Team CT Pro Cam Seth on the Importance of Flexibility…

There are many components that make up the physical side of the squash game. The most well-known ones are muscular strength, muscular endurance, and speed. Those components are important, but there’s another component that is often neglected. That missing piece is flexibility. Without flexibility, it is very difficult to move around the squash court in an optimal way, and as a result the chance of injury goes up. In order to have longevity in squash, it is crucial for any squash player to incorporate flexibility into their training.

There are many other buzzwords such as “mobility” or “pliability“. It is important to understand the distinct differences between the definitions of each. Flexibility technically refers to the ability for a muscle to lengthen (typically in a passive way). Mobility refers to the ability of a joint to actively move through its range of motion. Pliability (buzzword made popular by Tom Brady) refers to muscles that are long and soft and ready to fire at maximum capacity. Each of these definitions highlights a slightly different quality, but ultimately I believe they are all explaining the same goal: the ability to move freely. For the purpose of this post, I will use “flexibility” as an umbrella term that covers all 3.

It’s not hard to see that top squash players are incredibly flexible. Look at any top 10 player and just about all of them can do a full split. Even strength/power players like Greg Gaultier or Mohamed El Shorbagy are incredibly flexible.

And this flexibility is not just for show! Because they have so much flexibility through the hips they are able to lunge and get lower to the ball. This is particularly important in the front corners. These pictures illustrate the extreme examples of defending a very low shot, but having flexibility helps with other aspects of the game as well. Rotational flexibility through the hips allows players to split step off the T more efficiently. Flexibility through the thoracic spine allow players to reach farther out for shots while keeping the centre of mass closer to the T. Shoulder flexibility allows players to hit through the ball more, particularly on the backhand side.

So what does this mean for the average squash player? The answer is not that everyone should learn to do the splits. Instead, it is important to incorporate FLEXIBILITY TRAINING into your schedule. Most people do some stretching before or after a workout, but in order to make any noticeable change, flexibility needs to be a priority. Just like you would plan a weightlifting session or a bike session into your schedule, you need to plan a stretching session into your schedule too. A good start would be doing a 45-min stretching session once a week. Start with static stretching of the legs, hips, and shoulders. Google “couch stretch”, “figure 4 stretch” and “chest stretch against a wall” as a good start. In order to properly relax the muscle, you need to hold the stretch for at least 2 mins!!! After that, you can do some dynamic stretches such as “spiderman stretch” or “hip CARs” (google them).

After developing more flexibility, it is important to continue developing muscular strength, endurance, and speed on top of the new flexibility. Don’t neglect one for the other. All these components work together!

– Cam Seth

Responsive yet powerful – The Black Knight Hex Phenom Squash Racquet

The Brand

I’ve always found Black Knight to be a great brand for designing a variety of squash racquets that cater to all styles and abilities. The Hex Phenom is more of performance racquet, this explains the higher price point, but boy do you get a bang for your buck!

The Phenom

Starting with the racquet’s appearance, the Hex Phenom has a predominantly black colour scheme, with bursts of blue, yellow and white, which make the racquet stand out while still looking smart. It also has the word ‘Phenom’ written just above the grip, so if you’re ever in need of a little motivational push, just look read that and become the Phenom!

The Hex Phenom has a generous 493cm2 head size, and as a result, the 14X18 string pattern looks to be a little more open, so hopefully, these two elements will give the racquet a bigger sweet spot, and allow access to some serious power.

The feel

With an unstrung weight of 135 grams, and an even/head-light balance point, the Black Knight Hex Phenom feels pretty maneuverable. After a few practice swings, I definitely felt like this racquet does a great job of assisting a shorter, more punchy swing.

On a side note: the Black Knight grip that comes with the racquet actually feels great, it’s a little on the squishier side, but still tacky nonetheless!

Despite its relatively large size, I’m predicting that the Phenom will be pretty quick to play with! I’m also still hoping to experience some power once I get on court…

The shots

I’m definitely not dissapointed!

Black Knight’s HEX technology is designed to get rid of vibration and improve responsiveness, and it does just that. You can feel the ball incredibly well with this racquet, and the larger sweet spot allows for an excellent level of control, even on those short fast swings.

