Of all the racket sports squash is the most intense, it’s fast, space you play in is confined and you battle in that space with an opponent. Getting around the court and past your rival to play shots can make the difference between winning and losing. To help you get a head start on your opponents, check out our 6 essential squash fitness tips. By the end of this article, you’ll have an understanding of how these tips and can help. All you’ll need to do is get started.
In squash, the ball moves incredibly fast and you’ll need agility, speed, and power to play the game at a high level. No wonder many novices wilt when faced with the relentless pace of the game. Even seasoned players can fade in a match, not because they lack skill but for lack of stamina. Neglecting exercise as part of your overall approach to squash will stifle your development and cost you victories.
If you can commit to devoting 30 minutes a week to these 6 essential squash fitness tips we guarantee you’ll see an improvement in your game, no matter your level of play. Let’s get started.
We covered ghosting in an earlier post but it bears mentioning again as it is the easiest of all the squash tips we’ll talk about in this article. It is also the most sport specific drill as you’ll be literally be going through the motions whilst not actually hitting the ball.
Simply spending time on the court by yourself practicing movement through the T, to the six hot spots on each side at the front, center, and back will build muscle memory and reinforce the proper form. Time alone on the court, without distraction and without hitting the ball will put you into an almost Zen-like state. You could liken it to shadow boxing if that helps you get your mind around ghosting.
Granted, everyone feels a bit silly doing this at first. You’re basically playing a game of squash by yourself without the ball so to the uninitiated onlooker, you might look as though you’ve lost your mind. Ghosting is all about patterns and repetition. Trust us. If you stick with ghosting you’ll see results.
Run between the hot spots and the T in sequence and then randomly. Go as fast as you can and eventually when you get to each spot lunge low, squat or jump high to mimic the leg actions of the various returns you might make.
Devote 20 minutes once a week and record how many runs you make and how many breaks you take, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll recover and how you’ll shorten your rest periods between runs.
2. Stability Ball
Ah yes, the oft-maligned stability ball. You see these multi-colored plastic orbs at every gym and they’re usually being used improperly if they’re being used at all. In fact, if not used the right way it’s easier to get hurt on a stability ball then it is to derive any benefit. Don’t be that person.
The most common mistake people make is using a ball that is either too big or too small. Your legs should make a 90-degree angle when you sit on the ball with your feet flat on the ground. Choose a ball that allows you to achieve this position and then you’ll be set to perform some foundational stability ball exercises.
A stable strong core is essential in squash for powerful play and also to hold your balance as the body weight shifts in accordance with your moves around the squash court. Your strength emanates from the core so it’s essential that you tone and strengthen this region. We don’t want to get too deep into stability ball exercises but thought to list a few here that can benefit you as a squash player.
Stability Back Bridge
Rest your head, neck, shoulders and upper ribs on the center of a stability ball with your back extended and unsupported, your knees bent and your feet directly beneath the knees on the floor set a hip distance apart. The ankles and knees should both be at right angles so the shins are vertical and the body and thighs horizontal.
If holding this position in a static pose is challenging, you have your first indication that your core is weak. If you’re stable, you can try elevating one foot then the other from the floor in an alternate pattern, holding for 15 seconds. Once you’ve got this motion down try lifting your foot then lengthening and extending your leg, again alternating left and right.
Why crunches? Controlled crunches performed on an unstable surface (stability balls are inherently unstable despite the name) engage more abdominal muscles than sit-ups or crunches performed on a flat surface.
While sitting on the ball walk your feet forward and allow your shoulders, neck, and thighs to become parallel to the floor. Relax your neck and place your hands behind your head, but don’t lock your fingers together, this causes tension. Next, engage your core and lift your shoulder blades off the ball, pausing once you achieve a 45-degree angle. Look towards the sky so you don’t put too much tension on your neck. Then slowly lower your upper body back down to the starting position. Remember, we’re not looking to bang out a high number reps, the slower the better. You’ll feel the burn as your core muscles fire to keep your body stable. Try two sets of ten repetitions.
Stability Ball Y-T Extensions
Strong, flexible shoulder joints are something every squash player needs to perform well and avoid injury. You can increase your range of motion as well as tone your shoulder muscles by performing Y-T extensions on a stability ball.
Lay with your chest on top of the ball, legs extended straight behind you and you body in a plank position and your head in a neutral position. While keeping your core, glutes and back muscles engaged, have your arms hang down from the shoulders but don’t touch the ground or the ball. Next, raise your arms up and extend straight ahead so your body resembles a “Y”.
Next, do the same motion but this time extend your arms out to the side creating a “T”. Repeat the Y and T ten times each. By performing this exercise on a stability ball you’ll increase your range of motion more so that doing the same thing on the floor.
Benefit: Strengthens and tones shoulder muscles and improves joint flexibility and range of motion. Strengthens back, glutes and core muscles.
Stability Ball Wall Squat
Squats are great for building your quads. In this exercise will use a stability ball against the back in order to do controlled squats against a wall. By using a ball you can help ensure proper form while also protecting your back. This exercise will also isolate and work your core and glutes.
Place a stability ball between a wall and your lower back. Facing away from the wall, stand tall with shoulder blades pulled back. Lean back against the ball and keep your weight on your heels. Place your hands on your hips and slowly lower into a squat position. Pause when your knees are flexed at a 90-degree angle, thighs parallel to the floor. Next, engage quads, glutes, and core and drive upwards through your heels to the standing position. Repeat 10-12 times. Try for 3 sets.
Squash demands that you’re able to return balls low to the floor and also be able to jump high to volley. Lunges are great in that they specifically prepare your legs for these foundational moves.
