Never Get Thirsty

Never Get Thirsty

One piece of advice I give and live by is “never be thirsty”.

Drink small amounts of water at regular intervals.

If you are thirsty, that’s your body telling you that you have left it really late to drink.

It’s a delicate balance between rushing to the bathroom all the time and not drinking enough.

Your body NEEDS water to survive and being dehydrated, even a little, will significantly reduce your physical capabilities.

You will need to find the right amount of water for YOUR situation, but start today with at least 1.5 litres and adjust accordingly.

It’s such a simple topic but with a little effort can bring a real difference in your performance.

I have a sports drink bottle that I fill 4 times a day. I use that because it makes it easy to know how much I have drunk.

One last thing, it IS possible to drink too much but you would need to be drinking over 5 litres per day for that to happen, but that doesn’t mean you should be drinking 4 litres per day either!

Just be sensible.

Equipment Spotlight: Medicine Balls

Equipment Spotlight: Medicine Balls

If when you imagine medicine balls, you visualize dusty old boxing gyms, with faded posters on the wall and a few 100 watt bulbs spotting the place, then it’s time to bring you up to the present.

Forget those huge old leather medicine balls (although you can still get them), think small plastic versions.

I bought a 3kg one about 4 years ago and it was not much bigger than a melon.

Hard wearing and versatile, a modern medicine ball can be used for a variety of exercises, working not only for your core workouts but also your legs and shoulders.

The best place to look for exercises and routines is, of course, the Internet.

Start with a few simple exercises and increase the amount over time. I also recommend starting with a 2 or 3 kg ball until you feel much stronger. Unlike traditional weights, you will be throwing this around and 2 kg can have a lot of momentum.

All you need to do now is start singing the Rocky theme!

Go get’em Tiger!

Hit at 80% your Maximum Power during Matches

Hit at 80% your Maximum Power during Matches

Set aside at least 2 minutes every solo or group training session to hit the ball as hard as you can for as long as you can.

During the match, you will probably be hitting the ball at 80% you maximum most of the time. The rest will obviously be either faster (less often) or slower (more often).

What’s important is building up your power but a power that can be sustained for all of the match.

But power alone is useless without control and that’s why you should be hitting at 80% most of the time because that power level allows you to still control the ball.

With your practise sessions of hard hitting, over time you will be able to hit the ball harder WITH control.

That 80% might eventually be more powerful than your current 100%.

2 minutes might not sound long but I guarantee that you WILL be tired.

Over time increase that to 3 then 4 minutes etc.

Take skipping to the next level.

Take skipping to the next level.

I hate to admit it, but I am a terrible skipper. I practice almost everyday but I never seem to get much better.

The actual activity is so good for squash players that it is worth doing. If you are like me and have two left feet, worry not, there are alternatives.

The first one is possibly the best and most realistic for squash players in terms of movement.

Standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, start to jump but try to keep your knees straight. The objective is to use your calf muscles to do the work. I find that if I try to make as much noise as possible with your feet hitting the floor, it has the desired effect.

As you are jumping or tapping, move you feet wider apart. Going from the starting position to almost as wide as you can should take about 6 seconds. You are NOT trying to go from narrow to wide as quickly as possible. You are trying make as many taps as possible though.

Go narrow and wide a few times and take a break. If you have done it properly, you will really feel the burn in your calf muscles.

This is stage 1. Do this for as long as you can or want and as many times a week as you can or want.

When you feel comfortable doing this, it is time for stage 2.

The basic movement is the same but instead of remaining in one place and orientation, you are going to try to move is a circle with one foot remaining in the same same spot but still jumping. Go clockwise for one revolution and then counter-clockwise. Don’t forget, the foot that remains in the same spot is still jumping.

Now swap feet and keep the other foot in the same spot and go clockwise and counter-clockwise.

As with stage one do this as many times as you can or want in each training session and for as many training sessions as you want.

Stage 3 uses the same basic jumping motion but instead of going in a circle, you now must try to move forwards, backwards and sideways. Essentially, you jump up and down but move yourself to various parts of the court.

The great thing about the above exercises is that they can be done anywhere without worrying about timing of jumps and ropes etc.

One last thing, with a skipping rope the area you need is larger than without. You have to consider the height of the room and you can’t get too close to other people. With these exercises you can get over ten people on one court if you wanted to.

Be like a Wizard.

What Gandalf and Nicole David Have In Common And How You Can Learn From Them.

“A wizard is neither early nor late, he arrives exactly when he meant to”, so said Gandalf to one of the Hobbits in one of the Lord of the Rings books.

And that is how a great mover on a squash court is.

Getting to the ball too early is almost as bad as getting there too late – almost.

Have you ever seen those skinny, featherweight squash players who seem to be able to hit the ball so hard? Back in my day, there used to be quite a few players from Pakistan like that.

And then there are those other squash players build like a stevedore on steroids that can’t seem to put ony of the potential power into the ball?

Well, welcome to the world of physics! In particular, timing and momentum.

This means using your body weight in that process.

Ideally, you should be taking your last step just before you make contact with the ball. This means you transfer as much of your bodyweight INTO the shot as possible.

However, you need to be strong enough to control your momentum and not continue to move forward after hitting the ball. This takes leg and core body strength and must be practiced. ANY movement forward after you hit the ball is essentially wasted.

The reality on most squash courts around the world is much different. Players either get to the ball too early and have lost a significant amount of potential power or they get there a fraction of a second late and the momentum is not transfered to the ball.