The Phenom has the perfect level of stiffness, it’s right in the middle, meaning you can feel the ball well without vibration. You can also access some great power without having to put a huge amount of effort into the swing, this is something that’s pretty unique, especially in an evenly balanced, light squash racquet.

Lastly, I’ve got to mention the strings, this racquet comes fully strung with
Ashaway Supernick ZX Micro strings, which are a thinner gauge version (1.15mm) of the newest ZX for more precise touch and feel.

The overall opinion

All in all Black Knight have produced something special, the Phenom Hex has a great blend of control and power. Primarily assisting a short fast swing, I’d recommend it to anyone looking to take more volleys, and add a little disguise to their shots!

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Lightning quick responsiveness – Black Knight HEX Blaze LT Squash Racquet

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always found Black Knight to be a great brand for designing a variety of squash racquets that cater to all styles and abilities. The Hex Blaze LT, like other racquets in Black Knight’s ‘Hex’ series, is designed for players looking for power, responsiveness, and lightning-quick maneuverability.

Looks

The Blaze LT has a very vibrant colour scheme, primarily consisting of a glossy purple colour, and also featuring white, yellow, and blue. The racquet also comes fully strung with orange Ashaway Supernick ZX strings. So yeah, it’s pretty bright!

There’s also Black Knight branding all over the racquet, including a nod to Black knight’s Canadian origin, and the LT has a teardrop frame shape, which is supposed to provide the user with an increased level of power.

I’m pretty excited to try this one out!

In hand

With a head-light balance point, and a 130 gram unstrung frame weight, the Hex Blaze LT feels pretty quick to use! After some practice swings, I felt like this racquet really helps out with a short swing, and taking the ball early.

This kind of weighting may mainly complement the short punchy swing, however, in terms of stiffness, this racquet is right in the middle. As it’s not too stiff, I’m hoping to be able to get a good feel of the ball, as well as a decent level of power!

Hitting the ball

Wow, the long mains strings provided by the teardrop shape provide all the power you need. Although it’s light, you can seriously crack the ball if you want to!

The 14×18 string pattern, and generous 490cm2 head size, both assist well with control. The Black LT’s sweet spot is a good size, which is great if you’re taking balls early as off-centre hits are much more likely to be forgiven.

Finally, I’ve got to mention the incredibly popular Ashaway SuperNick ZX strings the racquet comes fully strung with, they seem to hold tension very well, and have a great soft feel to them.

Overall

I love it! Very responsive, very powerful, and very fast, what more could you ask for?

The Asics Gel Blade 7 – Move faster, move lighter, move better!

A spectacular update to the much loved Gel Blade 6, these indoor court shoes are the pinnacle of performance.

Before I begin, a few words from #TeamCT pro, Chris Hanson…

“I have used a lot of different Asics over my career and have always tried to find ones that provide great support and cushioning while also being lightweight. While I prioritize speed on the court, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t be quick if my legs are taking too much of a pounding from a shoe lacking support and cushioning!

The Blade 7’s are strong in both of these areas, and I am incredibly pleased with my experience so far with my two pairs. They have held up well against my heavy training schedule (12 sessions per week) in the last few weeks, and I am excited to utilize them in competition next week in the Pan American Games in Peru. Overall one of the best shoes I’ve worn!”

Coming from a player of such a great standard with such experience in the sport as Chris, that is very high praise for the Blade 7.

A bit about the shoes…

The Asics Gel-Blade 7 Indoor Court Shoes are a great performance shoe designed to allow you to move your absolute best on court. Designed to be ultra-light, ultra-soft, ultra-flexible and ultra-low to the court, to allow your foot to work naturally, with little assistance from the shoe itself.

The striking red mesh upper is super soft for extra comfort, combined with the black tongue, laces, midsection, and inner, I personally think the colour scheme looks great.

Asics’ GEL cushioning system is provided in the heel to protect from the hard impact we squash players make when lunging and changing direction on the court. Although it’s worth noting that Asics haven’t incorporated their GEL into the forefoot, in order to maintain the shoe’s lightweight design.

