Graham is an avid squash player for The Hong Kong Football Club when not busy with training. Below is an article written for HKFC published in November 2021.
Midway through 2020, we had no idea what was about to happen. Some of us figured out how to keep active, some upgraded our home gym setup or even subscribed to online coaching, group classes or freebies on YouTube. Most of us though, sat back, took a rest day, week, month or three and re-entered the courts with the all-too-common self-rhetorical justification of “well we haven’t had access so no wonder I’m not fit”. Now, with the start of a new squash season upon us after all the time off, it is time to put aside the excuses and proactively plan your training to continue your progress in the sport!
You utilise multiple energy pathways in order to meet the demands imposed by your body. These are adenosine triphosphate (ATP), creatine phosphate (CP), anaerobic and aerobic pathways. Here are the respective durations of each pathway: ATP <10s, CP 10-50s, anaerobic 10-90s and aerobic >90s.
What does this mean? Let’s imagine ATP was the tip of a matchstick; you strike it then it envelops for a few seconds before settling down and burning along the wooden shaft of the match. If ATP is the tip then CP is the wooden shaft. Likewise, if ATP is described as the diagonal court dive in Paul “Superman” Coll style then CP would be the next 4 shots to win the rally.
In squash, most rallies are between 5-30 shots. And trust me, you know when you've been in a rally lasting 30 shots or over - just try getting a word out amidst all that heavy breathing! The higher the level; typically, the longer the rallies. A 30-shot rally will take approximately 90 seconds which arguably means the rally is done anaerobically (without the presence of oxygen). I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath while battling out such a rally! But the point is, as far as the player’s energy system is concerned, most squash rallies are performed anaerobically. You may ask, “so why am I blowing out of every respiratory hole?”. This is due to the fact that our marathon coal burning system - the aerobic system - is there to replenish the other 3 systems you’ve just pushed to their limits during these rallies. All these are needed and all are important!
So, which do I train?
The legendary German tree chopper, Simon Rosner swore by hill sprints for his conditioning. The Beast of Alexandria, Mohammed El Shorbagy opts for circuit training. Paul Coll and Nele Gilis love CrossFit as part of his off-court training. What do they all have in common? All of them train all energy systems. There is nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned run along the harbour to get you “fit”, but is that the kind of “fit” you are looking for to carry over to the court? How can a 5km run or 20 laps in the pool assist you in being a better athlete?
It can - but for only one energy system!
Here are some concepts to consider when trying an energy system training:
Sort out any dysfunctional shoulder or hip mechanics. If your posture is poor and it brings you pain, address that first.
Keep the exercises simple but choose movements that can be performed explosively. A cross trainer isn’t going to cut it.
You want as much muscle tissue involved in the safest planes of movement to allow you to exert maximal effort. High speed bicep curls will only serve you toward injury.
If you’re not used to pushing yourself hard, keep a bucket nearby.
Now let’s get into the fun stuff.
No equipment workout:
A2- Push ups
A3- walking lunges
A4- burpees Circuit format
2 minutes break between A4 and A1
Accumulated reps: Newbies 80-160 reps, Gym tourists 120-240 reps, Gym rats 200-400 reps
A- Rower 30s sprint 30s rest 7 times.
B- Spin bike 20s hill climb 20s sprint 90s steady flat 6 times.
C1- Medicine ball burpee 50 reps (accumulated)
C2- DB thruster 8kg girls, 14kg boys for 50 reps (accumulated)
D- Jump rope 60s on 60s off 5 times.
A1- Deadlift 20 reps A2- Battle rope 30 seconds B1- Farmers walk 20m with half body weight B2- Plank front and sides 60s front 30s each side C1- Backwards sled drag 20m at body weight C2- Prowler sprint 20m at half body weight
Paired exercise format
Super set from first to second exercise then rest 90s between second and beginning the first exercise again
Above are only a few ideas on how to keep moving. Whether at home or at the gym, if you would like a more in-depth conversation on how to better manage your wellness, feel free to reach out any time!
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