‘Training more slowly to move more quickly’ on the surface sounds perverse, and somewhat of an oxymoron. It’s certainly something that amateur players can struggle to get their heads around, but in the world of high-class sport, it’s not that uncommon a principle.
When we talk about ‘technique’ in squash, most people immediately think mainly of the racket – the swing, the grip, the position etc. Movement is also a technique in itself however, and something that extends beyond mere physical output.
Increasing the quality of your movement patterns will help you develop better speed and efficiency, but if your practice of these elements is done at too fast a pace, then you risk losing out on developing the necessary technical minutiae – and it’s these finer details that can make the key difference.
Something that is often said of elite athletes, is that they’re better able to go to the extremes.
For most people, they think of this in terms of pushing harder, higher, and further. This works the other way also though; elite athletes are also very often far more comfortable at dropping their intensity down to a lower level than the typical amateur – be that with recovery sessions, longer duration slow pace volume sessions, or the technical sessions considered in this article.
Amateur players very often find it hard to understand the value in low-intensity sessions, thinking they won’t get any kind of proper training stimulus if they don’t come out of a session dripping with sweat and out of breath. Elite athletes on the other hand know that as well as pushing hard to higher extremes in training, they also need to be able to drop down to far lower intensities on occasion to switch up their training focus. High-level Russian tennis players for example, are known for often working with very slow and deliberate swing actions in formative stages of their training, as they refine their technique at elite academies.
What does this mean for you in respect to developing your squash movement in practice then?
If you’re trying to sharpen up as fundamental a pillar of your game as on-court movement, you need to take a step back and really work at a very slow pace to first perfect the necessary footwork adjustments, before you speed up and start bringing it to a more realistic match pace. Too many amateur players however don’t quite slow down enough, and instead end up in something of a grey area – not quite slow enough to really integrate new movement patterns, but then not actually quite fast enough to get any kind of real conditioning benefit instead.
So to really fundamentally improve the quality and efficiency of your movement, you need to first drop your intensity right down to groove in the proper mechanics. Working with a good coach or using some of the great videos we have here on SquashSkills will help you to learn the best movement techniques to focus upon, but then keeping the speed very slow in your initial practices will allow for a far better absorption of these footwork skills before you start increasing the pace, allowing you to be better able to integrate them more smoothly into your on-court play.
B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
SquashSkills Fitness & Performance Director
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