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Alex Robertson
By Alex Robertson on February 22, 2024

A Structured Solo Session For Returning To Form

I'm currently training for the Rome Marathon next month, so, it's obviously been a little difficult for me to focus on squash as well as running as I have a lot of miles to clock up!

However, with the second half of the season well underway, team matches are getting more and more important as every single point we get counts, so, I've still got to be on form when it comes to squash.

I play for two teams, one in the Northumbria League (where I play for Northern RFC in my local league on Thursdays), and one in the Durham League (where I play for Bannatynes in the next city along from my home city of Newcastle on Tuesdays).

Both of these teams I play for are in their respective premier leagues and we're shooting for the title in both too.

So, it's been pretty difficult juggling all the running and still training squash without getting burned out, but, I think I've done it just well enough so far.

We actually had a couple of weeks of no team matches recently, so, I used these two weeks to focus fully on my running, however, now I have a very big upcoming match for Northern RFC that is likely to be the title-deciding match.

I'm playing a new player who I've never played before, and, although we all know each other, it's pretty much impossible to predict the outcome of this match.

We play in teams of five and it looks as though it could go completely either way, we have a chance of winning 5-0 and they have a chance of beating us 5-0.

Anyway, the reason I'm talking about this is because I have needed to get back into squash form again after the two weeks of running. I did a great solo session the other day with the sole purpose of sharpening myself back up after a couple of weeks off court to prepare the basics for an important upcoming match.

I thought it would be a helpful session to share with you all since it's pretty common for club-level squash players to have the odd week or two off squash here and there, and, I know how hard it can be to get back on court feeling rusty.

So, here's my solo session for getting back to squash form...

First Thoughts...

Before I delve into the session I just want to mention a few things about how the overall approach you might want to take when hitting solo.

The aim of this solo practice is to get back up to scratch with the basic fundamentals of the game. That's lengths, varying the pace, volleys, drops, and, of course, movement.

With that in mind, this shouldn't be particularly brutal from a physical perspective, but, the first and most important rule I would recommend following is that quality is far better than quantity when doing a solo session.

It's very easy to just start cracking loads of hard shots back to yourself and then just tiring your wrist, arm, and legs out within the first 20 minutes.

Instead, you should be taking a very slow and measured approach to all of these drills, with the aim of hitting your targets and staying fluid with your technique and movement.

Make sure not to spend too long on any of these exercises either, as this often leads to an overall drop in quality after a certain point. Five minutes (or ten minutes max) on each area is what I'd recommend following.

Keep in mind that it's likely that you only have between 40 minutes to 1 hour on the court on your own. This isn't actually that long if you have a structured plan in place that you want to follow and time may go faster than you think, however, it is also plenty of time to focus on a number of areas of your game, so, just take your time!

But, again, just make sure not to get sucked into just zoning out and whacking straight drives back to yourself and then running out of time without even realising!

That's probably the most common mistake people make when doing solo practice.

Anyway, onto the warm-up...

Getting Warmed Up

This is something I need to work on for myself as well, as I rarely warm up before training sessions and matches.

For this session, I made sure to spend about five minutes warming up my body and my shots.

I did some dynamic stretches (such as side and forward leg swings, forward and backward arm windmills, alternate hamstring reaches trying to touch my toes, slow side lunges, controlled lunges with rotations of my torso, hip circles, ankle rotations, and some more stuff to target my quads, glutes, and calves).

I'm not going to go into how to do each of those dynamic stretches as these are just the ones I do, but, you may want to do some different ones that target some different muscle groups.

Instead, click here to view a dynamic stretches and flexibility workout blog I created a while back (just make sure to come straight back to the article).

I also did some movements to start getting my heart rate up a bit (including jogging on the spot with high knees, then with high heels, then I did some split lunges, and, then some very light running lengths back and forth on the court).

I finished off my warm-up with some VERY light ghosting, almost at a walking pace (perhaps 20% of my maximum movement effort). This was just to get my body into the groove of squash movements.

After this, I had broke a slight sweat but felt very ready to start hitting the ball!

Before I started with the drills, I warmed the ball up the same way I would in an actual match. By this, I mean hitting a range of different shots (lifts, volleys, hard low lengths, kills, etc) on both the forehand and backhand side just for a minute or so each, until the ball is warm.

