Ultimate Guide to Racquet Stringing

Ultimate Guide To Racquet Stringing

Never strung your racket before?

There’s no time like the present to learn.

You’re going to have to figure it out at some point, and it might as well be now.

Tennis racket strings break fairly frequently, especially if you’re getting ample playtime out of them.

There’s nothing wrong with that; it means it’s being used.

The frame is designed to last for ages, but the strings go through a lot of pressure and stress while you use them.

We need to make sure the lines are taut, the racket frame is solid and sturdy, and your stringing patterns are on point.

This guide will tell you everything from how to string your racquet, to what happens when a tennis ball collides with the strings.

It’s all pretty fascinating stuff, so just be open to learning all about racket stringing and we’ll figure out everything there is to know about it.

What Tension Should Your Tennis Racket Be?

Tensions on Racket

Around 45-55 lbs of tension for a standard racket that’s used by an average build adult.

Junior rackets have entirely different requirements, so if you have kids, they’ll have five different tension and size ratings to go off of.

There are plenty of professional tennis players who use higher ratings as well, but 45-55 lbs is the standard amount.

Federer, for example, usually uses a 70 lb rating on his racket to get the most tension.

He’s a well-trained tennis player, so that extra bit of tension lets him lob balls farther than most athletes.

You’ll find your own preferred setting after using these for a short while.

If you have the option, you should test out higher tension weight settings to get a feel for what works for you.

It’s different for everyone.

If you come from an athletic background and already have some developed muscles in your wrist and arms, you’re more likely to use a higher tension racket (which usually tends to be larger as well as a bit heavier) and have it be effective for you.

What is the Best Tennis String Tension for Power?

Strong Tension

The higher, the more power you’re going to have.

If that sounds too simple, that’s because it is.

You have to first know exactly how these weight ratings are measured, because “This is a 55 lb racket” doesn’t mean “This racket weighs 55 lbs,” which is a common first conception.

Rackets never weigh over two pounds at absolute max, for starters, and the pound rating requires to how many pounds of pressure was required during stringing.

This is, of course, a lot easier to determine with a stringing machine than it is by hand.

70 lbs are usually the ceiling on tennis rackets since most modern-day ones are made out of aluminum and graphite, with a bit of fiberglass thrown in the mix from time to time.

70 lbs of tension is the most powerful you should have your racket because nothing that’s currently manufactured has the capability to hold onto something crazy like a 90 lb racket (which some stringing machines, for some reason, can help you with).

If you’re not on a pro tennis player level, you can stick to 55 lbs of tension to maintain great control. Control is just as important as power.

If your opponent is fast on their feet, how far you lob it is only going to matter so much. You want to retain control so you know where the shot is going to land.

Once you have control in the bag, that’s when you can increase the power to see positive results. 70 lbs are the best power you’re going to get.

