Badminton Central Guide to choosing Badminton Equipment

 

I have wanted to write a guide on what equipment badminton should focus on. By nature, badminton requires the player to have a few pieces of equipment to engage in the sports, items such as a racket and a shuttlecock are a must for a badminton player. However, often I see many player places the wrong focus on how they spend their money on equipment. A smart badminton player will spend money effectively to maximize their badminton playing experience.

However, before I start, I would like to point out that no badminton equipment can replace proper badminton skills. If you think you can spend US$200 on a racket and you can instantly play better, you are 105% wrong. A good set of equipment can only bring out the potential of a player with good skills. No equipment can fix your bad skills. Instead, I recommend you spend your money on some good coaching lessons. It will make much more difference in your badminton game than a shiny new racket.

I chose to list the equipment in decreasing order of important, in other words, I reckon that the badminton shoes is the most important equipment that a badminton player has, while their clothing is the least important.

Shoes

Contrary to popular belief, a good set of badminton shoes are the most important piece of equipment a badminton player can have. Badminton players move around the badminton court at an amazing pace, dashes and changes directions on every stroke of the rally, twisting and turning and lunging. All these movements are supported and made possible by the biggest unsung hero, the badminton shoes.

Badminton shoes are designed for badminton movements; a thin but well supported sole with good lateral support keep the player’s feet close to the ground, this allows for fast and ankle bending directional changes with lower chance of injury; light weight for faster feet movement; surface hugging gummy soles to grip the indoor surface without slipping.

The amount of torture we subject our lower body to can clearly be seen in people’s badminton shoes. A good pair of badminton shoes used by a decent player sometimes last only 3-6 months. At the end of its short life, you will find soles that are worn to the inner support, insoles that are worn through, strong upper leather that gave up and split due to the immense force exerted at it.

Pick your badminton shoes with care, make sure you choose the pair that fits the shape of your feet and thus the most comfortable.

And whatever you do, do not wear running shoes or any other thick soled shoes. They keep your feet too high up in the ground and all it will take is one deep lunge to have your ankle sprained. From then on, you will be in excruciating pain for days and the injury will affect your badminton game for years to come.

Good badminton shoes brands include Asics, Hi-Tec, Mizuno, and Yonex. Other smaller brands are starting to catching up as well.

String

The number two unsung hero of the badminton equipment is the badminton string. Afterall, it is the string that is in contact with the shuttle on every stroke. How the string interacts with the shuttle is crucial to the feel of each stroke. Depending on your skill level and the style of your game, you should pick a string and tension that is suitable for your game. String manufacturers usually have ratings of different string characteristics at the back of the string package. Pick the items that are most important for your game.

String tension affects the playability of the string as much as the string itself. The general rule of thumb is that the harder you can hit, the tighter your tension can be. A higher tension rewards a hard hitting while robs power from a light hitter. On the opposite end, a lower tensioned string helps light hitter with a better timed trampoline effect.

There is always the temptation to go higher in tension, but this is a case of bigger is not always better. Higher tension does not give you more power as mentioned above, beginners should always start with lower tension of around 20lbs, adjust it to 22-23lbs when you progress to intermediate and only go up to 25+lbs if you are gain more power in your technique. Using the inappropriate high tension will make the racket unresponsive, decreased power, and will easily cause injury.

Good brands for badminton strings are: Ashaway, Gosen, Mizuno, Yonex.

Recommended tensions: beginners: 19-20lbs . intermediate players: 21-24lbs. advance players: 25+ lbs.

Grip

The number three unsung hero of badminton equipment is the badminton grip. Similar to the string being the interface to the shuttle, the grip is the interface to the badminton player’s finger and hand. The game of badminton comprises of many very delicate movements and fine control from the player’s finger and wrist. A proper grip ensure that there is proper actuation and feedback to and from the racket.

Three major factors affects the characteristics of the grip: type, size and tackiness.

Badminton grips falls into two different type, towel and synthetic. The choice of which are personal preference. Towel grip are softer, provides good sweat absorption, but at the same time, is more prone to germ accumulation and needs to be changed often. Synthetic grips are less messy and less prone to accumulation of germs, however, they are not as good as towel grips when it comes to sweat absorption.