Also, a quick note about the ball, it is quite hard to keep the squash ball warm in solo sessions, so, I've tried to purposefully plan the order of the following drills and shots so you're playing harder-hitting shots after softer-hitting shots.

Anyway, now onto your lengths...

Length Practice

Now, the obvious start point in any solo session is with straight drives.

First things first, get those targets down. I'd advise using an A4 sheet of paper, because it means that, if you hit the target, the ball will still bounce normally and you can carry on playing drives back to yourself.

However, anything can be a target, if you want something large you could use a spare racquet or a shoe, or, if you want something smaller you can use a water bottle or a ball box.

Stick it between half a racquet to a full racquets length from the back line of the service box to start with.

Start by just hitting medium pace, medium height lengths back to yourself, then, once you feel a little more comfortable and consistent, start experimenting with paces.

Start by repeatedly lifting the ball and practicing your lobs, making sure to keep them as tight as possible. You may want to move your target a little further back for these softer shots too.

Then, you can start hitting harder and lower (and you may want to move your target even closer to the back line of the service box).

I'd advise spending around three or four minutes on each side (forehand and backhand).

I'd say to make sure to give yourself short breaks for 10-20 seconds here and there depending on how you're feeling. Remember, you shouldn't be getting too physically tired during this session, so don't just try and hit as many shots as you can.

Instead, focus on quality, think about your technique, and keep aiming for that target. If there's a type of length you struggle with more than the others, then perhaps you should focus more on that than the others.


This one will be a little more stop-start as it's very hard to practice crosscourts during solo practice in a continuous way. But, that's okay because we're not trying to wear ourselves out here!

I have a friend who used to do a cross court drill in which he would hit a cross court then run to the other side of the court and hit another cross court back to the first side. So essentially he was just running from side to side and rallying with himself by hitting one cross court after another.

Perhaps this may have helped his fitness a bit, but, I don't think it helps your accuracy and technique when you put yourself under that much physical pressure. It makes it very tough to focus on the shot itself.

So, the solo exercise I do for cross courts is hitting either high or medium paced straight drive, then a soft, high, straight lift back to myself, and, then I play a cross court.

So it's a straight drive, a straight lift, then a cross court.

Don't run to try to retrieve your cross court because, as I mentioned above, you'll start thinking about the fact you have to run and get to your shot before you've actually finished hitting it, which can negatively effect your accuracy and technique.

Just leave it to land in the opposite back corner and take note of where it lands.

Then, you can use this to make tweaks for your next cross court!

Maybe you need to get a bit more width, a bit more pace, or a bit more height on your cross court depending on what type you were going for.

Personally, I take a similar approach to these cross courts as I do with the straight drives at the start of the session. I start with the steady, medium-paced shots, then I experiment with lobs and height, then, I practice the hard, low cross courts.

Again, if there's a particular type of cross court you feel you're struggling with a little more, then perhaps focus on that one a little more than the others.

I'd say to just spend three or four minutes on this drill, but, it should give you a bit of a rest after the continuous hitting of the straight drive drill.

Just make sure to take your time with your cross court, and, just walk over to retrieve it to do the same on the other side. You don't need to run or anything like that!


This is where we speed things up just a little bit.

Working on volleys involves a focus on control more than anything else. It isn't about hitting as many fast volleys as you can without missing because that's just a recipe for a tired wrist and arm.

To get used to speeding up the ball a little, I always start with 30 second to a minute of the figure of 8 routine.

This involves standing on the T and playing a backhand volley that (if you're right-handed) hits high in the front right corner (front wall then side wall) and comes back out towards yourself, then volleying it again with a forehand into the front left corner (front wall then side wall).

This is a little more advanced so, if you're struggling then feel free to skip the figure of 8 (or even doing it with a bounce), however, I find that it does really prepare my brain and body for the change in paces that comes with volleying.

The first proper volleying drill I did in my solo session doesn't really have a name (but I think my coach used to call it 'walking the dog' when I was younger).

Basically, you start near the front wall and hit high, controlled straight volleys back to yourself and, after every couple of shots, take a step back towards the back wall.

The goal is to get to the back wall and then back to the front wall without missing a volley, but, of course, this is dependent on the standard of the player doing the drill.

