If you’re a squash player with serious intent to maximise your on-court performance, then developing your physical conditioning is essential. Amongst the major physical aspects, strength is one area that’s very often neglected by the squash player, perhaps due in part to the myths and misconceptions of strength training being more about big muscles and heavy dumbbells, rather than increasing actual sporting performance.
While a fast-paced, high-intensity game might not immediately seem intuitively rooted in strength, being stronger through the body is actually the foundation of all other athletic qualities.
When considering the relative importance of strength training to squash, it’s useful to look at the broader picture of the other physical attributes. As integral as fitness elements such as endurance, speed, and movement are, it is strength that actually provides the base for all of the other relevant athletic elements. With a good platform of strength your lunge onto the ball will be more solid and stable (allowing you better control and a wider variety of shot choices), your movement will be enhanced from the increased work output available within your muscles (strength is an essential precursor to power), and your physical presence around the ‘T’ will be more keenly felt by your opponent. Increased strength will even help with your endurance, as the energy cost for each movement you make will be reduced due to the enhanced muscle capacity, allowing for greater efficiency around the court and a better economy of effort.
Developing a solid base of strength isn’t just about performance however
Perhaps the most primary, immediate benefit of making your body stronger is how it will, in turn, make it more robust, and thus more resistant to injury. Stronger muscles are more injury-resistant muscles – all the skill, stamina, and speed in the world matter little if you’re always out of action with repetitive injuries.
Getting in the gym and building strength with resistance training is something many players unfortunately still shy away from, with out-dated ideas of stereotypes of building big, bulky muscles that will slow them down. These bodybuilding themes have little to do with strength training as it relates to the squash player though – high volume, muscle isolating, mass gain targeted training sessions are very different to the more specific, functional, foundational strength desired by the squash player.
Much of the common gym training advice unfortunately though, still comes from this bodybuilding background. Popular training methods such as body part splits (‘leg day’, ‘chest day’ etc) and focusing on isolating individual muscles with singular exercises, are very different to the full-body, synergistic movements that make up a good sports-specific resistance training programme.
Strength plays an essential role in supporting our all-around athletic conditioning for squash
In terms of training time, it should be held as a priority – consider both the range of benefits outlined above, but also how it needs a particular variety of dedicated exercises. While your on-court practice will have a beneficial knock-on effect on your endurance and movement and you can to some extent develop ‘fitness’ just by playing, to build strength needs a much more specific type of focused training.
Not sure where to start with your strength training? Check out our brand new SquashSkills Training app for an extensive selection of strength training sessions, and build solid foundations to help take your game to the next level. Simply start your 14-day free trial to get access.
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director
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