Good squash coaches look for ways to improve their athletes’ quickness around the court – especially an explosive first step, and the ability to move quickly into a solid and balanced hitting position. You cannot hit the ball hard and accurately if you are not set and balanced!
Although there are many typologies of speed and power-related qualities such as agility, quickness, action velocity, etc., I prefer to use the terms agility and power when working with coaches and athletes. Agility is the ability to quickly stop, start and change direction. Power (or speed-strength) is the ability to apply force (or strength) quickly, usually by applying force against the ground (starting with the legs in a kinetic chain) in order to jump or leap explosively, or to hit an object with an implement – a softball or baseball or in our case a squash ball with a racquet. Deceleration control refers to a related type of strength which occurs during quick stops, direction changes and follow-throughs, such as those that occur when lunging and then recovering in the front of the court (I encountered this term for the first time when reading Petersen and Nittinger’s 2006 book Fit to Play Tennis – an excellent resource for squash coaches).
The problem for today’s squash coaches is not how to find training information, but how to distill down and simplify complex knowledge and a myriad of techniques into a practical and simple form for use by athletes. I have put together a basic power and agility program for squash which has the following characteristics which I believe are essential for most of the athletes we work with:
- does not involve the use of heavy weights which create a safety and education issue;
- easily explainable without the need for extensive equipment;
- implementable away from squash courts and coach supervision.
The program, developed with software featured on PTontheNet emphasizes the development of an explosive first step though the use of simple plyometrics and short sprints utilizing a stab-step backwards as we find in squash-specific court movement. Also emphasized is what can be termed “deceleration strength”, the ability to stop or slow down in a safe, balanced fashion after explosive movement (you can read more about it here). It also features use of leg initiated kinetic chains (the med ball throws and whole body cable pulls). The exercises are meant to be performed in the order listed, as the program starts with warm-up exercises and finishes with a lactic component which should be always be performed at the end of a workout.
In order for this program to be used safely, athletes should have at least a year or two of supervised strength training background, and should be “reasonably” in shape (2-4 weeks of strength-endurance training).
Video examples of many of these exercises can be found on Youtube – for example search “speed agility quickness training” – here is one example:
Here is the example program as a .pdf file: Squash Power & Agility Basic Workout.