Squash - Plyometrics
Plyometric exercises are aimed at reducing the amount of time spent on the ground preparing to move, with the primary emphasis of most exercises focused upon vertical and forward motion. In a squash game, the next movement could be in the same direction or in an infinite number of possible directions. The design of this training session hinges on eliciting a plyometric based stretch shortening cycle but then using this stimulus to isolate the multidirectional foot patterns specific to squash. To recreate "game play", each drill mirrors a movement on court and as such is performed over short distances focusing on the development of both linear and lateral movements.
1. Barrier hop with change of direction and shot
2. Lateral barrier hop with 180 degree turn
Barriers are formed in a row. The athlete transverses the barriers sideways, landing on both feet, hips facing forwards throughout. While clearing the last barrier, the athlete turns 180 deg, landing on the outside foot only, pushing off on this leg to change direction back down the row. The athlete lands two-footed back down the row. This is repeated until the required number of repetitions is completed. This drill develops ankle stability, acceleration and lateral change of direction.
3. Hexagon drill with change of direction
Tape is used to create a hexagon on the floor (sides of 20 inches plus), using the T as the centre. The athlete stands in the centre of the hexagon and responds to a starting signal by jumping two footed across one side of the hexagon and then back to the centre. The athlete proceeds around each side of the hexagon in this manner for a prescribed period. A visual clue is given to the athlete at the mid-point of the prescribed time, at which point the direction of the hexagon travel is reversed. This drill develops ankle stability, acceleration, lateral change of direction and ability to centre body following a change of direction.
4. Split squat jump with cycle
The athlete begins in a split squat position. He/she then drives up, the main emphasis coming from the front leg. Mid-jump, the leg positioning is cycled so that the opposite leg comes through to the front and becomes the drive leg for the next repetition. This is repeated until the required number of reps is reached. This drill develops starting speed, acceleration and linear change of direction.
5. Barrier hop with 180 degree turn
Barriers are formed in a row. The athlete hops two-footed over the barriers. While clearing each barrier, he/she rotates 180 degree in alternate directions. On clearing the last barrier, the athlete reverses the rotation and traverses back down the row in the same manner until the required number of reps is reached. This drill develops turning speed, ankle stability, vertical jump capacity, horizontal jump capacity and linear change of direction.
This is an advanced session designed for the elite squash player. However, its advantage is that the intensity of each drill can be adapted to suit a particular athlete's specific skill level, while retaining the original emphasis. The session intensity can be reduced not only by limiting the number of barriers, barrier height or the distance of each hop but also by breaking down each drill to its core movement (for example, removing 180 deg turn). Conversely, the session intensity can be increased by including depth jumps or by adding resistance such as a weighted vest. Such variables should be modified for phases of the training calendar, injury potential and the athlete's experience base and level of participation. Progression should never be sacrificed for a breakdown in technique; this is counter-productive.
At each stage, monitor the athletes, allowing for comparison and immediate feedback. You can achieve this by timing the athlete to complete a single rep (drill 1), a set of specific numbers of reps (drills 2, 4 and 5), or by counting the number of foot contacts/hops possible within a set period of time (drill 3). This, combined with the fact that the athlete can actually see him/herself dealing with greater drill intensity and complexity, helps to maintain focus, reduce boredom, and thus maximise results.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Before any drill work, athletes should complete a general warm-up that includes squash-specific dynamic flexibility movements. This produces several benefits such as improved co-ordination, balance, proprioception and movement speed. However, it must be remembered that for optimal results the athlete should begin the main session fully fresh, so the dynamic flexibility work must be designed so as not to be overly tiring. At the end of the session, undertake static stretching so as to reduce muscle soreness and increase flexibility.
It is advisable to quantify the volume of the session by the number of foot contacts. The athlete's overall program will dictate the optimal number of sets, repetitions, length of rest periods between sets and the frequency of completion.
This session is fundamentally plyometric-based and so suitable thought must be given to ensure its safe and effective use, such as training age, flooring, suitable strength level, participation in a conditioning program, and correct technique throughout.
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