In squash, one of the best way to condition your body is by carrying out drills that replicate squash movements on court. Players that move the best have a huge advantage in terms of composure and time on the ball, and also in retaining stamina.
A player that races round without the right level of conditioning, will tire much quicker, and find the accuracy of their shots quickly deteriorating.
But what are the best squash conditioning drills? Concentrate on drills that develop the power in your legs, such as ‘tapping’. Also attempt drills that develop lateral movement, such as ghosting patterns. Exercises running along ladders or around cones help develop agility and footwork.
Fortunately, most footwork drills also serve to enhance fitness capability and most fitness and conditioning drills go a long way to improving your movement on a squash court. The two really do go hand-in-hand.
Truth be told, most squash drills are likely to have a positive effect on your conditioning. However, there are many that will help you make rapid progress in this area and that is what we are going to focus on here. So for the moment forget the ball and racket, and have a go of these.
Drill 1 – Tapping
This drill is seemingly mundane but the value that it adds to your development as a squash player cannot be overstated.
It is usually referred to as ‘tapping’. All it requires is that you stand on the squash court with your feet slightly apart.
Lean slightly forward on the ball of your feet and then start ‘tapping’. This basically means that you bounce slightly off the ground (about 3 inches) and land with the force more in your toes. Note that you are not jumping and you are not skipping.
You are probably one tier below both of those activities. Just get both of your feet to leave the ground ever so slightly.
As the first progression for this drill, you start tapping with your feet relatively close to each other. As the tapping continues you then move your feet further and further apart – tapping all the while. Once you are at a decent stretch, start working your feet back inwards.
Tap in, tap out.
Tapping is often seen by some as an alternative to skipping. It is not a replacement as such but the sentiment is that tapping is better suited to squash players, given the nature of your playing environment.
You know you are doing relatively well with the skipping exercise when your shoes make a meaningful sound after your feet return to the ground. So, the harder you tap, the better the routine.
Now, back to the actual drill. While tapping, your knees should not be bent. The whole point of the workout is to isolate your calves.
The next progression with this drill will be to start moving forward by tapping, with your feet fairly apart. Just outside you perhaps. Maybe start right at the back of the court and move your way to the service box and then start tapping backwards towards the wall.
Finally, you can make matters a touch more interesting by moving forward and backwards; and opening and closing the gap between your feet at the same time. So, as a final progression, you are essentially incorporating every element of the drill that we have touched upon thus far.
Drill 2 – Tapping Rotation
This is actually related to the first drill, in every way imaginable really. Place your left foot in the back corner of the service box. Now teach yourself to stay on the spot, while tapping.
While your left foot will essentially be tapping throughout, it doesn’t actually move from the left corner of the service box. Your right foot functions like a protractor would. So you get to do a total 360 of tapping.
You can do this drill clockwise and anti-clockwise. We also suggest alternating the roles of your feet. So, for the first segment, the left foot can be the pivot and then the right foot can be the pivot.
There is an element of coordination that comes to the fore. If your calves don’t hurt just a little, then you probably aren’t doing it right.
Drill 3 – Sideways Tapping
Earlier in this article – that is in DRILL 1 – we focused on moving forward and backwards, while tapping. Now, for the sake of variety, we can start on the right side wall and start tapping toward the middle of the court.
Once you have reached the middle of the court, you can start tapping back to the left. Initially, you can just focus on keeping the feet the same width apart throughout but as a progression you can focus on opening and closing the gap between your feet.
Drill 4 – Lunging
Lunging always has been and always will be a prominent feature for a squash player. You cannot do without it in a game situation.
For this drill, you can start at the back of the court and move your way forward, just lunging. Simple as that! Repeat for several minutes.
Drill 5 – Lunging With A Racket
As a progression for Drill 4, that lunge can then be enhanced by the occasional swing of the racket in front of you. Three lunges and a swing might do it, followed by another three lunges and a swing.
This is a great drill for building lower limb strength and stability and developing muscle memory. The more lifelike the drill, and the more stronly connected it is to your squash game, often the more impact it will have.
Drill 6 – Lateral Footwork Forehand
This drill has to do with lateral footwork, which is in many ways an extension of the conditioning you have done in your previous five drills.
For the first step in this progression, start off by standing on the T-line with a racket in hand. Then quickly side-step across to the right side wall. Two sideways steps may be sufficient in this regard, or else three, before you lunge into a forehand drive position, and touch the sidewall with your racket.
Once you touch the wall, side-step quickly back to the T-line. Repeat many times.
Drill 7 – Lateral Footwork Backhand
Next step is to try that same drill on the backhand. The idea is exactly the same.
Great for muscle memory, footwork, and leg conditioning.
Drill 8 – Lateral Footwork Both Sides
The next progression is to move from one side of the court to the other. Move sideways to the right, and play a ghosted forehand, and then move sideways through the T and back to the other sidewall where you play a backhand.
Keep going, and grooving your movements.
Drill 9 – Lateral Footwork With A Ball
When you have completed a few repetitions of the last few drills, the next step is to get a partner on court to feed your forehand. In this instance, instead of lunging to touch the side wall, you are lunging to get a racket on the ball.
You partner will stand near the back of the court on the right side of the court (assuming you are right handed). They hit a gentle shot that ideally will be hittable around the service line and quite near the sidewall.
The player moves across, hits the forehand down the line, and sidesteps back to the T. Repeat.
As a progression in this drill, once you get your racket on the ball, shuffle right across to the left side of the court and not just the T-line.
When you reach the left side wall, take an imaginary swipe at the ball with the backhand and then shuffle back to the right side wall, before driving the ball back to the training partner feeding to you.
