Peter Nicol blogs on what it was like
to play against Jonathon Power ...
of The Week:
Heading to Off-Season &
Commit to get fit
Peter & Jess Explain...
Tip of the Week
Keep it simple when counter dropping:
The counter drop can be a really effective way of turning defence
It's best used when you have the opportunity to get on the ball as
quick as possible and take the ball out in front of you. This means
that you want to shorten your swing and really try to use your
movement to push up the court.
If you are doing it correctly you won't want to be worrying about
showing your opponent that you have the option to play another shot,
you will be simply trying to get on the ball early and use your
touch to leave the ball as far up the court as possible.
Heading into the Off-Season
Now is the time of year when (northern hemisphere) players
start to slow down with their squash and look outdoors to
different physical activities. The season is almost over and
the summer leagues have yet to begin.
I see it regularly with club players and first hand here in
Aberdeenshire at my own club. Players who have worked so
hard throughout the season to reach a level both physically
and with their squash, then overnight put their racquets
away for a while. They are finally happy with the
performances they are putting in but then completely stop.
I find this puzzling.
I understand the need for change and enjoying several other
different sporting activities, but to have worked so hard
only to throw away the improvement, to start again on the
same cycle in a couple of months seems simply ludicrous!
What can you do about it?
COMMIT TO GET FIT!
As in-season matches and
team practice begin to ebb this time of year, most players
begin to slow down in their training and playing. Some take
up other sports, their ‘summer’ sports, such as Golf; some
continue to run, bike or hike on beautiful days for
exercise. However, often squash-specific training is left
behind… and herein lies the issue at hand.
My goal is to motivate you, get you completely amped up, for
what’s ahead in our off-season training. As a Squash
enthusiast, you have already dedicated yourself to becoming
a better Squash player. Now is the time to live that
dedication - especially at a time when your motivation for
Squash might have previously waned. If you have taken your
dedication a step further and are a SquashSkills member, you
will have the tools laid out clearly in front of you to
reach your peak performance for next season.
Think about the ONE opponent this season that you didn’t
quite manage to beat, perhaps once or twice, but not
regularly. Somehow he/she always managed to pull ahead in
your matches, to your frustration. Want to beat them in
September? Want to come back stronger than ever? You can do
that. You simply have to change your mind-set in the
off-season - yes, slow down on squash, but no, don’t slow
down on off-court training. Think of the time originally
devoted to your on-court work throughout the season, and now
shift this to training time.
I’ve lined up an incredible off-season programme for you,
and if followed, I am 100% positive that you will return in
September a better Squash player. Your technique may not
drastically improve, however your squash-specific fitness
will improve leaps and bounds. Without the physical demands
of the game, you can completely devote your time and energy
to improving your fitness. Think about how attractive this
sounds… become more fit, lean, strong, flexible, fast, and
ultimately moving with greater ease and fluidity on court.
Not only will you be ahead of your opponent by the time
September arrives, but you will also physically look
healthier - and doubled with bathing suit season, that’s not
a bad thing, right?!
The next cycle of the daily Off-Court Training Programme is
your ‘transition’ training period. This cycle is a bit
gentler than what was and is to come, and Includes a couple
yoga sessions and increased cardio work. Emphasis is off
weights and strength-based sessions. This is the perfect
platform to lead into the following cycle, which is the
beginning of the Off-Season Daily Training Programme. This
is when the work begins, and you’ll be led by myself and
some other well-known faces in the Sport.
So get ready and prepare yourself to devote a minimum of 20
minutes per day, Monday through Saturday, to your off-season
training. The results will speak for themselves, and you’ll
be grateful you made the decision. If you can - pair up with
a friend, a training partner - this will make the whole
process even more enjoyable. Yes - enjoyable - getting
fitter and stronger is nothing but positive!
Join me from next week as we prepare you and your body for
what’s ahead. Make a goal. Set a target. Measure your weight
and ideally Body Fat Percentage as well. And most
importantly - keep in touch! Let us all know in the comments
section below each daily video how you are getting on,
whether it is the first or third week.
Are you in???
Watch the Video
I teach Yoga predominantly
to amateur athletes, and especially enjoy working with
Squash players. The majority of my classes are filled with
athletes across a broad range of sports, however this was
not always the case.