Key updates and differences…

Other than the obvious colour scheme difference, the biggest improvement featured on the Gel Blade 7 is the durability. The PGUARD wear protection on the medial side is in place to protect against damage from lunging.

As many players are well aware, squash shoes take a beating on the court. It’s always frustrating when your shoes don’t seem to last as long as they should, the medial side of any shoe is the most affected by drag and sudden impact. Asics High Abrasion Rubber Plus (AHARPLUS) is used on other common wear points to further increase this durability.

It’s great to see Asics reinforcing this area of the shoe, without making the Blade 7 any heavier!

(^ Gel Blade 7)—————————————————(Gel Blade 6 ^)

Last but not least I must mention the mesh insole and ORTHOLITE sockliner allow the foot to breathe as things heat up, while the shoe’s TRUSSTIC SYSTEM technology gives you the stability and guidance you need to stay on top.

To sum them up, the Asics Gel Blade 7 is an absolute dream of a lightweight shoe, and I’d recommend it to any fast-moving player looking for performance over cushioning.

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Never miss a volley with The Dunlop Hyperfibre+ Revelation Pro Lite Squash Racquet

Aesthetics:

The Hyperfibre+ is covered in awesome geometric patterns, giving it a slick technical look. The main colours being red, dark silver, and black, it’s a subtly smart looking racquet that gives off a stealthy vibe.

The racquet also comes fully strung with Dunlop’s own white strings, and a white grip to match. It also features branding all over, just to remind you that you’re using a racquet made by one of the most established squash brands on the scene!

Feel:

First things first, I must mention the weighting, this racquet is incredibly light, with an unstrung weight of 125 grams, and a head-light balance point, it’s instantly clear that this racquet is very maneuverable. I practiced a few swings, and the Hyperfibre+ felt great for assisting a short punchy swing.

This racquet comes with Dunlop’s own Hydra Max Pro grip, which feels tacky but not uncomfortable. The grip also has breathable air holes to help absorb more sweat from your hand. 

This light weighting should hopefully do a great job of assisting volleying, and dominating the ‘T’ as much as possible. Usually, with this type of racquet, power isn’t the focus, and control may be more accessible. I guess we’ll see when I get on court…

Hits:

Full disclosure, I’ve never used Dunlop racquets before, and I’m quite a dedicated Tecnifibre user. But I try to be as open-minded as possible when trying out different racquets!

I hit a few drives, drops, and volleys to myself with the Hyperfibre+ Revelation, and I was instantly hooked. The strings had a soft feel to them, which allowed me to feel and control the ball very well on contact, and the 14X19 string pattern re-enforced this. The large 490cm2 head size gave the racquet a pretty generous sweet spot.

I also noticed that if you put the effort in, you will be rewarded with a surprising amount of power. Obviously, since the racquet is so light, you’ll have to put some extra force behind your swing to access this pace. But last of all, my favourite aspect was the touch, it felt incredibly satisfying to gently place balls into the front of the court with ease.

Overall:

Overall I’ve got to say that this racquet is ideal for a more advanced player who’s looking for a racquet that’ll help them dominate the ‘T’, volley when possible, and access all the speed and maneuverability they want!

View the HEAD Graphene 360 Speed 120 Slimbody in our online store

The key to precision – The Tecnifibre Suprem SB 125 Squash Racquet

Just wanted to briefly mention that as a junior, I used the older version of this racquet for a couple of years (the Suprem NG), and it served me incredibly well, I’m very pleased to see some of the great updates Tecnifibre have added!

The Suprem SB racquet range features 125, 130, and 135 gram versions, but right now I’ll mainly be talking about the 125.

Lets start with looks…

The striking ‘Tecnifibre green’ on the racquet’s bridge and strings is the first thing you see at first glance, but at a closer look, there’s a few more touches and details. The rest of the colour scheme is predominantly black, with white Tecnifibre branding in various places.

My personal favourite touch is on the butt of the racquet, it has a slick chrome Tecnifibre logo, with #fightsmart underneath. I love little touches like this that make the racquet more unique! It’s also a great motivational quote to think about in a game.

The racquet also has a smaller head size of 470cm2, this should further assist the racquet’s ability to control the ball.

