Tennis racquets have many specifications, such as stiffness and flex, which you will have to consider when choosing a new racquet. At first glance, it might just seem like another number on a list of specifications provided by racquet-merchants. Even so, it’s important to consider how tight your racquets are and understand how they affect your efficiency and comfort, especially if you have arm injuries like tennis elbow.
The myths about tennis racquet stiffness are sometimes misleading. So we’ve got our hands on this most remarkable specification and have seen how it impacts the performance of the racquet. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Tennis Racquet Frame Stiffness?
Tennis racquet stiffness is the extent to which a racquet bends when a tennis ball hits the racquet. A ball distorts more the frame of the flexible racquet than a stiffer one. This means a stiffer racquet is distorted less at impact. Meanwhile, do bear in mind that this distortion is not visible. However, it is felt by the player when a ball comes off the strings.
So, if you are busy browsing the internet to know what is frame stiffness tennis racquet, we are here to explain one of the most telling specifications of racquets i.e. Stiffness of the Racquet. In simple words, it is the numerical representation of distortion or bending when a ball is struck to the racquet.
A racquet with a higher stiffness rating has more stiff frames than those with a low stiffness rating. Thanks to the stiff racquets, they impart a lot more power to the shots and, therefore, affect your performance.
How to Measure Stiffness of Tennis Racquet
Babolat Racquet diagnostic centre measures the stiffness of the racquet. Apart from that, other devices are also available but Babolat has high reliability and validity. Due to this reason, it is used globally. Interestingly Babolat does not reveal the formula that they used to calculate the stiffness of the racquet.
Wilson also introduced a method for measuring racquet stiffness. Stiffness index is another realistic measurement after RA value.
Measurement of Stiffness
Stiffness is measured in Rahmen (RA). A racquet with an RA rating between 55 and 60 or below 64 is considered a flexible tennis racquet. At the same time, a semi-rigid tennis racquet stiffness ranges between 65 and 69. RA value above 69 indicates more stiffness; therefore, stiff racquets lie in this category.
For better understanding, let’s have a peek at the tennis racquet stiffness rating chart.
RA number and its relationship with Stiffness Category
|RA Number||Stiffness Category|
|64 and below||Flexible|
|70 and above||Stiff|
Impact of Time on Stiffness of a Tennis Racquet
Admittedly, racquets lose stiffness over time. You might be thinking- how much does stiffness decrease in a tennis racquet over time? Well, stiffness is a subjective thing. It indicates how a racquet will feel to a player upon contact. Advanced levels of players like pros are hyper-sensitive to racquet changes. Even a slight decrease in stiffness in a racquet over time can be felt by the pros. At the same time, regular players can’t feel the small differences in racquets.
It can be counted with each string job. It can be 5 to 10, up to 20, or even up to the high-end limit of 30. If you are using a tennis racquet for many years, you can measure the decrease in stiffness of the tennis racquet over time using Babolat RDC, which is the best tool to measure it.
Reason for stiffness decrease: Constant hitting of the ball with the racquet breaks down the material fibers over time. Restringing would cause micro-cracks in the resins and affect the adhesions of fibers. As a whole, a racquet lost stiffness over time.
Stiffness Impact on Tennis Racquet Performance
Indeed, racquet play-ability is affected by its stiffness. What impact do swing weight and stiffness have on a tennis racquet performance? I hear you ask. Without further ado, let’s take a look.
Most of us wrongly assumed that a stiffer racquet being stiff offers more control and less power. But it’s not true. Stiff frames absorb less energy and allow the energy to bounce back and hence generate more power. On the flip side, flexible racquets absorb more energy at the time of impact and create less power.
Energy transfer is the key factor that decides how power is generated by the flexible or stiff racquet. As mentioned earlier, energy transfer in the stiff racquet is less because they flex less at impact. Amazingly, you will get more power in your shots.
Scientific Support: Even it is evident scientifically that when an impact is made between ball and racquet then distortion of both strings and frame occurs. The string returns the ball faster. In essence, it is the string that returns the balls before the frame returns to its original position. Hence, stiff racquets offer more power.
