Squash Coaches Can Produce Great Strength Programs with FitnessBuilder!

April 5, 2015

FitnessBuilder App

It is the start of the new 2015-16 for most U.S. College and High School squash coaches, and to help them plan for the upcoming year, I have just published two blog articles on squash periodization:  one on the Transition Phase and the other on Periodization of Technique and Tactics in the General Preparation Phase (GPP).  My next periodization article in the series will be on the planning of strength training in the GPP.

Before I get to that I want to introduce squash coaches to a fantastic tool that can be used to produce your team’s own custom-designed strength training program:  PumpOne’s Fitness Builder.  I have been using it for the past three years to plan and design my own college team’s strength programs – result:  two complete seasons without a single squash-related injury (you can check with the Smith trainers:)

Coaches can design programs with Fitness builder on their computer or smart device like an iPad or iPhone.  The custom programs can be sent to athletes via emailed PDF or directly to their phone/tablet, and since there are linked video descriptions for every exercise, athletes can take their own “personal trainer” or strength coach to the gym with them – great for the off-season when many squash players are away from the campus gym.  The interface is intuitive and extremely easy to use, with hundreds of exercises to choose from, as well as a variety of fitness programs.  My advice to squash coaches using the wise periodization approach is design your own programs following periodization principles (e.g., Bompa, 2009).  Check out this video overview of the Fitness Builder system:

Now here is the catch – are you qualified to design a periodized squash-specific strength program – or are you just going to “wing it” or copy somebody else’s program – or worse – use the program that got you a hip replacement?

Tennis Training (Kovacs et al.)

The USTA (tennis) has produced a number of books (e.g., Kovacs et al., 2007 above image) which can be used as a reference, as the strength demands of tennis and squash are similar enough.  The drawback of using a strength coach – the NSCA CSCS is the gold standard of certification (I got certified in 2006) – is that many of them come from a football background and still rely heavily on “traditional” strength lifts and exercises.  The major problem with this is that there are much better, more squash-specific and functional exercises available – so what is really needed is someone like myself with both the squash coaching and national level playing background AND a reputable strength training certification. Here is a short video I made on this topic:

If you do not have access to a CSCS with extensive squash experience, a smart alternative is to subscribe to the Exos (formerly Core Performance website) and either a) use their squash or tennis programs; or b) follow their template and select from amongst their bank of exercises when you use fitness builder.  Eighty per cent of the exercises I use with my team are the same or highly similar to Exos exercises (I like to think my programs are a little better than theirs due to my 40 years of experience designing squash-specific strength programs:).  This is what I did four years ago – every week in the fall (I started my Smith Squash Team on September 15th) I would upload the appropriate EXOS training program for both the Smith Tennis and Squash Teams to follow.

Core Performance for Tennis

As a minimum, I would design one program per phase of the annual plan.  If you have an assistant or enjoy this type of coaching you could change the plan up every two weeks, but the law of diminishing returns applies and you would probably be better off spending your time recruiting.

Here is an example program I have used with my team (remember that the version sent to your athletes iPhones has clickable video descriptions for each exercise!):

Fitness builder Example

Last couple of words on this topic.  If you are a squash coach working with not yet fully mature juniors, make sure you follow LTAD guidelines for squash or tennis.  If you need help in this area please give me a call – my rates are reasonable to develop custom branded programs for you and your team.


Squash Science Related Job Opening: Performance Director for Squash Canada!

July 12, 2011

Danny Dacosta, Executive Director for Squash Canada, has asked me to post a newly opened position for Performance Director for Squash Canada.  Here is the link to the announcement on their website and you can download a PDF of the job description here:  Performance Director Job Posting – Squash Canada – Final June 23, 2011.  Obviously, if squash becomes an Olympic sport, this position would be even more exciting!

This position is a great opportunity for an experienced coach to use the sport science knowledge and applications that we post on this blog.  If you are going to apply for the job, here are some of our best posts which target the key areas identified by the job description:

  • Following up on the above point, the Performance Director will need to assist in re-orienting the Coaching Certification system around LTADs.  Key post to read:  Rethinking Squash Coaching Education.
  • One of the keys in Tennis Canada’s success was implementing an effective “tactics first” approach for their both their coaching certification program and the actual programs used in National Training Centers.  Squash Canada has a “tactics first” approach to certification, but is short on specifics and direction to coaches on what exactly to implement.  Tennis Canada had a detailed training manual for U11, U14 and U18 – which spelled out the program week by week.  Key post to read:  Tactics First.
  • Understanding trends in International Squash and being able to swiftly implement changes in coaching education and athlete training:  Developing Deceptive Players.

The most effective National Sport Governing Body (NSO) that I have been involved with (consulting work) was Tennis Canada.  Backed by a supportive Executive Board – and this is the key part – a small team of three people each with strong expertise in a particular area, were able to implement continual dramatic change over a twenty-year period – with great current results.  Pierre Lamarche provided the initial strong drive and energy, Ari Novick the administrative excellence and communication between all stakeholders and Louis Cayer the coaching expertise. They also did a great job integrating ex-players into their coaching and administration. Canadian tennis players are now over-excelling at all levels – male and female, junior and adult!  Often with NSOs it’s a case of “too many cooks spoil the broth”!


High School & Junior Squash Coaches: You Need to Know about LTADs!

August 5, 2008

One of the most challenging problems for U.S. Squash (and all of U.S. sport for that matter) is that the training and competition schedules of younger athletes are based on inappropriate Professional Sport Models (little preparation and too much competition) or chance factors such as availability of courts or how many private lessons parents want or are willing to pay for for their child. High school (and college) seasons are too short, and too competition-focussed for any significant athletic development to occur.

Complicating matters is the fact that the dominant model for hiring squash coaches (and in fact most Division I college coaches) is still the “Ex-top-player” model – if they were a good player, then they must be a good coach! Even a casual glance at any list of coaching standards will reveal the necessity of the extensive training and education needed to coach competently in any context other that an adult club recreational setting.  Read the rest of this entry »