Now into the tenth month of the year, squash season is once again upon us. Leagues are starting up again and ever-present weekend tournaments have begun to dot the calendar. In this post, I thought it would be relevant to discuss some training methods commonly used by pros but often avoided by club players (due to boredom, time constraints, or difficulty). I will cover some on court methods as well as some ideas for off court training to improve your physical side.
Many keen club players know that drills are just as important as match play with regards to maintaining and improving your level. However, many players immerse themselves in mindless one shot drills where there are no decisions or critical thinking required. The foremost example of this would be the dreaded boast-drive pattern. While it may be an alright exercise to warm up for a few minutes, it is full of unrealistic situations. Nearly everything that happens in boast drive will never happen in a game. Other examples of these drills are drop-drive and straight length hitting. They are good for working on your swing and targets, but won't improve tactical savvy. Instead, try some condition games. Even with another player of the same level, limit yourself to only hitting length, only hitting straight, or only hitting above the service line.
Play a game to 11, then switch roles with your partner and take the aggregate score. These games force you out of your comfort zone, put you under immense pressure, and require total concentration. Jonathon Power was known to play straight-only against other top players of the time...and win! In short, do drills that require fast thinking and keep away from "going through the motions". Re-create game situations and put yourself in unfamiliar positions.
As for fitness, there are many methods and exercises that can get you "squash fit". Lately, I have become a fan of the classic 400m run. Find any regulation track. Run a full lap. Rest. Repeat. The 400 is regarded as the ultimate squash workout; not quite a sprint, not quite long distance. After just one lap, your legs and lungs will be in some pain. I believe the average person would take somewhere between 110-130 seconds for one lap. Rest time should generally be equal to run time. Our training group has been doing 10-12 sets in about 80 seconds with 70 seconds rest. It is an extremely difficult workout but remarkably practical for squash. You will feel substantially fitter after three sessions, and be able to hang in longer with better players. Get out to your local track and give it a try before winter comes!
Another concept recently brought to my attention is playing other sports to benefit your squash. It has been proven that playing multiple sports as a child makes you more athletically skilled as an adult, and I believe the different skills and muscle groups used in other sports like badminton or basketball can only improve your game on the old 32x21 foot box.