If you're more of a beginner, then you could aim to walk back to the mid court line and then back to the front wall instead.

Feel free to taper this drill to suit your standard. If you're finding it too easy, then you can start experimenting with pace too.

Give yourself a few goes on the forehand and a few goes on the backhand.

Then, I wanted to work on the accuracy of my volley straight drives (which is one of the most common volleys you'll play in a squash match).

The drill I did for this was pretty straightforward.

Essentially, I just stood on (or just next to) the T, and hit an easy high feed back to myself that I could then hit with a hard or medium-paced straight drive to the back of the court.

Then I would just walk and get the ball and repeat.

After doing figure of 8 and walk the dog (which are pretty continuous), this one is a nice way to slow things back down a little.

Make sure to have that target back down too as this drill is all about accuracy and technique.

My advice is not to spend too long on volleys as it can wear your wrist out very fast. I've learned this the hard way in the past where the rest of my session is effected because I can't hit the same quality shots with a tired wrist.

Perhaps just 30 seconds to a minute of figure of 8, then one or two minutes on either side for walking the dog, then two minutes each side of the straight feed and straight volley drive drill.


Drops and Volley Drops

Similarly to crosscourts, practicing drop shots is generally easier if you're training with a partner.

However, I would also argue that playing drop shots in solo sessions really allows you to take things slow and dissect any smaller issues with your technique. You can also focus fully on your targets.

Speaking of which, make sure to move your targets into the front. Perhaps a smaller target is more appropriate when playing drop shots since you're generally closer to the area you're aiming for you might want to make it a little harder for yourself.

You want your target about a racquet's length from the front wall place right in the corner, and, when you play your drops, you either want to aim for it to bounce floor first and stick tight to the side wall or, if you're feeling a little more risky, you can also go for nicks that hit the corner at which the wall meets the floor.

The reason going for a nick is risky is because, if your drop hits too high on the side wall, then it bounces out towards the middle which makes it easier for your opponent to reach during a match.

So, generally, it's a safer option to go for a drop shot that clings tight to the side wall.

Anyway, the drill in question is basically a feed and a drop shot. Just stand on the T, feed an easy shot above the service line that lands a couple of steps in front of you, then move in, play your drop shot, and move back out to the T just like you would in a match.

Similar to the crosscourt drill, because you won't be running to retrieve your own drop shot because that just brings you further and further into the front corner and really doesn't simulate a real match situation very well.

Try to cut your drops in with some slice, this takes the pace of the ball and helps it cling to the side wall better too.

Do a couple of minutes of this on each side until you're more and more consistently hitting that target, then, switch to volley drops and do the same drill (a feed and a drop), but, don't let your feed bounce and take it on the volley instead.

Volley drops give you the chance to use a little more pace to cut the ball in (but only a little bit), making it slightly easier to go for nicks. However, I'd still recommend going for that tight-to-the-side-wall target primarily.

Remember not to run in and try to retrieve your own drop shot too, just wait for it to bounce twice then go pick it up, stand back on the T, and repeat!

Make sure your feeds are generous and give you plenty of time to guide your drop shot in. You shouldn't be scrambling or out of position when executing your volley drop.

Remember, we're just working on the basics here and the drop and volley drop are two of the fundamental winning shots in squash.

Do this for a couple of minutes on each side too, then we move onto everyone's favourite part...

Nicks and Kills

There's nothing more fun than practicing your more flashy winners, these are your nicks and your kill shots.

Now I do this a couple of different ways.

The first way is very similar to the above when practicing your drops and volley drops, this basically involves standing on the T and feeding yourself, then going for a hard low winner on the volley or after a bounce (either straight or cross court), that bounces twice fast.

It should either have good enough width to stop your opponent from reaching it, or, it should be as tight to the side wall as possible, bouncing second bounce around the service box area.

You don't have to just feed generic straight lifts above the service line either, you can also experiment with high three-wall boasts and crosscourt feeds too, and then playing your winners off of them.

You can also lift your feeds higher and even further back behind yourself on the court to experiment with cross court and straight kills too.

About two or three minutes of this should be sufficient.

The other way I practice my kills is a little more advanced and involves utilising the figure of 8 routine as well.

If you're comfortable hitting figure of 8s at a slow to medium pace with high lifts into each corner, then, you can use these high lifts as feeds to go for crash nicks and kill shots.

