Avoiding arm pain - soft racquet or soft string?

Discussion in 'Racquets' started by sha, Oct 29, 2013.

  1. sha

    sha New User

    Oct 14, 2013
    I would like to know what you think is better regarding arm friendliness:
    an arm-friendly frame or a soft string?
    I know that the best would be if I have both, but the disadvantage is that this can feel kind of mushy.

    Two examples:

    A) Stiff racquet, soft string: Babolat Pure Drive with Natural Gut
    B) Arm friendly racquet with less flexible string: Prince Tour EXO3 100 with Solinco Tour Bite (or other similar poly)

    Which combo would you prefer to avoid pain in your arm?

  2. Matt G

    Matt G Rookie

    Mar 2, 2013
    I've been in a similar boat and kind of still am

    My 2c for what it's worth, is to try and go to a softer frame and use any string you want. It all depends on what sort of player you are as well. I'm a baseliner who likes to hit hard so I like polys.

    I found if I went to a firmer frame (head prestige pro or babolat APD original) I had to use a multi as a cross at least. Even with gut / poly in the prestige pro I felt my arm get sore, as much as I loved the frame. With a full bed of multi at 60, the frames were still too powerful for me

    I went to a exo3 tour and now I can use any string I want at 60. I found I had to go up in tension to offset the power from the frame as well as to get some control (due to flex and 100" head size). The only problem is I found it to be a bit too unstable so lead tape was needed and even then the softer frames seem to flutter a bit much at times.

    So in the end I've ended up testing frames around 58-60 RDC with a full poly and gut/poly. The full poly was great around mid to low 50's and the gut/poly really good at high 50's. The frame was more stable and felt a lot more solid but didn't hurt my arm either.

    I guess the main thing is to try a few as everyone is different. But a softer frame allows you to have more choice in string (which I love testing) and is better for your arm long term. Stiffer frames are usually powerful, as are soft strings, so it's hard to take big cuts when it's a rocket launcher.

    Also wear an elbow guard, they help a lot!!

    Hope this helps a bit! It's all a process which only you will find the answer to.
  3. fuzz nation

    fuzz nation Legend

    Oct 20, 2006
    I've seen more than one or two decent players come down with arm problems when they switched into a poly setup from a softer string type and a couple of those players were using racquets with arm-friendly reputations. In one of these cases, a buddy of mine switched into a poly hybrid with his stiff Pure Drive Roddicks and came down with serious tennis elbow. This guy played a few years in college and has a rather big game with solid technique.

    After some time off, he came back to his favorite game, but his gear decision was interesting. He kept his racquets, but he changed his strings from the poly hybrids to full beds of natural gut. Even with a rather solid tennis schedule, he had no further symptoms in his elbow. Aside from doing some exercises, etc. away from the courts to help his arm, the only equipment alteration he made was the string switch.

    I use racquets that are on the softer side (Volkl Organix 10 325g plus lead) and I'm sure that they keep my arm happier than it would be with a rather stiff alternative. I'm 47 and don't need to run the risk of hurting my arm just to get a slightly better performing gear setup. I've felt a twinge here and there when I've strung my current frames too tight with synthetic gut and also tried a rather loose poly hybrid that was surprisingly uncomfortable for me.

    I've seen enough to convince me that softer strings are the top priority when seeking an arm-friendly layout, but a softer frame is also a big help more often than not.
  4. TimothyO

    TimothyO Hall of Fame

    Oct 5, 2010
    Soft frame + soft string is the way to go. It's kind of the old school setup.

    A soft frame is generally lower powered. A soft string is generally higher powered. Combining the two balances the power level and provides the best of both worlds for comfort.

    Stiff frame + stiff string is becoming the standard "modern" setup.

    The stiff frame is generally higher powered while the stiff string is generally lower powered. The two balance one another. This is the worst combo for arm health.

    The other big variable is mass vs SW. Light frames tend to be HH and stiff in order to achieve sufficient plow against a ball. Heavy frames tend to be HL and soft to balance their power profile. Again, the light, HH, stiff frame is the modern setup and less arm friendly. The heavy, HL, soft frame is the old school setup and tends to be arm friendly except that you need good form to avoid shoulder injury.

