How many strength workouts a week? How many days a week should my athletes do speed and agility training? Or aerobic training? What about the days where they have a tough squash match?
These are difficult questions to answer for a squash coach, because because unlike sports that rely on one energy system – for example America football players rely exclusively on the ATP-PC (speed, power, maximum strength) system and marathoners on the aerobic system – squash relies on all three energy systems. This means that squash coaches need to establish clear guidelines for their athletes for all three types of training.
Although there are plenty of training guidelines for for the strength-power sports, and the distance runners, the picture for “mixed sports” like squash is less clear. Squash coaches working with younger athletes need to take particular care in planning their athletes training and recovery and need to consult youth-specific training resources and LTADs.
in a previous post, we discussed the order of training qualities in the same day. Similar principles apply when planning squash training over a week (or micro-cycle in periodization jargon) – plan those training activities that require a fresh, well-rested athlete and CNS earlier in the week. So if your week starts on a Monday (assuming athletes had Sunday off), new technical skills and speed/agility training would have a priority on that day. Speed-strength (power) and/or maximum strength (mature, experienced athletes), both of which require the use of fast-twitch fibre, can be prioritized on Tuesday, with high intensity aerobic and/or lactic training occurring on the Wednesday. Lower intensity aerobic training (60-70% of VO2 max or HRmax) can be done at the end of training on any of these days to aid recovery.
At this point, our “fresh CNS” rationale breaks down somewhat, since in practice we need to do at least two to three training sessions for each energy system per week to get a significant training effect – but at the end of the day on Wednesday our athletes will be quite fatigued, assuming they are practicing two to three hours a day including match play and drilling. To help plan subsequent workouts, we can take advantage of knowledge of the fatigue and recovery mechanisms for each of the energy systems, resulting in the following simple guidelines:
Qualities we can train every day:
- Speed/agility can be trained every day since there will (assuming adequate nutrition and sleep) always be 10-15 seconds of ATP-PC available in the muscle – although of course psychological fatigue may have an effect on the quality of work, so it is very important to do this training early in the workout.
- Low intensity aerobic activity (20-40 minutes) can be performed every day since it relies primarily on fat metabolism (readily available stores of fat in normal weight persons) and enhances recovery (elimination of lactic acid, etc.).
Qualities requiring 48 hours recovery:
- Speed-strength (power) and other strength quality workouts may be accompanied by significant muscle tissue micro-damage that requires at least 48 hours for significant repair and restoration.
- Lactic training (20 X 400 or on-court equivalent) and high intensity aerobic efforts (e.g., 5k maximum test run) can be psychologically punishing and the body may require extra time to replenish the muscle glycogen stores required for high quality efforts in these systems. A 15-20 minute light aerobic effort, and a high-carbohydrate meal with an hour of completion of theses efforts will facilitate recovery.
Obviously, this article paints a simplistic picture. To investigate further, Rainer Marten’s Successful Coaching does a great job of explaining the physiological principles behind the reasoning presented here. I use it as a text when I teach the ASEP Principles of Coaching course to groups of coaches and students in my Introduction to Coaching course at Smith College.
Application for Squash Coaches:
- Use physiological principles to plan squash training (versus what you have always done or seen done).
- Plan sufficient recovery (48 hours) between high intensity aerobic, strength-power, and lactic workouts.