Tennis EquipmentTennis Racquets

Head Heavy, Head Light and Even Balanced Tennis Racquets

Which Should You Use? Is Head Light better than Head Heavy?

If you have ever looked at the specs of a tennis racquet, be it in tablature form on a website, or printed on the throat of the racquet in a store, you'll have seen specs such as “8 PTS Head Light”, “2 PTS Head Heavy” or “320mm balance”. 

These numbers relate to the balance of a tennis racquet, and a frame can fall into one of the following categories:

  • Head Light
  • Head Heavy
  • Even Balanced

But what difference does the balance make? Is head heavy better than head light, or vice versa? What do the pros use? Let's take a look.

What is the Balance of a Tennis Racquet?

Balance

The balance of a racquet relates to how weight is distributed throughout the frame and where that weight is located. 

The balance point itself is the point on the racquet where if it was resting on a thin piece of half-inch dowel on a table, neither the head of the racquet or the handle would be touching the surface of the table. If you have ever tried to balance a pen horizontally on the tip of your finger, this the same concept.

Going back to racquets, if you have a standard 27″ tennis racquet, and rest it on a piece of dowel at 13.5″ and it balances, then the racquet is said to have an even balance.

If you needed to move the dowel closer to the head of the racquet to get it to balance, this would be a head heavy racquet. If you needed the to move it closer to the handle, this would be a head light frame.

Although the names make it sound like the handle would be heavier than the hoop, this does not actually mean one end is lighter or heavier than the other.

It just means that mass of the materials is distributed in a way that the shorter half of the racquet (in relation to the dowel or whatever pivot you are using) behaves heavier. Lower weight at a great distance from the balance point will counter balance a heavier mass at a lesser distance from the balance point.

The Three Racquet Balance Types Explained

Prince Ptc

If most of the weight is concentrated in the handle of the racquet, then the racquet will be described as head-light. Whereas, if more weight is concentrated in the head, it’s called head-heavy.

If the distribution is in the middle it’s called even balanced. But let's break down each one and look at the advantages and disadvantages.

Head Light Tennis Racquets

Federer Backhand

With head light racquets, the weight of the racquet is greater toward the handle and this helps make the racquet more manoeuvrable.

Generally speaking they tend to be heavier in static weight than head heavy frames to ensure they are able to produce enough power.

You will find that 99.99% of ATP pros use a head light racquet and to my knowledge, there isn't a single player in the top 100 that is not using a head light (or at the very least evenly balanced) frame.

The reason here is two fold, most pros are playing with short, fast swings and need their racquet to be easy to swing in fast paced rallies and up at the net.

Their technique and racquet head speed mean they have no issue generating power so it makes little sense to wield something that is head heavy and produces more power than needed.

The other key element here is injury prevention. When more mass is placed in the head of the racquet, you're applying more torque on the joints of the body. This can lead to wrist and elbow problems.

Imagine swinging a racquet that has more weight in the head like an axe for three hours every day of the week, and you'll soon realise why they aren't good on the arm.

Head Heavy Racquets

Carlos Moya

Head heavy racquets see more of the weight distributed in the head of the racquet. This gives a racquet more power potential as there's more mass directly behind the ball at contact.

In general, head heavy racquets have a lower static weight than a head light frame. At first glance, this often sounds like a good thing, you can get a lighter racquet that offers more power than a heavier, head light frame.

However there are some big trade offs. Firstly, a head heavy racquet is far less manouverable than a head light frame. 

They are harder to swing and harder to control. If you play with one that's extremely biased towards the head, it feels like the racquet is controlling you.

For an extreme example, swing an axe in the normal way, then flip it around and swing it by holding it from the blade end, you will quickly see how much more manouverable it is.

The second is the reason I mentioned above – injuries. Head heavy racquets put far more strain on the wrist, elbow and shoulder. This is why you see few (if any) top players using them.

In fact, Carlos Moya is the only player I know of who's specs came in head heavy. If you know any others, let me know  in the comments.

So if no pros are using them who are head heavy racquets for? In my opinion, not many players are going to be well suited to head heavy frames.

They're often sold as beginner frames as they give easy access to power, but why give a beginner a piece of equipment that prevents them developing proper strokes and increases their chances of suffering tennis-related injuries. It doesn't really make sense.

