Tensioning Methods and Stringing Patterns: What are they and what are the Benefits?
While most players are aware of the numerous shapes, sizes, flex, patterns and weights on offer, few realize that there are also numerous tensioning methods and stringing patterns that exist. Stringing is one of the most important elements of a racquet. Each stringing process (Tensioning method + Stringing Pattern) is unique and can provide stringers with a complex task. That being said, despite the fact that each process has a different effect on the way the racquet feels, they all have something in common: String Bed Stiffness and Preventing Racquet Deformation.
Let's discuss some of the most common methods and stringing patterns:
This is the most commonly-used method. It involves pulling all the strings, mains (vertical strings) and crosses (horizontal strings), to the same tension. Over the years, with the advancement of stringing machines, some stringers realized that it may not be ideal for strings to be pulled to the same tension due to the stringing machines they owned. This led to the creation of various school of thoughts of tensioning methods in order to try to improve the "sweet spot" size and help players get the most out of their game.Here are a few of them:
Standard Differential Method
As the name suggests, this method is like the standard one above, but involves applying different tensions to the main and cross strings. For example, in the case of badminton the stringer may pull mains at 24lbs and crosses at 26lbs.
Proportional Stringing Method
If strings are pulled to the same tension, shorter strings near the frame will be stiffer than those in the middle of the racquet. This method will apply a tension proportional to the length of the string. Starting from the middle, the length decreases, as well as its tension. This method could make your overall string bed stiffness far lower than you hoped for, which could affect your impact force and shot precision.
To add more complications to the stringing process, stringers would sometimes prefer to do pre-stretching of strings either manually or using the stringing machine function.
Manual Pre-stretching will result in a tighter string bed and slightly less initial tension loss because the string will stretch less during stringing because it has already been stretched.
With the advancement of stringing machines, using the pre-stretching feature helps to enhance the tension on the string furthest away from the tension head to be closer to the pre-set tension on the machine.
One of the most intriguing part of the stringing process, over the years different variations of stringing patterns were developed with each claiming its advantages. Ultimately, the objective of a stringing pattern is to prevent or minimise racquet deformation as most manufacturers would reject a warranty claim if the racquet is deformed after stringing. Most of the time, stringing patterns are designed only to suit the particular brand's stringing machine. The more common ones would be 2 Knots (Bottom up, off centre up & down) and 4 Knots (Top down, Bottom up) as most players would come across.
ATW (Around the World)
A stringing pattern that was created to satisfy the player who prefers a single string stringing and brand manufacturers' requirement of stringing the crosses from top down. With badminton clocking at least 4 variations and Tennis at a whopping 10 variations!
There are several variations of stringing patterns that was built on the foundation of the above stringing patterns. Each variation has its own unique installation process thus creating a "signature" pattern.
The combination of the tensioning method, with or without pre-stretching of strings and stringing pattern affects the overall string bed stiffness of the racquet and most importantly preventing the deformation of the frame. There's no absolute right way to string a racquet due to the varying combinations that might work on a particular stringing machine but not another.