Body weight alone provides ample resistance for leg training in the beginning, but with repetition, you’ll find you can progress to loading a barbell or using a kettlebell and realize even more benefits.
Split your stance with one foot forward and the other behind. Place your front foot flat on the floor while lifting the heel of the back foot. Maintain a distance where you feel a slight stretch but aren’t off balance. Bend your front knee as low as possible while keeping it in vertical alignment with your ankle. Don’t extend your knee to the point where it is beyond the toes of your front foot.
While bending the front knee bring your hips and back leg low and soften the back knee on the way down, tapping it on the floor (or mat). Then extend slightly on the way up. Alternate this motion between your right and left legs. Perform 3 sets of ten repetitions each side.
Variation: Lateral Dumbbell Lunge
Grab a light dumbbell in each hand.
- Begin by standing with feet hip-width apart, dumbbells at your sides.
- Making sure to point your knee in the same direction as your foot, take a large step to the right, keeping the dumbbells at your sides.
- Push back and lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor, keeping your knees behind your toes and your spine straight.
- Return to your starting position using your glutes and hamstrings.
- Repeat, alternating sides.
4. STANDING BOSU BALL BALANCE
You can vastly improve your balance, core strength and build the muscles that surround and support your ankles with this Bosu ball exercise. Strong ankles allow for quick turns and sprints and take the pressure off your knees.
Step both feet on a Bosu ball about hip distance apart, balance yourself and get comfortable. Next, alternate lifting your left then right foot and hold each position for as long as you can. As you progress, try lifting your leg higher, moving the leg while it’s lifted and bending and extending it. Your natural inclination will be to hold your arms wide to your side. As you get better on the ball, hold your arms across your chest. This will engage your core in balancing your body.
With arms folded across your chest, perform squats on the Bosu ball.
A word of caution, make sure you are comfortable and able to maintain your balance on the Bosu ball before progressing to more advanced exercises.
5. PLYOMETRIC JUMPS
One of the best training methods for squash is also one of the easiest and most natural. In training circles, they’re known as plyometric jumps. Whether you do them using a box or just from the floor any plyometric move-a rapid, explosive full body movement is going to work your body at high intensity while putting major muscle groups to work in concert with one another. In short, plyometric movements are awesome for squash.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Drop into a squat, swing your arms forward and jump forward as far as you can. Immediately turn and repeat back to your starting position. Try for 3 sets of 10 jumps. One jump counts as one repetition.
High Knee Tucks
Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, squat then jump as high as you can straight up. As soon as you land, repeat the motion and try to get your knees as high as possible. This exercise develops your quads, hamstrings, core and aerobic capacity. Try for 2 sets of 6 jumps.
Combo Sprint Finisher
For this, you’ll need to run in place for 15 seconds, drop into a burpee, then jump up into a high knee tuck, land and finish with a 15-yard sprint. Immediately perform the same sequence and sprint back to the start. Perform 3 sets of 5 reps.
With all of these jumps always aim to land with both feet in unison, if you start to land staggered that’s an indication that you’re tiring. Stop. You don’t want to do any of these exercises to failure. Do an amount that you can perform well and build a foundation. Perform these jumps for ten minutes twice a week and you’ll begin seeing results soon as your fitness and level of play will improve.
The humble plank rounds out our list. When you think about it, what could be easier than just remaining motionless for a minute or so? Truth be told, many people ignore doing planks when in fact they are foundational core exercise upon which you can build out the rest of your routine.
To perform a classic plank, support your weight on your elbows, which should be directly under your shoulders, palms up. Extend your legs straight behind you supporting your bottom half on your toes. Tighten your core, keep your back straight and breathe normally and hold this position for one minute. You can place your phone in front of you and set the timer to keep track. If your core isn’t in good shape and you’ve not done planks before you’ll realize how long a minute can truly be.
On the other hand, people that are devoted to planking sometimes overdo it. There is no real further benefit derived from doing extended planking sessions longer than about 5 minutes and spread across several variations. With planks, a little goes a long way.
Position yourself on your side with your weight on your right elbow, with knees together and slightly bent, tighten your core and lift your hips off the mat. Hold for 30 seconds then switch sides. To make it more challenging perform the side plank with your legs straight.
Lie on your side, with your weight on your right elbow, which should be aligned directly under your right shoulder, and your knees bent. Tighten your core and lift your hips off the ground. Hold this position.
Switch sides when the rep is complete. To make this more challenging, perform the plank with straight legs.
Push Up Plank
Assume the classic plank position and set your timer for 30 seconds. At the bell push yourself up with your left arm while leaving the right arm in the plank position supporting your body weight with your elbow. Extend up then lower yourself and alternate the movement by lifting yourself with your right arm. Repeat for 30 seconds. This movement combines a push up with a plank and will torch your shoulders, abs, and legs. Try to complete 3 sets.
By combining the classic, side and push up plank you can complete a total plank work out in less than 5 minutes.
Planks strengthen your core, boost metabolism, increase muscle definition, improve posture, stabilize back muscles, build leg muscles, improve balance and improve your mood.
A plank targets almost every group of muscles in the body. This means that adding planks to your squash workout plan will make your body stronger. There’s more than that, though – planks don’t just improve muscle mass. They improve the strength of the skeletal system, they improve our ability to focus and concentrate and even help us breathe properly. All things that will benefit you on the court.
We’ve given just a few tips that will make you a better squash player. These exercises can be done in less than 30 minutes and can be blended with your workouts on non-game days. Try to do them at least twice a week and keep track of your progress.
What about you? Can you add to our list? What are some of your favorite workouts? Leave a comment below!