A few practice swings…

The first (and main) thing you feel when swinging a racquet is the balance and weighting, despite its slightly chunky appearance, the Suprem SB 125 is a very light racquet.

With an unstrung weight of only 125 grams and a pretty even balance point, this racquet feels easily maneuverable and it seems to favour a shorter swing over a larger swing.

Some other new key features of the racquet include the thick Ellipsis Vario Shaft which increases the strength of the frame and the Sharp Edge Design which increases the aerodynamic ability of the Suprem SB.

After some hits…

Instant control, the 14×18 string pattern gives exceptional control over the ball whether you want to hit a dying length or a sharp, aggressive boast.

The racquet also comes with some of the best squash strings available (the Tecnifibre 305 Green 1.20mm string), and this seriously contributes to the performance of the racquet.

The ‘SB’ in Suprem SB references the ‘Storm Bridge’ that replaces the traditional closed throat for longer main strings. The longer mains provided me with even more power without sacrificing any control.

Final thoughts…

I’d say that the Tecnifibre Suprem SB 125 is ideal for anyone looking to take that extra step forward on the ‘T’, take volleys early, and be in control of the rally!

View the HEAD Graphene 360 Speed 120 Slimbody in our online store

My season’s secret weapon!

The first week of May marked the last of my competitive tournaments for the squash season (insert dance of joy here). Not only was my body prepared for a serious rest, but my brain was quite ready for a break from the competitive squash scene as well. When you start at the end of September and push through to the first of May you are bound to feel the effects emotionally and physically. That said, I am more than grateful to have achieved burn out! Burn out is a far better option than to not be out at all. To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be able to compete at all this year. In that respect having the opportunity to get physically and emotionally drained by it all is a blessing. This year, I am able to give that blessing a name – Derek Vandenbrink.

I knew Derek as a member at my club. His wife picked up the game first, then his two daughters started to get active, then, he too got nipped by the squash bug. As a general rule, I tend not to ask people what they do as a profession. They are at the club; this is their wind-down space, it’s their social time, this is where people escape from the day-to-day grind of it all. Due to all of this and more, I tend not to bring work up and therefore did not know what Derek did to bring home the proverbial bacon.

I had just arrived back from a very physically challenging tournament (The Howe Cup in Philadelphia). I played in both the doubles division as well as the “A” division in singles. Admittedly, I was in over my head playing #1 on our team where I would have been significantly tested by the 5 spot players!! That, and playing in two difficult draws in one weekend, resulted in me being rather gimpy upon my return to the club for work the following Monday. My knee was twice its normal size with swelling. Derek noticed my laboured gait and started asking physio-type questions. Where does it hurt? How does it hurt? When does it hurt the most? What movements aggravate it the most etc. etc.? I gave him the quick and dirty background on my knee issues. Meniscus, cartilage, tibia twist, patella tracking disorder, arthritis, and inflammation, blah blah blah. Mostly in the right knee, but some in the left as well. I had of course been through the assessments, worked with a few physiotherapists, been to the sports docs and was doing what I could do to alleviate the situation as much as possible. At this point, I was frustrated with the same old answers and the same old exercises and most of the “there’s not much that can be done” comments. Derek kindly offered that if I was open to it, he would be happy to do an assessment and see if he could help in any way. At this point I was almost ready to try anything, so we booked a date for the following day.

I show up ready, but not really knowing what to expect. Derek proceeded to take me through several movement and mobility tests (notably more than most of the physiotherapists had done to this point). He was thorough and detailed in his evaluation of my movement functionality and noted where some issues could be stemming from. I was immediately put at ease by his attention to detail and the little things that he pointed out along the way, such as my lack of wrist and ankle mobility.

