20 November 2022 / 3-Min Read
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Let me start off by saying I have done, and made people do thousands of court sprints over the years. They are like the “boast and drive” drill – everybody who plays squash knows them and everybody has done them. If you are new to squash, please don't do them - read on to learn about a better alternative.
Sprinting outside is so much nicer than sprinting in a squash court. Well, unless it's rainy, windy or snowy.
Let’s be honest, court sprints are hard. If you do the common “How many in 1 minute”, then you are going pretty fast. There’s also a huge psychological component of touching the wall just before other people and it seems to be perfect for squash – moving around the court fast. I’ve heard of leader boards in clubs with a list of names. There are even videos of people doing the challenge.
For people who love fitness work, it’s a dream come true. It’s a variation of the “shuttle run”, which is used in all sorts of sports, with the Beep Test↗ being a famous (infamous!) “official” test for aspiring athletes and masochists alike. In fact, I think I remember a version designed to be used on a squash court, but I might be wrong – let me know if you know anything about it.
Court sprints, or just shuttle runs, can be performed literally anywhere. Why waste the time you have paid for on court by doing fitness work? It seems crazy to me. If you have free access to courts; great, no problem, lucky you, but most of us don’t.
Also, they do NOTHING for your squash. Yes, they can make you fitter, but when you are on court you should be working on your squash, not your fitness.
Lastly, as a previous Health and Safety officer, I shudder when I remember people tripping over and hitting their head on the wall in the final seconds of a minute challenge. Yes, I promise I’ve seen it, and it's not nice. Lastly, I have even seen people injure their shoulder by hitting the wall too hard with a straight arm on the final one.
Honestly, the case against them is just too strong in my opinion to keep doing them.
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With some small adjustments, you can do something just as useful for your fitness and also for your squash. There are some variations, but the starting exercise is as follows. Hold the racket in your hand, start on the short line and run forward to the front wall and lunge to touch the tin with your racket, then run backwards to the short line again. Do a split step and do it again, this time using the other leg for the final lunge.
Progression One: Start on the short line facing the side wall and turn and move forward to the front wall as in the basic exercise. When you get back to the short line (facing the side wall), turn the other way and move towards the back wall, again using your other leg for the final lunge.
Progression Two: Start on the short line facing the front wall. Move forward to lunge for the tin and move backwards to the short line, do a slit step and them turn around and move to the back wall. Be careful not to twist too much and trip over. That would be ironic, since I said that court sprints were not exactly safe!
Shuttle runs are popular form of
torture, whoops, sorry, I mean training.
One of the things about court sprints is that you can get 4 or 5 (if careful) people doing the exercise at the same time. And more if you go sideways instead of up and down, but that’s less common. If you only have two people, on court, you could do a front corner to back corner (same side though) moving close to the T. Yes, it’s ghosting, but if you feel the need to simply run up and down the court, do it with a racket and make it a little similar to playing squash!
Just because players and coaches have used them for over 50 years, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. As a beginner or at least if you are new to squash, focus on improving your skill, game awareness and smooth movement. The chances are it’s not your fitness that is letting you down. And if it is, there are better things to do with your time than court sprints.
Hardcore Court Sprint Lovers are probably red-faced with anger that I would suggest their lovely exercise is not the best use of their time. “I’ve seen plenty of pros do them, so who the f*%k do you think you are to tell me they are not a great use of my time!” they shout. If you are looking to improve your squash, try my alternative.
By all means, get out into the park during suitable days and perform shuttle runs to your heart's content, but don’t waste your precious court time with them.
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