Since I'm from the UK, I'm lucky enough to have been able to get back on the squash court recently.
After about 3 or 4 months with no squash, I was interested to see which elements of my game had suffered the most. Interestingly, my shot accuracy didn't seem too bad, however, my movement had taken a pretty big hit.
This was the same for my playing partner and for a few other guys I spoke to at the club. After talking about it with them, it seemed as though we all felt much heavier on our feet and just out of rhythm whenever we moved to the ball and back to the 'T'.
I imagine this is an issue that'll affect many players coming back to squash after some time away from the sport, so I thought it would be good to write up a blog post on efficient movement...
Back before I started working on my movement, I remember I used to focus solely on speed, this meant that my movement would often become messy and tiring. When I mentioned this to my coach, we discussed the importance of efficiency rather than just focusing on speed.
He then took me back to square one and we focused on making my movement efficient first by dissecting different aspects of it, and then, once I'd mastered that, we'd slowly build up speed.
It's important to mention that, when I talk about efficient movement, I mean a movement that is fluid, clean, and uses the minimum amount of energy possible, meaning that you'll be able to execute that movement for a long time before it deteriorates.
Anyway, after thinking about my past training and observing some of my old match play footage (back when I felt like my movement was at its best), I came up with 3 main aspects of achieving an efficient movement to and from the ball.
We all know a player who always plays well but never looks like they're trying. This is usually down to the flow of their movement. They look light on their feet, they move corner to corner with ease, and they don't seem to get tired either.
The fluidity of movement is absolutely essential for playing an efficient squash game, if your movement is very 'stop-start' and you're doing a lot of changing direction, you'll get tired very fast. The best way to work on this is ghosting. We all love a bit of ghosting right?
You'll be somewhat happy to hear that the style of ghosting I'm talking about isn't the physically tiring kind! Ideally, to practice fluidity, you'll do very slow-paced ghosting from corner to corner, practicing different corner to corner variations throughout.
It's quite difficult to explain the best way to move with a flow, it tends to involve lots of small tweaks to certain aspects of your movement. I found that watching videos of pros playing and moving is a great place to start (there are also training videos all over YouTube covering this).
Or, even better, video yourself playing a match and compare your movement in the video to that of the pros, then pick out the points that you can work on to improve your flow.
Some tweaks might involve being lighter on your feet, altering your movement from the T, play around with the angle at which you move to and from the ball. The best approach is to practice practice practice!
Image from Awesome Sports website
Just coming back to squash, balance is something I'm really struggling with. When I lunge in to the ball, I'm currently feeling very unstable when all my weight moves forward and a lot of that momentum that should be going into my shot is being lost because I'm off balance.
This is really inefficient and I'm focusing my training on working on this at the moment.
Core strength plays a big part in how good your balance is, so if you're looking for ways to improve your balance, make sure to incorporate some planking, sit-ups or any other core-based exercises into your training regime. Obviously, leg strength is also a big factor too.
When it comes to improving your leg strength and stability, any training involving lunges will be really beneficial. A personal favourite stability exercise for me is to just do large, slow lunges up and down the court, making sure to hold my body stable and upright for a few seconds each time.
If you want to make it a little more difficult for yourself, try moving your arms in different directions. Just make sure that you're stable and balanced before moving onto the next lunge.
For me, I believe I've lost a bit of strength over the lockdown, however, your swing could also be hindering your balance. For example, if you're swinging and stumbling all over the place whenever you hit your shot, you may need to actually make some changes to your swing.
I know a lot of players who have a very messy, large swing where they flail around every time they hit the ball with pace. Again, there could be a lot of things that might need to change with your swing, so take it back to the basics, video your swing, compare it with that of the pros, and identify your weak points.
If you can improve your balance, you'll absolutely see differences in your shot accuracy as well as the efficiency of your movement.
3. The Split Step
This is possibly the most important part of the squash movement. The split step allows you to move quickly off of the T in any direction.
A split step is, when you're on the T, you take a small jump in the air with both feet, land with your feet slightly further apart, and then push off toward the ball. Make sure to stay on your toes throughout.
I'll have to apologise, as it's quite difficult to explain the split-step in simple words, click here for a great video example of a split-step in professional squash (fast forward the clip to 25 seconds in).
Anyway, if you can master the split step, you'll be able to get to the ball just that little bit faster, and this makes all the difference!
Again, the best way to practice this is to just take it super slow at first, step by step, and then once you understand the motion, incorporate it into some steady ghosting, and repeat until it becomes ingrained into your match play movement.
It will definitely feel a bit weird at first, but I promise you it's worth learning and will benefit your game completely. If it carries on feeling weird, you might be doing something wrong, so I'd advise asking a training partner to take a look and give you some advice!
If you take each of the above keys on their own, they'll have minor (but still noticeable) impacts on the efficiency of your movement. However, if you master each of these and incorporate them all into your game, you'll be able to move a lot quicker for a lot longer!
Movement is something I spent a very long time working on when I was a junior player, so I'm actually quite excited to see if I can get my movement back up to scratch.
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