Thursday, 24 September 2009

How to warm up: Improve your performance & avoid injury with a good warm-up.

Warming-up - the basics - by Jonathan Barnes

So many people don't bother with warming-up and usually, it really is a case of "I can't be bothered". Well, more often than not, that person is the one who lost the first game and then pulled out injured! It is such a great weapon to go on court and from the first rally, show your opponent you're ready for a battle (particularly if they haven't warmed up)! The benefits of warming up are irrefutable, it increases performance throughout the match (and particularly at the start), helps prevent injury and is also a great opportunity to get focused and mentally prepared for the game.

The "I can't be bothered" excuse is the lamest of them all, but another that often comes out is "but I'll be knackered for my game" and my answer to that is: "Toucher!". This can be true, if you warm-up badly you could easily just tire yourself out, so let's learn to do it properly. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you should have grasped the basic theories behind a good warm-up and will understand the following 3 major benefits: 1/ Improved physical performance 2/ Injury prevention 3/ Mental preparation.

An example:
If you've ever watched the pre-match coverage for any football match (or simply played football), you'll have noticed that between Richard Keys left shoulder and Andy Grays right shoulder you'll notice that the players are just running backwards and forwards down the width of the pitch. You may even notice there just having a chat most of the time (this is relevant!). Richard and Andy move on to a few highlights of past matches and when they return, the players are now doing side steps as well. A Ford advert later and you'll see that their all pretending to do headers without the ball and then sprinting off into the distance. Finally, for the last piece (once you've "The time is now" by Moloko for the 10th time!) you'll see the players passing the ball around and also doing that exercise where one poor chap is in the middle and has to intercept the ball whilst his mates refuse to give it to him (It's a millionaire's version of piggy in the middle!).

- General to Specific to Functional -
Well all that isn't just thrown together. At the start the players are doing a general warm-up, they aren't playing football, there just running a bit, getting their heart rate up slowly and gradually, then they start to do some football specific movement like the pretend headers (sounds like ghosting to me!) and shuttle runs and then they start to actually play football and repeat scenarios that will occur in a game (this is the functional stage). This progression helps the body get ready slowly without a shock to the system but also means that mentally the player can prepare for the game ahead, they can visualise the situation (without the ball first) and then put it into practice afterwards (add the ball). In Squash, we go through the same progression. A warm-up always starts with running, then some ghosting to get the footwork right and to visualise the shots you will be performing during the match and finally you will have the on court warm-up.

- Long, Progressive & Adapted -
If we go back to the football analogy we had earlier, I said the players were just having a chat. The reason I mention that is because the start of the warm-up is quite slow and gradually will speed up, this is so the body can progressively get ready but also so that the mind can get into match mode. This is why at first you can relax, just get ready for the game and then gradually start doing shorter faster/sharper sets of work, so that when the bell rings, you're ready as if it were 10 all, 5th game! So in Squash, we will often start with a long jog, before doing some very slow ghosting sets and then finally doing some very short sharp sets to be able to take the ball early from the start.

- Mentally -
I think the most important piece of equipment a Squash player can own is (a pair of shoes, shorts and a racket and ball obviously) an iPod (depending on what you have on it, some need not bother)! Listening to music before a game is a great way of being separated from your surroundings and being able to be completely focused on your game. Why not start with some slightly slower music when getting ready and then as the match gets closer some songs that trigger memories of big games or maybe some faster, heavier songs (Eye of the tiger!) as the match gets nearer. Most players seem to have a solid warm-up routine (Nick Mathews likes to listen to Kings of Leon before a game) that gets them completely focused and pumped up before a game, and if you manage to spot a player walking around before a game, they are usually on their own and would like it to remain that way, so don't go chatting with them! Teddy Sheringham used to have a brand new pair of socks for each game and some players always put the same shoe on first. These are all little habits that get the player into that place they want to be in before a game.

