Squash IQ - Base level skills

Base swing and movement to elite development skills pathway


Base level

Introduction - Key basics

I would like to meet you one day and hear your ideas and thoughts on squash. No matter your experience level most enthusiastic players have something you can learn if you just take the time to listen. I live my life embracing continual improvement and have found it challenges many of the cliché coaching terms which are often taken out of context but it also stimulates your mind giving you endless enthusiasm and energy.

I have never met a coach that has more than 10 years experience that does not think they know almost all there is to know in the game. Unlike most working environments that develop a continual improvement model. There are different body types and different capabilities as well as the environment and equipment so the variables are numerous not to mention a players previous experience and beliefs on hitting and moving methods.

You will improve if you engage a coach and your improvement will vary depending on the coach as they diagnose your deficiencies and plan an order of skills to work on to accelerate your development, not knowing your standard or which skills are the most important for you to learn right now we have developed a pathway of skills to learn in a logical order and ask you to review every skill. You have nothing to lose and if you know the skill it will serve to reinforce your belief, you may even learn just a little more an a skill you are capable at or understand it greater viewing it from a new perspective.

We expect that you will not agree with all of the content in this project, this is only natural in such a dynamic sport. You have learnt from others with strong beliefs and come from a base of experience as we have so all we ask is that you consider our methods and evaluate the benefits to you and your current playing standard. Remember if you try something new it will feel strange as it is unfamiliar compared to something you have done thousands of times so asses the benefits and go in with a positive mind set and give a new skill a chance to feel ok them asses the outcome of the shot, many of the skills will not have you hitting the ball as hard but the ball will die quicker or be tighter or even have you use less energy for a better outcome, it takes time to improve and the most important thing is that you are improving so enjoy the process.

The information comes from 50 years of playing experience and 38 years of coaching experience and a fascination with body biomechanics which led me to the online education field running squashanalysis.com for the past 10 years with over 2500 videos online and subscribers from all over the world. The natural progression is to take on the task of a full squash pathway from novice to elite with detailed description, images and video.

This book is not written as a how to do it, step by step guide to improvement but more like a series of in depth questions designed to question your understanding on squash technique and to see if there is room for improvement or new ideas. You have nothing to lose and as this is a one sided flow of information I have no idea of your knowledge level or beliefs so if you can allow me to explain each concept in full before passing judgment on each area of skill I am sure I can inspire you to experiment with a few new ideas.

The outcomes and key points we discuss come from many years of video analysis comparing club level players to pro players in body movements and strategies. Often what I suggest will go against the cliché terms you hear repeated by players as they try and coach you between games in a comp match but all I suggest will be logical and have a bio mechanical advantage or positive outcome.

A few inspired concepts

  • Hit off a foundation
  • Cut to kill
  • Punch for power and control
  • The difference between good and great is the time between the bounce and hit
  • Any foot anywhere
  • Direct path to the ball
  • Targets are where the ball has its first bounce on the floor
  • Different game plan for different types of players
  • Plan your development
  • Visualize where you want to be in swing, movement and play and work toward it
  • Core muscle engagement is key in all sports and squash is no different
  • Be open to continual improvement, develop your squash iq
  • Taking stock of knowledge

    First of all I need you to gain a realistic perception of your range of knowledge in one of the most dynamic sport you could play. Here is a quick quiz, do you have an understanding of the following squash components.

  • Punch driving
  • Weight transition
  • What kills the ball making it bounce less
  • Direction of cut on the bball and the effect or outcomes
  • The power of deflection
  • Body to ball relationship
  • Rising ball benefits
  • Split step
  • Core muscle hitting
  • Balance and foundation
  • Length of swing
  • Flow of movement
  • What is the best order to learn skills
  • Front foot/back foot and the effect on outcomes
  • Game plan variations depending on your opponents attributes
  • Different body capabilities - power versus speed and flexibility
  • Knowing your strengths and weaknesses
  • Targets and the pathway of progression to elite targets
  • Pendulum swing versus traditional around the body swing
  • Advanced pendulum swing with cut
  • Changing technique for older players

    Have a plan

    Do you have a plan for improvement?

    You will improve without a plan but your improvement will be from trial and error and it will take years longer to reach the same goal, knowing that you have till you are 35 years of age for peak physical outcomes it is very important you plan your journey as early as possible.

