Before grabbing your racket and heading straight on to the court, you’re going to want to loosen that body up a bit beforehand. Stretching before you play in some way will heighten your performance, keep injuries more at bay, and keep you healthier and more supple.
So how do you stretch for squash? A 5 to 10 minute stretching routine is essential before you play squash. A mixture of static stretches, dynamic stretches, and other movements such as yoga stretches will help to limber up your body ready for the game.
In this article, you’ll find several ways to make sure your next time playing a quick game of squash with your chap doesn’t leave you stuck to the couch icing your groin.
Stretching For Squash
Regardless of your age, to get perfectly warmed up for a day of squash you’re going to want to stretch your muscles, get rid of any stiffness in your joints, loosen your ligaments, and elevate your heart rate just a little to get your heart pumping. Just like a car starting on a January morning needs a little time to get her engine firing up properly, you too will need a proper warm up to combat the many stresses squash can leave upon an unprepared body.
Due to the nature of squash and the quick reactions needed from various muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your body, one misstep or one step too far can result in a very painful injury. And the more time icing your groin at home, the less time on the court.
Besides, you don’t want a mild strain sustained from lack of a good warm up to be the excuse you use if you can’t play to your fullest. Below is a simple, five to ten-minute stretching routine that can (and should) be done before getting on the court. It only takes a short amount of time and can be invaluable in preventing your health from being compromised.
Begin By Raising Your Heart Rate
A simple exercise for approximately two minutes before stretching gets your heart beating faster, and gets more blood pumping around your muscles, which is exactly what you want before you stretch.
Simple exercises can be something like jogging, jumping on the spot, or skipping. Just doing this for two minutes is the perfect prelude to the stretches you can then perform.
Traditional Static Stretches
Static stretches are the ones you probably remember from grade school gym class. They’re simple, one-step movements that involve using your body to provide resistance to a muscle or ligament.
Simply bend at the waist while keeping your legs together and straight and see how far you can extend your hands towards your toes. This will loosen the PCL (the back of your knee) and your hamstrings. Hold for five to ten seconds. Repeat two or three times or until loose.
Spread Toe Touches
Similar to toe touches, only now spread your legs apart greater than shoulder width. Keep them straight and toes pointed in front of you. Now touch the ground with your fingertips. You can place your palms on the floor if you feel you can stretch deeper. You’ll feel this stretch in your groin, inner hamstring, and PCL. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat two or three times or until loose.
One Legged Knee Tucks
Standing on your left leg, pull the right leg towards your chest with your hands using an interlocking finger grip. Pull the right leg up as high as you can and hold for ten seconds. Now switch legs. Repeat this two to three times. This is to loosen up your quadriceps muscles (the big one on the top of your thigh).
To stretch out your shoulders and lat muscles, take your right arm and stick it straight out in front of you, parallel to the ground. Then take your left arm, move it underneath your outstretched right arm and place your left hand at the base of your right tricep (right above your elbow). Now pull your right arm to the left side of your body. You should feel this stretch near your shoulder. Make sure to hold for ten seconds and then switch arms. Do this about three times total and your shoulders and arms should feel pretty loose and ready for hours of swinging.
To get very specific parts of your body ready for competition, this part of the stretch is going to vary from person to person. If you have a very tight lower back, for example, this may be a time to lie on a foam roller and stretch out your vertebrae. Because I won’t be able to cover everyone’s small joint stretches, I’ve decided to list the most common ones below. Keep in mind this is the most personal part of the routine and take this section to stretch out what constantly nags at you.
Stand straight up and simply roll your neck clockwise for three rotations, and then counterclockwise for three rotations. Make sure to keep your chin down.
Stretching out your back is very important, however, based on your mobility and spinal health, there can be many different ways to do this. A foam roller is a great way to stretch out your spine. Place the foam roller on the floor, and lie on top of it. Then slowly rock back and forth, so that the roller is moving from your lower back to your upper back. Be careful not to go too low towards your tailbone or too high towards your neck as a slip while the roller is at either of these positions could be very painful.
If you do not have a foam roller available or lying on one causes too much discomfort, there are two other options available. The first is a yoga move appropriately named “Roller.” Lie on your back and tuck your knees towards your chest and give them a big ol’ bear hug. Next, rock back and forth along your spine using the momentum generated from your core. You may feel a little ridiculous doing this but after about 20 rolls or so you’ll stand up feeling loose, guaranteed.
Don’t believe me? Dirty floor making those other two options a very bad choice for that brand new white polo? It’s okay. There is a back-loosening exercise you can do standing up. Find the nearest corner of a wall and stand in front of it. Take turns placing your hand, thumb down, on the wall and twisting in the opposite direction (right hand on the wall, twist towards your left, etc.). You’re gonna hear some cracking doing this but that’s okay. It’ll feel great and get you ready for your next game.
Wrist And Forearm Stretches
Obviously, your wrists play an important role in playing squash, and the following stretch shows you how to loosen not only your wrist but your forearms as well.
Place your left arm before you so that it hangs down at your waist in front of you, palm up. Next, take your right hand and put your fingers, palm down, in the palm of your left hand so that the fingers on your right hand are facing directly in front of you and the fingers on your left hand are facing directly to your right. Now, push your right arm downwards so that your fingers remain in your left palm but your wrist bends forward. You’ll feel this stretch in the underside of your forearm. Hold this for about ten seconds and then switch sides. You can repeat this two to three times.