So next time you have a game, put your iPod on, drink plenty of water, have a few Jaffa Cakes (low in fat) and warm up very gradually, starting with some slow general movement, then some ghosting before ending with some intense stuff whilst listening to some Electro (Trash by The Whip)!

But the most important note of all, is that a warm-up is personal, it varies from person to person! So make up your own, personal routine (apparently the great Peter Nicol used to listen to classical music)!

All the best,

Jonathan Barnes


Phone - 07725 817 387

Monday, 10 August 2009

Summer Training Basics – by Jonathan Barnes

Training over the summer is everybody’s worst nightmare. It requires effort (often physical unfortunately!) and comes with little immediate reward as there are very few events such as tournaments and leagues over the summer. Also, the summer is often a time where people lose some of their routine (particularly students as there is no class and everybody goes back to home) and therefore finding regular training partners can be a bit tricky.

This is precisely why summer training is important!

Who wants to train over the summer? Well, luckily your opponents probably won’t! So, if done properly, this is a perfect period to get ahead of the competition!

Yes… “if done properly!”

Training has various stages depending on the phase you are in. If you’re tournament is in one week, your training methods should be completely different than if you’re first league match or tournament was in 2 months. Some aspects of these training phases are standard through almost every sport, others are quite specific to racket sports or ball sports like Squash. We will go into some of these important phases in more details.

From General, to Specific, to Functional

This progressive sequence should be used during a single training as well as throughout a whole 2 months. What do these terms mean? Well, when I use these terms within a Squash context they mean the following:

General: None Squash related training. This includes weights, core exercises (sit ups, press-ups, planks…), running, cycling, rowing, swimming and other exercises that are generally closed and take away the specific attributes of Squash (ie. No ball or racket!).

Specific: This phase uses the methods used within the “General” phase and puts them into a Squash specific context. For instance if you are working on your core strength, then doing single stride ghosting at a very slow speed is a good way of working on your core (gluts, hamstrings, quadriceps, abdominal muscles, back muscles). Or, if during the “General” phase you were working on your stamina on the treadmill, then you might like to take this on to the Squash court with some long ghosting sets. The “Specific” phase, takes your general work-out into a Squash specific context (it often doesn’t involve the ball all that much though).

Functional: This final part of work will take the work from the previous two phases and put them into to a complete context. Finally you get to play! This section will allow the routines to become more open and gradually increase perception and tactical decisions making sure that you are ready for a game. This is why training sessions often finish with a game!

So when you work through the summer for instance, work on your stamina through running, cycling…etc before taking it on court with some ghosting and then even taking this further into routines and matches. The early work will facilitate the rest…

From Long to Short

A simple way of constructing a training session or a long training programme is to follow this progression. If you are training for a tournament (or league!!!) in 2 months time, then you would probably be foolish to start by working on your speed! Chances are you would burn out early, and actually, you may even have lost the benefits by the time you get to the tournament! The idea is that you should construct solid foundations both from a cardio-vascular and muscular point of view at the beginning of your programme. This comes with either long sessions (endurance can come through working above 70% of your maximum HR for over 40mins) or in long sets (e.g. 2mins ON / 30secs OFF – work time must be far superior to rest time!). This creates a basis for you to enter an anaerobic phase and then a speed phase. As you get closer to tournament time and you have set strong basic fitness then you will be able to go into an anaerobic (or resistance) phase taking the work time down but the intensity up (e.g. 1mins 15secs ON / 30secs OFF – Intensity = 80-90% MAX HR). Finally, as the match draws ever closer you will work on your speed, this goes even further with the rest time far superior to the work time as you must be completely recovered before starting again (e.g. 20secs ON / 2mins OFF – Intensity = 100%). This progression is also applicable to muscular work as you will start with long stability exercises before moving on to more explosive movements.

So get ahead of everybody and get training! Don’t forget start long and gradually make the sessions shorter and sharper and also make sure you start off court before gradually turning your training into Squash training!

Have a great summer and if you have any questions don’t hesitate in contacting me!

All the best,



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