    In my experience when you start to lose your physical attributes you rely more on your mantal application and unfortunately this is when you realy play clever squash, if only you were mature enough or had the support and experienced people around you to guide you to learn the vital lessons you could use you attributes wisely.

    I was so fast and fit that I did not care if my shot was lacking quality, early attack and power were king and the release of adrenaline as you returned balls (with moderate quality) that others thought impossible was intoxicating and the game was a mix between controlled aggression and survival of the fittest, when I got older and started losing my physical dominance I played 20% better.

    If you are older than 35 all is not lost, not only will you improve greatly but your understanding and appreciation of each component of squash will be greatly enhanced. After absorbing this information you will watch PSA squash a whole different way identifying the methods each player is using to gain advantage and how they protect weak areas of their games. Even more intriguing is watching the development of players and completely understanding the changes they make in their swing and movement and why they are making them. A whole new level of enjoyment awaits.

    We will talk more on the game plan aspect using players ratings later for now we will concentrate on your abilities.

    Do you have a clear picture of where you are going?

    This is in relation to your end destination for swing, movement and game play.

    If I was to engage a coach I would ask them firstly to show me the swing we are working toward, this will give you a clear picture in your mind what you are trying to achieve and you can then understand the differences of what you are currently doing and speed up the changes.

    It is very important to ask why the swing is so good so you understand the importance of the components and the expected outcomes.

    If you want to fast track your development you can train your muscles in two critical areas of strength and flexibility or range of movement. This is often the case with beginners where they have neither the strength or range of movement until the muscles are trained, imagine if you trained the required muscles every day instead of 3 times a week when you play.

    There is an added advantage of training your muscles at home for range and strength, this is the deliberate practice advantage meaning you concentrate on doing things 100% correctly in short bursts rather than having extra distraction and variables like a ball and movement to the correct place. I will give you an example.

    I can't hit a forehand drive using the same style left handed like I do right handed even though I have the knowledge of how to and the timing, my muscles do not allow the range of movement and the muscle strength is not good enough to give the control needed during prep and initial drive of the racquet, when I get to the impact point the muscle control is far from adequate to get a good outcome let alone any balanced flow feeling. With training this would obviously improve. So training exercises at home will speed development dramatically and they are free other than the time commitment.

    So if I was to describe a great forehand it would look like this

    Approach the ball so the last step is 45 degrees and use a compact strong short back swing with early raised prep, engage your core foundation muscles with your final step and taking a rising ball just behind your front leg or slightly later for core muscle power into the ball, transfer your weight for the best ball to body spacing turning your body as you bring the racquet down and hit with cutting swing to the floor with a open faced racquet to achieve depth and kill at the same time, come off the ball early maintaining muscle engagement finishing with an open faced modest follow through toward the front wall.

    More importantly is why I believe this and the benefits it will bring to your game. I will expand on this later as we discuss the intricacies of the forehand drive.

    Your forehand drive will develop over time and change as you get stronger and learn to use your muscles in different ways, I am sure you would agree that a new player does not hit the ball with the same swing as a great player so there is a progression of skills to attain as you develop your swing. I have a critical question for you

    Do you understand the development pathway for a player from novice to professional?

    This is very important as you need to have a plan to get to a destination and an understanding of the skills required to execute high level skills. There is also a requirement to develop muscle strength and learned movement paths which take time and training.

    You need to understand where on the squash evolution pathway you or your student is so you can develop the required skills, this goes hand in hand with outcomes and proving you have capable outcomes in the skill you have been working on.

    Do you understand your own capabilities and where you are on the development pathway?

    Be realistic and often the first step is to acknowledge how much you have to learn. I will give you an example: If we take Targets and look at the development of a player and I would like you to see where you are on the pathway and consider your next step in your development.

    Drive targets - this may vary slightly for hotter climates.

    1. In the back corner

    2. Understand it is about where the ball has its first bounce not where it ends up. Golfers will pitch and run the ball when chipping not concerning themselves with the run of the ball just working out where to land it first bounce and the momentum and angle will take care of the end outcome. Squash is the same, do not worry about the corner of the court just where you need to land the ball and momentum will take care of the rest.

    You do not aim on the front wall as this depends on how hard you hit as well as how deep you are in the court when you play the shot, your brain will take care of all the calculations required to land the ball in a particular spot considering power and depth.