After the assessment, he walked me through some things he saw that, if worked on, could alleviate some of the pain I was experiencing in my knees and hips. Who knew that if my ankle didn’t flex past a certain point, puts additional stress on my knee, etc?? Not me! We discussed what I had done with physio so far, what worked and what didn’t. This is where I was perfectly honest (something about him spurs one to comfortably spill the truth). This was not my first rodeo, I was well aware that stretching is important, rolling of the muscles is a good thing, doing strength and conditioning is essential for overall health and can prevent certain overuse injuries. I know all of this. I will do some of it (not very consistently), but what I will NOT do is work out alone. I just can’t bring myself to do it. Regardless of how many times I have that internal dialog, somehow the “eh forget it” side of me wins out. At the end of my truth spill and some further conversation, it was decided we would give this working together thing a shot. He would provide a daily program for stretch & mobility and we would work out together once a week on strength and stability etc.

Derek not only understood what I physically needed to do to lessen my discomfort and get me stronger, he completely recognized my mindset. He tapped into my competitiveness and used it for good instead of evil. One element of his brilliance was to set me up on a Daily Performance Tracker that I would answer online. This tracked how much sleep I was getting, my vegetable intake, my pain levels, my daily exercises, and squash activity etc. This tool may seem pretty simple or even a bit intrusive to some – but this was a massive thing for me. Being accountable to someone other than myself made me actually DO IT.

Over the past few months, Derek has updated the program several times to ensure load management and adjust for specific competition dates, increase the challenge to accommodate for unforeseen injuries (sprained ankle) as well as to keep me from getting bored (essential). All this time he has been keeping me to task not only by being my workout buddy, but also by keeping me honest and thereby sticking to it (consistency is key).

I was very lucky to have found Derek, even luckier that he was willing to work with me. If you are interested in finding out more about Derek or if he could possibly help you, feel free to contact him via text @ 519-802-4311 or email @ derek@vancasey.com

I have been working with Derek for 7 months now. Without his ability to tap into my mindset, I am certain I would not have had a season. Instead, it ended in burn out. I am grateful to have hit the burn!

Thanks Derek. Now, let’s get me ready for next season!

– Nicole Garon

The Head Graphene 360 Speed 120 – the key to pace!

A light frame and head-heavy balance point makes Head’s Graphene 360 Speed 120 ideal for producing a length that’s both accurate, and powerful!

HEAD Graphene 360 Squash Banner

First looks

The Graphene 360 Speed 120 has a smart colour scheme of cool blue and stylish black, with Head branding around the inside of the frame. It also has a thicker shaft than it’s Slimbody brother, although it’s a little less aerodynamic, the thick shaft will increase durability.

It comes fully strung, with a low density 12X17 string pattern, meaning power is the focus! However, it’s worth mentioning that Head’s new AFP (Adaptive Fan Pattern) Technology, means you can get it re-strung with a more dense, 16X17 fanned string pattern if you’re looking to access a little more control.

Practice swings

With an unstrung weight of only 120 grams, this racquet is very much on the light side, meaning maneuverability and control is definitely an option. However, it’s more apparent that power is the primary objective…

As previously mentioned, the 360 Speed 120 has a head-heavy balance point, (as a pose to the Slimbody version which is head-light), so after a few swings, I noticed that this balancing really assisted a larger swing. It made it really easy to swing smoothly through the ball.

Like all of Head’s newer racquets, the Speed 120 comes with the Hydrosorb Pro Grip, which I’ve praised many times before. It doesn’t feel like that standard ‘new racquet’ grip, it’s got a perfect amount of tackiness to it without being uncomfortable at all!

Hitting the ball

BOOM! Instant power. You can instantly feel the effect of the 500cm2 teardrop head shape, head heavy balance, and low-density string pattern, all these factors add up to a great amount of pace.

Recommended by Saurav Ghosal, the Speed 120 is also quick to play with, if you like to maintain a dominant ‘T’ position, while keeping your opponent pinned in the back, then this racquet is an ideal weapon of choice.

One final thing I’ll mention about the feel of this racquet, it is on the stiff side, this is down to the revolutionary Corrugated Technology (CT2) which incorporates extra-long corrugated rails in the racquet’s shaft.

Overall thoughts…

If you’re looking to bury your opponent in the back corners with devastating length and bust them short when they can no longer get back to the ‘T’ the Speed 120 is your weapon!

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The Head Graphene 360 Speed 120 Slimbody – it’s all about the speed!

