In my last post I briefly touched on the subject of depleted mental and physical energy reserves. On reflection, I believe proper management of energy reserves is crucial and probably underinvestigated. If balanced delicately it will provide you with the optimal energy output on competition day. The difficulty lies in finding the correct formula for your training intensities.
To guard against entering tournament week in any kind of energy deficit it is worth planning your training intensities to protect yourself against negative tournament reactions.
The plan proposed here will require the player to train at two opposite intensities. At low intensity (60 – 70% of maximum) and high intensity (90 – 95%) with as little needless work done in the medium intensity zone (70 – 85%) as possible. This has been applied successfully in other sports and I have found in many cases it fits for squash too.
Players who occupy this medium training zone often find it difficult to progress despite putting in huge volumes of training. Maybe two of the reasons why this zone does not reap the rewards is that the game at competition level rarely – if ever – resides at a medium intensity and quite often the work done in this zone is when a player has lost focus and / or has no purpose to their training.
I believe players who exist knowingly or unknowingly at medium intensities with a lack of purpose or focus suffer the most mental and physical energy leakages. This often leads to a plethora of problems including physical and mental issues.
It is worth clarifying that the low intensity work is not passive. But it will not have a physically stressful impact on the body and in fact can double up as a recovery session with beneficial effects on the mind and body.
Semi static feeding, basic routines on one side of the court or rotating three player drills would be good examples of low intensity training but despite the low impact it is essential that speed or purpose is still present during the exercises. With no emphasis on recovering to the T, attention can be solely directed to hitting the ball cleanly and with purpose. The last (and only) step / lunge should be given the same attention and meaning. Making these fundamental movements effortless and meaningful will be an important step to accumulating the pressure needed to stress your opponent while conserving your own energy both in training and on match day.
Equally important will be the high intensity work which should match or exceed the intensity of competition. All the high intensity sessions should be on court with players of your standard or above and be as specific to tournament conditions as possible. The emphasis of these sessions could be the simple principle of taking the ball as consistently early as possible and being relentless in getting back to the T quickly. If this is done well then options will appear to use the creativity and deception to sap your opponents physical strengths. It goes without saying that these sessions will be physically very demanding and preparation of the mental resilience needed to cope with the fatigue should be part of the session plan.
One important point to note would be that in high intensity sessions control errors and mistakes should not be seen as negative but as a route to improvement. It is expected when trying to play above your normal intensity errors will occur but this should be accepted, evaluated then recycled into the low intensity work before the next high intensity session.
In my experience different athletes would require a different split between high and low work which could depend on age, experience, physical prowess and other factors but a benchmark split could be 75 % low intensity work and 25% high intensity work (or 80/20) spread over the week from your squash to your strength and conditioning and off court sessions.
Retaining energy for the biggest tournaments is of paramount importance for today’s professional player. In lieu of the fact that the season and player commitments seem to extend almost the whole year now, flexible and shifting training intensities will allow for players to keep energy levels healthy for when it matters most.