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Mike Harris, Head of Squash and Racketball at Exeter Golf and Country Club explains how a simple exercise, during the off-season summer months, can make a huge difference to squash fitness when the season starts.
The summer months are always the quietest at the squash courts as players generally take a break from battling it out in the heat and enjoy the outside for a bit of a change. This shouldn’t however stop you from being able to improve the physical side to your game. This one exercise will make a huge difference in developing your movement and balance so you can go back into the September squash season fit and ready to roll.
The lunge is probably the most important, yet one of the most under practiced squash movements.
A strong balanced lunge can vastly improve your movement to and from the shot, your options on the shot and also save you from a lot of nasty knee, lower back and hip injuries.
Check out my lunge technique breakdown below to see how is should be done!
As you can see in the above image, a strong lunge involves 3 key areas
1) Making sure that the back stays straight with the head up, not collapsing forward. This allows you a full range of swing movement on the shot you are hitting, it increases your reach forward to the ball allowing you to cover more court, and it also means that your movement out of the lunge is more controlled, as you are not having to pull yourself upright out of it.
2) Bending the front knee so that it stays level with your front ankle, not falling forward over it. By making sure the knee stays above your ankle you keep your front foot flat on the floor rather than falling forward onto your toes. This means that again you are far more stable on the shot, giving you more options and flexibility in hitting the ball. It also means that you have a much better chance of pushing back out of the movement and recovering to the T as you can use that flat front foot to drive you back out of the lunge, making your movement more efficient.
3) Dropping the back knee down so that it too is bent, giving the feeling of ‘sitting’ into the lunge. This helps secure the two above points as your movement / body weight is dropped downwards, centered with your body rather than falling forwards, which could lead you to over balance. This in turn then helps keep your back straight and head up. The idea of ‘sitting’ into the lunge involves using/squeezing your glutes (bum muscles) to take the weight of the movement. The more you can use these muscles in the lunge the better as they are key to helping you stabilize when moving fast.
Ways to practice the lunge
Walking Lunges – as the name suggests, moving forwards in a slow controlled pace ‘walk’ from lunge to lunge, making sure that you get the key technique points right and keeping balanced before moving to the next lunge. Try and do 5 forward lunges on each leg then rest for 30 seconds before going again. An extra test on this one is to do the same exercise but moving backwards, testing your balance when moving in an unfamiliar movement plane.
Bouncing Lunges – start in a balanced lunge position. From there slowly dip down as low as you can in the lunge without touching the floor with your back knee. Then from there bring yourself up as high as you can without coming out of the lunge. Then go back down again (and repeat.) Do 30 seconds on one side then swap round. Focus on keeping your back straight and your front foot flat on the floor as much as possible.
Jump Lunges – start in a lunge position (eg, with your right leg forward), jump from it as high as you can switching your legs over, landing again in a lunge (eg, with the left leg forward.) Repeat without stopping in between. Make sure that you maintain the key technique points! Work for 45 seconds continuously then have a 30 second break.
It really is worth practicing this exercise, even if it is for 5 minutes in front of the TV in the evening. It will make a huge difference in your mobility and flexibility and will definitely help your Squash and Racketball game, regardless of your playing level!
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