Frequent quick movements and rapid adjustments with the feet are an integral part of the physical make-up of squash, so developing the speed of your footwork can make a big difference to your performance. Incorporating some focused drills into your training with appropriate parameters can help you make this shift, and provide a real boost to your court coverage and positioning.
Most movements on a squash court cover no more than about 6 steps, so ‘true’ speed development in the manner used by sprint athletes or team sports played on larger pitches, isn’t always particularly relevant to the squash player. Effective movement on a squash court consists primarily of explosive power for acceleration off the mark, and rapid foot turnover and coordination in approach to the ball. So what are the best methods to use to improve?
A combination of general foot speed development, allied with more focused on-court ghosting drills, is the best route to rapid improvement. Working on your footwork with effective speed/agility drills gives you the foundation, that you can then refine with your targeted squash-specific drills. Be sure to check out some of the links embedded throughout the blog for some great exercise ideas.
General foot speed development
There are numerous drills that are great for developing your base foot speed and coordination… and there are equally just as many that while being extremely impressive, are unnecessarily complex and are formulated mainly for social media posts!
Enhancing your foot speed has a significant nervous system contribution. Drills are typically focused on lots of small, quick steps – implements like training ladders can be useful, though equally there are lots that can be done working just with court lines, balls, or cones.
One of the simplest footwork drills that you can bring into your training, is skipping. Working quick, low bounces is a great way to help you develop speed and reactivity through the lower body, and can also be easily incorporated into your weekly schedule by adding in a few sets of 30secs bursts as part of your warm-up.
Footwork speed drills are better done before games/training in general (or in a separate session by themself), to ensure fatigue doesn’t become a significant limiting factor. A big mistake a lot of people make with any kind of speed training, is making the working sets too long and the recovery breaks too short.
Squash-Specific footwork drills
Building your base of enhanced foot speed through a variety of more general drills, lays the path to converting your increased foot turnover into something more directly relevant to your on-court endeavours.
The best footwork drills for this purpose, are going to be primarily based around ghosting exercises. These can be incorporated in various ways, whether done as pure movement sessions or combined with hitting in routines such as shot & ghost.
As with the more general footwork practices, getting the parameters right plays a big role in improving your quickness. Short, high-intensity efforts of around 15 to 20 seconds, separated by longer rest periods to ensure sufficient recovery will pay the most dividends. Most traditional ghosting routines that amateur players use are typically focused more on endurance, with longer work efforts and shorter recoveries. For footwork speed development however, we want high-quality, max effort sets, to really ensure the appropriate physical and neurological pathways are being challenged.
Beyond just the pace of your footwork, working with a coach to refine the more technical elements of your movement is a very important consideration also – elements such as getting into a better position on the ball, the ability to adapt to a variety of shots in different situations, and being more efficient across the course of a whole match. In addition, we have an excellent range of great content here on SquashSkills from some of the very best coaches in the world, which will help provide you with all the additional resources you need to see how the elite approach their footwork training.
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director
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