My persuasion skills were put to the test when trying to
coax an athlete, especially men, into attending my Vinyasa
Flow class, mainly by asking them to give it 4 weeks and see
the results. Their misconception of a chilled out class that
would not completely challenge their strength and make them
sweat were quickly quelled. Their vast improvement in
balance, flexibility, and non-dominant muscle strength after
a period of practice was motivation enough to continue,
however the real excitement was derived from their increased
If you are reading this, you play Squash. If you haven’t yet
tried Yoga or haven’t yet found the right class for you, I
can confidently say that you are putting yourself at a
disadvantage on-court. My reasons are as follows:
1. Greater Strength and Stamina:
Think about your large dominant muscles constantly used
in squash - quads, hips/glutes, back, shoulder/arm. There
are over 600 muscles in the body, and in order to increase
your overall power and stamina, accessing and strengthening
your non-dominant muscles can be invaluable.
In addition, Squash is of course uses one side of the body
which creates imbalances, and can lead to long-term chronic
injury. Yoga is a practice that not only raises your
awareness of weaker areas, but also improves their strength
in a balanced manner. Lastly - yet another reason why this
is important - improving your non-dominant strength helps to
increase your on-court stamina. The more muscles you can
rely on surrounding your dominant muscles, the longer you’ll
outlast your opponent.
2. Increased Range of Motion and Flexibility:
Flexibility & Squash? Sounds like oil & water to most
players. The unfortunate truth is, as we age, even if you’re
active, your body will stiffen and dehydrate - by adulthood
your tissues have lost around 15% of their moisture content,
leaving you more vulnerable to injury. Stretching slows this
process by creating tissue lubricants, and improves the
Now think of this improvement translated on court: Your
power improves from greater range of movement as you strike
through the ball, your reach expands, your movement to
3. Stability & Balance:
Have you ever lost your balance slightly as you recover
back to the T? Are you able to quickly change your movement
direction? Most yoga poses challenge your stability, which
in turn greatly improve your coordination and control over
how your body moves. This applies to your swing as well -
greater control in your swing while stabilizing the lower
body results in the ability to place a perfect drop shot.
4. Mind and Breath Control:
Have you ever felt ‘in the zone’, and perfectly executed
a point, only to lose it in the next? All too common. Think
about professional squash players. It is easy to say that
the majority of at least the Top 50 Players in the World are
near-perfect physical Squash specimens thanks to their
training regimes. Sure, some are more naturally gifted than
others, but what sets a long-standing no.1 player apart from
the rest is mental focus. The ability to banish negativity
and stay completely focused under extreme pressure takes a
highly trained mind.
This can be applied to any amateur athlete, and Yoga is the
best way I can suggest to increase this mental focus and
clarity. By controlling the breath during the entire
practice and especially more challenging asanas (poses), we
learn how to stay present, or ‘in the zone’. The mind can be
trained just as much as our bodies.
Have you Read
Dr Izumi Tabata,
from Japan, is renowned for his research in high-intensity
intermittent/ interval training (HIIT).
So renowned, that after his in-depth studies regarding
significant increases in VO2 max from only 4 minutes of
training, an entire training regime has been named after him
that is now utilized worldwide.
Photo Tip :
Keep things simple when under pressure.
You can see here Steven has shortened his swing and is likely to
either drop or lob as he is extended to the front of the court.
Tip of the Week...
I used the back corners of the court a lot during my career and
mostly attacked to those areas rather than short.
Although I've learnt to be more severe going short, attacking to the
back corners is still the most vital part of my game and is still
crucial if I want to play well.
versus Jonathon 2003...
I'm a lucky girl. First big
competition I ever saw was back in 1986, the Worlds in
Toulouse. Yes, when the King Khan got KOed by Ross Norman,
ending his 5 years and 8 months winning run. And I was
already in the Press room...
Few years later, May 2003, first big competition I
saw in the UK was the Super Series Finals in Broadgate.
That's where I met Thierry along with his mum, and as the
film says, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship!
The final of that SSF was stupendously amazing. The
Magician against the Boss. And the 5th in particular was
breathtaking. If my memory serves me well, Jonathon won it
Squashskills offers you a chance to have a look at
that famous last game. And lucky you, you'll also have the
analysis of the Boss, his thoughts and feelings about it.
Legends at work...
How do you regroup after each one of the breaks that
Jonathon takes in the game ?
Not easy and I struggled, especially in the early
few years against Jonathon to manage my head when
he's intentionally taking breaks to disrupt/help him
recover physically/mentally before the next point. I
would try and use the frustration and channel that
towards being more focused on the next point. Not
always easy but can be done with training – taking a
big breath and focusing on one particular aspect of
the game for the next point is a simple and
effective way to do this.
