Keeping squash-fit on vacation – pt.2

29th August 2013

With the Northern Hemisphere Summer starting to creep in, a lot of people’s minds turn to luxury vacations to exotic climes – or at least, weekend breaks out of town with the kids in tow! For the dedicated squash player however, the immediate concern naturally becomes: “But how will I keep up my training in Barbados/Tenerife/Skegness??”. The good news is, SquashSkills is here to help!

In part 1, we looked at a squash-specific workout that was adaptable for use in almost any small gym, such as might be found in a typical hotel fitness facility.

Depending on where you’re travelling to however, it may very well be the case that you have no dedicated sports/exercise areas at all at your destination. This is where a certain amount of improvisation is necessary, to allow you to still get a workout in to help keep your squash conditioning topped up.

One common option for those looking to get some physical training in while away, is to go out for a run. The issue with this however, particularly for those unaccustomed to going out running, is the stress and impact that is placed on the joints through pounding the pavements. Despite its popularity, ‘jogging’ outside is actually one of the worst forms of exercise for many people due to the huge amount of force going through the joints of the lower body with every stride. Added to this, is the fact that the energy systems primarily worked in a long run aren’t the most specific to the requirements of competitive squash.

A way around this though would be to instead run on a more forgiving surface (such as grass), and to tailor the intensity of your session to something more squash-specific. Fartlek or interval-based runs outside in a field or on the beach can work well, if utilised correctly – following the parameters of our Bike Sprints from part 1 last week is ideal, pushing yourself to 30 second hard run/sprint effort intervals of around a subjective ‘8 out of 10′, followed by a 20 second very slow recovery pace. The recovery duration can then be increased or decreased, depending on your level of conditioning.

An even simpler solution however, and one for which you can find some kind of space for almost anywhere in the world (often, with a bit of furniture rearrangement, even in just your hotel room!), is through the use of a skipping rope.

Light, portable, and requiring the minimum of technique to get started, the skipping rope is a squash player’s best friend – ideal for use for short workouts when time or space is limited such as the holiday example being discussed here, or as part of your warm-up before matches/training back in your regular environment.

Even if you’re somebody who has never skipped before, just the simulation of the action is enough to give you a workout while you develop your technique. The coordination and agility benefits that learning (or improving your existing ability) to skip will bring you, are also another huge benefit down the road.

Our ‘Keeping Squash-Fit On Vacation’ workout pt.2 then, is going to be very similar to part 1, just with the addition of the skipping and a few modifications to be made for lack of space and equipment.

Skipping Interval Sprints

So for this workout, we’re going to keep similar parameters as in the CV section of part 1, but this time with the use of skipping intervals in place of the bike sprints.
We’re going to work the same 30sec max-effort intervals to 15sec recovery intervals, with 1 set consisting of 15 effort intervals in total, to again replicate a similar amount of rallies as would generally take place in a single game of squash. For your recovery intervals here however, you’re going to stop skipping and just walk around for the designated rest duration.
On the effort intervals, skip at the highest pace you can sustain for the entire 30sec interval. Even if your form is terrible, just the action itself of trying to skip can be enough! If you really struggle to get anywhere, just going through the action of quick bounces and small arm movements to mimic skipping without a rope can also work in the short-term as you learn.
Make sure wherever you do your skipping, that the ground is forgiving – skipping outside on concrete, as with running, isn’t recommended due to the high impact on your joints.
After completing the 15 reps of 30sec skipping efforts, you’ll rest completely for 90-120secs and then repeat for 2 to 3 total sets – building up to 5 for the truly hardcore who want to really closely mimic a full competitive match.
To make this session tougher, instead of increasing the volume or duration of efforts, try reducing the recovery period. Reducing your sets down to even just a 30sec effort to a 10sec recovery period can make this a particularly tough workout, and will mirror even better the average effort/rest durations in a standard squash match.

Weighted Lunge > Speed Lunge

Next, we’re going to go into our Lunge exercises. The Lunge is a staple part of any resistance training programme geared toward developing squash-specific leg strength and is also great for enhancing functional range of motion in the hip region.
For this session, we’re going to work from a resisted lunge straight into a much faster match-specific lunge. Use one of your travel bags packed with gear as your resistance – a standard soft sports bag or holdall packed with a few pairs of shoes or similar, can be held on the shoulders to make a great improvised ‘weight’. For most players, aiming for somewhere between 10kg and 20kg is a good place to start. Once your resistance is set, work along with the following technique guidelines:

• Start standing upright, feet together
• Step out to a comfortable distance, keeping the torso upright and core held tight
• Pause briefly, with the front knee joint held at approximately 90 degrees
• Push back to start position by simultaneously driving through both thigh (quads) and buttocks (gluteals)
• Ensure buttocks and hip of the rear leg also engage on the return, to aid efficiency and stability of the movement
• Alternate legs throughout the set

Complete 12 total repetitions (6 on each leg). Immediately upon finishing your final repetition, put the weight down and go straight into 20 short fast lunges, at your maximum pace. With these, try and visualize lunging into the corner for a counter drop or similar, and really focus on making them as quick and as squash-specific as possible. Upon completion of the two contrasting sets back to back, rest for 2mins and repeat for 3 to 5 total sets.


Stability Plank

Finally, we’re going to finish our workout with our Stability Plank exercise – great for training the important stabilizing muscles of our core and hip area. Our technique is as follows:

• Start by supporting your body weight on your forearms at the front, and your toes at the back, hip-width apart – no other part of your body will be in contact with the floor during the exercise
• Keep your elbows directly beneath your shoulders at all times, and try and feel your shoulders braced within their sockets
• Draw your belly button in and contract all of the muscles in and around your abdominals, glutes, lower back, and hip flexors
• Aim to keep your spine as ‘long’ as possible, by extending your head away from your backside
• Try not to just ‘balance’ – imagine you’re almost trying to squeeze and drag your toes forward and elbows back, but without actually moving
• Remain completely still and stabilized, and take deep slow breaths

A proper plank should be held for no more than about 30secs and should be an all-out maximal contraction of the relevant muscle groups. If you can hold a plank for longer than about 45secs, then you’re probably not doing it right – we’re looking to develop strength and stability here, not endurance. Repeat your 30sec deep hold plank for 3 sets, with a 90-120sec break between each one.


Gary Nisbet

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

Sign up to the SquashSkills newsletter

Get world class coaching tips, straight to your inbox!