02 September 2022 / 3-Min Read
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It’s natural to want to squeeze a racket’s handle when you first start to play squash. You almost certainly won’t have enough grip and forearm strength to control the racket. That comes from hitting the ball over the next few weeks. Squash requires a combination of strength AND movement in the forearm.
Let me dispel a common misconception: Squash is NOT a wristy game, at least not in the sense new or non-players might think. Hitting the ball well requires the forearm to twist, not a bend of the wrist. Coaches often talk about “cocking” the wrist and we do that so we are able to hit the ball harder and with more control, but in reality, there will always be some bend. if there is too much bend, then the chance of injury increases and a loss of power and control.
For new players, when they need to hold the racket firmly, they then hold their forearm rigid. As you get better and stronger, you develop the ability to hold the racket firmly, but still move your wrist in any direction you want. If they loosen the grip, then the forearm loses control of the racket. It’s almost a catch-22 situation: you can’t hold the racket tightly if you need to move your forearm, but to move your forearm you need to hold the racket tightly!
As you get stronger, the percentage of your maximum strength required to hold the racket without twisting drops. That sounds complicated, so let me rephrase it. When you first start to play, you need to squeeze as tightly as you can (100%) to make sure the racket doesn’t twist, but as you get stronger you might only squeeze say 75% of your maximum squeeze without the racket twisting. I estimate, and I haven’t done any actual scientific tests, that I squeeze at about 50% my max when hitting the ball.
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Because I am not using all my strength to hold the racket, my forearm muscles are much more relaxed than a beginner’s and I am able to rotate my forearm comfortably. Holding and swinging a racket is not about pure grip strength. As I said earlier, it’s about controlling your muscles to hold the minimum to ensure the racket doesn’t twist on impact with the ball. And that comes from practice.
It’s important to not hold the racket tightly except at the moment of impact. If you squeeze all the time then you are simply wasting effort and tiring the muscles needlessly. You often see players spinning the racket in their hand between serves and sometimes even between hits in a rally. This action helps relax the muscles. Be warned though, that you shouldn’t do this as beginner because you need to develop the correct grip and spinning the racket makes if difficult for beginners to have the correct grip all the time.
If your racket head twists when you hit the ball you are probably not holding the racket tightly enough at that moment. However, at all other times you should hold the racket quite loosely. Not loosely enough that you drop it or that it falls out of your hand though! As you get stronger you will sue less of your maximum strength to hold the racket – you develop this strength from regular hitting.
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