Even though a lightweight tennis racket may feel good when you first pick it up, the lack of weight may not be the best fit for you -- especially if you’re susceptible to arm problems. You might think that heavier rackets are just for men. This is not always the case -- many advanced women players, especially those on the professional tour, wield a heavier racket because of its performance. If you already have a lightweight racket and want to make a change without the expense of buying a new racket, you can easily customize your racket to suit your needs.
Lighter Materials Over Time
Before the 1970s, rackets were typically made of wood and weighed between 13 and 15 ounces. During the 1970s, manufacturers started making rackets with lighter, metal alloy materials. These materials allowed for a larger head size while reducing the racket's overall weight. The larger head provided more power and offered beginner players more success when hitting off-center shots. Today's rackets are designed with many new materials, including carbon-fiber composites. With the modern materials and technology, these rackets are 25 to 40 percent lighter than the rackets of 40 years ago, the International Tennis Federation notes. Now, an 11-ounce racket is considered heavy, a racket that weighs between 9.8 and 10.9 ounces is a midweight racket, and a superlight racket weighs between 9 and 9.4 ounces.
Heavy rackets are more stable and, although lightweight rackets are more maneuverable, heavier rackets generate more power. In addition, you'll notice less torque, or twisting, and more control, as well as how the racket doesn't slow down when you hit the ball. The racket continues through impact and doesn't bounce off the ball. This makes it easier to crush through the ball with pace. The downside to playing with a heavy racket is that more muscular strength is needed to maneuver the racket. Top women professionals can easily handle the weight because of their strength training. But recreational women tennis players who don’t have as much arm strength may become fatigued over the course of a long match.
The Effect on Your Arm
A lightweight racket slows down at impact, doesn't crush through the ball and doesn't absorb the shock of hitting an incoming ball. What absorbs the shock is your arm and this can lead to joint injuries, including tennis elbow. A heavier racket is more arm-friendly -- it has more mass, which helps absorb more of the shock and vibration that would otherwise go straight to your arm with a lightweight racket. This is one of the main reasons top tennis professionals -- male and female alike -- play with heavy rackets.
Changing the Weight
All is not lost if you have a lightweight racket or you don't like where the weight is distributed. In general, rackets are designed with the weight evenly distributed, toward the head or toward the handle. You can customize your racket by strategically adding lead tape. If you want to increase the overall weight of your racket without changing its balance, apply 10 grams of tape to the throat of the racket -- to the inside rim at 6 o'clock. To increase the overall weight and make your racket feel like it's swinging heavier, add lead tape to the top of the frame -- to the inside rim at 12 o'clock. If your racket feels too head-heavy, you can counteract this feel by adding leading tape underneath the existing grip.