Fitness training specificity for squash players

28th November 2016

As anybody who has played the sport will surely attest to, getting into the best possible physical condition for your squash can go a long way to ensuring you are able to play at your peak capabilities.

With this in mind, we try and cover a wide variety of different training methods and modalities here on SquashSkills to give you all the tools you need to perform at your very best.

SpeedStrengthAgilityStabilityPower, and all of the other related physical attributes that go into making up the all-round athlete can be trained in many different ways, but an often forgotten point that players of all levels would do well to remember, is to never move too far from ensuring the main bulk of your training remains as specific to the sport as you can.

Specificity is one of the core training principles and concerns the need for training to be as relevant and appropriate to the movements and demands of the sport as possible, to make sure the training effect is maximised.

When putting together a resistance training programme, for example, it’s important to be mindful of this specificity principle. Ensure that the movements and joints that are engaged in the various pushes and lifts that make up any weights based session replicate the same joint actions and movements involved in the particular sport being trained for.

This is why most good squash-specific weights programmes are built around the hip, knee, and ankle extensions, multi-directional lunging actions, and stability based exercises.

This self-same specificity of training is crucial to keep in mind in all aspects of conditioning – any attribute you are looking to develop is going to have a far better crossover to your squash if it is carried out as close to its form within the game as is practical.

If you’re looking to develop your endurance, for instance, your physiological adaptations are going to be far more applicable to your squash if they are carried out through on-court sprint/ghosting sessions of appropriate duration and intensity, than a similar session carried out running outside or on the CV machines in the gym.

Equally, speed/agility sessions are going to have far more carryover to your movement if performed on-court in relevant patterns, than they would if made up as a track-based sprint session for example.

This doesn’t mean however, that there is no place for a variety of supplementary physical sessions and different forms of cross-training – and indeed, we highlight many of the best of these here on the site.

squash fitness trainingWorkouts such as interval bike sessions in the gym, outdoor hill running, 400m track work, and cross-training in other sports such as cycling, rowing, and boxing (hitting pads, not necessarily getting in the ring!) can all be of benefit, particularly during the off-season.

Off-court sessions certainly have some use in terms of developing a more diverse foundation of conditioningand for helping provide an occasional mental break from the court.

I see too many players make the decision to commit to a physical training regime however, only to then base it too heavily around just non-specific generic fitness activities such as long-distance runs, or very general fitness-magazine inspired weights routines.

The bulk of your physical work should be carried out on-court, to really adhere to that specificity principle – with athletes I work with I tend to try to maintain a ratio of about 70% of their conditioning work taking place on the court, so as not to drift too far from that core squash-specific foundation.

On-court sessions such as speed/movement drills, differently targeted ghosting patterns, endurance-based circuits, and a variety of court sprint routines should form the bulk of any squash conditioning programme, with gym sessions and other off-court workouts scheduled in to further develop areas not always readily trainable within the confines of the court (such as strength), and to supplement this on-court base as opposed to replace it.

Maximise your training time by keeping your conditioning work as specific as possible, maintaining your focus and familiarity with the court, and thus really reaping the rewards of all the sweat and effort you put in.

The more specific your physical training is to the uniquely multi-faceted demands of the game of squash, the greater the benefit it will have to your overall performance.

We’ve got lots of great fitness exercises and sessions here on the site, covering all of your squash-specific conditioning needs with more added every week. Check them out, and let us help you get into peak squash playing condition!


Gary Nisbet

B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director

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