2. Jonathon always seems to take these breaks
when you have the momentum; how do you maintain
momentum after one of his antics?
That's difficult as well. I really focused on the
fact he needed to take those breaks or behave in a
certain way in order to try and stop me being in
control. I saw this as a negative trait of his and
took confidence that he needed to do this to
compete. I'd try to make him aware that I was aware
of what he was doing.
3. In a rally like at 11:25, when you are clearly
working Jonathon very hard, are you disappointed
that you don't win the point or are you happy to run
him around even though it is late in the fifth game?
I'd rather win the point at that stage as it's so
late in the match every point counts. Again, you
have to take positives out of the previous rally and
I'd be disappointed to lose the rally but also be
bullish about getting him out of breath and working
4. What do you take away from a loss like that?
Peter Nicol &
Jethro discusses why the timing of the
movement is imperative to ensure the best possible
strike of the ball and I totally agree with him.
Controlling your movement pattern heading into the
shot is vital so you arrive at the ball when it's at
the top of the bounce. Landing your front foot just
as you start the swing allows for a natural transfer
of weight and easy follow through – create enough
space in the preparation for this final movement.
you time your movement correctly, it then also
ensures you are in a stable and solid position at
the moment of impact.
When the timing of movement goes wrong, players tend
to rush to the ball and plant their feet, waiting
for the ball to arrive. This causes problems with
over rotation, balance and timing of the shot with
everything pulling in different directions -
movement back to the T after hitting also suffers.
Jethro explains how a little pause before moving
towards the ball really helps with the end goal of
timing your landing and striking. This is something
I'm particularly fond of teaching as well. You have
a lot more time than you think and it's generally
just panic and bad movement patterns that make
players run towards the ball rather than stop and
watch what's happening before moving – especially if
its an easy ball.
In summary, think about the following:
down/back off before moving to the ball
- Keep plenty of
space before lunging into shot
- Land front foot
at top of swing
- Aim to hit ball
at top of bounce
- Transfer weight
through front leg in smooth action
- Follow through
in direction of shot
Photo Tip :
This is a great example of the "locked out position" we talk about
here at Squashskills. You can see that on the point of impact
Natalie's arm is perfectly straight meaning that she will be able to
hit the ball consistently where she wants to. This position is the
product of good spacing between herself and the ball..
Tips from the Boss :
Wherever standard you are, having the
ability to get the ball into the back corner under any pressure is
truly a skill.
Practise this more than you normally would and be surprised how many
more rallies you are staying in and then also converting from
defence to attack.
Use height on the front wall to really make the ball go the distance
to the back wall without being cut off by your opponent
Tips from the Boss :
With the backhand kill, you really need to reduce the pace of the
shot. It's difficult to smack the ball (unless you're John White!)
so aim for more controlled aggressive hard kill to ensure
Good rotation helps with both pace and control, not to mention
deception due to being in perfect position to hit any shot.
PS. I can't stress enough the need to
be physically fit, flexible and healthy...
Tip of The Week:
are that you are aware of what is good and bad for you.
Donuts? Not so good. Kale? Terrific! However, with our
modern on-the-go lifestyles, we often grab something we
think is a smart snack, which may have some impairing
In order to perform your best on court, which most likely
will be near the end of your day, it is essential to feed
your body correctly during the day resulting in a stable
amount of energy for your match or training session.
Two major energy crashers are SUGAR and CAFFEINE.
So this week, try doing everything in your power to cut out
foods and drinks that bring your energy levels down. This
- Sugared cereals/oatmeal
- Granola Bars
- Protein Bars (unless
listed as having a low amount of sugar
- Chocolate Bars
- All sweet baked goods
- Any desserts
- Energy/Sports Drinks
Soda Fruit Juices (replace with a piece of fruit)
If you're like me, you have
a sweet tooth, and desire something especially in the
afternoon. So the key here is to use all your willpower to
have nothing sugar laden during the day, but allow yourself
something in the evening (after you've played or trained and
are finished with your day) - 3-4 squares of good quality
chocolate does the trick for me.
If you drink coffee on a daily basis, it will be really hard
to cut this out cold turkey and will cause some difficult
side effects. If you are not ready for this, simply keep it
to 1 cup a day. Make sure in this 'trial' week not to have
any caffeine however in the afternoon - if you really 'need'
a pick me up, choose green tea or perhaps an herbal tea. You
can do it.