This should turn into a very intense workout, that is physically demanding in every respect. It requires speed and it requires endurance – both critical elements in the game of squash.
Drill 10 – Moving Between Cones
Set six cones up on the squash court. Two in the front corners, two in back corners and two in the middle of the court. Two players should be involved in this drill. One of those players will operate the front two corners, while the second player will operate the back two corners.
Station yourselves on the T-line of the court. Both players will use rackets, but there willl be no ball. When prompted PLAYER ONE should run to the front right cone, PLAYER TWO will stay on the T.
It is effectively a game of shadow squash. When PLAYER ONE “makes contact” with an imaginary ball in the vicinty of the cone, the assumption is that that he has retrieved the short ball and played it crosscourt to the back of the court. Once that stroke has been completed, PLAYER TWO then “gives chase” and retrieves the ball from the back of the court.
The cycle then continues on the front left of the court, in a similar fashion. The players should be operating a few split seconds apart from each other.
After several repetitions, the two players will then exchange roles.
Drill 11 – 6 Cones
The progression to this drill is to bring both of the side cones into play.
PLAYER ONE will operate midway between the T-line and the front wall. Dead centre of the square, as it were. PLAYER TWO will shadow him from behind. The idea is that PLAYER ONE always plays down the line, PLAYER TWO always plays cross-court.
The imaginary swings allow the players to create a game like situation. However, it is the movement between the cones which deserves the most attention. It needs to be swift and economical.
Drill 12 – Split The Court
The next dimension to this drill will add further a complication. Instead of one player owning the front half of the court, while the other player operates from the back, the players split duties between the left and right side of the court.
So, stationed at the T-line once again, PLAYER ONE will sprint to the front right cone and play a cross court to the back. PLAYER TWO waits till they have played the shot, and then sprints to the back left cone. At this point PLAYER TWO then darts for the front left cone, while PLAYER ONE, backtracks to the back right cone.
Every time your destination is reached in the drill, a swipe is taken with the racket. In an attempt to assimilate the game situation, the point with this drill is to imagine that you are retrieving and returning a ball.
Drill 13 – Ladder
It is sometimes said the old ways are the best. When it comes to speed training there are very few methods which beat what the conventional ladder drills have to offer. Ladder drills keep you agile and they keep you nimble.
The real value in ladder drills is that they provide so many options that help enhance a multitude of aspects in your game.
All you need is an agility ladder, some cones and a bucket load of water because you will be worn out once you are done with this set of workouts. Speed is always important but so too is endurance.
This drill is best done outside. You don’t want to damage the court surface with the ladder.
Depending on how seriously you take this – and you should take it seriously – an extensive warm-up and cool down session should be a part of the staple. D
For the first drill, you need one cone, which should be placed about 20 yards away from the ladder. It is a very basic drill, where you hop through the ladder on one foot at a time.
Once you complete the ladder regimen, you then sprint towards the cone. Once you have reached the cone, you then start back peddling towards the ladder.
When you reach the ladder, you then change legs/feet and hop back to the beginning. We suggest that you have a full go at this for the greater part of ten minutes before stealing a sip of water and catching some breath.
Drill 14 – Ladder # 2
For this drill, you can place the cone about 20 yards from the ladder. This time, stand alongside the first block in the ladder. Jump in and out of each space with both feet. Follow that up with a sprint to the cone. As was the case in the previous drill, backtrack to the ladder and hop back to the beginning.
Again, a ten-minute session is probably advised. If you can do more than that, it would be great.
Drill 15 – Cone Zigzags
For this drill, grab yourself three cones. Arrange those cones 20 yards apart and in a zigzag pattern.
So, your first cone should be placed 20 yards to the right, then the next 20 yards to the left and then 20 yards to the right again.
Right, back to the ladder.
When at the front, leap forward and skip two ladder spaces. When you land again, repeat the action until you get to the end of the ladder.
Once you are done with the ladder segment of this drill, conduct a series of diagonal sprints to the final cone and back. Continue with the ladder regime once you return.
Drill 16 – Add Push-Ups
Right, it is time to up the ante somewhat by adding push-ups to the regimen. Assume the push-up position and put your hands on the first ladder space. Push yourself up once and stop with your hands in the second ladder space.
Continue this routine until you get to the end of the ladder. The strength of the upper body and core is something that is often taken for granted in squash, especially for those seeking upper body endurance.
Drill 17 – High Knees
For this drill, you need three cones. The objective is to place those cones 10 yards apart. The first cone should be placed diagonally to the right. The second cone should be placed diagonally ten yards to the left.
The third cone should be placed ten yards diagonally to right again. Make your way to the end of the ladder with one foot stepping into the ladder spaces, while the other operates outside of the ladder spaces.
When running, make sure your knees are up at about waist height. Once you are done with the ladder, conduct the series of diagonal sprints – as is dictated by the cone layout you have set for yourself.
Once you are done with the sprint to the end, back peddle to the ladder and repeat the high lateral steps that you conducted earlier in the drill.
Drill 18 – Ladder Sprints
The first in the series is the most straightforward of them all. It is a straight sprint from one end of the ladder to the other, before you circle back to the “top” of the ladder.
Drill 19 – Ladder Hands
Quick hands are also an element of squash and the ladder provides a glorious opportunity to work on that aspect of your game. For this drill, get down in the push-up position again.
With your legs stretched on either side of the ladder make your way through the ladder with your hands entering the spaces. Incidentally, the hands also start outside of the spaces.
You put your right hand in, you put your left hand in. You take your right hand out, you take your left hand out and then move to the next space on the ladder.
Phew! Good luck trying these drills out. They are fantastic especially for pre-season training, or for developing your stamina and conditioning at any time.