For a lot of recreational squash players, family, work, and social commitments mean it can be difficult to find enough time simply to get on court and play during the week, let alone schedule in additional physical training sessions as well.
Compact ‘bolt-on’ fitness sessions can be an efficient and useful method to get some extra physical training in, when time is at its most stretched. For those that wish to delve deeper and add in some more focused additional physical sessions however, one of the most common questions often asked is: What should my priority be, and how do I fit it all together?
The first thing to keep in mind is that there is a lot more to ‘fitness’ than just being able to keep plodding away for the course of a game – For a lot of players, getting ‘fitter’ still means to them just a slog through a few sets of court sprints or Ghosting every now and then. Stamina/endurance is important, but equally so are other physical attributes such as strength, speed, power, agility, coordination, stability, and flexibility – all work together synergistically to make up the complete athletic package, and it is difficult to categorically label any one element as being ‘most important’ to train for the squash player.
To use just the aforementioned court sprints and Ghosting as an example, even these can be adapted in a number of different ways – intensity, duration, repetitions, timing, rest periods etc – to really highlight different physical attributes. We do our best with the videos and articles here on the site to try and differentiate between sessions, and let you know the best ways to manipulate training variables to really focus on these different elements and to thus maximise your training time.
If you are committing time to increasing your focus on your physical training, you may well already have some awareness of these distinctions, and where your specific strengths and weaknesses lie. For many though, it can be a bit daunting to consider everything and accurately highlight where physical improvements are most needed, and for a lot of players that vague sense of feeling they ‘need to be fitter’ can really be quite difficult to actually quantify. A useful tool for sportspeople of any level is the use of a fitness testing battery – a series of tests that you can undertake periodically to give you a clearer picture of what are your most glaring areas for improvement.
Whatever component of fitness you’re aiming to improve then, the next question is: How much time should be devoted to additional physical training? Of course, for most players with jobs/families, time may be severely limited. Ideally though, if you’re looking to really improve any specific physical attribute you would need to train that element 2 to 3 times a week. These sessions don’t need to be hours long however – most elements such as power/speed/stability can be trained adequately in sessions of no more than 20-30mins. The old adage of ‘quality over quantity’ should always be applied to physical training.
While compact general conditioning sessions can be bolted-on to existing training/practice matches, if you’re specifically looking to focus on improving a particular physical aspect it does ideally needs to be a session in itself – unfortunately, post-training/game the quality of your movements will most likely not be of an adequate standard due to fatigue. Certain elements such as speed and agility however can work great as the latter part of a warm-up, allowing you to kill two birds with one stone and focus on these training these attributes as part of your preparation BEFORE your on-court game/training, but this obviously does not extend to things like strength and power, which ideally need you fresh (and in an appropriately equipped Gym).
If you are really stuck for time, it’s worth considering actually cutting down on your squash playing for a couple of weeks to allow yourself extra training time to really focus on your physical conditioning – if you only have 3x one hour slots a week for your squash for example, if improving the physical side of your game is a high priority for you it may be worth considering replacing two of these slots with a perhaps a Gym/Circuit session for a few weeks. Cycling your training in this manner periodically will obviously yield great benefits to the physical side of your game, but is also a great way to break up the monotony of your training.
So if your focus is on really improving the physical side of your game, you need to consider the following:
1) What area are you specifically working on?
Test yourself where possible to identify your weaker aspects, and investigate the best means and methods of training that attribute(s).
2) How much time do you have available to train?
Unfortunately, training an element once a week for 10 minutes as an afterthought is probably not going to make much difference. If you’re limited for time available, pick a maximum of two elements (possibly 3 if you have a lot of additional training time available) to really focus on at a time to avoid spreading yourself too thinly, and cycle these every 6 weeks or so.
3) How important is this to you?
It may very well be the case that the technical side of your game suffers a little in the short term, as you devote additional time and energy to your physical training. Long-term however, the sacrifices you make will go a long way to making you a better all-round athlete, and in turn a better all-round squash player.
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director
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