I can 100% promise you that your energy levels will be
higher by your pm match/training session if you can adhere
to this. Not only will you start stronger, but you will
sustain a greater level of energy throughout your session.
So come on, give it a go, you have nothing to lose other
than a bit of belly fat this week!!!
Peter Nicol :
Building Pressure on one side
to volley the crosscourt
take on building pressure is slightly different in
practise than most players just by the fact I’m left
handed. This gives me a massive advantage on the
left hand wall in preparing for cutting off the
straight ball but I then found it hard to cover the
crosscourt from there onto my backhand due to a
Conversely, on the right hand wall I felt under
pressure from right-handers and knew my opponents
would be looking for the straight shot to volley on
the forehand – a mirror image of the left hand wall
However, I always knew a high crosscourt to take
some pressure off would work, as that was the shot
that always beat me from the left hand wall.
Most right-handers can create the pressure on the
left wall (especially against other
right-handers) and reach across to take the forehand
volley early and effectively quite easily. Two of
the best proponents of this tactic are Nick
Matthew and David Palmer. Both have an unerring
ability to know when the crosscourt is coming and to
play the early forehand volley short.
Irrespective of the difficulty or which hand you
use, the principles are the same – bury your
opponent in the back corner continuously until an
easy crosscourt gets popped up for you to attack.
There’s nothing worse than feeling beaten into the
back corner and knowing that another straight ball
will just put you further into the corner and a
crosscourt will be attacked mercilessly.
Fairly sole destroying so therefore a tactic worth
A good defence from this tactic is both the high
crosscourt to relieve the pressure or being
aggressive a quick and unexpected boast. Both
have to be played well but can be used to gain back
control of the T.
Continuing the rally down the same wall with little
chance of wrestling control is mentally tough and
should only be considered if you can vary the pace
and try to change the situation. Rallying for
rallying sake is not worth it if the end result is
bound to be losing the point.
Check out a few videos of the top players and see
the way they control the rally and set up this
situation time and again, waiting for the
opportunity to take advantage of. The better the
player, the more of these chance they make and then
convert into winning points.
play a Killer Shot
by Nicol David
Fitness Tip of the
Prevent Shoulder Injury
Studies show that many shoulder injuries related to
racket sports can be prevented with a regular stretching and
strengthening program. If prevention is that simple, then
why are so many players skipping this step? I so often see
players stretching their quads, hamstrings, glutes,
sometimes the back as well – but rarely the shoulder area.
I started asking, and found a common answer was not knowing
which stretches to incorporate. Some of them didn't like
lying down on the ground as some of my suggested stretches
require, but really, saving yourself from injury over
getting a bit dirty? I think we'd all choose the former!
The shoulder is an amazing part of the body, and it houses
our trusty rotator cuff, which is a group of muscles and
tendons that attach to the shoulder joint. The result? The
shoulder can move and stays stable, all thanks to the cuff.
When playing squash, everything from your swing to reaching
high for a lob uses this area of your body, and overuse
mixed with lack of stretching and strengthening can result
in injury such as tendinitis or worse.
Injury prevention is not the only plus. Increased shoulder
flexibility translates into a full shoulder turn and a
smooth, fluid swing which results in added power and
accuracy in your shot. Greater range of motion can also help
accuracy of shot.
Check out the
first of four shoulder stretching sets on the site
and please try to incorporate any of the stretches that work
for you. As each week progresses, try the next several sets
as well so that you have a bank of stretches to draw upon.
I believe it is ideal to gain
greater mobility in the shoulder region in order to benefit
most from strengthening, so let's keep our focus here for
one more week.
Many of you will not be playing as regularly over this
Holiday period, and perhaps will not be in your usual
routine at home while staying with family or friends. In
this limbo period, what a fantastic time to devote simply 10
minutes each morning or night in your room to a stretching
set that will specifically help your swing and other aspects
of your performance on-court (as described in part 1) for
when you return to the season ahead?
Please try to incorporate 2 stretching videos this week
- first, opening the middle of your back (connectors that
will help ease the shoulder area), followed by a shoulder
stretch set. Links are as follows:
On Monday 31st we
will have our 2nd cycle of the Off-Court Training Program
up on the site - we will be focusing on firing your muscles
and getting you straight back into the 2nd part of your
I hope you are able to utilise the Program and adapt it to
your own schedule. As always,
please be in
touch with your progress or questions for either me or other
members via the forum or on each training day's video.
All the best - let's get fired up for an incredible season
ahead after the New Year!
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