This is one of the things that can be practiced when doing pairs routines. The smooth motion of movement towards where the ball will be when you want to hit it, the swing as you take the final lunge and return to the T.

Start to pay much more attention to your final step. Make it count.

Float like a butterfly, Sting Like A Bee

Float like a butterfly, Sting Like A Bee

There is a lot of common ground between boxing and squash. I have played some tough matches and felt as if I had been in a fight the day after – you too probably!

“Hit and move” is an often heard phrase in boxing and we would do well to heed it in squash to.

I have previously covered moving back to the T faster than moving to the ball and in this article I want to look at that in a little more detail in the back of the court.

Essentially, your swing should provide the movement momentum to start the move back to the T. At the moment of impact you should be moving towards the ball ever so slightly as this means that your body weight is being used to maximum effect.

Then, you follow through with your swing – not too wildly though!, and smoothly make you way back to the T.

At club level you often see players hit a crosscourt from the back and then watch the ball without moving, then after a half-second begin to move. It’s easier to do this for crosscourt shots as the ball is not coming back to your position.

If you don’t move when you you hit a straight drive you would be in the way and that’s often why lower levels of squash players hit more crosscourts.

“Hit and move”, “Hit and move”, “Hit and move” should be a mantra you instill in yourself.

With practice, you will have more options when you get to the ball as you would have had more time to get to the ball in the first place.

Let’s All Do The T Jump

Let’s All Do The T Jump

Let me get straight to the point.

The moment before your opponent hits the ball, you should do a little jump, with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. This movement, gives you the “bounce” effect that means you can move faster to the ball.

In fact, it is a form of plyometrics, which is the idea of compressing the muscles in one movement to allow them to release at greater power than from a static position. That’s why plyometrics is so good for you and what is the most common plyometrics training? Yes, that’s right, skipping. Perfect for boxers and squash players.

Once your heels touch the ground, it takes more time to get moving than if you were bouncing.

The timing of the jump is crucial because if you do it too early all benefit is lost and you will probably be slower.

If you do it too late, you will be in the air when the ball is moving and by the time you land, you will be a little late.

The key is to start to jump JUST before you think the ball is about to be hit BUT don’t jump too high. You are just doing a little bounce to make sure you are ready to pounce once you know where the ball is going.

Like everything worth working for, you will need to practice until it feels comfortable.

If you can, watch some professionals matches on YouTube and focus on this aspect of their movement. Especially, Nicole David, who moves so beautifully.

Lastly, notice what happens when a player hits the ball off the back wall and the opponent at the front. He or she often waits….and waits….and waits before hitting the ball.

This waiting make it hard for you to guess the moment to jump and you often see players become static, making that much harder to get moving.

Equipment Spotlight: Foam Rollers

Foam rollers have become quite fashionable over the last few years and for good reason.

Foam rollers allow you to massage yourself easily and cheaply. You can carry them in your bag and use them on almost any surface, including the wall.

They come in two types: solid foam, with various surface treads and ones with a plastic inner core and an outer foam surface.

They are easy to carry and use and provide a perfect post-match/training cool down.

I highly recommend you try one a few times, you should notice the difference in a few days.

No for my confession: I don’t like them. I find them awkward to use, although I do see and feel the benefit.

I have an alternative which I will tell you about another time, but just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean you won’t.

Essentially, you roll your body over and around them and your body weight provides the pressure for the massage.

They can work the legs, back, shoulders and arms.

I’m pretty sure you local gym already uses them, so try and check them out.

You Have To Be Your Own Coach 90% Of The Time

I was recently asked to discuss making sure than when players are not with their coach, they do the right thing.

This goes back to my previous article entitled “Really Understand The Objective Of Any Routine You Do” but it also goes deeper and wider.

It’s your coach’s responsibility to ensure that you know what you should be working on and the elements to focus on.

However, ultimate responsibility of your improvement lies with you. You are the one who actually has to do the hard work and put in the hours of training – and yes, they will be hours.

Ideally, you should work WITH your coach in ensuring your training without him or her is beneficial.

If necessary, ask him or her for at least one, preferably two and at most three things that you should be paying attention to when you are playing, pairs/group practicing or doing solo routines.

Then make sure you report back. If he or she doesn’t ask, tell your coach what happened and discuss ways to improve your next sessions without him or her.

Move Back To The T Faster Than To The Ball

Move Back To The T Faster Than To The Ball

I hate generalizations but like most people, especially educators, I often use them.

Today, I am going to present an idea that in general is true but obviously not always. I need to you to read this with an open mind.

How fast do you need to get to the ball?  My answer is as SLOW as possible.

How fast should you get back to the T?  My answer is as FAST as possible.

Let’s look at the first one. How can it be possible to say as slow as possible? Well, the idea is that you never want to get to the ball too early. You will waste energy getting there without any benefit to you. In some situations you might be able to play the ball earlier but that’s not always preferable. The idea is to get there when you NEED to but not before.

With regard to the second point, the faster you are back on the T or the right place for the situation, the less options your opponent has.

Most club players do it the other way around: get to the ball as fast as possible and then move back slowly to the T.

Watch a few professional matches on the Internet and see how they move. You will be surprised at how quickly they get back to the T.

Try it for yourself. You will probably find it hard to move to the ball at the right speed and quite hard to rush back, but it’s worth it.