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Mike Harris, Head of Squash and Racketball at Exeter Golf and Country Club shares his top tips for improving your game – or squash techniques to get you started playing squash, until the courts reopen.
This week’s article moves away from the hitting part of Squash and Racketball, and looks more toward the movement side of things. The area in question is the Lunge, arguably the most important physical area in the game.
Benefits of a good lunge:
You will be more balanced on the shot, meaning that you will be able to hit the ball as well as possible, without having to fight to stabilise yourself using your upper body.
You will be able to cover more court in extreme/pressured situations. Using the lunge well will allow you to extend your range of movement and reach out to the ball, which is vital when on the back foot in a rally. It will also allow you to get much lower to the ball when needed (for example, retrieving a drop shot in the front corners.)
If your lunge is balanced enough, it will allow your movement to be more economical around the court, therefore meaning that it will take less effort to move in and out of the corners. If you over-balance when lunging and collapse into the shot, it will be harder to recover back to the T and therefore get back into the rally.
The lunge is an easy exercise to practice, it can be done at home in front of the TV if need be! Ideally you want to make sure that you get the basic technique correct before you start to work on it in a more competitive or dynamic situation. There are a couple of key areas that will make a huge difference to your lunge if you can get them working well. Check out the two images below to see two examples of the lunge movement being used by Professional players and to see the best possible technique:
Firstly, as you can see in both images regardless as to how deep into the lunge they have to get, both players keep their front knees behind their front foot. This allows them to get down low to the ball and reach out without over balancing and falling forward. This is a key area to be wary of when lunging, make sure that when practicing you are able to keep your front knee level with or slightly behind your front ankle. This will help you to control your weight in the movement.
The next key area is making sure that you can control the line of your body toward the ball. Both players in the images have been able to keep their whole movement positioned directly toward the ball. (Shoulders, legs, head, feet and so on.) This allows them to keep the lunge simple with full control over their body weight in the shot. It also means that they can then come out of the lunge in the simplest, most direct way, back to the center of the court.
The final important area for the basic lunge is how you use the back foot. While you can’t see the back foot movement from the pictures, check out this Youtube video of Paul Coll vs Ali Farag:
Just watch through the clip and you will see how when both players lunge, they use their back foot both to stabilise as they hit the ball, and then also to help bring them back out of the shot. As they hit the shot, they let their back foot slide up slightly toward their front. (Even if it is just a slight drag of 6-12 inches or so.)
This means that they still maintain their stability when hitting (due to keeping it in contact with the floor,) but then after the ball has been played, their back foot is then in the right position to assist the front in bringing their body weight back toward the T. The benefit of this is that it means that you do not have to use your upper body to “pull” you backwards to the T (therefore meaning you could lose your balance in the lunge.) Instead by using the legs more, you can make a more powerful push back to the T, while keeping your shoulders and head stable.
Try when practicing the lunge to get used to a slight drag of the back foot when completing the movement. You will find that it helps you keep a smooth flow in and out of the lunge, making it easier to complete it consistently and in a balanced manner.
The best way to practice the lunge is simply through repetition! Make sure that you keep the above pointers in mind, use the images below to keep the correct technique as much as possible. It can be really beneficial to lunge in front of a mirror or another reflective surface so that you can see your form through the movement. It’s an exercise that may be tough to start with if you are not used to it, but the more you practice the easier it will get. I can guarantee that your Squash and Racketball game will improve hugely if you can get used to using it more as the benefits that it can bring are massive!
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