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Arm-friendly Strings

by Tennisnerd

I have been suffering from both wrist and elbow pain lately. Not sure what caused it, but it has made me test more arm-friendly strings.

The most popular string these days are stiff poly strings that offer good control, durability, and spin. They only have one real downside – they are not arm-friendly strings. And this is in part why we are seeing an increase of tennis elbow, wrist and shoulder injuries these days (it also has to do with stiffer racquets of course). Not that long ago most tennis players used only natural gut, synthetic gut or multifilaments, but with the increase in powerful racquets and the transition to a spin-heavy game, advanced players needed a more controlled response. Gustavo Kuerten was the first pro to actually use poly strings when he started using Luxilon Alu Power Big Banger more than 20 years ago.

But that does not mean that all professional and advanced players use full beds of poly strings, many pros such as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray use so-called hybrid setups with natural gut or a synthetic gut/multifilament paired with a poly string. This creates a softer, more powerful response that is better for the arm, but also gives you a bit more control and spin than a full string bed of gut/multifilament.

Most recreational players should not use poly strings in my opinion. Instead, they should look at more arm-friendly strings and string setups such as hybrids or a full bed of multifilament and synthetic gut.

Arm-Friendly Strings – Make sure you can play more tennis

Most arm-friendly strings and string setups are not as spin-friendly as a full bed of shaped poly strings (like Solinco Tour Bite for example), but with the right technique you can generate spin anyway. And unless you are really a serious competitive player, saving your arm is better than getting that extra percentage of spin. It, of course, depends on the player. If you are a clay court grinder who likes to generate spin and pace from the back of the court with a full western grip, then a poly might be your best option. But many players that use poly strings, are doing themselves a disservice and risking injuries down the line.

I am becoming a big fan of hybrid setups myself. I have tried a bit of everything and I am currently testing a Mantis Synthetic Gut in the mains and various polys in the crosses in the Yonex VCORE Pro 97 HD and the Prince Phantom Pro 93P 18×20.  It is a really comfortable string setup (even at a higher tension) that gives me some extra power and feel, but the addition of the poly string adds some control and durability. One of my hitting partners is a pretty advanced player but uses a full bed of HEAD Velocity MLT 1.25 as his string in a Volkl V-Sense Tour 10. He hits hard, but flat which makes the string last long.

Why not try a more arm-friendly string setup?

If you have no concerns around arm-pain, tennis elbow or wrist injuries, this post might not be for you. But if you are a player who values comfort and wants to play the game without long injury periods, I can really recommend looking into a softer string setup. There are so many strings out there these days, everything from softer polys to hybrids to synthetic gut and multifilament strings. I will keep testing new strings of all brands, shapes, and sizes, but for my own game, I am pretty sold on the hybrid setup. Hopefully, it will help me to stay away from injuries in the future, but I also like how good it feels on impact. More to come on this topic soon!

What string setup are you using? Are you happy or do you have any concerns?

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17 comments

Jerry October 16, 2019 - 2:11 pm

I currently play the Clash 100 with Wilson Spin Effect Hybrid. I have some modified Head Graphene Touch Extreme Lite frames (full silicone in handle and leather grip) that play nice with Head Velocity MLT. I think Velocity has good control and nice spin for a multi. I think it works well with Lynx in a user friendly hybrid. You can use either in the mains depending on your needs. I also have a couple Wilson Ultra Tour 97 strung with a full bed of multi. These setups allow me to play 4 times a week pain free. Good luck with your recovery.

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Tennisnerd October 16, 2019 - 3:35 pm

Thanks! Great to hear a lot of people enjoy the Velocity MLT!

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sanjiv October 16, 2019 - 3:33 pm

I agree with Jerry. After a bout of severe tennis elbow I switched to a full bed of Head Velocity MLT in my Wilson Ultra Tour 97. I find spin adequate and my arm got better.

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Lucas October 16, 2019 - 5:22 pm

I had TE before, I switched racquets, playing with beast 98, with thinner polys, alu power feel 1.20, red code wax 1.20 and hyper g 1.20 , while playing with max 52pounds I’m not feeling any discomfort.