Comparative Chart for Low Tension to High Tension

Attribute Low Tension High Tension
Power Power is dramatically lowered here. With a lower tension, you’re going to hit the ball and have a lower MPH arise from your efforts, but that can be a good thing depending on your physical capabilities. If you’re a shorter person who generally has a lower center of gravity, then this isn’t going to be a problem. Higher power, and a faster MPH rating when you lob this over the net. Higher tension takes the kinetic energy and turns it into vibrations in the center of the string surface on your racket, which is like mirroring the energy back into the ball. When you have lower tension, it sort of cushions it and you lose some of that energy. With high tension, the faster it comes at you, the faster you’ll be able to send it back.
Control Comparatively, you have more control with lower tension for the simple fact of slowing down the ball as mentioned in the power section. When you slow it down, you’re basically giving yourself more time (even if it’s fractions of seconds) to reposition the ball and send it back in a different direction or angle. Less control here all the way. While you’re lobbing it at a higher speed, speed and control are not mutually exclusive. You want to hit the ball back at an angle so that you’re repositioning where it’s going to land on the other side of the court.
Durability Rackets strung at lower tension tend to have more durability. You’re relying on the give of the strings to cushion the blow and the kinetic energy from the ball, and it does that well. Otherwise, you’d have what high tension does, and that’s taking the brunt of the force and possibly damaging the strings. Light tension is better for your racket’s durability in the long haul. You have slightly less durability here. It’s nothing that’s going to destroy you and your game, but with more tension the grommets are likely to buckle or be damaged worse, and the impact of the ball on the strings is definitely going to be harder for your racket to handle. High tension rackets are going to see an increase in broken strings, perhaps as much as 1-2 extra restringing sessions per the calendar year.
Resistance Resistance is best measured by how little the item changes when it meets an object of force. In this instance, you want less resistance, because that’s what’s going to lead to the better cushioning from withstanding the impact of the ball. You’ll have the highest resistance possible for a tennis racket around 70 lbs, and that means the ball is going to ricochet off of it. Think of it like this: resistance equals vibrations in the handle. The more resistance, the more vibration it’s going to receive bu be unaffected by it.
Comfort You have to apply less pressure to your racket here to get the desired results, so the comfort is actually better. Less sturdy grip, more give from the strings, and an overall more relaxing experience. You’re going to feel the brunt of every tennis ball when it hits the string grid. Vibrations will often ripple down through the handle since the elasticity of your strings isn’t really being taken into account.

How About Medium Grade?

Medium Grade Tensions

This is basically a gray area; there’s no “medium grade” tension by definition.

You have high, you have low, and you have tensions that are on the high or low side of each of those categories.

If you were to put a racket tension setting at a very precise 57 lbs (roughly halfway between light and heavy), then you’re just stuck with an awkward racket.

There’s nothing special about this racket setting, so there’s not much of a need to opt for it.

If you are extremely particular and you can feel every little vibration, then you simply need to try different tension ratings.

One of them is bound to work for you regardless of your sensitivity.

Work on the wrist and arm muscle control and building them over time in order to reduce that sensitivity, and then you might be able to upgrade to a higher tension racket for more power once you get control down.

A Little Lesson in Kinetic Energy

This is something that your racket doesn’t have, it helps to produce it.

Kinetic energy is the energy an item has while its mass is traveling at a high speed.

From the position of rest (inanimate) to its velocity (movement), that’s how you determine the kinetic energy or KE of a moving object.

In short, it’s what happens to the tennis ball when you use a tense racket to send it flying through the air.

Motion defines KE.

There are weapons that use nothing but kinetic energy to make an impact, it’s the reason you have such a hard time stopping when you run really fast, and it’s the energy that the wind produces that then turns a windmill blade.

How Much Tension Does a Tennis Racquet Lose?

Losing Hitting the Ball

It’s tough to say because it all depends on how you’re using it.

Are you at the courts every single day?

Are you constantly playing in your backyard DIY tennis court?

The more you use it and the harder you hit, the more tension loss you’re going to see.

Looking back to our lesson on kinetic energy, the more energy it’s stopping means that more energy that’s pushing against the tension on those strings.

If you play with a tennis ball machine on the highest MPH setting, you’ll lose more tension than if you play on a lower setting.

If your tennis partner has an arm on them and hit powerful shots, you’re going to lose tension when you bounce those back.

Stringing gauge also has a part in this.

The higher the gauge, the less likely it is to lose tension, provided that you put those strings in a racket with subsequent grommets that can actually handle it.

Which Strings do I Use?

There are two main types of strings, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.

Some of this comes down to preference, but it is worth mentioning that the first one we’re going to mention, natural gut, is deemed superior by the best professionals in the world.

Natural Gut

Yeah, it’s exactly what it sounds like.

Back in the day, archers would use a natural gut string called sinew for crossbows and bows and then decimate in medieval warfare.

It suffices to say that this is the better pick, primarily because of the perfect blend between elasticity and firmness.