So just situate yourself on the T and do just that! It's pretty straight forward really, but it certainly takes a bit of skill and time to get used to if you haven't done it before.

This part of the solo session makes things a little more fun in my opinion. I'm aware that practicing all the basics at a relatively slow pace might not be extremely fun for you all.

Although you won't be going for these higher-risk shots very often during matches, it's still important to have them under your belt, and, I think we can all agree that they're fun to play, so, this section of the solo session is important to me!

I'd say just spend one or two minutes on these winners and kill drills because they're a bit higher pace than other solo drills, especially with the figure of 8 routine.

You've almost finished the session, but there's still one more thing to do before you finish so you don't want to be too tired yet...

Now for everyone's least favourite part!


If you've been rigorous and planned the timings of this solo session, you may still have time left to do some ghosting.

Don't worry, this won't be a lung-busting, high-intensity ghosting session.

But, this session is about the basics, so, unfortunately, your movement is an important thing to sharpen back up. I find that my movement takes a pretty big hit even just after a couple of weeks off.

Ghosting is essentially simulating the basic movements you make during squash rallies without using a ball. Some players do it without a racquet too just to focus on their movement, but, for this drill, I would say it's a good idea to use your racquet and execute a swing through the ball when you get to each corner.

I would say to do around 50% of your maximum pace and do one minute of ghosting, then give yourself one or two minutes of rest.

If you can do this two or three times, it'll really help your body get used to the generic motions you make in every squash rally.

If 50% feels too physically taxing, then feel free to take it even slower too.

Some people just use four corners of the court, however, I would advise ghosting into all six key areas of the court. This is the front left and right, the middle left and right, and the back left and right.

Many players leave out the middle of the court for whatever reason, however, this is where you often volley from, so it's an important base to cover.

Nobody likes ghosting, but, it's one of those things that's got to be done!

But, now the solo session is finished, and hopefully, you feel like the basic, fundamental elements of your squash game are refreshed and restored (especially if you've had a week or two off-court or are just coming back from an injury).


I know there are a lot of words above, so, here's the full, refined structure of the solo session with the drill and time...

Warm Up - 5 minutes of dynamic stretching, heart rate raising, light ghosting, and warming the ball up (as well as your shots).

Lengths Practice - 3 or 4 minutes on each side (forehand and backhand) of straight lengths, hitting with different paces and heights.

Crosscourts - 3 or 4 minutes of straight drive, a straight lift, then crosscourt drill.

Volleys - 30 seconds to a minute of the figure of 8 routine (optional) then 1 or 2 minutes on either side for 'walking the dog', then 2 minutes on each side for the straight feed and straight volley drive drill.

Drops and Volley Drops - 2 minutes each side of the feed and straight drop drill, then, 2 minutes each side of the feed and volley straight drop drill on either side.

Nicks and Kills - 1 or 2 minutes of the feed and kill drill and/or 1 or 2 minutes on the figure of 8 winner routine.

Ghosting - 1 minute of ghosting at around 50% of your maximum effort, then 1 or 2 minutes of rest (repeat until satisfied).

Feel free to change any of these times to suit yourself, you can make them longer or shorter if you want it to be harder or easier.

Keep in mind that, if you do the max times of all the above, you're looking at an hour-long solo session which is quite a lot.

Just make sure to give yourself regular water breaks and stoppages so you don't get too physically (or mentally) fatigued during the session. Take things slow and focus on quality, not quantity.

It's a pretty basic solo session and, perhaps it isn't the most exciting, but, although I wrote the main body of this article before the big match I mentioned in the introduction, I'm now writing this final section after my big team match, and, I'm thrilled to say that I won 3-1!

I think some of that is definitely down to my use of this solo session, so, I do think a basic structured solo session to get you back into the swing of things can be very beneficial to all players.

If you do have a crack at this session, please let me know how you found it and if you'd make any changes, I'd love to hear your suggestions and feedback.

Thanks for reading!

This article was taken from our On The 'T' Newsletter, if you're interested in receiving more content like this, please feel free to sign up using the subscribe section located at the bottom left of this page (or underneath the article if you're on mobile), thanks!

Published by Alex Robertson February 22, 2024
Alex Robertson