Whatever level you play at, your training time is valuable. Whether you’re a purely recreational player juggling a busy work and family calendar trying to fit in a few extra sessions a week to improve, or you’re an elite-level professional looking to cover the entire spectrum of solo practice, drill sessions, match play, and physical training, time is rarely something that we have in abundance.
To help you maximise your precious training time and get the very most out of your available session slots, check out our SquashSkills top 5 tips.
Make time to warm-up properly
We always stress the importance of a properly structured warm-up here on SquashSkills as it’s one thing any player at any level can incorporate into their training regime, that has the potential to have an immediate and significant impact on performance.
While many view warming-up as primarily just an injury preventative measure, a thorough, well-designed pre-match warm-up routine can actually help enhance your physical performance. Sportspeople of all levels are always looking for a tip or a trick to give them an edge over their opponent, yet something as simple as a properly constructed warm-up is often overlooked in favour of the latest alleged ‘magic-bullet’ supplement, exercise ritual, or complicated training programme.
Taking the appropriate time to go through your warm-up routine – even if it eats a little into your court slot – helps make sure you’re physically and mentally prepped to perform your best, and avoids you spending the first 15mins of your session dragging your stiff and creaking body around the court getting increasingly frustrated with yourself!
Another lesser-recognised benefit of the warm-up is its post-session impact – research suggests that a good warm-up routine can actually go some way in helping to reduce DOMS and general next day aches and pains.
Plan out your session
It’s all too often that you see players turn up to the courts to train, without any real actual plan as to what they’re going to do in their session. Time is then wasted chatting and deciding before – as typically happens the squash world over – settling on some kind of half-hearted boast & drive routine…
No matter how good your intentions are to get on-court and get some solid practice in, to really maximise your time availability you should have some kind of planned structure as to what you’re going to do before you even arrive at the club. If you’re having trouble knowing where to start, check out our library of great squash sessions and physical sessions for inspiration.
Also, whatever form your plan takes, commit to adhering to that schedule as far as possible. If you’ve mapped out 6 sets of 30 shot pressure feeds, or 10 sets of 20 court sprints, or 8 sets of 1min ghosting patterns, then make sure you honour that and go on and stick to it, not cut off the last set or two when the legs start to burn and thoughts begin turning toward post-session refreshments!
Go in with a focus
In line with having a plan, you should also have a focus for your session. In an on-court session, it may be something as open as ‘hitting with rhythm’, or something more specific like working on the volley drop, but it’s important to have an idea in mind of what you’re trying to concentrate on and what you’re aiming to develop within that session.
Equally, if you’re doing a physical session, decide beforehand whether you’re going to be focusing predominantly on endurance, speed, strength, movement etc. Working a multi-element session is fine, but there still needs to be a theme in mind as to what your main point of focus is going to be, to avoid the session devolving into a vague mishmash of disparate exercises.
Prepare yourself properly
To get the best out of your session, you need to make sure your body is prepared for it. Think about making sure you’re well-rested beforehand (where possible), that you’re fully hydrated, and that you’ve eaten the right things at the right times during the day. Also consider using some kind of ergogenic aid such as caffeine, if you find this helps give you the boost you need to perform at your best.
It may take some trial and error to find the best foods and meal timings for your particular needs, but typically a light carbohydrate-based meal (such as rice or pasta) eaten around 2 to 3 hours before you play, is a good starting point. It’s not just that one meal that counts though, make a real effort on training days to eat a proper breakfast and lunch, and drink at least 1.5 litres of water through the day – it’s very difficult to patch up a day of poor nutritional choices with just one high-quality pre-session meal.
Remove distractions before you start
It’s not always easy before you step on court to clear your mind of the standard work/social/family worries that plague us all, but as much as possible try and leave all that outside when you go on for your session – aim to treat the court almost as your sanctuary away from your troubles.
It may take time for you to truly develop the ability to do so, but being able to compartmentalise your stresses so that they don’t follow you onto court will help you get the maximum out of your session – you may even find that shifting those thoughts from the forefront of your mind for a short period, will help you better be able to properly tackle them once your training is over.
As scary a thought as it is for many people, also try and get into the habit of turning your phone off before you start your training as well! Unless you’re waiting for an important call/email, your phone should ideally be switched off and in your bag when you’re on-court. Use the breaks between drills to discuss/review with your partner or to think about points of focus for the next practice, not to check your Facebook/Twitter/Insta feed…
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director
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