They’re durable and built to last due to the natural polymer located in the gut string, which withstands vibrations and movement a lot better than synthetics do.

If you’re trying to use what the pros use, then Federer is a big fan of natural gut strings and the bit of an edge that they provide.

Synthetic

Synthetic tennis string

Synthetic strings are made out of nylon or polyester.

Whichever one you wish to use is up to you, though it’s more common for your nylon strings to break than it is for your polyester strings to break.

Nylon is a bit stiffer, which is good for high tension, whereas polyester fit the 45-55 lb tension rating range a lot better because it has more give.

The ball will sink into this a little bit before being returned to the sender. Polyester lasts longer and is about the same cost as nylon.

In total, you could string up your tennis racket about five times with nylon strings, and you’d be spending the same as a single set of natural gut string.

How to Increase Tension on a Tennis Racquet?

Stringing Tennis Rackets

If you’re the one that’s stringing this up, you have total control over the tension.

The more tension you have, the tighter your strings will be and the more power you’re going to have in your shots.

At a certain point, there is such a thing as too much tension, but hopefully, we won’t hit that at all.

During stringing, if you’re using a one-string method, you’re going to have a tougher time gaining tension.

You have to run the string through these rubber knobs that are called grommets on the inside of your tennis racket.

There’s normally no problem doing this, except then you have to pull them taut and that’s when the tension comes in.

If you’re using a stringing machine, which you definitely should be, you’ll have to get a separate tension measurement system to test out the strings.

Normally, they’re used after the racket is strung to test how powerful it is.

If you’re doing a two-string method, then you’re in luck because you have two points to access the tension relief or increase area from.

This means you have one single string that’s controlling all of your horizontal (cross) strings, and one for vertical.

When it comes time to add tension, you’re going to be happier with a two-string method, though it’s speculated by many professionals that a one-string method is far superior for longevity and retaining that tension.

Use a tension measurement device to see how many pounds of tension you currently have now that you’ve strung the entire thing.

We’re willing to bet that it’s around 45-50 lbs, and you definitely want more than that.

Now that you know what you’re working with, keep that tension device on the string grid.

Go to your grommet where the final string was pulled (either on a one or two-string method), and undo the knot.

Tug on it until the strings get tighter, but ease into it so you don’t snap anything. Can you feel that resistance?

The more resistance you get, the more tension you have on the racket.

The device should be registering an increase in the tension so you know where you’re at.

Get it to the desired tension, and tie the knot back. Before you tie the knot, try to remove the tension measure device so it doesn’t get stuck there.

Once it’s tied off, you’ve done it—you have a more tense racket. This is something you likely won’t have to do again for a very long time.

What is Hybrid Stringing?

Hybrid Stringing Technique

It has two references.

The first one is when you just use two pieces of string and run one vertically through your racket, and the other horizontally.

That’s not really what it’s all about though.

Hybrid stringing, in its normal fashion, is when you use two different pieces of string, such as one synthetic nylon and one natural gut, and you weave those together on your racket.

One will still be running vertically while the other goes horizontally, but this gives a unique and dynamic profile to the racket that you just can’t buy off the shelf.

How Does String Gauge Affect Performance?

String Gauges for Tennis

The thicker the string is on your tennis racket, the more tension you’re going to be able to apply.

That being said, the racket’s grommets also have to be able to sustain more tension, so you’re at a bit of an impasse.

This is where rackets get expensive.

When natural gut strings are being made, it’s like pulling teeth to even try to get them to be a bigger gauge.

Gauges run from a size 15 up to a size 19, with some L (long) sizes thrown in the mix as well.

The funny thing is, it works in reverse order; the numbers are counterintuitive.

Your size 15 is actually the largest (1.51 mm to 1.49 mm), while the 19 is the smallest (1.00 mm to 1.10 mm). It affects durability as well as control in all areas.

How do You String Your Own Racket?

