Summer is in full swing here in the northern hemisphere, and we’re finally seeing squash courts fully re-opening and getting back to some semblance of normality. With a return to competitive action now firmly on the agenda at all levels of the game, we’re seeing players getting back into their training regimes with renewed motivation and enthusiasm.
One of the tried and trusted methods of summer training for squash players has long been track work. From the legendary Jonah Barrington and his contemporary Geoff Hunt, through to the modern-day uber-athletes such as Paul Coll and Joel Makin, getting out on the track and running various interval formats has always been a big part of high-level conditioning training for the sport.
To help get you on the way with your track session, check out our SquashSkills top 3 track workouts.
The 400s are perhaps the most ubiquitous of track sessions and are a great place to start. A standard pro session would typically consist of around 8 sets of 400m, aiming to complete all sets under 70secs. There are stories of some of the elite squash players of yesteryear completing up to thirty back-to-back sets of 400m, and some professional distance runners such as the legendary Czech athlete Emil Zatopek even doing sessions with sets of ONE HUNDRED 400m reps!! For most mere mortals however, once the volume of sets goes above 10-12 the intensity and quality drops considerably, limiting their effectiveness in building true squash-specific fitness.
The best way to structure the work:rest ratio is to take equal time for each (so however long your work interval takes, rest for the same amount of time afterwards). Alternatively, to make it even tougher, elite athletes will often work a 2min turnover – so you would go into your next set on 2mins, then on 4mins, then on 6mins and so on, meaning the faster you complete each set the more rest you will get before the next.
With a pyramid track session you’re working up a progression of distances, and then returning back down again the other side. This format allows you to challenge the energy systems of the body in subtly different ways in each of the different distances, while also providing some variety within a session to help keep things feeling fresh and challenging.
There are many ways you can structure a pyramid track session, but a good starting point for squash players is to work a pyramid of 200m/400m/800m/800m/400m/200m.
Make sure to warm up thoroughly so as the first 200m hard effort isn’t too much of a shock to the system. Work on a 1:1 work:rest ratio, so work sets and rest periods are equal throughout. Want to make the session tougher? Go through the pyramid twice.
Even though the sprints we undertake in a game of squash are never more than about 10 to 12 metres, incorporating longer sprints into your training regime can help provide an excellent general conditioning stimulus. The all-out effort in a hard sprint really engages both the muscles and the central nervous system, making them a beneficial training tool for all athletes. The 50m distance is a good one to use, as it gives enough time to push hard and get up to top speed, but without prolonging duration and potentially increasing injury risk.
Work from the start point of the 100m lanes on your track, and pick out a visual marker about halfway down to set out your approximate 50m distance. A good volume to start with is 10 x 50m max pace sprints, interspersing each sprint effort with a jog back to the start aiming for about a 1:4 work-rest ratio. Even at an advanced level, you don’t want to be pushing the volume too high with these high-intensity sprints, so you probably want to work up to a max of no more than around x16 reps. A better way to increase the difficulty of the session for higher-level athletes is to reduce the rest periods by increasing the speed of your jog back to the start each time – thus adjusting to a 3:1 or even 2:1 work to rest ratio.
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director
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