With lockdowns easing in many parts of the world and courts opening back up, thoughts are finally beginning to turn toward a return to squash for a lot of players who have been unable to indulge their favourite pastime over the pandemic period. Based on the hum of chat across our social media, a lot of amateur players are starting to step up their physical training ready to hopefully hit the floor running! But what is the best way to prep yourself for a return to court? As odd as it may sound to be doing it off the court, it’s Ghosting that is the very best way to prepare your body for your on-court comeback.
Squash is a sport based very much around short, intense, repeat-sprint efforts. While things like running and cycling can help provide a good base of aerobic fitness, they don’t really fully replicate the stop-start nature of squash. This lack of specificity means that taken in isolation, these slow, steady pace forms of exercise only have a limited transfer to readying you for a tough on-court battle.
Most on-court physical training we feature on SquashSkills, is focused on interval training. Most specifically, there’s a lot of attention on shuttle-based sessions. These kinds of drills can be replicated off-court and will go a long way to building your conditioning back up.
What these shuttle sessions often lack however, is the deep lunge action so characteristic of a very high proportion of the movements we make on the squash court. These kinds of strengthening lunge actions are frequently incorporated into off-court training by the savvy amateur player, with bodyweight circuits and the like often utilised to great effect, but making these movements high velocity and therefore directly applicable back to our on-court endeavours is something often lacking in off-court conditioning programmes.
So ghosting outdoors off-court is something that can play a huge role in really specifically getting you back into a prepared state ready for a return to play. When lockdown eased in many countries for a couple of months last year and (modified) squash was allowed for a brief time, much of the feedback we received here at SquashSkills was that painful hip and knee joints were very prevalent in a lot of amateur players.
Interestingly though, we found from a short informal survey that whilst players who had been doing some home bodyweight strengthening exercises and basic cardio reported better outcomes, those who had actually gotten out and got some off-court ghosting in were able to get back into their groove far quicker and more comfortably than those who had just trained more generally.
Obviously ghosting in your local park is going to be set up a little different to standard ghosting, and almost immediately you’ll need to deal with the funny looks you’ll very likely get from passing joggers and dog walkers!
Once that self-consciousness has been overcome however(!), we want to replicate on-court ghosting as best we can. Court dimensions are never going to be exact when laying out some markers outdoors, but you can replicate the 9.75m by 6.4m of a squash court by measuring around 13 standard steps by 8 steps. By setting out your corner areas with cones or whatever else you have available to use as markers, you can create your own simulated court space – if training on grass, you can even scratch out a mark on the floor in the middle to represent your ‘T’.
A note of caution for outdoor ghosting though is to be aware that grass or concrete don’t allow for the same footwear grip as is present on a squash court. Squash shoes are perfect for on-court, but poor for everything else – the very flat sole that most shoes possess, are one of the worst possible options for training outdoors. You’re far better off using cross-training shoes with deeper tread, or even switching to football/rugby studded footwear if training on grass. Whatever footwear you use however, remain aware that you won’t have the exact same grip as you have indoors on-court, so be conscious of this when replicating those faster, lower movements into your front corners.
So once you’ve set your court and got your footwear ready, it’s time to get out and ghost! You can find a wide variety of ghosting routines on the site that can easily be transferred to your outdoor environment, such as session 1, session 2, session 3, and session 4. The sessions linked are all endurance-focused ghosting, rather than speed-focused ghosting – this takes into consideration that a lot of players who have done very little squash-specific training in a while will need to build up the longer, slower style workouts first, and also factors in a note of caution as regards the aforementioned less stable surface concerns.
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director
Looking for ideas to improve your squash-specific fitness at home?
Then make sure to check out the series where Gary Nisbet takes us through exercising at home or confined space and shows you how to make the most of training when you can’t get to a gym or on a courtCheck it out