This article, in which Hesham El Attar explores how to build and measure improvement in your squash fitness through solo work, was published courtesy of Squash Player magazine, the magazine endorsed by the World Squash Federation.
Having looked at fundamental components of squash-related fitness in our last issue, this time we will explore how they can be developed through ghosting. Using a heart rate monitor during these training exercises is important to show the progressive impact of these exercises.
- Develop a strong aerobic base
- Build volume
- Raise the threshold and build adaptation to specific lactate work
- Push the pace beyond that to develop specific speed endurance
- Finally, work at maximum intensity to raise speed
Continuous Aerobic Ghosting
Many players use long-distance running or static cycling to build their aerobic capacity, but this is not specific to squash movement. Others will use continuous low to medium intensity on-court drills. The issue here is that skill levels may not allow constant movement at a controlled pace. Ghosting, however, is ideal.
Use different ghosting patterns (outlined in previous articles) and some side-to-side steps and shuttle runs up and down the court. This is to target different muscle groups and make the training less monotonous.
You will feel the gains as you do more sessions and you should record your progress before and after the training cycle. An advanced way to do this is with a VO2 Max test (testing the maximum rate your body can use oxygen). However, an easier and more practical method is to chart your heart rate for each session and compare charts.
Look for improvements, such as a lengthier session holding on within the same heart rate zone. You may find yourself gradually working at a higher intensity but the heart rate remains contained, or working even more intensely with the heart rate going higher but still able to sustain the constant work. These are measurable signs of progress.
Training volume (as opposed to intensity) is very important when creating a fitness base. Big volume improves aerobic fitness and basic muscle endurance. This is the essential groundwork to protect muscles from injury and get them ready for the accumulation of heavier work to come in future weeks.
60-second Anaerobic Ghosting
Note that this type of ghosting is not for players of all levels. It is useful for those who are of a high enough level to sustain long, tough rallies quite frequently – meaning several rallies during each game. Starting with 10 sets after a good warm-up is a good base to build on.
When doing this type of work, it is better to stick to one, two or three patterns and use them in the same order for all sessions. This will give you more precise measuring parameters to compare between sessions (again, we are using a heart rate monitor).
Make sure that during the last 30 seconds of each set you are beyond your aerobic heart rate zone and pushing aggressively into the highest band on the chart. The last 15 seconds should feel rather uncomfortable with heavy legs and a heart rate climbing close to your maximum.
Rest intervals should be long enough to get you back into your aerobic zone, down to just below the numbers that you were sustaining during your aerobic ghosting. As soon as you approach those figures, note the rest period duration and begin the next set. Preferably do this in the opposite direction to work all muscles equally. It may also be worth noting the number of corners done in each set.
Preferably use the ‘correct’ foot forward on the lunge (right leg on backhand, left leg on forehand for right-handers). If you use the wrong foot occasionally, then make sure you are doing it equally on both sides.
Build the number of sets to mimic how you would rally hard against your toughest opponents or to copy the pace, rally duration and number of tough rallies per match by players of an even higher level than you would like to reach.
Doing this type of work for six sessions over a three-week period is sufficient to see marked improvements. Achieving this would allow us to confront the next stage of speed endurance training. This is even more intense, hits the muscles hard and involves a lot of repetition. During the last two sessions of the lactate work cycle discussed above, more advanced players should occasionally insert a random burst of one, two or three corners at an accelerated pace.
Hesham will continue to explore the benefits of ghosting in the next edition of Squash Player, which will be released in March 2023.