Squash - Planning the Training
Some people take up squash to keep fit. Running around the court for 40 minutes or an hour will certainly give you a useful workout and improve your fitness if you do it regularly. However, there usually comes a time when to be competitive you need to do a bit of extra work, whether you aim to win the British Open, your club league, or thrash your old sparring partner in your weekly duel.
Demands of the sport
Because of its constant whole-body activity, squash is a sport that demands a high level of aerobic fitness. In a typical game, you will be working at about 80% of your maximum heart rate as you pounce from corner to corner and back to the 'T' for the next shot. Although the distance travelled in each movement is short and explosive, the continuous nature of the rallies with recovery periods in between means that the energy supply comes from aerobic metabolism.
It does not mean you have to run hundreds of miles in training because the game has other fitness demands. It is vital to have the speed to be able to pick up your opponent's craftiest backhand drop shot and get back in position after your reply. Anaerobic endurance is also an essential fitness requirement. During long, heart-bursting rallies, the ability to keep going at high intensity is critical, and this relies on solid local muscular endurance, particularly in the legs.
Muscular strength is vital for both the lower and upper body. Strong legs contribute to anaerobic fitness, while strong arms, chest and back help with racket speed and power. Toning the muscles in the back, abdominals, and legs will also enhance good posture on the court. It is also essential to have a full range of movements in your muscles since agility is vital in a game with so many rapid direction shifts. Sound flexibility is crucial to match performance and help prevent injury.
Phases of training
The primary playing season in the UK covers the winter months, so the summer is the ideal time to undertake some conditioning training. The way to make significant gains in fitness and provide a base to be maintained during the playing season is to do some development work on both strength and endurance
Always remember that it is not sensible to be training hard when you want to play at your best, so you may need to build your program towards the matches that matter to you. To be at your best when it counts means you have to phase the fitness training. It will mean more endurance work at the program's start, followed by work on anaerobic endurance using shorter speed work towards the crucial competition period.
The training week
Squash carries a wide range of fitness requirements, and the best-prepared players will have a varied training program. The proportion of the different sessions will change throughout the year. To develop aerobic endurance, it is best to do some steady-state running. Cycling and swimming will help to condition the heart and lungs but remember that you play squash on your feet! FFor base endurance, you can do a long slow run of up to an hour one day, then try a 35-minute faster effort on another day. If you do not do much running normally, be sure to build up gradually.
Court sprints are a useful way to boost anaerobic endurance. They involve running a series of court lengths quickly and then resting briefly before repeating. This sort of work does not have to be done on a court; short sprints can be conducted on the athletics track with sprints over 30 to 60 metres.
For specific speed work on the court, ghosting is a helpful routine whereby you run at random (get a partner to call) to different parts of the court. The key here is to keep the efforts short and the recovery sufficient to maintain good quality.
Work in the gym, lifting weights or circuit training, is an excellent way to develop strength and should be fitted into the schedule. In the meantime, do not forget stretching before and after all sessions, to prepare for and recover from exercise, although dedicated flexibility sessions are useful if time allows.
The information on this page is adapted from Dunbar (1993) with the kind permission of Electric Word plc.
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