Let’s prepare your racquet before we do anything.

This is an nine-step informational guide on how to string it, so follow closely, because one small slip-up could send you right back to the starting line. Let’s get to it.

1. Find the Right Stringing Machine for the Job

Stringing Machines

We’ve compiled an entire list on stringing machines and what makes them kick if you’re interested.

There are a few factors that go into choosing the right one, so be careful when selecting.

Two-point systems are good, six-point systems will take less time but cost more. Once you’ve gotten your stringing machine, set it up in a proper spot.

Stand machines should go on the floor while tabletop machines will work well on a kitchen table or counter for the time being.

2. Measure Your String

If your racket is 100 square inches on the surface, then you’ll need about 40 feet worth of string. You should have the string in one straight line since that’s how we’re going to do this.

This can be exceptionally difficult to do when it’s all coiled up, especially if you’re replacing it with natural gut strings.

A pro tip is that if you bought 50 ft worth of string, just measure out ten and cut it there—voila.

3. Cut Out the Old Strings

These are where the strings go through, and where you’ll be gently pulling the old ones out of.

Out with the old, in with the new, right? You need to carefully cut out the old strings while keeping your eyes out for the grommets on the edge of your racket.

Grommets have rubber around the edges of where the strings go and usually last 2-3 years. Inspect them and determine if they’re still viable or if you need to replace them.

4. Mounting

Assuming that you are using a stringing machine, you will have mounting racks on different points of the machine.

These are to keep the racket in place while you string it.

Your head size will vary, but that’s why they’re adjustable to accommodate for every known head size (it’s rare to find a stringing machine that doesn’t have this feature).

This is where the two-point versus six-point debate comes into play.

Six points allow you to position this a lot better. If you’re using a two-point, give it a little jiggle to make sure it’s not going anywhere.

You don’t want it slipping once it’s mounted.

5. Decide on a String Pattern

String Patterns for Tennis

Here’s the part we’ve all been waiting for.

This is where the fun starts.

You have to decide on a one-string or a two-string pattern.

For the same of this, we’re using one string and the one-string pattern and avoiding hybrid stringing for the time being.

6. Pulling the Main

Starting vertically so that the handle is facing you, you’ll want to pull the string through one grommet and then through the next on the top of the racket.

Run this in reverse order like a cross-stitch until you’ve filled all the vertical grommets. It’s time to pull the clamp to keep the final one in place.

7. Pulling

You’ve likely received an awl and tool kit in your stringing machine. It’s time to put it to good use.

Once all the vertical strings are secured, you have to use the awl or needle-nose pliers to secure it at the very last grommet.

Check to see if all the vertical string is taut before running it through the cross line.

8. Stringing the Crosses

Stringing Racqets

Starting with the closest grommet to you, you’re going to run these through the first horizontal one and begin stringing in a downward fashion.

Your first string will go on top of the vertical lines, the second will go underneath, and so on.

This allows everything to stay nice and tense once it’s over.

9. Knot the Crosses

Now that you have the cross strings all set, it’s time to knot them to keep them in place.

Right before you knot it, use a tension tester to see if it falls in the manufacturer recommendations, which is usually between 45-55 lbs for the most part, upwards of 70 lbs.

Gear Up and Game Up

Stringing Racquet is importants

Your tennis stringing pattern and the strings that you use are monumentally important.

If you’re not currently stringing your own racquets, you should either begin to do so or find someone who you can trust to get it done the right way.

Whether you buy your own stringing machine or see a professional, that’s something that is up to you, but it needs to be done properly.

In the same fashion that a tennis ball that loses nitrogen is deflated and doesn’t work, the same is true for your racket.

Understand the ways to determine if your strings are broken or damaged, and do something about it before your next match.

Maintaining your tennis racket(s) will ensure you’re always at the top of your game.

It’s easier to assess if you are causing a problem in your routine if you know for a fact that your equipment is fully functioning.

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