In most racket sports, the backhand can prove to be a somewhat complicated business and squash is not immune to this. Every sportsman has a weakness that his opponent will try to exploit. For beginners the backhand is often one of those weaknesses.
It is in your best interests to eliminate as many of your weaknesses as possible.
So what are the best backhand squash drills? Try creating a channel in the left-hand side of the court, and hit backhands to yourself down the line. Start near the front wall, then move back. You can develop this drill by adding occasional cross-courts. Other drills such as backhand side-to sides are really effective.
Muscle memory is important in any sport that requires hand-eye coordination. Many beginners find the backhand a very unnatural shot to play.
When you start the backhand looks awkward and it feels awkward. Tricking your mind into thinking that neither of those things is true is ultimately the key. The only way to get a squash backhand to make sense is by practising it over and over again.
This is where this article will help you!
Here I provide the best 14 drills to really help develop your backhand. They will improve your accuracy, technique, and just make things feel more natural and second-nature.
Let’s try and help you get to where you want to go in squash. No more being dominated on the backhand side, or having players hit every single shots to that side when playing you. Remember, forget about the journey and focus on the destination.
Find yourself some cones (or tape) and create a channel with them about 2m away from the sidewall running from the backwall of the court to the front wall.
Practically speaking, you should only have enough room to take one step to the left or one step to the right.
For the first drill, stand about 5m away from the front wall, your feet in line with the cones. The idea of this first drill is that you are going to play gentle backhand to the front wall back to yourself and keep repeating. You can only hit the ball within the channel between the cones and sidewall.
Your focus is on getting the simple mechanics going in the shot.
You will also be teaching yourself to be able to control that backhand to some degree.
An uncontrolled backhand will produce a ball that comes back outside of those channel boundaries.
Difficulty: Beginner or Intermediate
Once you are comfortable that you have the discipline and control required to make some progress on this drill, you can up the stakes move further back.
The principle will stay the same. Take up a position within the channel you have created, with your feet close to the cones. You have one job here.
Start a backhand rally against yourself. You will notice that you have a little more time to play now, which creates a little more temptation to run around the backhand and play the forehand instead.
DON’T DO IT!
Whatever happens during the course of this drill, your only goal is to strike the squash ball with the backhand.
Difficulty: Beginner and Intermediate
The reality is that you won’t always be playing the straight backhand in a game situation. There will come a time when the situation demands you hit the ball cross court.
So, while these drills are about perfecting the backhand, you are going to be forced to alternate the shot with the forehand at some point.
Keeping the cones on the court, move a little closer to the front wall so that you are standing roughly in the center of the court, but on the line of the cones. Start the rally by hitting one straight backhand. Your second shot should then go cross court.
Run across to the ball, and hit a forehand, sendingthe ball straight back cross court and onto the backhand side of the court. Run back and begin the drill again.
Work on developing a rhythm. Start from close range and then work your way backwards.
The goal is to be able to successfully play the drill from the back of the court.
Cross courts near the front of the court will have to be hit quite gently so you can retrieve them OK.
By now, you should be a touch more comfortable with your backhand shots. Once again, you will now be called upon to up the stakes.
The channel of cones that you have set up will come in handy again for this drill.
Your goal with this drill is to only get the ball to bounce in what is now effectively the back quarter of the court. Stand near the back corner, with your feet near the cones. Hit backhands to yourself. The aim is to keep the ball in the channel, and to bounce behind the service line.
One way to pull this off more consistently is by using the height on the front wall.
If you must, you also need to slow that ball down to establish initial control.
The more comfortable you get, the faster you can make this lonely dance (rally). When your feel for the backhand eventually improves you can then place more emphasis in hitting the rubber off the ball.
The end goal, apart from sustaining the rally, is to secure depth. That is a strong indication of your capacity to control the ball on the backhand side.
This drill ups the accuracy stakes once again. It also brings in the cross-court element again.
Start once again by hitting a backhand down the line and landing it in the back box inside the cones.
Whereas before you had the luxury of space, you have now zoned that target down to just one measly box!
Once you are comfortable that you are hitting that target regularly, you can then move onto the next step of the progression which is to involve the forehand side of the court again.
In a similar way to Drill 3, you hit two backhands before you hit the third shot cross court. Run across, and then with the forehand you hit the ball back across to the backhand side of the court.
What you will also find is that you will sometimes be forced to retrieve balls from close to the sidewall. With this drill you get to work on so many other elements of your game which can sometimes be taken for granted.
You are learning to move better, quicker and more efficiently. You learn to time your strides and lunges better and you get to work on preparing the racket face for contact, while in motion.
The two Rs come to the fore once again – repetition and rhythm.
This is an old favourite, where the service line on the front wall gets to serve a purpose during training.
To start with, begin about level with the T. Hit one backhand stroke above the service line and then hit one backhand stroke below the service line.
Control is really at the heart of this drill. However, it can become a little mundane, so as a progression you can then try starting on the right hand side of the court and move your way to the left hand side of the court.
Once your back is touching the sidewall, start moving back to where you started on court. The whole purpose, throughout this stage of the progression, is to maintain the rhythm.
Throughout this drill, you are also teaching yourself to adjust the racket face. To hit the ball above the service line, you are opening your racket face just a tad and probably bending your knees more than is usual.
To hit the ball below the service line, your weight distribution will change and that will change the weight with which you hit the ball.