Designed to be one of the fastest playing racquets in the market today, Head’s Graphene 360 Speed 120 Slimbody is ultra light, aerodynamic, and very maneuverable!

HEAD Graphene 360 Squash Banner

First Looks

Coming with a stealthy black colour scheme, and slick dark grey branding around the frame, the 120 Slimbody has a very clean, smart look to it!

Arriving with a low-density 12X17 stringing pattern, and a teardrop head shape, it’s clear that you’ll certainly be able to access some decent power, even though the racquet is on the light side!

The aerodynamic Slimbody shape is quite subtle at first, but if you compare it to the regular 120 version you can certainly tell the difference!

Something that’s very much worth mentioning is that if you’re looking for a little more control, Head’s Adaptive Fan Pattern (AFP) technology allows you to choose between the string pattern shown above, or getting the racquet restrung with a much denser 16X17 fanned pattern.

Practice swings

You can instantly feel the sheer maneuverability of this racquet after this first swing, the head-light balance point, and very light weight of 120 grams (unstrung), renders the 120 Slimbody incredibly fast to play with. I made sure to try out some shorter swings using a little more wrist, and I was able to generate a quick swing with ease.

Something I have previously mentioned about other Head racquets, I am a big fan of the Hydrosorb Pro grip that the racquet comes with. It doesn’t feel like a standard ‘new racquet’ grip, it’s got a nice amount of tackiness to it without being uncomfortable at all!

Hitting the ball

With the first few shots I hit, I was surprised to discover that I can still generate some good power, despite the racquet being so light! Again, going back to the low-density string pattern, I would say that this is the main contributor to the racquet’s power!

The Graphene 360 Speed 120 Slimbody has quite a large head size of 500cm2, giving you a slightly bigger margin of forgiveness on shots you have to reach for, or shots that are a little tight to the wall! I was also pleased to find that this large head size didn’t affect the nicely sized sweet spot, giving the user a respectable level of control.

Overall thoughts…

The Head Graphene 360 Speed 120 Slimbody is a racquet that’s weighted for maneuvrability, built to suit a fast-paced game, and can be strung to suit the user’s personal preference on either power or control. Overall, it’s an incredible racquet and I’d love to see it in the hands of more players!

View the HEAD Graphene 360 Speed 120 Slimbody in our online store

The Head Graphene 360 Speed 135 – Power, speed, pace… and power!

Designed with power in mind, but also balanced to assist speed, this racquet suits every aspect of a high paced squash match!

HEAD Graphene 360 Squash Banner

First looks

The Head Graphene 360 Speed 135 comes in a much more subtle colour scheme than it’s Slimbody brother. It’s predominantly black with small bursts of strong red, finished with cool grey Head branding on the strings.

HEAD Graphene 360 Speed 135 Squash Racquet

This racquet comes strung with a 12X17 string pattern this will grant you all the power you desire. However, if power isn’t your game, fear not! As pictured above, you can also get it restrung with a much denser 16X17 fan pattern which will favour control.

Practice swings

With an unstrung weight of 135 grams, this racquet is on the heavier side, this means it will give you a good amount of weight behind each swing so power is easier to access. However, it’s worth mentioning that it has a very head-light balance point, making it very fast and maneuverable!

The Head Graphene 360 Speed 135 comes with a Head Hydrosorb Pro grip, which feels tacky but not uncomfortable on the hand.

Hitting the ball

I must admit I don’t have much experience hitting with such a low density string pattern as I don’t often use much pace, but it’s something I could definitely get used to! It feels almost effortless to put pace on a deep length or crosscourt, this could also be attributed to the teardrop head shape.

Again, in comparison to it’s brother racquet, the 135 Slimbody, the regular 135 has a bit more of a stiff feel to it, there is still some flex to the frame but not much, this stiffness further assists the power that this racquet can access.

Overall thoughts…

One more thing I would mention, concerning the string pattern primarily, is that with the 12X17 pattern, the sweet spot is relatively small, however, when you hit it just right, it feels amazing!

The option to get it strung with the denser fan pattern is a great idea by Head, and it really allows the player to customise their racquet to suit their needs!

View HEAD Graphene 360 Speed 135 Squash Racquet in our store.