Interval Training

While a lot of players manage to find time to fit in a couple of gym workouts a week around their squash, many often aren’t aware that training for their general health/fitness goals can also complement their squash-specific conditioning. If structured properly, you can tweak your training programme so as to not only achieve your general health and body composition targets, but also to simultaneously train the energy systems and muscles/movements specific to your squash.

Basing the cardiovascular (CV) element of your gym sessions around short, high intensity efforts has been demonstrated to be one of the best methods for improving general fitness, while also burning off body fat and helping promote the development of lean mass – all typically desired goals for the vast majority of gymgoers.

Interval-based sessions are also ideal for developing squash-specific conditioning, as they challenge both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, and replicate perfectly the stop/start nature of squash – bursts of high-intensity activity during rallies, followed by short periods of rest between points. For each of the following workouts, the RPM/machine resistance setting on the ‘effort’ portion of each interval should be increased to a level as high as you can sustain for that duration. Longer, tougher rallies in closely-fought matches will frequently see players working at 85%+ of their maximum capacity, so this is what we’re aiming to reproduce in our training.* The CV machine you use for each of these workouts isn’t as important as the intensity. You will generally find elite-level squash players will favour the indoor bike due to the lighter load on the joints and the more specific leg endurance benefits.

30 ON, 30 OFF In this session we’re going to work a 30-second effort interval to a 30-second slowpace active recovery interval. One set will consist of 15 effort intervals in total, after which you’ll rest completely for 90-120 seconds and then repeat for 1-5 sets (replicating a standard match). To make this session tougher, instead of increasing the volume or duration of efforts, try reducing the recovery period. Getting down from a 30second effort to a 15-second recovery is tough, but mirrors perfectly the average effort/rest in a standard squash match.

PYRAMID INTERVALS Begin your set with a 15second effort interval. Slow down for 15 seconds of active recovery and then go into a 30-second effort interval. Mirror your effort interval again by recovering at a slow pace for 30 seconds and then go into a 45-second effort interval. Recover for 45 seconds, before finally going into the last progression up to a 60second effort interval.
After your 60-second effort interval you’ll recover for 60 seconds and then work your way back down through 45, 30 and 15second intervals in the same way you did on the way up. After your final 15second effort/15-second recovery, you’ll go back into another 15-second interval and work back through the entire pyramid. Twice through the pyramid equals one set (14 intervals). Rest completely for 90-120 seconds and then repeat for 1-5 sets.

RANDOM INTERVALS DRILL Working side by side with a partner for this session, you’ll take turns to dictate interval lengths for a threeminute period. While one partner pedals along at a steady pace, they’ll instruct the second partner when to start/stop for each flat-out effort interval, keeping to random durations of anywhere from 5-20 seconds (use the timer display on your machine to monitor). Recovery periods are also kept equally random, controlled again by the dictating partner. After three minutes swap over, so that the working partner goes back to maintaining a steady pace and they now dictate the intervals for the previously controlling partner. Go through 3-4 minute interval sets each for one complete set (around 20 minutes’ work overall). Rest completely for 90-120 seconds, then repeat the routine for 1-5 sets. In the second part of this feature in the next issue we will look at how best to use resistance training as part of your gym programme and how you can tie it all together with your CV sessions. *Working at or near maximum heart rate can be dangerous for certain people. If you have any heart issues, elevated blood pressure, arthritis or are aged 60+, seek medical clearance before commencing any highintensity training programme. 

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