Tennis rackets now more than ever are being refined and customized to a specific player’s needs. The more advanced a player becomes, the likelier it is to have certain preferences for strings, tension, stiffness, etc. It is common for tennis to add weight to a racket for a variety of reasons.
They may be developing their game or want to change the balance of the racket. Specs of a racket really vary from brand to brand and even within the type of racket. Everything may be great except for the weight or the balance of the racket. Because this is such an easy thing to manipulate with lead tape, many players do it.
So how do you do it?
The answer isn’t so simple and requires a little bit of thought before adding some weight.
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The Three Types of Weight
There are three different ways that you can add weight to a racket. All involve adding additional material to the racket to make it heavier. These three products are lead, silicone, and a leather replacement grip.
Each does something a little differently, so it’s important to understand what you need and the material’s function.
One of the most common ways to increase the racket’s weight is to add lead tape to the frame. You can put different sizes, thickness levels, and more throughout the hoop or throat of the racket.
Often lead tape is used in the hoop of the racket to add weight for those looking for a little more stability and power than their previously lighter racket was offering them. They may also want to change the balance of the racket. It’s possible that they love the string bed and stiffness of a racket but prefers it to be head heavy racket than an equal distribution racket.
It’s also possible that if the racket is handle heavy and a player wants to introduce the weight equally, they would have lead tape more towards the top of the racket.
How to apply lead tape:
Lead tape can easily be stuck on and peeled off without any damages made to the racket. This is great because many people like to play around with the different positions of lead tape on a racket before finding that perfect placement.
For those who really don’t like the idea of using lead, tungsten strips are an alternative. These are great because they tend to be heavier than the lead tape strips, which means you can use a lot less of them and save some.
For those looking to add swing weight by changing the balance to more head heavy, then apply two equal strips to 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock on the frame. This will increase the stability upon contact.
For even more power and head heavy results, you can place the strips at 2 o’clock and 10 o’clock. As you can imagine, the most powerful place you can put strips is at 12 o’clock on the racket.
If you don’t want to change the balance at all really, then the throat of the racket is always a good place to add a little extra weight.
While not always an option, those looking to add weight to the racket’s handle sometimes will pop open the butt cap and stick some lead tape inside the racket before sealing it again.
They usually come in ½ inch wide and ¼ inch wide sizes.
Back in the older days before Wilson made pro grips that were tacky and comfortable, leather grips were the popular thing to do for rackets. Leather grips not only looked really cool, providing a comfortable feel, but also helped add weight to the racket.
Using an old-fashioned leather grip really makes the racket headlight or handle heavy. This can change the overall weight anywhere from 10-15 grams depending on what type of grip you are using and in what combination with other grips.
This may not be your best option for those who deal with really sweaty hands and warmer climates. Once the leather gets wet, it can be difficult to grasp. This an option for a timeless player that wants a classic feel and easier maneuverability.
Let’s remember that headlight rackets often are a little more unstable.
How to apply a leather grip:
You can do this a few different ways but ultimately, applying a leather grip si like applying a normal grip. Often these grips are used by themselves as they are a little thick to put on top of another grip. You can, however, put it under a pro grip for a few different reasons.
If you are a palm sweater but need more grip, this can do the job of adding extra weight while keeping it tacky.
It also makes more sense if your grip size feels a little small and you want to have the extra punch in the handle.
Again the weight of the racket will be in the handle, so it will be a very maneuverable racket with possible instability upon contact.
Putting silicone gel in a racket may sound very unfamiliar to you. However, this is a technique many pros do to further customize their racket. The silicone gel can be placed inside a hollow handle of a racket and provide several benefits.
It will perform similarly to the leather grip as far as being a head light racket. It will add more power and overall mass to the racket but keep it very maneuverable. The issue here is that some people may get worried about instability. Interestingly enough, the gel silicone acts as an extra layer of absorption and can actually prevent serious shock from the racket to the arm.
There are some techniques to applying the silicone as it is more of a permanent solution than the other two options. This is why it’s important to have it done right.
How to insert gel silicone:
It’s important that when injecting the gel into the handle that you remove the butt cap of the racket properly. You don’t want to force it and break the butt cap altogether. Depending on the racket brands, some may pop out easily, and others may require using a screwdriver.
Once the butt cap is removed and it’s easy to see that the inside of the racket handle is hallow (almost all of them are), then you will want to put something lightweight in the handle that will stop the silicone gel from leaking through to other parts of the frame.
The best thing to use is cotton balls. These won’t change the balance too much and will keep the silicone gel in place. The silicone is the same kind that you will find in hardware stores. Now you can insert the gel into the handle, and while you do this, you should periodically weigh your racket on a food scale to see how much weight you are putting in.
Once the silicone has dried you can replace the butt cap and test it out.
When is the weight too much?
It’s important when adding weight to not go too far in one direction. In fact, it’s generally better to go into increments to get used to the weight. As a player develops in age and strength, they may want to add weight as they go. However, there are times when the weight becomes too much.
What are the signs?
If you add weight and are hitting late at first, that’s ok. The initial adjustment for moving the racket may be hard. However, if you cannot adjust after a week and are frequently mistiming the hit, there is a good chance that the racket is too heavy.
Another sign is that elbow soreness turns into aching pain or tennis elbow. This is also a sign that a racket is too heavy and that the balance or weight needs to be changed. Before taking the weight off, you can always try to move the weight to be more head light if you are mistiming.
If you have too much shock, you can increase the swing weight to reduce the instability. This is why tinkering with the non-permanent options can be a great idea to see what you can get used to and what will be a great fit.
Can you combine the techniques?
You definitely can. It’s important, though, not to overdo some of this stuff as you can really throw the balance of the racket off. A racket with an incredibly high swing weight needs to be in the hands of someone who can handle it and move the racket fluidly.
If you are going to combine techniques, keep in mind what your goal is (head heavy/head light) because this will completely determine how you will add weight. If you want to add overall weight, then you can combine a handle technique with the lead tape at the top. If you want just a head light option, you could combine the silicone and the leather grip.
Just keep in mind that you want to know all the specs of the racket before you start adding stuff. If you already have a head light racket and combine both handle weights, you may find the racket super out of balance. These techniques are meant to be small additions rather than a complete remodel of the rackets.
Adding weight to a tennis racket has a lot of benefits. You will get added power, the ability to customize your balance, and the potential to limit vibrations all sounds great. The actual applications need to be done with consideration. The less permanent options of adding a leather grip to the handle or adding lead tape to the frame of the racket can be tinkered with and played around.
The more permanent solution of adding silicone gel to the racket’s handle by removing the butt cap needs to be measured out carefully to not weigh down your racket too much.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are still hesitant about where to place the weight and how to do it, you should contact the person who strings your racket. Most pros at tennis clubs who string rackets will know about the weight distribution of rackets and how to apply them properly.