Category Archives: Squash Training

The lob and counter drop

Like many squash players I am a member of Squashskills.com and enjoy their training videos and programs a great deal. I have really enjoyed their focus on the lob and counter drop over the past couple of weeks. Covering these two shots in back to back weeks makes a lot of sense as you are in the same court position, at the front of the court for both. You also are in a similar body position for both shots and you hit both shots with your racquet out in front of you. Peter Nicol really does a great job in this video (Squashskills.com membership required) discussing how well the lob and counter drop complement each other. He focuses on the fact the counter drop takes the opponent deep in to the front corner and the cross-court lob takes them to opposite back corner. I want to focus on how having a good counter drop makes your lob easier and more effective. The opposite is true as well, having a great lob makes your counter drop easier and more effective. Continue reading

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Time to get fit

Following up on our last post about Paul Coll today’s post is going to look at fitness. Squash is a tough game physically and being in good physical shape is imperative to performing at your top level. There are 4 key elements that I want to focus on. The 4 are endurance, core strength, flexibility and explosive power. The reason I am focusing on them now is twofold.  it is just about the new year so a lot of people will be making new years’ resolutions. I am also focusing on them now as I need to work on them myself! Watching Paul Coll’s run at the Channel VAS Championship a couple of weeks ago, really brought in to focus just how far athleticism can take you.

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How to Take Full Advantage of Squash Drills

When training, many players do drills without any concise objective in mind. Players tend to “rinse and repeat” a drill without focusing on important things such as footwork or shot accuracy. Whenever a player is about to start a drill, they should always have an objective in mind, concentrate on it, and works towards as they do the exercise. This is very important since it will help the player develop better muscle memory as well as improve their game more significantly.

During any drill a player should always be aware of where they are situated on court, as well as where they want to hit the ball. If a drill requires to move between different areas of the court, the player currently doing it should always rotate back to the ‘T’. Many players ignore this since they know where the ball is going to go during the drill; for example, if two players are doing a boast-drive drill, both players might move from corner to corner (front and back, respectively) instead of going back to the ‘T’ after every shot. Furthermore, on any drill that focuses on rotation around the court, e.g. boast-drive, players should also concentrate on hitting good shots and not just hitting the ball back. Both of these things are important for various reasons, such as: improving muscle memory, accuracy, position awareness, and rotation to the ‘T’. But most importantly, applying this will help much more in real match situations since the players are essentially simulating the shots and movements they want to perform on court.

Another good example of a very common drill where players tend to forget what the real objective is, is the length rotation drill on one side of the court. Many players, including me, stand at the back and on the side where the ball is being hit at or they rotate back to the ‘T’ but not enough. Basically they wait for the ball to come to them since the drill is happening on one single quadrant of the court. On such a drill, players should again concentrate on rotating to the ‘T’ properly as well as hitting accurate shots. Going back to the ‘T’ correctly after every shot will help develop speed and agility which will be necessary when playing a real match. This is an advantage since a big part of the game is keeping the ball deep and being patient, so good rotation is essential. Furthermore, players should focus on hitting the ball tight as well as where they want the ball to bounce first. Personally, I believe that a player should try to hit the ball on the same spot every time for about 3-5 consecutive shots, then choose a different spot and repeat the same process throughout the duration of the drill. This will aid muscle memory and accuracy which will lead to better shots in a real match.

Before doing any type of drill, every player should always keep something in mind to work towards to. Drills are designed to improve a player’s game but this can only be achieved by how the player decides to approach the drill. Taking full advantage of the drill is the one thing that will help a player improve their game; there are always different things that can be worked on at the same time on any given drill!

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Easy Drill to Improve Your Front Court Shots

This week I was training one-on-one with my coach, and we decided to improve my game at the front court by working on: taking my time, starting my swing from the same position every time, making a shorter swing, and using my wrist more. The reason he told me I needed to do this was to incorporate deception on every shot, as well as increase my accuracy while retaining the same amount of power as before. Surprisingly enough, by the end of practice I was hitting better shots at the front with a shorter swing that always started from the same spot. It was very helpful and I believe it’s worth discussing so that other players can try it out as well.

