The Formidable 5 Off-Court Physical Challenges

19th January 2021

Following on from our ‘Formidable 5’ on-court physical challenges, we thought it was a good time to follow up with ‘version 2’ – this time focused on drills designed to be carried out away from the court, to set up some tough fitness targets for everybody out there unable to access the gym or the courts right now. 

Be warned, these challenges are not for the fitness novice! These are all tough, gruelling tests of your conditioning, and are targeted at the more experienced trainer. Whatever level you’re currently at though, you can build up gradually and aim towards these as a long term training goal.

If you’re already in good shape however, then these targets should represent the next level for you – with a combination of challenges requiring speed, strength, and stamina, if you can beat all the ‘elite’ marks listed here then you can proudly consider yourself very much a true all-round athlete!

As with all physical training sessions, we recommend you complete a thorough warm-up before you attempt any of these challenges.

Good luck…


5k Run

A straightforward one to start – hit the road for an all out effort to push your 5k time down!

While elite-level 5000m runners hit times between 12 and 13 minutes, if you’re a squash player rather than a regular runner, then a good initial target is to get your 5k time down toward the 25mins mark.

Pro-level squash players would be expecting to hit sub-20mins for their efforts however, with those that run regularly even pushing down to the sub-18mins level.

If you’ve not had much experience running, no matter your fitness level it’s a good idea to increase your mileage gradually to allow your body to adapt. In the early stages in particular, getting out and running any appreciable distance is not recommended more than a couple of times per week.


  • Intermediate: sub-26mins
  • Elite: sub-20mins


Tennis Court Shuttles

One of the off-court sessions we’ve featured here before on SquashSkills, is the 400m shuttles – in that session, a 25m shuttle is run 16x through to make-up a 400m distance (the standard 400m repeats being a popular session for many athletes to do out on the track). The length of a tennis court measures up at a shade under 24 metres, so with a little adjustment to the target times this session can be adapted to fit to similar parameters. If you’ve not done these kinds of shuttle sessions before, you can think of it as a bit like running extra long court sprints!

The aim is to complete each set of x16 lengths of the tennis court in under 1:55mins as a base target (repeated x6), or sub-1:40mins for the elite challenge (repeated x10). Take 2mins rest between sets, and aim to keep each subsequent effort within the same time limits throughout.


  • Intermediate: sub-1:55mins (x6)
  • Elite: sub-1:40mins (x10)


Speed Skipping

Getting out the rope and putting in some skipping sessions is always a good idea for the squash player, but to push towards the upper limits of skipping speed and endurance is a real challenge.

The world speed skipping record stands at 203 reps in 1 minute, but that’s probably going to be a little way beyond most of us! Instead, we’re going to be working a 3mins target, and aiming to hit above 250 rope turns in that time as a base level (repeated x3), and then pushing up to plus 350 as our elite target (repeated x5). Take 90secs rest between sets, and aim to hit your target on each one to consider it a ‘pass’.

It’s better to skip on a surface with a little bit of give in it, such as grass – particularly if you’re not used to doing high rep skipping. As with all of these challenges, make sure to build up gradually – don’t go diving straight into attempting the elite 5-set target if you’ve not skipped since you were in the playground at school!


  • Intermediate: +250 (x3)
  • Elite: +350 (x5)


Max Consecutive Press-Ups

This challenge is based around that most well-known of bodyweight exercises, the press-up. Whilst there’s a lot more that comprises full-spectrum strength in the back, chest and arms than just how many press-ups you can do, it’s still a decent measure of your upper body work capacity.

For the challenge, you’ll simply be aiming to complete as many max consecutive press-ups as you can without stopping. There’s no resting, no holding at the top, no dropping to the knees – it’s how many press-ups you can do while maintaining perpetual motion.

Those without any strength training experience will likely find it a lot tougher, and there’s typically a marked difference in upper body strength in females, but setting yourself small goals to increase your numbers is a great challenge. 25 is a good solid target to aim for, while hitting 50+ is a real accomplishment.

Fancy an extra challenge? Try building up to 10 single arm press-ups on each side!


  • Intermediate: x25
  • Elite: x50


Slalom Repeat-Sprints

This challenge brings in a fast footwork and coordination element, where you’re  attempting to complete multiple short burst sprint sets of a slalom trail.

Check out our ‘Slalom drill’ video to see how the action is carried out. As in the on-court video demo linked, you’ll place your 6 balls at a distance between 2 and 3 feet apart, to cover a length that’s a little shorter than the width of a squash court (approx. 6.5m). It doesn’t matter if your measurement is slightly out, as long as you use the same personalised parameters each time so that you can gauge your own progress.

Work through the ball slalom as quickly as you can, back-pedalling to return to the first ball each time before repeating through. You’ll go through the slalom 10x consecutively, and record your time. Take a 90secs rest, and then aim to repeat x3 at sub-70secs for an initial target, and then x6 sets sub-60secs for the elite.


  • Intermediate: sub-70secs (x3)
  • Elite: sub-60secs (x6)


Got any super tough workout challenges of your own? Share them with us on social media!


Gary Nisbet

B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director

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