To that end, they're only really suitable for players who are struggling to generate their own power. That's why some older players with slower swings tend to go for head heavy to ensure they can hit the ball with enough pace to get it over the net consistently.

Even Balanced Racquets

Sampras

A balanced, or equal balance racquet, is one where the weight of the tennis racquet is distributed equally throughout the frame. It would balance at 13.5″ assuming it was a standard 27″ racquet and be 0 points head light.

So does this bring the best of both worlds? A racquet that offers plenty of power in the head, but is still easy enough to swing?

To some players, this may be the case. But it boils down to personal preference. I personally find even balanced racquets to sit in no man's land. They're still quite difficult to swing after playing for extended periods and in some ways it's like you nullified the benefits of head light or head heavy. So for me the sweetspot has always been no less than 4 PTS HL.

While there are some pros that are using close to even balance frames, the vast majority use head light balances and I think that has to tell you something. 

There is a bit of a minsconception around certain players too, many fans for example think Sampras used an even balance racquet becaus he added lead at 3 and 9 on the racquet.

However his frame was was 6 points head light and I don't think you could volley like Sampras with an even or head heavy racquet. 

Information like this usually stems for little tidbits shared in commentary like “Rafa has added weight to the head of his racquet” which instantly makes you think he's using a head heavy frame. This is not the case as the weight is often counterbalanced with a tailweight.

How To Measure the Balance of a Tennis Racquet

Tennis Racquet Balance

There are three ways you can measure the balance of point of a tennis racquet:

  • Using an RDC Machine or similar
  • Using a balance board (pictured above)
  • Using a DIY method (explained here)

If you're just looking for a quick test, without getting a measurment in centimetres and then converting to points, just try to balance the racquet on your finger, you'll quickly be able to see where the bias is.

However, if you want a more exact method then can use one of the three methods above. Watch the video below to see the balance board method:

This gives you a measurement in inches or centimetres. You can then compare that to the chart below get a ‘points' head light or head heavy number. 

How Does the Head Light Points System Work?

Each ‘point' of balance is 1/8″ either toward the head or toward the handle from the racquet's measured halfway point.

A standard 27″ racquet's mid point is at 13.5″, so if that frame is 8 points HL, the balance point will be 12.5″ from the end of the grip. If the same 27″ racquet is 4 points head-heavy, its balance point will be 14.0″ from the bottom of the grip.

The following table applies to a standard 27″ racquet:

Points Inches Centimeters
10 Points HH 14.75 37.47
9 Points HH 14.625 37.15
8 Points HH 14.5 36.83
7 Points HH 14.375 36.51
6 Points HH 14.25 36.20
5 Points HH 14.125 35.88
4 Points HH 14 35.56
3 Points HH 13.875 35.24
2 Points HH 13.75 34.93
1 Point HH 13.625 34.61
0 Points HL 13.5 34.29
1 Point HL 13.375 33.97
2 Points HL 13.25 33.66
3 Points HL 13.125 33.34
4 Points HL 13 33.02
5 Points HL 12.875 32.70
6 Points HL 12.75 32.39
7 Points HL 12.625 32.07
8 Points HL 12.5 31.75
9 Points HL 12.375 31.43
10 Points HL 12.25 31.12
11 Points HL 12.125 30.80
12 Points HL 12 30.48
13 Points HL 11.875 30.16

How Balance Affects Swingweight

Federer Med Ball

Two racquets that weigh the same (have the same static weight on a scale) may have very different swingweights because of the way the mass is distributed. More mass to the head of the racquet, such as by adding lead tape, will increase the swingweight.

Take a look at the two racquets below of identical specs aside from their balance. There's an 11g difference in swingweight:

  Head Gravity MP Graphene 360+ Wilson Clash 100
Head Size 100 sq. in 100 sq. in
Length 27 in 27 in
Strung Weight 312g 312g
Balance 3 PTS HL 7 PTS HL
Swing Weight 323 312

Examples of Head Light Racquets

Here are some of the most head light frames you can buy in stock form:

Racquet Balance
ProKennex Kinetic Pro 7g Midplus 9 PTS HL
Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph 9 PTS HL
Wilson Clash 100 Tour 9 PTS HL
Yonex VCORE 98 (305) 6 PTS HL
Yonex EZONE 98 6 PTS HL

Examples of Head Heavy Racquets

And some of the more extreme head heavy racquets you can buy.

