with the above recommendation is a consciousness towards string tension. A myth in the badminton community is that the higher the string tension you play at, the better you are. To boost one’s ego, players will sometimes choose absurdly high tensions for their strings to be strung at.
Strings at high tensions are more susceptible to snapping as there is a relatively higher amount of pressure exerted across the string-bed than lower string tensions. This makes the likelihood of the strings snapping during a mishit much higher. The amount of pressure that extremely high string tensions exert on the frame may even compromise the durability of the racket frame, which is why manufacturers have factory limits to string tensions. Strings that are strung beyond the limit will no longer be eligible for factory warranties if the racket frame collapses due to the high string tension.
If you are a beginner, I would suggest you to go for a lower string tension (17 – 21 lbs, 7.7 – 9.5 kg) until you are comfortable in consistently hitting the shuttle within the racket’s sweet spot. As you build up your strength, technique, and accuracy, then you can gradually increase the string tension.
Arbitrarily starting with high string tension will not only put your strings at risk of snapping, but in the worst case scenario even destroy your racket all together.
Heed our advice here. Trust us, your wallet will thank you.
Maximize your enjoyment of badminton by investing in proper badminton equipment. It will not only allow you to play as the best version of yourself, but can also prevent career (or hobby) ending injuries, and save you money along the way.
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