Difficulty: Beginner and Intermediate
Stand in the middle of the court and hit a backhand into the first sidewall. There should be enough power and height on the ball to have go over your head and ricochet on the volley off the second sidewall. Give the ball a chance to bounce before backhanding it straight at the sidewall that it came from.
Continue like this, hitting backhand after backhand over your head.
This drill teaches you to adjust to your circumstances quickly. It will improve your footwork, it will improve your situational awareness and hopefully it ends up improving your backhand.
Use cones to create a new line about 2m from the backwall, this time running from sidewall to sidewall.
So, operating in this channel, attempt the same side-to-side drill that you played in Drill 7.
The major difference here is obviously that you have a little less room to play with – well, a lot less room to play.
The drill will test your mental fortitude, so refuse the temptation to cheat, regardless of how challenging it gets. Keep hitting backhands, and don’t even think about a forehand!
Right, we suspect that at this point you might be getting a touch bored. So, we are going to bring some balloons in. The manner in which you carry out this drill will be determined by the level of your game.
Give yourself one shot before absolutely drilling the ball into the targeted balloon situated up the middle of the front wall. This is the wild wild west. The only rule is that you can only use your backhand.
So, that is one self-feed into the front wall and with your second shot try and pop a balloon. If you get the feeling too many balloons are about to pop here, maybe get a piece of newspaper up on the front wall instead.
It is strongly suggested that the starting point for this rally be the service box. Depending on your level, you will likely be surprised by how often you miss those balloons. The point of this drill is the balance of power and accuracy or at least encouraging you to do so.
Sometimes, the best squash drills are conducted without a ball – and don’t even need to be performed on a squash court. All you need is your racket and a mirror for this one.
In the absence of a mirror, for whatever reason, a window, or a glass-back court with a good reflection will probably suffice.
Just practise your backhand stroke or motion from a static position. Focus on the swing. Visualise it.
As a progression to this, you can then look at adding the element of a ball to it. That doesn’t even need to be done on a squash court either. Before you commence with that though, just make sure you are clear on the proper contact point for your shot.
Typically, you will be hitting the ball roughly level with your right leg. Imagine you were taking a drop in golf. In other words stretch your arm right out at a right angle to the ground. Make sure you feel comfortable with your stance and as the ball drops hit through your stroke.
Focus on the body/hip rotation and the weight transference. Your racket should already be in the ready position before dropping the ball. The power with this stroke should be generated mostly through the arm.
The mistake some people make is to drop the ball too close to the body and that affects the swing adversely. Make sure you give yourself enough room to make a full commitment to the swing and produce a healthy follow through while you are at it.
The next step in this progression is allowing the ball to bounce once before you hit it from a static position. Don’t abandon anything you had done prior to this. You are still in a static position and there is no lunging forward.
Focus on the swing work you had done before allowing the ball to bounce.
The one variable to this, which some players might prefer, is throwing the ball against the sidewall and allowing it to bounce once before committing to the stroke. It might be difficult to make contact at the same point regularly though.
The backhand swing is a complicated business. Unlike tennis, for example, you do not have the option of proving extra support with your other hand/arm. Well, you probably have the option but it is not practical in the context of a squash game.
A double-handed shot would limit your reach and range.
Sometimes, players just struggle to adjust and adapt to the feel of striking a squash ball. So there is the option of improving that backhand swing, using a foam ball. You can even practise the swing off the second bounce from the foam ball.
It is a straightforward routine. Stretch out your arm and drop the ball a comfortable length away from your body.
The idea of dropping the ball a comfortable distance away is to provide yourself ample opportunity to work on your weight transference through the shot.
While performing this drill, work on getting as much hip rotation as you can. When you are a bit more comfortable with the swing, start adding some movement to the drill by taking a step or two. Not just to increase the challenge a little but also to mimic the game situation as much as is conceivably possible.
The reality is that if the ball is too far ahead of you, you lose the power generated in the backhand swing. So, in part this drill is about teaching yourself to understand the right striking distance for you and knowing when to swing.
When you are comfortable with your swing you can really let rip.
Hitting the backhand off the back wall is an intricate skill to have. You can only get better at it with meaningful practise. Spatial awareness is an important element here.
Just feed the ball into the front wall, with the view to getting it to land deep. Hit the squash ball hard and deep before taking it off the bounce on the back wall. Keep the cycle going for as long as you can.
The extension to this is to go back to the channel of cones down the side of the court. Keep the shots within this channel, but once again let the ball bounce off the backwall each time.
Difficulty: Beginner and Intermediate
A shot that does not get talked about enough is the backhand serve. It is potentially the most valuable serve in the book, for numerous reasons. It is an incredible asset to have when serving from the forehand side of the court.
Do yourself a favor and practise this serve. Either simply do it as a solo drill and collect the ball each time, or play it with a partner. Your partner simply cross courts the ball back to you, and you catch it and hit the next serve.
Difficulty: Beginner and Itermediate
What do squash and soccer have in common? Not much.
But a mini soccer goal could come in handy for somebody who is willing to work on the their backhand stroke.
Stand on the T-line and drop the ball, allowing it to bounce once. Then play your backhand stroke into the front wall.
Place the mini goal posts in the left hand service box. The task is simple, get the squash ball to land in goal.
How valuable is the backhand in squash? For the most part the backhand is used to keep a player in the contest. A defensive ploy.
However, if you hone it well enough it can be used as a deadly weapon.