Before you get on the court, you should have at least some idea of what you´re going to do. Sometimes when I practice with new partners and, after warming up, ask them what they want to do, they look at me as if I was out of mind and say: play, of course! You serve, love all. There´s nothing wrong with match play – that´s a vital part of training, and actually it´s important to have sessions where you simulate a situation in a competition: you warm up for 5 minutes and play a match. However, it´s also important to have training sessions where you improve your technique, tactics and physics separately. Little by little all the parts come together and more automatic in match play.
Here´s an example on how to spend 60-90 minutes efficiently on the court. This plan is targeted on players who have quite a solid base, not complete beginners (there will be another blog text on training tips for beginners).
Warm-up (before the actual training starts)
Don´t necessarily waste time on the court on warming up, especially if your time is limited. Come to the club 15 minutes early and warm up on a free court, in the corridor, on a bike, in steps, on a treadmill – whatever is available at your club. Start gently, warming up the whole body, and make sure you get out of breath and feel your muscles warm. Some players like to do short stretching movements as a part of the warm-up. It´s polite to your training partner to be on time and ready to start when your time on the court starts.
Feeding (10-15 minutes)
This is a good way to get started as it gives both players an opportunity to concentrate on technique: moving to the ball, positioning and the swing. One player is at the back court and plays a drop shot, and the other player is near the T and plays a drive. You can change roles for example after 20-30 shots, do a couple of sets and then change the side. Then you can do the same but play volley shots. Players at all levels can do this training, from beginners to professionals. Besides concentrating on your technique, put a target for both players. You can use some non-marking crashtape, a shoe or a racket, depending on the size of the target.
Drills (20-30 minutes)
After feeding it´s a good idea to do some drills in which you move round the court but know where your partner is going to play the ball. Drills enable you to practice your movement on the court and the racket technique at the same time. Drills don´t always simulate match play: in some drills you play shots which you wouldn´t choose to play in a match. However, a good player is able to play pretty much any shot from any point of the court. There is a huge range of drills in squash, the most common ones being continuous driving on one side, boast-drive, boast-drive-drive, drive-drive-crosscourt, boast-crosscourt-drive, boast- cross lob- drive and drive-drive-drop, just to name a few.
Conditioned games (15-20 minutes)
The idea of conditioned games is to improve your tactical side of the game but make the options more limited. In conditioned games you have to think continuously when is a good moment to play a certain shot. The classic conditioned games include a game where both players play backcourt only. You can play one set and then add a rule that you can choose to play a volley drop shot and so force your partner into the frontcourt. Another classic is the half-court game. You can play one set on both sides or change the side after every point. Then you can add a rule that you are allowed to change the side by a cross-court lob. There are others too: front versus back (one player plays everything in the backcourt and the other one in the front court), three quarters (eliminate any quarter), two quarters (for example backhand front and forehand back quarter) and frontcourt game (the ball must always bounce on the front court, you can serve with a boast). The only limit is your imagination – but bear in mind that whatever you do, your aim is to practice strategies, without forgetting racket and foot technique, of course.
Normal games (15-20 minutes)
You´ve been building up the training session to be step by step more and more demanding. You´ve been practicing racket technique and good positioning in feeding, adding more movement in drills, then giving more freedom to improve your tactics in conditioned games. It´s a good idea to finish your training session in one or two normal games. Try to keep together all the technical and tactical issues you’ve been concentrating on during the session. You might feel physically tired but this is an excellent chance to push your limits, and your partner is likely to be tired, too!
Short physical training/cool down (after the actual session)
If you´re ambitious to develop your fitness, you can dedicate some time on a few physical exercises without racket. You can do a few sets of court sprints and ghostings plus some abdominals at the end. Keep it simple. You´ll notice the difference in a few weeks even if you dedicate only 5-10 minutes to fitness training at the end of the session. Perhaps it´s not the most enjoyable way to finish off the session, but definitely worth it! Don´t forget to cool down by jogging slowly or by walking, and do your muscles a favour by stretching gently at the end.