The first thing we worked on was quicker racquet preparation. I stood on the ‘T’ while he fed me the ball on the front court. The idea was to have the racquet ready before getting to the ball; as soon as he fed the ball I would first get my racquet up and then I would get to hitting a shot. A lot of players start their swing as they are close to the ball and this is not a bad thing; but, on quick shots and under pressure, this will take too much time from the swing, possibly leading to hitting a loose shot. If however you have your racquet prepared before reaching the ball, once you get to it you will have more time to think where to return the shot. This is the first step, and if you wish to do this, you should concentrate solely on having your racquet ready before moving to the ball.

Once I was able to get to every ball with my racquet ready beforehand, we moved on to hitting every shot from the same position with a shorter swing. The first thing we worked on was to have a shorter swing. The reason for this was to be able to hold the shot for as long as possible so that the opponent has less time to read it. The idea here is to concentrate on using the forearm and wrist instead of the whole arm to generate power; the same amount of power can be generated using a shorter swing by generating more racquet speed in increasing the velocity on the forearm and wrist movements. Then, I would concentrate on getting my racquet back on the exact spot every single time in order to create uncertainty on what type of shot I would hit next. Try having someone feed you easy to return shots so that you can concentrate on your racquet preparation, footwork, and making a shorter swing. From the same position you can hit: a drop or cross court drop, a low and hard length or cross court shot, a boast, or a length or cross court shot to the back of the court. All of these shots are possible due to the shorter and faster swing and I believe any player can see the advantage of being able to hit multiple shots from the exact same racquet position!

Towards the end, we worked on including the wrist more to improve accuracy. This is a bit harder to explain as it depends on how every player feels about using their wrist. The main thing we concentrated on was hitting the crease or ‘nick’ with both drop and kill shots. Also, we concentrated on stopping the swing almost immediately after hitting the ball, i.e. having a much shorter follow through. Having a full follow through when trying to hit accurate shots is not ideal since there is more racquet movement and therefore more influence on where the ball is going. A shorter follow through will keep the ball in line as the effect of the racquet going through it is minimum. If you want to improve accuracy on the front court you should concentrate on using just the wrist to give direction to the ball. However, there is no ‘textbook’ wrist movement so you should find your own comfort zone with wrist shots. A great way to practice this is having someone feed easy, loose shots at the very front of the court and hitting the ball using the wrist only, i.e. no forearm or upper arm movements, and always having accuracy as a top priority. Always keep the crease in mind, trying to hit the ball about 2-3 inches above the tin. This way you can become comfortable with your own wrist movement that gets you the best shots. Furthermore, you should always keep in mind your balance as it is essential for accuracy and better shots; you can read more on this here.

Finally, we practiced hitting different shots from different places on the front court while applying everything we learned at the same time. Always keep in mind your body and racquet position, keeping your head down, and your wrist movement. Having said this, if you are looking to improve your front court game you can try out this very helpful drill. The best way to do it is to take it step by step while concentrating on each step’s main goal to finally include everything in one single movement. It is always good to try new drills to improve any aspect of your game, so give it a try and see how your game can improve.

Please feel free to leave your ideas, opinions, thoughts, and/or questions on the comment section below and we will be more than happy to help you!

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Good Balance Leads to Great Shots

Balance is a very important part of the game when it comes to hitting good shots. You need good balance in order to get a solid hit on the ball, and to be able to stay quick on your feet for the next one. Recently I have concentrated on this and I have found that the results are great. I am finding myself hitting more accurate and more powerful shots thus helping me win more points. Here are ways that good balance will help you hit better shots and be quicker when getting back to the ‘T’.