Racquet Balance
Head Titanium TI.S6 8 PTS HH
Wilson Triad XP3 6 PTS HH
Head Graphene 360 Instinct PWR 10 PTS HH
Gamma RZR Bubba Racquets 7 PTS HH
Prince Textreme Warrior 100L 5 PTS HH

Examples of Even Balance Racquets

Finally, even balance. Anything under 4 PTS HL fits into the more even balance category of frame.

Racquet Balance
Babolat Pure Aero Lite 0pts EB
ProKennex Ki 15 (260) 0pts EB
Prince Textreme Premier 105 1pts HL
Wilson Burn 100S 1pts HL
Babolat Pure Drive 110 (2018) 1pts HL

How To Alter The Balance of a Tennis Racquet

Priority1 Tabl;e

The balance of the racquet can be altered in a number of ways such as by adding lead tape to the head, or by injecting silicon in to the handle.

Some players choose to do this themselves or instead use a specialist racquet customisation firm like Priority1 who look after several top pros including Federer. We'll be looking at how to customise a tennis racquet in an upcoming post.

What is Better: Head Light or Head Heavy?

Fedsafin

When it comes to the balance of a racquet, there is no doubt about it: head light is better.

A head-light racquet has significantly lower forces from impact. Torque and shock on the shoulder, elbow and wrist are all reduced. All while the racquet can still possess a high mass and high swing weight. Head-heavy racquets, on the other hand, increase the risk of tennis elbow because of their high Moment and high torque.

Another reason head light wins the day is manoeuvrability, the racquet is more comfortable to position for volleys and returns, and is not heavy to swing all afternoon.

While there's no doubt some players out there will prefer to head heavy frames; I don't see them as a viable option for the vast majority of players.

What balance of racquet do you use? Does it play a big part when you buy a racquet? Let me know in the comments.

Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

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30 Comments

  1. Nice article. For the same mass, yes, HL makes up for a more manoeuvrable racquet.
    However, many models have variations on the same frame just by having a little more mass in the handle (Head Speed S vs Speed MP, Pure Drives or Aero Light/Regular/Tour and so on). The throat and hoop are nearly identical. And generally they charge you 50 € more for those extra 15 g of carbon composite sheet… or a blob of silicone.
    In those cases, since the HL version is heavier than the HH, it is actually *less* manoeuvrable just because some of the extra mass sits beyond the pivot point (a little above the handle).
    When moving from the HH to the HL version you get the *illusion* that the latter is more manoeuvrable because the force required to swing it, in spite of being higher, did not increase as much as the force required to hold it. So, when you start the swing, your muscles are already making a larger effort and the swing will tend to be faster just because of that. But make no mistake: you are spending more energy.
    Another common error is people advising to put weight in the handle to reduce the swing weight and manoeuvrability. Impossible. Every time you add weight, the swing weight increases and the manoeuvrability decreases.
    (by the way, sw is measured in g.cm2)

    1. This is not totally correct on all points. It’s true that you can’t decrease a racquet’s swing weight by adding mass to it, even if it was in the tip of the handle. Swing weight can only increase when weight is added. The only way to lower the SW is to remove some material of the racquet. That said, though, you CAN make a racquet more maneuverable by altering its balance more towards the handle. If you add weight to the handle, below the balance point, the SW will also increase, though ever so little, negligibly, but it will also make the racquet easier/faster to swing – the extra mass below the balance point will help and do its part in swinging the racquet around its pivot point.

      1. Sorry, but no. Extra mass anywhere will increase the momentum of rotational inertia, therefore increasing the necessary torque to accelerate the object’s rotation. That is true even if you change the rotation centre (which is not the case).
        Just integrate (sum) all mass elements dm x D^2 over all the object. D is the distance of each mass element to the rotation centre. No matter where you add mass, the above integral will always increase (except if you add it to the rotation centre where D=0).
        It’s physics, not my opinion…
        The complete formulas:

        Inertia = Integral(dm x D^2)

        Torque = Inertia x Angular acceleration

  2. Ah, sorry: to answer the questions in the post:
    I prefer head light, no doubt, total weight 310-330 g. It just feels more natural, just as our arms are thinner away from the shoulder or a whip is thick at the bottom and thin at the tip.