    If you have good form and good timing nothing beats a heavier, HL, soft frame with at least soft mains for comfort, feel, and control.

    If your timing is poor, your technique weak and you need to arm the ball to "cheat" it into ball contact with a short swing instead of taking a long full swing then a light, stiff, HH frame is easier to use but it's also an arm killer (especially since such frames usually demand a stiffer string to balance their power).

    Head size is also a variable. Large and open head is more comfortable but also provides more power that can be tough to control and needs a stiffer string for balance. A small, dense head is lower powered and can use a softer string without losing control but demands better timing.

    The ultimate, arm friendly old school players frame: smaller, often denser head, high mass, HL, with soft strings like gut. But you need good timing and form.

    Another option is soft, heavier, HL frame with a more forgiving larger head and open pattern and with gut/poly. You still need good timing to protect your shoulder but the sweet spot is bigger while the stiffer poly crosses dampen power and enhance control.
  5. movdqa

    movdqa Legend

    Sep 19, 2006
    I prefer to go the softer frame route as I don't like softer strings. I'm playing with RDC 62 right now and that works for me. I also have a polarized setup so there's some dynamic flex in the frame that isn't picked up by the RDC machine. I also use two overgrips which may help a little. I think that I would ideally like something just a tad softer but it seems to be getting harder and harder to find something in the 58-60 area.
  6. jwbarrientos

    jwbarrientos Hall of Fame

    May 31, 2009
    +1 in many ways.

    I tried some configurations and finally go with HL, heavy and soft frame, using low tension ... I know that trampoling effect killed my game many times but I prefer my body rather than a match.

    Young people I know (<30) solved the issue keeping his stiff racquet and lowering the tension, but not me ... I would love to have a good technique, speed to prepare strokes early ... but I don´t :cry:
  7. APG

    APG Rookie

    Mar 23, 2008
    Have had a history of elbow issues with long layoff's from tennis. I have gone with full gut and more flexy sticks with a Flex of 55-63.
    I am now playing with an exception to the rule. The Volkl V1 pro is a unique racket. It is stiff but plays real soft and with controllable power. The tech on this frame works, making it as advertised an arm saving racket.I have absolutely no elbow issues playing with the pro with full gut. There was a lengthy thread on this stick.
  8. pvw_tf

    pvw_tf Rookie

    Jan 7, 2013
    Just to add a bit to the confusion. You name 2 factors.

    But there are so many more.
    - Weight of the racket.
    - Balance
    - Tension of the string.
    - Quality string job.
    - sweet spot position in the frame.

    The last point is under estimated. Someone who hits the ball in the top of the rackets should use a racket which can handle that.

  9. JackB1

    JackB1 G.O.A.T.

    Jul 23, 2009
    Roswell GA
    you won't have many issues playing with any racquet with full gut.

    but if it was me having arm pain, I would do everything I could to make it better: Soft string + soft (flexible) frame. Consider one of the PK Kinetic frames as well.
  10. martini1

    martini1 Hall of Fame

    Sep 11, 2008
    +1 on the gut. Even with half a set your pain will be minimized if not all gone.

    When in doubt, go for a softer stick. It is so low power unless you swing your mind out (which is odd if you are already in pain, and over swinging will not get any balls in anyway) you won't feel the pain.

    I used to hurt my arm (joint prob, but not TE) when playing with semi stiff strings on a stiff frame. While I was hurting I went back to my K90 with full bed poly, it should be pretty stiff but it was zero pain. It allowed me to play on for another month or so before I was fully recovered. I have since learned not to over swing on serves and even baseline battles.

    I think a stiff frame gives you a lot of bad vibes if you mishit (and frame the ball once in a while). A lot more than a soft frame.
  11. APG

    APG Rookie

    Mar 23, 2008
    Generally true but I developed golfers elbow playing
    With the prestige Yt mp strung full gut.
    That stick played much stiffer than its flex number would suggest.
    As others indicated weight and how tightly strung are variables as well. I did make a minor change to my forehand after GE so obviously technique cannot be ignored.
  12. Roberto_spin

    Roberto_spin Rookie

    Oct 22, 2012
    Hi, what frame did you end up? I'm also in the same boat... playing with PDR with low tensioned soft cooly's and natural get hybrids...