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JR October 16, 2019 - 5:38 pm

I play with 16g Natural Gut in the mains from Natural Gut Wholesale (NGW) and a monofilament poly in the crosses. I’ve tested it with NGW’s 17g, and Gamma’s 17g poly, but I think my favorite setup so far is their cheap gut and Hyper G in the crosses. That’s the setup I strung up for my wife in her Pure Aero. Also, the customer service of NGW is exemplary. Definitely give them a try.

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of October 16, 2019 - 6:37 pm

I’d love to hear your thoughts on tensions in hybrid setups. The opinions differ here and my stringer and I don’t agree. He suggested that mains should be strung tighter than the crosses due to the difference in length of the actual string. I, however, am of the opinion that the stiffer poly should be strung at a lower tension due to the lower elasticity. i.e. when strung tighter, the softer string (multi or synthetic gut) will support and harmonise better with the poly.

I’ve played around with ALU Power Soft mains and Babolat Origin crosses in my HEAD Prestige pro stock and two older Radicals (LM and i.Radical). I got great results with 51/55 lbs in a 16×19 racquet and 50/53 in a racquet with a tighter 18×20 pattern.

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Tennisnerd October 17, 2019 - 10:33 am

Hej Oskar,
I generally agree with you each string should be strung according to their characteristics. I like a poly strung around 24 kg in the crosses and a gut (syn gut or multi) strung at 25 or 26 kg in the mains. I think this is what works best for me. But I can also do a poly in the mains and a multi in the crosses, but I prefer similar tensions, more according to the string and not the length of the string. Sounds you have a good setup going!

Cheers / Jonas

Cheers / Jonas

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Johnson October 16, 2019 - 8:47 pm

With this topic you have hit my button for 2019. I had my first ever case of tennis elbow in January, which was minor and went away on its own, but then I incurred a worse case in March. I tried to recover on April and May but after not making much progress by June decided to stop hitting backhands (TE is caused mostly by backhands, especially single handed backhands) while doing some stretches and exercises from ytube. In August I did not play at all, and by September I could play again almost pain free.

I am also softening my gear. So I added the Clash to my arsenal, and I am experimenting with softer strings.
First I tried the Yonex Rexis multifilament. Though it was comfortable, it notched quickly and I would not recommend it.

Since multifilaments and natural guts are chewed up or sliced by sharp, shaped polys, it could be that with these strings in a hybrid one should only use round polys.
There is a debate between some people who say spin is better with sharp shaped polys, and others who claim that spin is enabled more by the sideways movement and snapback of strings, and smooth round polys excel at that. I think that both of those factors enhance spin, and so ideally what one is looking for is a low coefficient of friction from string to string, and a high coefficient of friction from string to ball. Normally these two things do not exist together, hence the challenge for string engineers.

Looking at the TW string database, one can find this data and order strings by these factors. One can observe that multifilaments and natural guts generally have a higher string-to-string coefficient of friction (ie. not good for spin) than polys. It turns out that the multifilament (or multifilament-like string) with the lowest coefficient of friction with other strings is the little known Babolat Origin. Origin is actually not a multifilament, but a monofilament made of polyamide which is approximately as soft as a multifilament.
So the Origin is what I am trying now.

Other multifilaments that I find interesting and worth a test are Tourna Quasi Gut Armor and Tourna Synthetic Gut Armor. These are multifilament and synthetic gut strings respectively combined with polyester strands so that they are soft like these two types but have some of the control and ball grip of a poly. Sort of like a hybrid in one string. I think some other string makers have similar combinations.

There is another debate with hybrids about whether the multi/gut or the polys should be in the mains or the crosses. It seems that more and more pros (incl Federer for example) are putting the gut in the mains and the poly in the crosses. The string that is in the mains dominates the playing characteristics of the combination.
I would add to this debate one factor: that in terms of the amount of stretch, it makes more sense to put the multi (or the gut) in the crosses and the poly in the mains. This is because the crosses, as a proportion of their length, stretch more than the mains when you hit the ball. Since polys are less stretchy (and retain whatever stretch they have less than multis and guts) they should go in the mains and the stretchier guts and multi’s in the crosses. But that is just one factor in the decision.