  3. Sorry to change subject but these things drive me mad: did I read it right that Joker is against vaccinations? It’s not a matter of opinion, it’s a fact known for decades that it’s tremendously effective and I won’t even bother to list it all down. He has the right to have wrong ideas but they must be fought hard because they are wrong and can lead to misinformed people doing dangerous things for them and the others.
    With so much that medicine and biology have achieved, now we must put up with these neo-hippies and their new age superstitious crap? Galileo was put in home arrestment by the catholic church and Giordano Bruno was burned alive. And for what?
    Spread the word.

    1. He said on a live stream with some fellow Serbian tennis players he was against being forced to take a vaccine for SARS Cov 2 to permit him to travel to play tennis.

      The media picked that up as him being an anti vacs person. I dunno whether that is true or he just meant that specific one. I guess the fact he worked with Pepe Imaz might suggest he is into a bit of quackery but who knows.

      If you look at it from the angle that we are currently rushing and trying to fast track a vaccine through, then he would be right to be sceptical. These things require a ton of testing to prove efficacy and safety. I think it’s s horrible idea to expedite something like that as some suggest.

      Wonder what the odds are one will be produced anyway? A lot of attempts at ones for other Corona viruses went terribly and nobody bothered looking at them since.

      1. His wife also goes about the same new age nonsense so it’s likely to be more than strictly related to covid 19.
        I’ve heard doctors being publicly against vaccines, even those that were proven time and again. There’s no excuse. Those should respond before justice. Or ask them if they would send their un-vaccinated children to a school exclusively attended by the un-vaccinated.
        That said, the only vaccine I do not take is precisely the anti-flu. The virus mutates too fast to make it reliable so I’m a bit skeptical about a possible covid-19 vaccine. It’ll become endemic and we’ll have to live (hopefully) with it. It won’t be eradicated as smallpox was.

      2. I’m with Jonathan on this one. I’m not at all convinced that an effective vaccine will be forthcoming, and cutting corners timewise and testing-wise could cause even more problems.

      3. The evidence emerging shows we have already been living with COVID 19 for a while judging by the number of asymptomatic infections. Rushing a vaccine is likely not even needed. Unless of course, you’re Bill Gates.

        A study from Stanford shows that 55 to 85 times more people were infected than had been documented in Santa Clara County.

        There are some questions on the study and the methodology used. And not peer-reviewed. But so far it looks good. I’ve read some of the critiques of the people that jumped all over it on Twitter and it looks like a lot of them have some sort of weird motive. It’s like they almost don’t want it to be the case coronavirus is not some deadly killer. I really don’t get that. Their first thought was to shit all over it, not be constructive and say, ah ok interesting, this could be better.

        They have similar findings in LA on the same study, with more being rolled out in the USA. I believe they will prove to be correct.

    2. This neo-hippie had a CS degree and an adult son with Autism. He’s 20 now, but when he was 2 we took him to Dr. for MMR. Not sure how, what or why but my son was definitely impacted. He went from normal (eye contact, normal interaction) after this visit, to autism. IDK because I love and support science, and actually worked on the equipment used to create vaccines, and have been explained the process in detail. That said I have my own personal experience. You shouldn’t judge, we humans have a long history of being mistaken, or neglecting edge cases… The part where you are so confident you felt compelled to comment and shame is super human.

      Hooray internet.

      I use Fed Stick RF97, before that ProStaff 90

  4. I’m enjoying all the tennis players and their posts. Did you see Roger today on Instagram with Nadal? Pospisil and Mattek-Sands are doing a great job too.
    Yes, the vaccine won’t be a magic pill, I’m afraid. Are recovered people truly immune and for how long? The stats on the influenza vaccine are abysmal some years. What will be the new normal? Will Djokovic retire?

    1. Yes Sue, I watched Roger/Rafa with great enjoyment. Although rivals they have got good chemistry, that’s nice. I’ll never forget the old video from their youth where they couldn’t get it on because of laughter for what it seemed hours. Maybe sometimes more treats coming in distant future where they make up a double team with each other.

      I’m hoping for an effective pill to crush the corona illness. I also have doubts about an effective vaccine, but still hoping. Otherwise we’ll have to wear masks viziers, or just wait for some 200 years for the humans (the others have died out) all have got inborn strength to overcome the virus.