    But I'm also flirting with the EXO3 Tour 16x18... So very interested in what you are playing nog or have positive experiences with...
  13. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Dec 28, 2008
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    I serously doubt any one of us ever faces a ball as fast as Nadal and Fed face, and for sure, we don't hit as hard as them.
    They both use around 52 lbs tension, one with a stiff frame, one moderately stiff.
    We can use much softer rackets and string tensions.

    SCRAP IRON Professional

    Aug 14, 2012
    Ft. Lauderdale
    Use a stiffer frame if that is what you like and what you are used to playing with. Use a soft multi like Technifibre NRG and if you are still experiencing arm pain, then you must switch racket manufacturers. Babolats are simply a harsh frame, whereas some of the new Volkls are not.
  15. tmc5005

    tmc5005 Rookie

    Dec 18, 2012
    I agree both are very important. A very arm friendly frame could cause arm problems with very tight stiff strings and very arm friendly soft low tensioned strings could still be a problem combined with a stiff light racquet. If I had to pick I might say the frame is more important than the string but it is a tough choice
  16. MauricioDias

    MauricioDias Rookie

    Oct 28, 2013
    São Carlos - SP
    In my case the racquet is not so arm friendly, so i decided to play using an elbow guard and hybrid strings. My arm problems were over. Most for the elbow guard because when you are using it, unless your arm is already damaged, you can choose whatever string and tension you want.
  17. naturallight

    naturallight Rookie

    Apr 30, 2007
    I was in a similar boat from using a light stiff racquet (that I loved) with hybrid. First tried a full bed of a softer string (NRG2). Helped a little, but still had pain, and plus wasn't playing well with such a powerful low-spin string setup.

    So now I am back to an older, flexier, heavier racquet. It is great to play with no pain. I can use a full poly of anything.
  18. Fintft

    Fintft Hall of Fame

    Sep 28, 2007
    Softer strings or even lower tension: i.e. when I had tennis elbow I couldbn't play with full bed natural gut at 58/56 but could play once I restrung at 52/50.
  19. zaskar1

    zaskar1 New User

    Oct 11, 2010
    try string first

    it kind of depends upon your problem
    if it is a chronic problem, you might need to layoff for a while, but i am sure
    that you have considered this

    stiff racquets and stiff strings contribute to excess shock on the arm

    i would go to a multifilament or soft synthetic string, and string down the tension to see if that helps.
    those light, and stiff begineer racquets, couple with funky strokes
    usually equals arm pain.

    good luck
  20. Backhanded Compliment

    Backhanded Compliment Hall of Fame

    Feb 16, 2011
    all of this. Ive switched to Pacific (ie Fischer) frames because Head makes the Prestiges a bit too stiff these days. They are nothing like the PT57A which is flexier and lower powered than an open patterned prestige pro. The Pacific/fischers have a unique feel that is comfy while being precise.

    New very low tension (below 45lbs) full poly really compliments these low powered and somewhat heavier frames. It takes getting used to but worth it.
  21. Matchball

    Matchball Semi-Pro

    Oct 18, 2009
    My vote for soft string, too.
    That said, my rebel 95 plays very soft with a stiff, dead string !!
    I have not found another stick that can do this (truth is there exist a couple more). Can't go wrong with a soft string, safer choice IMO.

    BTW, I am a fan of the more traditionally feeling frames. It is not just stiffness, it also the flex and mass distribution. It does make it slightly harder to impart spin, but you can compensate to a great degree with proper technique.
  22. Bagumbawalla

    Bagumbawalla Hall of Fame

    Jun 24, 2006
  23. KenC

    KenC Professional

    Aug 31, 2009
    It is very important to understand how the arm pain came to be. If it is because of technique that puts unnecessary stress on the arm then it is more important to correct that technique before anything else.

    That being said, there is no downside to using an arm friendly racquet with gut or a good soft multi. With many multis you can even get away with using lower than typical tensions. Think about this ultimate combo: Arm friendly racquet + arm friendly string + lower tension + good technique.
  24. Imago

    Imago Semi-Pro

    Aug 28, 2013
    Sofia, BG
    Soft is opposite to hard, stiff - to flexible. Hardness is measured in Janka, stiffness - in RA.

    So, when you say 'soft racket', do you really mean soft or just flexible.

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