Squash is unique, it is fast, competitive, and provides an excellent workout. One hour of squash can burn upto 850 calories. To play squash at a competitive level you need to work on a combination of:
- Aerobic fitness
- Strength conditioning
- Mental focus
However, if you have never played squash before, don’t think you can go out on the court and become a champion over night, without the correct training, squash puts your cardiovascular system under extreme strain. Correct conditioning is paramount to playing a good game of squash.
If we look at what is required, players need to have aerobic fitness to allow them to run and swing for an hour or more, flexibility to reach for tight drop shots, strength to control their racquet and hit the ball with power, and mental focus to “stay in” a long match.
A good squash fitness training program should help to strengthen and condition all of these aspects of a player’s game.
Put simply aerobic fitness means that you can run around the court for an entire match, while not tiring yourself out to the point of exhaustion. Getting aerobically fit takes some time. Start with outdoor running sessions, building up gradually and incorporating regular sprint intervals or hill running. Vary the intensity of your runs and this will improve your ability to handle the short bursts required on the squash court. We have listed other ways of increasing your aerobic ability;
- Circuit classes
- Play other sports such as football
Maintaining aerobic fitness will allow you to enjoy squash more and will also help prevent injuries.
To hit a squash ball with power takes strength. Strong legs move you to the ball, a strong torso rotates completely before the swing, and a strong arm and shoulder steady the racquet through impact. Squash like most sports use a unique set of muscles, so one of the best ways to get stronger for squash is simply to play squash. We have included below a set of basic exercises for strengthening the muscle groups need for squash. A good personal trainer can instruct you on the best way perform each of the following:
“When striking the ball, keep your wrist firm, don’t flick, you can generate power by shifting your weight from the back foot to the front foot, rotating the hips and swinging your arm through fully“
Click on exercise below to see how it is done!
- Bench Press: Strengthens chest and arms
- Leg Press: Strengthens quadriceps, buttocks, and hamstrings
- Wide Standing Squat: Strengthens buttocks, quadriceps and hamstrings
- Quadriped Single Leg Hip Extension: Strengthens hamstrings
- Ball Prone Cobra: Strengthens lower back and shoulders
- Standing Barbell Row: Strengthens Shoulders
- Crunch: Strengthens the abdominals
Don’t forget to stretch, warm up and cool down, for further advice please speak to a personal trainer for guidance.
Have you ever seen a really great squash player, they bound around the court in giant lunges, covering great distances in a single stride. by improving your flexibility you can decrease your chance of injury and increase your ability to frustrate your opponent!
There are many different ways to stretch, however, after your warm up, it is always a good idea to stretch, however, it is essential after you have finished playing (before prevents injury, and after prevents soreness.) Don’t forget to stretch your whole body:
Here are a few recommended stretches
- Shouders: Rear of Shoulders
- Shoulders: Front of Shoulder
- Hip Flexor
- Arms: Triceps
Many people forget or cannot be bothered to stretch , but it is very important, it does not take very long, and must not be overlooked!
Squash requires mental focus throughout the match. One lapse in concentration can lead to errors, the loss of a game, or even the loss of a match. Mental focus is difficult to train, but it is something that is developed the more you play. Athletes often refer to “the zone”, which is a relaxed state of mind that leads to complete focus and excellent body control. Simple tips to help with your mental focus:
- Don’t let one mistake get you frustrated. Keep calm and focussed
- Before big points, get yourself really ready. Take a deep breath, shake out your racquet hand, focus on the ball, and then play the smart shot.
- Be generous with lets and strokes, and above all, don’t let arguments over calls distract you from the task at hand: making good squash strokes.
- Do these things, and you will be started along the way to better mental focus!
DON’T SKIP SKIPPING!
There’s a huge range of different fitness tools and devices available now, of a wildly varying degree of use and effectiveness. Amongst this backdrop of ‘must-have’ gadgets carefully marketed to part the fitness enthusiast from their money in the quest for the next latest and greatest workout tool, sometimes the simpler things get lost. The humble Skipping Rope is one such oft-forgotten item, yet for the squash player in particular it is an invaluable addition to your kit bag. Cheap, portable, and easy to use, no squash player should be without one!
Despite often having the rather soft image of children jumping rope and singing songs during breaktime at school, Rope Jumping is actually taken pretty seriously by many athletes – it’s a staple part of boxing training for one, and there are actually competitive Rope Jump competitions that are even televised in the US!
Skipping is a great cardio workout, that can easily be adapted to vary intensity – adding in a small bounce in between each rope swing at a lower speed, or continuous jumps at a higher speed. Short bursts of higher speed effort can be included in an interval format, or you can just work at a steady pace for longer durations. The repeated bounces are a basic plyometric type action, so they are good for developing repeat dynamic force production, very beneficial for squash. There are also great balance and coordination benefits to improving your skipping fluency – especially if you haven’t tried it since the playground!
Technique is simple and will improve with practice, but make sure you use an appropriate length rope – the handles should reach your armpits when you step on the rope with them held up. Make sure you stay light and on the balls of your feet, with brief, soft floor contacts – done properly it will actually be of a lower impact than something like jogging. Squash court floors are ideal to skip on, as they are sprung and thus have a little more give to them. There are some excellent skipping based workouts and demonstrations on YouTube – the video here is a great introduction with 23 progressive exercises and footwork patterns to work with:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZX-NdILjBWY
I recommend all squash players keep a skipping rope in their bags – skipping is a great addition to any warm-up thanks to its easily progressed intensity and the little room needed, and it is also a great workout in itself if you want to get a bit of extra training in and you’re tight for time and space.
Gary Nisbet – B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
Squashskills Fitness & Conditioning Director