So there are my two cents to add to this discussion at the moment.

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Henrik Wallensten October 17, 2019 - 7:45 am

Best multi is without any doubt the Isospeed control/professional (same string in different gauge) It plays very much like a natural gut and it have good durability.

My personal preference for a hybrid is Luxilon Alupower soft in the mains and a natural gut in the cross.

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Mike Won October 17, 2019 - 5:19 pm

Hi Jonas,

Great post! Do you have a preference or recommendation of which strings to use for the mains and which to use for the crosses? I remember reading about hybrid setups in the past, but I don’t recall what the pros and cons are for a multifilament/main and poly/cross setup, or vice versa.

Thanks!

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Steve October 19, 2019 - 7:13 am

A nice hybrid combination is Laserfibre Supreme 2.0 (multi) for the Mains and Head Lynx (soft copoly) for the crosses.

I’ve had wrist problems in the past so I have to be careful.

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Johnson October 26, 2019 - 11:43 am

update: after testing, the Babolat Origin is not as soft as I thought. It is good for allowing other strings to slide and snap back, but it is not as comfortable as the multis I have tried.

I spent some time geeking out with the TW string database, and here are some other multifilaments and synthetic guts that I would like to try as crosses:
Tecnifibre Multifeel 17 black (the black appears to have a lower coefficient of friction with other strings than the natural colour)
Gosen AK Control 17
Gosen AK Pro CX 17

in addition to some that others have mentioned here:
Head Velocity MLT
Isospeed Professional

in addition to the Tourna Synthetic Gut Armor and Quasi Gut Armor mentioned above.

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Raaseri November 2, 2019 - 6:23 pm

what kind of tension you use with syngut and pole crosses?

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Tennisnerd November 3, 2019 - 7:37 am

I use 24-25 kg on the syn gut and 23-24 kg on the poly.

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silvio November 19, 2019 - 8:28 pm

I played with hybrid for years: Mikronite Multifilament Mains 26kg / AluPower Rough 25 Crosses. This combination lasts for me , 1 month before it breaks.

After i switch from multifilament to Natural gut mains / AluPower Rough crosses… I can say loud and clear… Nothing compares to Natural gut, and there is no Multifilament that comes even close to NG…so all that marketing that multi playes like natural gut is just one big lie…… they did not tell in what specific WAY that strings plays “like” NG…… BUt…… when you try natural gut , there is no back!

And yes….. Mains should be lets say 25-27, and crosses 23-25…… NEVER , EVER string poly on crosses higher then Mains…… because, Mains, if you use multi or gut, MUST be in higher tension because of Material and elasticity of the mains…. not because of string lenght….

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Fabio December 6, 2019 - 4:33 am

Hi, I’ve got more than 70 Head rackets (90% old Prestige….from the first model to the last …plus 14 prostock…among them the PT57A) so I can say to have a large experience about strings and tension depending by each model, but generally when I used on my frames the Babolat VS Touch 1,30 natural gut combined with Tecnifibre X-One Biphase 1,24 my racket seems to be a part of my body …something like a longer arm specially on thin and heavy frames (I play starting minimum from 315 gr up to a maximum of 335 gr) and the never had problem regarding tennis elbow until today (considering that I usually play 4 times in a week….)

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Patrick McCall December 9, 2019 - 7:26 pm

This is a great post. I have been battling a nasty case of TE and finally have made some headway as far as improvement. One big contributor was switching from a Babolat Pure Drive strung with Silinco Hyper G poly to a more arm friendly racquet. I am now using a Wilson Clash and am testing various multi’s. So far I have had good luck with Wilson Sensation but really have moved on to Wilson NXT and hopefully some Technofiber NRG2. I definitely like a 17g string and both have improved my arm tremendously. I love seeing what others are hitting with !!

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