Now we’re going to do the same wrist exercise just in reverse. Everything will be the same except the initial placement of the arm being stretched. Instead of having your fingers placed in your opposite palm, you will now have the back of your wrist in your palm with your fingers being curled towards your body. Press down with a delicate force so that the top of your forearm and your wrist receives a nice, firm stretch. Hold for ten seconds then switch hands. You can repeat this two to three times.
Common Yoga Poses For Loosening Your Ligaments
I’m a big yoga fan so it’s no wonder I’ve incorporated some simple movements into my routine to make sure I’m at my optimal playing level. Many squash professionals use yoga on a daily basis. It really helps to condidtion the body, prevent injury, and also improves concentration and focus.
A great way to get the knees and lower back loose at the same time while activating your shoulders calls for getting on your knees (on a mat, preferably) and sinking your butt towards your heels. Then bend over at the waist with your hands extended out before you as far as they can reach while still keeping your butt against your heels. Instead of holding for a count, hold for 3 long, slow, deep breaths and repeat one or two more times.
Lie flat on the ground (hopefully you have a mat!) Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle with your palms against the ground even with your chest. Lift up so that your upper torso comes off the mat while your hips remain grounded. Point your chin up to the sky as you keep your elbows as straight as possible. You will definitely feel your core stretching out in this pose.
This pose has many different names but the common Western name for it is the Butterfly. Chances are you’ve probably done this one before but if you haven’t, sit on your butt and place your feet together so that the bottom of your shoes are touching. Then pull your legs in towards your groin until you really feel the stretch. Hold for 3 long, slow, deep breaths.
Half Moon Pose
Stand straight up with your feet together and have your hands meet each other above your head. Then bend to the left while keeping your arms extended. Hold for 3 long, slow, deep breaths and then switch sides. This will keep your trunk feeling nice and loose for your upcoming game.
If you want to watch an excellent video about yoga poses for squash, then I would recommend checking out this…
Dynamic Stretches To Increase Heart-Rate
Finally, we have the dynamic stretches. The purpose of the dynamic stretch is to get your heart rate elevated slightly. There are numerous ways to do this and the list below is by far not the only means of doing so, but it should give you an idea as to what a dynamic stretch consists of.
Classic, time-tested, and effective, the jumping jack effectively raises your heart rate by utilizing the biggest muscles in your body; your quads and hamstrings. Do until energized.
High Knee Jog
Exactly what it sounds like. Move quickly for a distance of about 50 meters while bringing your knees as high as you can.
Burpees (With No Push Up)
Ah, the dreaded burpee. Don’t worry, you’ll only need to do a few of these bad boys until you really start feeling your heart pump. Start by going from a standing position to a pushup position, drop your chest to the ground, then push off and come into a squat, then immediately jump so that the entire exercise is one fluid movement. Do three to five if able…and willing!
The Lateral Shuffle
The lateral shuffle is another great way to get your heart pumping. You’ll need about 10m of space. Start by taking your feet together, then moving towards the left by extending your left foot sideways to the left, and bringing your right foot right along behind it in a shuffling motion. This motion is a tad difficult to describe but imagine a crab walking sideways, or a basketball player playing defense. You want to keep your body low and shuffle as quickly as possible to the other side of the room.
Make It A Part Of Your Pre-Match Routine
Remember it is vital to warm up correctly before playing squash. Especially as our bodies get older, it becomes more and more difficult for our muscles and tendons to go from 0 to 100 so quickly.
While this routine above is just a guideline to help you establish your own stretching regiment, there are some key principles to follow when making your own:
1. Loosen your major ligaments – Your groin, knee, hips, and shoulder ligaments are the most vulnerable when participating in an athletic activity. Make sure you target these areas thoroughly.
2. Stretch the big muscles – Quadriceps, hamstrings, lat muscles, and abdominals all get in a great workout after an intense game of squash. Make sure you prepare them properly. If one of them is injured, your game, not to mention your life, is going to get much more difficult.
3. If you feel pain, stop immediately – Don’t continue the rest of your stretches, seek help right away. It’s very important to incorporate correct form while performing your stretches. If the above descriptions weren’t helpful enough or didn’t explain every question you had about the exercise, look up a video of the movement on the internet. These are all common stretches that should be easily accessible on multiple websites.
4. Practice makes perfect – If you find that these stretches are a bit too difficult, just do what you can, but make an effort at all of them. It’s important to be limber before playing squash.
5. Grab a partner – Everything’s better with a friend and stretching is no different. Have your squash partner join you on a round of stretches. They may even be able to help you keep balance during some of them or asses your form in others.
Stretching often gets a bad reputation.
Some seem to think of it as tedious, daunting, or even pointless. While it’s true you can go a game or even several without stretching and a proper warm-up without pain, you increase the chances of suffering a preventable injury.
If you’ve ever shown up an hour or more early for any professional sporting event, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of top athletes out on the field/court/rink/pitch going through their stretching routine in order to get ready.
There’s a reason. They want to perform at their best time and time again all while minimizing their risk of injury and your goal should be the same.
Whether you are a first-time squash player or lifelong veteran of the game, 10 years old or 100, stretching can always help you keep playing longer.