I play varsity squash and the other day I was playing a match against one of my teammates. Our coach was watching and after the first game he gave me some tips on how to hit better shots. He told me that whenever I had time to hit a good shot I was rushing to the ball and thus hitting it when I was off balance. He said I had to take my time, make sure I was balanced and well positioned, and then go on to hit the shot. So I jumped on court for the second game and concentrated on what he told me. So whenever I had time to I made sure I had good footwork in order to position myself with good balance in front of the ball. I placed myself on my normal hitting position but I made sure that my feet were planted solid on the ground; I made sure I used good strength to keep my legs and torso still through my shot. Having done this I was able to hit much more solid and accurate shots. It worked really well for me.

The reason for good balance leading to good shots is the fact that you are able to hit your shots on the racquet’s ‘sweet spot’ more often. If you are off balance previous to hitting a shot, your torso will move around and hence your shoulder as well; all this affects your swing and where you hit the ball. For example, on one shot when playing against my teammate, I tried to hit a straight length as my torso was moving backwards and I ended pulling the ball across resulting a shot right down the middle. So, if you manage to stay balanced leading to the shot, your torso is stable thus giving your arm all the strength and accuracy needed to hit a solid shot. You will also be able to control your shots better since there is no ‘extra’ movement from your body being off balance. In other words, your whole movement will be concentrated solely on your swing leading to more ‘sweet spot’ shots.

Good balance is also an advantage when it comes to the aftermath of the shot; you need it in order to get back to the ‘T’ quick. If you are off balance there is a need for extra movement to get your body back into balance so you can get back into a good position on the ‘T’. For example, after hitting a shot at the front of the court you will use your back foot to propel yourself back to the ‘T’ but, if you drag it too much as you are hitting the shot, you will need to position that foot on the back again to be able to start your movement to the ‘T’; this will cost you around one second which doesn’t seem like much, but when it comes to this game this is very valuable time. Therefore, if you keep your balance through your shot and your legs are stuck on the ground, you can put all the strength on that back foot to get you back on the ‘T’ ready for the next shot.

Good shots are built upon many different things and balance is one of the most important ones. Having good balance will help you hit better shots regardless of what shot it is or where on the court you are. It will also give you the benefit of getting back on the ‘T’ faster thus giving you more time to react against your opponent’s next shot. Get your feet on the ground and get ready to hit great shots!

Also, here is a video of a rally between Mohamed El Shorbagy and Ramy Ashour. Notice how on every shot,even under pressure, they are able to plant their feet and keep their balance concentrating only on their swing and what shot they want to make:

 

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Easy Drill to Improve Lengths and Volleys

No player can deny that having a strong length and volley game is a great advantage on court. Being able to keep your opponent on the back of the court by using solid lengths is a very important part of the game as it keeps the rally under control and can lead to attacking opportunities. One of such opportunities is being able to volley on the mid-court if your opponent leaves an open shot. But in order to do this you need to practice. So I will talk about a fun and easy, three part drill that any player can do with a friend and that will help them strengthen both their length and volley games.

The first part consists of rotating drives on one side of the court while returning to the ‘T’ after every shot. The first player will start at the back of the court as if they were going to receive a normal serve. The second player will start by standing on the ‘T’ with the ball; this player will be the one starting the drill. Once the drill has started after the second player has ‘served’, both players will take turns returning just straight lengths to the back of the court while returning to the ‘T’ after every shot is hit. It is crucial that both players come back to the ‘T’ after every shot since this is what will happen during a real match. The idea is to try different types of lengths (hard and low, lob, etc.) and to get the other player out of position. Both players should concentrate on accuracy and good rotation; tight shots and clearing the ball are essential. This should be done until the players are able to have a fluid, long rally with minimum mistakes. The first part of this drill will help players gain the muscle memory necessary to hit straight, tight shots with good consistency. The first 30 seconds of this video shows how this first part works:

Now, the second part of the drill can be introduced to speed things up a little bit.