Generally speaking, the player’s technique and level of player decide the control factor. Racquet also has an impact on performance but its stiffness does not mark any striking change. Admittedly, stiffer racquets are more stable than flexible ones so they provide more margin for error on off-center hits. Plus you will get a crisp and lively feel while playing with stiff racquets. All in all, here the personal feelings dominate more.
It may surprise you to learn that stiffer racquets are more comfortable than flexible ones. As a result of their dampening effect, small vibrations will be produced when the ball hits the racquet. Additionally, these small vibrations stop sooner. Overall, tennis elbow racquets are easy on the arms, and this is their chief attribute.
Low stiffness tennis racquets absorb fewer vibrations, thereby, cause discomfort and increase the risk of sports-related injuries like Tennis Elbow.
Swing-weight reflects the maneuverability of the racquet. It is not a finite measurement but a resistance felt by the player while swinging the racquet. If it is low, you can easily swing the racquet. Also, it allows the ball to move the racquet. Besides having an impact on a tennis racquet, swing weight also has an impact on tennis balls.
Swing-weight, not a finite measurement, is a resistance felt by the player while swinging the racquet. If it is low, you can easily swing the racquet. Also, it allows the ball to move the racquet. Besides having an impact on a tennis racquet, swing weight also has an impact on tennis balls.
Impact on Tennis Elbow
Tennis racquet stiffness and tennis elbow are interlinked. A stiff racquet absorbs more vibrations and transfers less on the player’s arm. This way, they can play many tournaments for hours without getting tired. All in all, these elbow-friendly tennis racquets have a bit high RA number and lie in the category of stiff racquets.
Although stiff racquets make the perfect choice for tennis elbow, excess of everything is bad. It also implies racquets. Too much stiffness can lead to arm and shoulder pain. So what to do in such instances? Add a low tension string to stiff racquets. This combination would reduce the worst consequences of stiff racquets.
While making a tennis racquet stiffness comparison, we can categorize tennis racquets according to the skill level of players. We all are well-acquainted with the fact that racquets with more stiffness offer more power, so these racquets are well-suited to beginners. Beginners, while playing with this racquet, get power, and rest assured that they get comfort as well.
If you want more control, a flexible racquet (value 62 Rahmen or less) makes a perfect choice. As an intermediate or advanced level player, you should opt for a semi-stiff racquet with an RA value between 62-67.
Players with tennis elbow, a painful condition of arms, need a racquet that does not put much strain on the arm. This means that tennis racquets for tennis elbow should have average stiffness between 62-67 RA should be considered.
A stiff racquet absorbs vibrations that are created at the impact of the ball with the racquet. Logically speaking, the higher frequency of such racquets augments the dampening effect of these sticks. We can say with evidence that a stiff racquet is more arm-friendly than a flexible racquet.
Despite these recommendations, many players prefer to play with a racquet that matches their comfort level. In all seriousness, finding a racquet easy or a bit tough to play is a subjective feeling. And preference of the player matters. Some prefer stiff racquets over flexible racquets.
Stiff Vs Flexible Tennis Racquet
Stiff vs flexible tennis racquet is an old age debate. Preference of the player matters while choosing between the two. A flexible racquet offers more forgiveness than stiff racquets. Though stiff racquets offer a lot to players they disappoint you for generating top spins. Here, the flexible racquets ace the game.
A flexible stick deforms more and allows the ball to stay connected with the strings. As a result, you can generate more top spins. But many disadvantages are also linked with them. A dangling question might arise in your mind- What is the downside of low stiffness tennis racquet? It is a bit difficult to hit accurate shots with less flexible racquets. Moreover, you will get less power with these racquets. One major disadvantage of soft tennis racquets is that they can lead to serious arm injuries.
Before choosing a racquet you should know about the specs of the racquet. Tennis racquet stiffness shows its capability to flex when a ball hits the racquet. The stiffness measurement of racquets is measured in numbers. A Higher RA rating shows high stiffness and a lower RA number indicates less stiffness.
Hopefully, you’ve got enough knowledge about racquet stiff. But if you are still unclear and wondering what is the purpose of tennis racquet stiffness we are here to explain it in a sentence. A stiff racquet can give you more power and reduce painful conditions of the arm. Along with that, it affects the overall performance of a player as well.