Many of us players from amateur through to county and obviously as professionals employ some sort of training plan, or do something outside of the court, to improve our ability to cope with the demands of the game. There are loads of ‘systems’ in place to provide a framework to peak when it counts but very little information on what to specifically do at different points in the season to make sure that your legs are adequately adapted to what you are trying to achieve at that point.
This is a very basic model presented here to give an idea of how to put something together, there are lots of other components such as energy systems, upper body, core, balance, nutrition and much more detailed plans available that go into much more depth, the purpose is to demonstrate an over view of a simple format.
I’ll give you an example of how not to do it. We can can take an exercise to build strength in the quads, glutes hamstrings and lower back: the barbell squat.
We start with 60kg for 3 sets of 8 reps of this exercise in the off season, done on 2 days of the week, to condition and strengthen our legs and progressively work upto 80 kg for 3 sets of 10 reps by the time we are ready to start the season. We have also been increasing our on court work with sprints and ghosting sessions to sharpen our movement. As the season starts we only squat once a week because we want to be fresh for our matches. But then we start to notice that our legs seem to feel heavier and less coordinated, we cant push out of the lunge properly, cant get down to the ball low enough and generally we seem to be fatiguing quicker than before even though we are stronger. This process of over training and fatigue can take weeks to recover from if continued for long enough.
The problem being that we have made our legs adapt to something that is not specifically related to what we require from them on court. Squash requires strength up until a point but it also requires power and endurance and they are not trained in the same way as general strength training and this is where a:
Periodised Approach to your training would have allowed you to arrive fresh and ready for your season.
In a competitive phase you shouldn’t generally be doing strength work to increase your general size and stregth of your legs, it should be maintenece of the power and power endurance you have been building up in the weeks leading upto the season.
A periodised model in its basic form looks like this:
It can be as complicated as this for professional athletes:
But for the average player it is important to get some idea of how to put together something in each phase so that your legs are firing correctly and that they are ready for competition.
By definition Periodisation is ‘the systematic planning of athletic or physical training. The aim is to reach the best possible performance in the most important competition of the year. It involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period.’
A Training plan would in theory look like this:
General Preparation 3-4 Weeks
All exercises perform 3 sets of 10 reps with loads of 50-75 % of 1 rep max
Standing Calf Raises
Specific Prep 3-6 weeks
The exercises should change to start to mimic what you will be trying to use during a match. Looking to start to build greater recruitment of more powerful muscle fibres.
All exercises perform 3 sets of 4-8 reps with loads of 80-95 % of 1 rep max
Dumbbell Clean and press
Single legged dead lift
Bulgarian split squat
Pre Competition 3-6 weeks
In this phase we are looking to further develop power so exercise reps are between 2-5 and sets of no more than 3 and loads of 95 % and above.
Lunge and twist
Competition (early part done 2 weeks prior to start of season)
In th phase we are looking to add power endurence so often body weight or 40-50% of 1 rep max will be enough resistence and working powerfully and dynamically and for time rather than reps so 10/20/30 seconds for 1 or 2 sets is enough.
Lateral Bounds (speed skaters)
This phase could be completed again at intervals throughout the season where breaks permit as could the other phases with much shorter periods to ‘top’ up fitnes levels as the season progresses
By manipulating the different variables to draw out different elements from the legs we should be able to arrive much fresher than if we just try to keep adding weight and becoming overly fatigued.