Why do we do the things we do?
As coaches and players this question must be at the forefront of our daily work. Clearly, to be in the best condition for competition the correct training will be top priority and the appropriate interplay between general and specific work will be crucial. To be clear the intended meaning of general training here will be less specific work than being on court hitting a ball.
Finding the correct balance between these two training disciplines will determine how easily you can move forward. In contemplating this conundrum we return to not what we think but how we think and towards our thought processes which underpin our day to day work.
It appears easier to fall into the trap of over generalising than it is to get caught out being over specific. For example, would you consider the core exercise the plank a general or specific exercise? What is its value to a squash player? An exercise done in a prone position in a mostly vertical sport – Miguel Angel Rodriguez being the notable exception. The fact that everyone does it must mean that it has relevance to the sport we play or fulfills a general strength principle which allows you to play the sport better? Doesn’t it?
We mostly agree that core training is an important part of the fitness model of a sportsperson but how should we train it? I have seen Ramy Ashour performing a warm up albeit a few years ago where his postural strength looked poor and then watched as he played the subsequent match with near perfect postural positions (in most areas of the court). This was maintained easily for the whole match. Does he have poor core strength? We only need to be strong enough for the sport we play and nothing more than that.
If our intention is to maintain correct postural positions throughout matches I guess that means that most core training can be done on court when you are hitting the ball. This can be achieved by paying attention to the correct spacing from the ball, the racket preparation and execution of the shot. How many times does the average professional hit the ball in a week? This concept reveals abundant opportunites for core work during your training week. This could greatly reduce the supplementary work needed.
So, the importance of understanding whether a training exercise is general or specific takes on a greater meaning as we try to broach the next level of performance. The next step would be to quantify how we divide up our time between the general and the specific? It makes sense that we would want much more time spent doing specific things in line with the demands of the sport.
As discussed in my last post if you are training at the wrong intensity then maybe even your squash training could fall into the general category despite the conviction that it has to be specific because you are hitting the ball. The goal for all is improved performance but are you training in the correct way so it comes as a consequence of the work you are doing or are you training blind and only good for that one off win in favourable conditions when the stars align?
For the chosen few – and whatever random reason they play squash – the genetic and / or cerebral pathways they are naturally endowed with help them rapidly climb to the top of the rankings. For the rest of us the way to the top is a non linear experiment which will torment and tease you all the way. But if you can learn to train with the right purpose and intensity at the appropriate time then you will at least give yourself a fighting chance of success.
So, why do we do the things we do? To get real improvement only the answers to the right questions will be of benefit. But what are the right questions? In a simple way we must question everything, try to answer honestly then find someone independent and knowledgeable who will do the same.
The final act will be to sift through the mud, find your treasure and give it a go. The road to quality is often found through quantity.