The proper grip size to use depends greatly on the player. Obviously a player with larger hands will prefer a larger grip and vice versa. It is often tempting to use a large grip, a large grip gives the false feeling that the racket is lighter and more maneuverable. However, one must again understand that badminton is comprised of subtle, agile and delicate movements in the fingers and wrist, a smaller (but not too small) grip will allow for higher agility and maneuverability of the racket.

Racket

Often times badminton players give the racket the most emphasis. If you go into badmintoncentral.com and you will find that most of the discussion centers on the racket. While the racket is certainly an important equipment, the importance of which is often overrated, and that is the reason why I put the Racket almost next to last in our recommendation list.

The badminton racket is the middleman when transferring force from the player to the shuttle, sitting right between the grip and the string. A badminton racket can be categorized by a few characteristics: shape, stiffness, weight, balance.

Virtually all badminton rackets are made of carbon fiber or graphite. Some manufacturers choose to put in extra ingredients into the racket material like titanium or recently nanocarbon. I want to emphasis that they are only addictives, the 99% of the racket is still graphite and the extra benefits of the additives are very marginal.

Badminton rackets comes in two major head shapes: Isometric/square and Oval. Oval is the traditional racket shape, it is a slightly bottom heavy oval, almost the shape of an egg. Oval rackets in general have a small but more concentrated sweet spot. Oval fans like the concentration of power around the sweetspot of the racket. The shape is the Isometric or square which became more popular after the early 1990′s. The Isometric head has a wider and more squared top half of the racket head. The advantage of the isometric is an enlarged sweetspot which give off-centered hit a better response.

The effective stiffness of a badminton racket is similar to the effective of string tension. So I will refer you back to that section. A stiffer racket has the similar effect as a higher tensioned string, while a flexible racket is similar to the lower tension string.

Rackets comes in different weights. Normally the racket alone weighs between 80-95g. Different manufacturers have different rating system, the most popular of which is Yonex’s U system, U = 95-100g, 2U = 90-94g, 3U = 85-89g, 4U = 80-84g. a racket’s weight determines how fast one can swing a racket, the lighter a racket, the faster one can swing it with the same force. In general, a lighter racket is more maneuverable than a heavy one. However, before everybody goes out and buy the lightest racket, I also want to point out that lighter isn’t always better. A light racket is less stable than a heavier racket, more force is necessary to keep its path, furthermore, a heavier racket has a larger momentum and thus more effective in transferring its speed and power to the shuttle.

The final racket characteristic is the balance of the racket. Head balanced racket is becoming more popular recently. Head balanced rackets have more mass near the head of the racket. A head balanced racket is more stable and have higher angular momentum when swung. On the contrary, a even balanced racket is more maneuverable.

As you can see, none of the different properties of the above characteristics are strictly better than other. Some players prefers slightly heavier rackets, some prefer slightly lighter, some like even balanced, some like head balanced. What I want to point out is that ultimately, it is a person’s skill level and style that determines what racket is suitable, go try them out if you can to see what fits.

Clothing

Badminton clothing is quite simple to choose. Aside from one personal fashion preference, badminton clothing is better kept light and unrestrictive. Shirts needs to be slightly loose and comfortable to allow for arm and body movements. Badminton is a game of sweat, very often we see a badminton player walks out of the court like he just came out of a shower. As it is always uncomfortable to have sweat stuck to one’s skin, sweat absorption and dissipation is thus important.  I used to be keep it simple with cotton shirts and swore by it. However, nowadays you will find me wearing a high tech sweat-wicking shirt. The technology has come a long way and they do work well even in hot weather. I only use cotton shirt after cooling down at the end of the day for the comfort when travelling from the club to home.

Shorts are the preference for most badminton players. Again, choose something that is light and not restrictive to movement, jumps and lunges are done often in badminton.

Again, clothing is mostly personal fashion preference, as long as the clothing allows for the extreme movements in badminton, it is usually quite ok.

I have mentioned it once and I will do it again here, while equipment is essential in badminton, the most important factor in badminton is still one’s badminton skills. Equipment will only have marginal effect on one’s game.