Endurance in respect to sport, can be defined as “the ability to exert effort continuously for extended periods without tiring”. Clearly, in a game so characterised by prolonged, multi-directional, high paced rallies, endurance is a key requirement of the squash player’s physical profile – both in respect to the cardiovascular system (the heart and lungs), and the muscles themselves.
First, the science…
The chemical compound that supplies energy for muscular contraction within the body, is called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The body has several ways in which it can produce this energy, broadly split into aerobic (with oxygen), and anaerobic (without oxygen) – the primary pathway used dependant on the intensity and duration of the activity.
Due to the nature of squash, all of the energy-producing pathways are heavily stressed. This means that we need to make our training sessions as specific to the demands of the game as possible, to make sure we are covering all the bases.
The endurance training we undertake will induce many physiological adaptations in the body. These adaptations ultimately enhance our ability to perform at a higher intensity for longer periods – crucial to your squash, if you want to improve and play at a higher level.
So how do we train for endurance?
To ensure the aforementioned specificity to squash, we need our endurance training to closely replicate the complexion of a typical squash rally. Squash is very much a repeat-sprint based sport, with the physical demands consisting of short, high-intensity efforts within each rally, interspersed by brief periods of recovery in-between.
To this end, the best way to develop your squash-specific endurance is through interval training – working periods of hard exertion, separated by short periods of controlled rest. Incorporating endurance-oriented sessions into your training 2 to 3 times per week, should provide a noticeable boost to your fitness within a relatively short time-span.
Here are 3 of our favourite endurance workouts for the squash player:
Perhaps the oldest and most traditional method for building endurance on the squash court is the humble court sprint.
Exactly as it says on the tin, a court sprint workout consists of multiple lengths of the court ran in the fastest time possible. There are countless ways to structure a court sprint workout, but one of our favourites is the ‘10 sets of 20’.
The aim here 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!
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 (not forgetting 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 improves – elite level professionals would typically complete up to 12 sets in this format.
Bike sprints are another form of interval training, this time taking place on the exercise bike (typically within a gym environment).
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 105+ 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).
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director
Improve your footwork, speed and endurance with Gina Kennedy!
All of the sessions are designed to incorporate a high degree of squash specificity, formulated to speed up your footwork and enable you to sustain the pace no matter what your opponent throws at you!Check it out