Squash is a game based upon prolonged, multi-directional, high paced rallies, so a high level of endurance is a crucial requirement of a squash player’s physical profile. Maximising your endurance will allow you to work harder and recover quicker in your games, giving you a big advantage over your opponent.
Not sure where to start? Check out our SquashSkills ‘6 of the Best’ endurance workouts.
Court Sprints: 10 Sets of 20
Perhaps the oldest and most traditional method for building endurance on the squash court, is by use of the humble court sprint.
The aim in this workout is to complete 10 sets of 20 lengths of the court, with 1min rest periods between each set of the 20 sprints. Your target should be to work at the fastest pace you can sustain for each set – this will, of course, depend on your own level of fitness.
A great goal to aim for however, is to be able to complete all 10 sets in under 1min each. If you can complete the entire workout within that 20mins time frame, then you can consider yourself in pretty good squash-shape!
Ghosting: 10 x 10’s
Easily the most specific form of squash endurance training is ghosting. For those unfamiliar with this method of training, you are essentially simulating a rally by yourself on court without either a ball or opponent.
Ghosting routines can be made quite technical, with specific patterns and footwork routines practised to develop your movement mechanics. To really enhance your endurance however, the focus should fall more on the speed and intensity of your ghosting.
A great fitness-based ghosting routine to try is the ’10 x 10 shots’. In this workout, you’ll ghost 10 shots, 10 times, taking 30secs recovery periods between each.
The ghosting movements you make should cover the entire length and breadth of the court – try and visualise being within a rally as you work, travelling corner to corner in a match-type pattern (make sure to pause briefly on the T as you would in a normal game).
Start by completing 3 sets of 10 x 10, with 2mins rest between each set. You can then build on this as your fitness and conditioning improve – elite level professionals would typically complete up to 12 sets in this format.
Bike Sprints: 30 On/15 Off
Bike sprints are another form of interval training, this time taking place on the exercise bike.
Bike sprints are especially useful for players looking to increase their squash-specific endurance, without excessively loading their joints. As beneficial as exercises such as court sprints and ghosting are, the repeated floor impact can potentially exacerbate joint issues over time – particularly in those players who are less well-conditioned.
We have a full range of great bike sprint sessions on SquashSkills, but one of our favourites is the ‘30/15’.
For the 30/15 session, you’ll be working sets of 30secs hard efforts, interspersed with 15secs slow pedal recoveries. Your aim is to work at the highest pace you can sustain for the full 30secs – on a typical exercise bike, keeping a speed of around 110rpm+ is a good target, with the resistance level pushed up to around 40% of max (so on a standard 20 level resistance scale, push up to around level 8). This of course though will be dictated heavily by the particular bike model, and your own level of conditioning – if in doubt, aim to work at a perceived rate of exertion of around an ‘8’ on a 1 to 10 scale.
For the 15secs recoveries, you’ll drop the resistance on the bike right back down, and just keep the pedals turning very slowly while you catch your breath. You’ll complete 10 of these 30/15 reps per set – depending on your level of fitness you can build up over time from 1 set to an entire 5 sets, to replicate the demands of a full squash match (taking 2mins rest between each set).
Track: 400 Repeats
The track is a traditional favourite of many professional squash players, with 400m repeats being a staple workout.
A standard pro session would typically consist of around 8 sets of 400m, aiming to complete all sets under 70secs. There are stories of some of the elite squash players of yesteryear completing up to thirty back-to-back sets of 400m, and some professional distance runners such as the legendary Czech athlete Emil Zatopek even doing sessions with sets of ONE HUNDRED 400m reps!! For most mere mortals however, once the volume of sets goes above 10-12 the intensity and quality drops considerably, limiting their effectiveness in building true squash-specific fitness.
The best way to structure the work:rest ratio is to take equal time for each (so however long your work interval takes, rest for the same amount of time afterwards). Alternatively, to make it even tougher, elite athletes will often work a 2min turnover – so you would go into your next set on 2mins, then on 4mins, then on 6mins and so on, meaning the faster you complete each set the more rest you will get before the next.
Swimming: 2 Length/2 Minute Turnovers
One of the main advantages of swimming is that it has essentially zero impact – unlike other activities such as running, skipping, ghosting etc. This makes it especially useful for athletes returning from injury, or who are trying to protect aching joints.
Swimming also provides the benefit of an excellent stimulus across a wide range of muscles throughout the entire body, from glutes and hips for kicking, shoulders and arms for your strokes, and core for stabilising during the rotational and turning movements. This core work in particular, is a huge plus for swimming as an exercise – having a strong core is key for squash players, in respect to maintaining posture and stabilizing the hips through the on-court sprinting and lunging actions.
For your 2 Lengths/2 Minutes Turnover session, you’ll start with 8 lengths steady pace warm-up, then go into x6 2 length sprints on a 2min turnover – so you’ll start the clock ahead of your first 2 length sprint and then leave it running, going into each subsequent 2 length sprint on 2mins, 4mins, 6mins etc. The faster you complete the 2 lengths, the more rest you get.
You can make the session more challenging by taking a 2min rest upon completion of the x6 2 length sprints, and then repeating through for a second set.
Running: 5k Time Trial
The 5K is not only one of the most common distances to get out and run for many people with events like the UK’s ‘Park Runs’, but it’s also actually one of the most effective for squash players looking to boost their endurance due to the energy systems that are stressed.
The aim when running a 5K session to develop your endurance is to challenge yourself to push to the highest threshold of intensity that you can maintain, as opposed to just ‘cruising’. Another benefit here of the shorter 5K distance is that you can actually mix things up a little to increase specificity – see our article on fartlek training for some ideas as to how you can replicate match-conditions by playing around with your tempo during a run, as opposed to just plodding along at a constant pace as can often tend to happen with longer sessions.
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director
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