How Strong Do You Have To Be For Squash?
A Blog by Squash Canada National Squad Member Nicole Bunyan
Throughout my squash career, I have heard that “squash players don’t need to lift weights, because you don’t need to be big/bulky/strong to play squash” said over and over again like a broken record.
Guess who probably said that phrase? Someone who doesn’t strength train.
Let me be clear and put this in perspective- I’m not recommending that you spend more time perfecting your squat technique than practicing your forehand drive. However, if you become stronger, more stable, and more mobile, you can hopefully improve your movement quality and get into better positions.
I also need to address the elephant in the room…injuries. If you’re reading this thinking that strength training is going to injure you, you are mistaken (and therefore I’m glad you’re here!). In fact, proper resistance training helps prevent injuries. Take it from someone who has worked as a personal trainer and ACTUALLY spent too much time strength training relative to squash training- my injury rate was very, very low. As soon as I naively traded my 2x/week strength training for squash sessions (that probably weren’t great quality anyway), I did see a small increase in my squash playing, which was swiftly followed by a series of chronic injuries.
For the past couple years, I’ve been working on this balancing act while training and competing on the pro tour, and have been trying to find answers to the following questions:
- How strong do you have to be to play squash? (Both for strength in the movements, and also injury prevention)
- How should you prioritize and schedule your strength training around your squash?
(Also, I’m not going to address the “big & bulky” issue in depth in this post, because that is a WHOLE other discussion. But just so you know, most people have to do A LOT -volume and intensity- of strength training to build that much muscle mass.)
So, how strong should squash players be?
I believe that it is possible to be “strong enough” in the gym for squash. You’re trying to become a better athlete- not a better weightlifter. However, that doesn’t mean that you can stop working on your strength! You do need to keep working at it, or you’ll lose it.
What I mean by this is that you don’t need to be aiming for a 400 pound deadlift. Personally, I have worked up to being able to deadlift 1.5x my bodyweight for several reps, and am pretty happy with that. If I trained more specifically for deadlifts, I’m sure I could improve my PB, but it would come at both a time and energy cost.
My goal for strength training is two fold: 1) to get stronger so I can be more explosive and resilient on court, 2) to reduce injury risk.
In season particularly, I make sure that I prioritize my strength training sessions by completing them twice a week, but I am not trying to achieve personal bests.
Lifting heavy (3-8 rep range) is very taxing on your central nervous system, and I used to find that I would really drag on court for the next day or two afterwards. Now in season, by sticking to a higher 10-12 rep range and focusing on quality of movement rather than absolute max reps, I am able to reap the benefits of resistance training AND not hinder my performance on court.
Quick recap in case I lost you:
- Strength training is extremely important to include consistently, but in my opinion it is not where you should be spending the majority of your time OR your effort.
- Resistance (strength) training is complementary to your squash training- it should HELP!
- Aim for two 1-hour sessions of strength training a week.
- If you are in season or playing squash 4+ times per week, I’d recommend working in the 10-12 rep range.
Improving your squash level is a balancing act, since it is a game that has so many physical and tactical aspects. In my opinion, you should strength train (properly!) twice a week, and focus on compound movements, and prioritize single leg exercises.
What a lovely intro to my next post…”What exercises (and minimal equipment) you should use for strength training!”
Interested in implementing strength training into your squash training regimen?