      1. The data coming out now suggests the prevalence of covid 19 is far more widespread than first thought, and that a high % of infections are completely asymptomatic. So the real mortality rate is going to be far lower than estimated.

        The fear and panic this thing has caused, when it’s looking relatively harmless in the grand scheme of things is absolutely dreadful.

        200 years lol. This thing has sent people crazy. If the media reported diabetes deaths like they do COVID deaths, you’d never drink a fizzy drink again. Most people already have an immune system to overcome coronavirus easily. Have you looked at who is actually dying? The vast majority are elderly and have a number of pre conditions. The excess mortality in the young and healthy is not there at all.

        Is it good that people are dying? Nope. But in terms of human years lost, it’s not a huge number as corona is just one of the hundreds of things that could have killed many of these individuals in the short term. And when you look at the bigger picture, you need to make decisions that follow the data. Otherwise, you might end up in situation where you save 1, but 20 die from your actions a few months later. Not smart.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwPqmLoZA4s

      2. The big picture is difficult to view. I know maybe the 200 years perspective was probably just a silly thought of me. We don’t know much. Those without symptoms might give the sickness forward to people who might die from it. A friend’s friend, younger than 50 and not having other diseases just died from the covid. Makes it uncomfortable close. Also I don’t want to lose my a bit fragile and old (but still very well alive) friends to this tricky disease.
        You can do something about diabetes. What is frightening for me – no, I mean, should make us somewhat cautious, is that we so far cannot do much about it, except being cautious. Makes life inconvenient, if not worse. Taking the jobs away from many. But this is something possible to be handled, at least so far more possible – if the will is there – than curing the illness for those seriously affected.

  5. 🙁 I think many people are scared and that is sad to read. People are losing years from their life due to fear, panic and isolation.

    I saw today Switzerland’s oldest woman died, 109. Survived Spanish flu and never had the Wuhan virus. But because nobody could visit her, she deteriorated very quickly. At 109 you can argue she had lived her life but there are going to be many others a lot younger suffering. Just look at all the operations cancelled too.

    80 people are dying in London per day because paramedics don’t get there early enough because people leave it too late to ring because they are scared of catching the virus in hospital.

    I do not believe you can live your life in fear of a virus. Especially not one that may well turn out to be only slightly more dangerous than influenza. It’s a shame so much fear mongering takes place. But this is the business model that gets those all important eyeballs.

    I think the more data we see emerging daily is showing then the measures in place are not commensurate with the risk. And their effectiveness is so far unproven.

    I hope for a more data driven approach,. where we can protect those at risk but not cause great upheaval that may do seven more damage.

    1. Oh, agree it’s very sad. All victims dying, directly from this virus or from paramedics are too many. How many are still dying in London per day from the corona? In DK the curve of corona death rate is broken at the moment, probably due to a lot of cautiousness – still organized somewhat too late, but still earlier than Spain and Italy and a few others with more panicking death rate, – with the intention of not having the health system completely broken succeeded, as the intention to be able to take care of the seriously affected, by corona and acutely paramedic. Yes, the cautiousness is heavily inconvenient and like in the Swiss case with tragic consequences too. But the alternative?
      There seem also a few other positive effects of the cautious shutting down. For example: a great many people (well yes, not all) got more time and reason to think out of the hitherto consolidated box of habits. Another side effect: in big cities momentarily a much less polluted air to breathe…
      At any rate, a cautious opening up in DK and a few other countries is now taking place.

      1. Ah ooh the “paramedic” means something else than I thought – instead of paramedic I of course meant other serious diseases striking- SORRY for my bad English 😟!

    1. I think these two have a nice and genuine interaction. There’s seems to be nothing staged about it, unless they are extraordinary actors. (well, maybe there’s that inevitable bit since no one can avoid thinking that millions are watching)

      Anyway: what about that racquet balance business? Huh?..

  6. As I said about Rafa when I watched him happily jump up like a child to be embraced by Roger when he (Roger) made the Europe team finally win the Laver Cup (was it the first – og second?) – I might almost like him (Rafa). For sure Roger likes Rafa. And I almost believe that Rafa likes Roger. And I would like to watch those two to form a double a bit more often. (As I would love to see the artists Dustin Brown and Monfils make double as well.)

  7. OK, I get that head light is better, which they all are, but how can a player know that he should go MORE head light or not, in practice?

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