The second part consists of one simple thing: volleys. The drill will stay the same. Both players will start the drill in the same way as in the first part, but now volleys come into play. Either player is allowed to hit a straight volley to the back of the court (and only to the back of the court) whenever they wish to. So now two very important factors come into play: keeping the ball tight, and taking advantage of the volley. When one of the players is able to keep the ball tight, whether it is a high or low shot, they will prevent the other player of hitting a good volley or of volleying at all. But, whenever a player doesn’t keep the ball tight, their opponent can start adding pressure with volleys. The key elements here are to concentrate on keeping the ball tight, rotate fast, get into a volleying position, and to add pressure when hitting a volley. Players should get back to the ‘T’ fast and pay close attention to whether they will be able to hit a volley or not. If the possibility of hitting a volley presents itself, they should try to add pressure by hitting a hard and low shot to the back which will cause the other player to be out of position generating more opportunities to volley. The second part of this drill will help players recognize good volleying opportunities and to act quickly once these opportunities are present as well as to gain muscle memory as in the first part. The third and last part will add even more speed to the drill as well as more variety of shots.

The final part is the most fun. Now, players are allowed to hit volley drops. This new addition makes this drill very dynamic and explosive, putting to test both the players’ stamina and technique. If a player is presented with the opportunity to volley they now have multiple options on which shot to play and how to play it; now deception plays a very important role.  For example, if a player knows they will be able to volley their next shot, they should try to hold their racquet in position for as long as possible in order to surprise their opponent once they hit the ball. For example, a player can fool their opponent to think they are going to hit a volley to the back of the court to then continue to hit a volley drop. This part should be done as fluidly as possible concentrating on rotation, deception, and good accuracy. This last part will help players improve their physical endurance, shot accuracy, and to get used to a more dynamic and fast game. Also, players can feel free to change things a bit too if they wish too; instead of volley drops, volley cross courts to the back can be used and then the same drill will continue on the other side of the court. So, many different things are happening during this great drill where players can improve their technique, strategies, and endurance.

Drills are the best way for a player to improve their game and this drill will hopefully help many players accomplish part of that. It is always very important to have strong lengths in order to keep the game under control, as well as strong volleys to attack and add pressure. The combination of these two in a single drill will help simulate the dynamics of a real match thus providing players with a great tool to improve their games.

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Types and Importance of Defensive Shots in Squash

Squash is a very fast-paced and aggressive game that requires a solid defensive strategy as players can find themselves under pressure from their opponent a lot of the time. In the game of squash whenever a player is under heavy pressure from their opponent, defensive play is essential to both regain control of the rally and to conserve stamina. When in trouble on court there are different shots and strategies that can help a player recover from an undesired situation and get back to an attacking position. Continue reading

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Squash – Movement to and from the ball

Movement in squash is probably the most important aspect of the game. It is also one the things that really separates different levels of players. When moving to the ball there are a few key elements to consider. Most of the time if you can you need to get on the ball quickly to have the option of putting time pressure on your opponent. You also need to approach the ball in a manner that leaves you options as to where you hit the ball. One of the most critical points of moving to the ball though is leaving yourself in a good position to move off of the ball. I believe this is probably the biggest differences between high level players and lower level players. Continue reading

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Ramy Ashour – Racquet Preparation and Deception

I was watching Ramy Ashour play Adrian Grant this morning on www.psasquashtv.com and was amazed at how deceptive he was in particular when the ball was played in short on the forehand side. His racquet preparation looks identical between a drive and a drop which makes reading what he is going to hit nearly impossible. There was a terrific video on squashskills.com featuring Jonathon Power where Jonathon went over that very subject. Continue reading

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Back to Basics and the Fundamentals

The inspiration for this post was a twitter post from Roger Federer that was a simple statement with an attached picture.


This simple statement and image coming from the most successful tennis player of all time really makes a powerful statement. In fact you can read many things in to it. Practicing the simple fundamentals of the game would be the first thing that comes to mind. For a tennis player hitting countless tennis balls against a wall is one of the simplest ways to practice the basics of the game. When I see a racquet leaning against a wall painted like a tennis net I get an image in my mind of a boy hitting the ball against the wall because he loves playing the game. When I think of Roger Federer doing this I think of dedication and willingness to the basic things that are necessary to remain great. All three of these are really important in squash as well of course.
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