    3. Understand it is not about one shot but about grouping of shot outcomes and the percentage of quality shots needing to be around 90%

    4. Service box and behind

    5. Half service box and behind

    6. Half behind service box

    7. One racquet width behind service box

    8. Racquet width and depth at the back of the service box

    9. Racquet head size at the back of the service box

    Most players think this is quite comprehensive for a straight drive but there is so much more when you start to get good.

    Note: A finite target training using something like a matchbox size as a target is not as beneficial as it seems, you may hit the box once in every 15 hits and this may be a winner which is good but the real problem is the bad wide or short shots where you will lose points which will be a far greater amount so your groupings or consistency is a far more important gauge of success with a realistic target. This also gives a greater feeling of continual success hitting a moderate sized quality target more often (90% of the time).

    10. Side wall targets level with your opponent

    Side wall targets are critical to stop your opponent volleying sending them to the back of the court, this is more easily attained when you strike your shot when away from the side wall allowing you to take advantage of the angle. The higher target is used when lobbing down the wall either from the front or very back of the court taking out any chance of your opponent reaching it.

    11. Vary your depth depending on the power of your shot

    12. Vary the target to suit court conditions such as temperature

    13. Vary your target depending on your opponents position

    The golden rule of target depth is

    The ball should be going in a downward direction when it strikes the back wall

    If the ball is going in a downward direction it takes out options for your opponent often giving no option but to take it before the back wall or only have a boast option which is often telegraphed. You need to hit the back wall or you will often be too short which can open up all attacking options for your opponent. There is the perfect length which has the ball bounce at the back of the service box and have second bounce in the back wall nick (where the wall meets the floor).

    Of all the points above regarding the target for where to land the ball the most beneficial is No.13 taking into consideration where your opponent is and landing the ball one pace behind them and still not coming high off the back wall, this has the affect of keeping them off balance taking away options and power allowing you to control play until you are set in a good position for a winner.

    Coaching terminology is often miss understood with players told to take the ball early all the time when it is often more beneficial to hold your shot for a split second even moving backward if required making your opponent move around you and opening up the depth of the court allowing you to pitch the ball deeper than them and have them running toward the back of the court when striking the ball, they will have reduced options, control, power and have to negate the momentum toward the back of the court to make good position for the next shot.

    14. Game outcomes

    It is one thing to get quality outcomes from a routine or set drill but the real measure of your capability comes from game outcomes. This can be measured by plotting the landing position of your drives in a game situation and there are levels of this as well, if you are better than your opponent it will naturally be easier to hit targets and if you are a lower standard then it will be harder to hit targets as you have less time and balance to execute quality shots.

    Body position targets are measured by the level of attacking versus defending shots your opponent plays from your drives.

  • From this analysis you can see the biggest issue is the balls in the front of the service line, 7 on backhand and 5 on forehand making it a great place for your opponent to attack from with plenty of options.
  • The next concern is the tightness of the drives with far too many shots wide of the side wall giving a channel for the opponent to drive down and take front poition.
  • 15. Targets under pressure

    It is so easy to hit a target in full balance and with the ball in the right position but hitting targets when you are under stress due to the speed of the ball, or when you are on full stretch, or tired or when you are off balance are another level and to hit targets under stress with quality rather than a fully defensive shot is where the elite players are training.

    So to summarize your target hitting is only as good as your opponents ability to return your shot, if they have restricted options and restricted power then your target is a good outcome, obviously if you hit a winner your target is perfect. The better the opponent the smaller the quality target area as they move and prep stronger and earlier giving them more ability to play high quality shots from difficult areas.

    Anticipation is telling your opponent where to hit by giving them few options, reading their body language and being proactive with your movement to attack the most likely shot early with full control and balance.

    So what level of understanding of targets did you have before reading this explanation, this will be most likely the same for most areas of squash from each of the shots both forehand and backhand (they are not the same) and for movement, so keep an open mind and there could be great benefit here.

    I used the drive target as it is a clear easy to understand pathway without too many variables so you should be interested to explore more about the technical swing and expect there may be more to it than you currently believe.

    Continuous improvement is wonderful and there is so much here to review so unless you are 100% sure you know everything you will enjoy improving your squash iq.

    Next few skills to learn

    It all starts with movement

    Your foundation is critical

    General swing


    Squash IQ - Base level skills

    click the logo to return to the home page




    Learn and train with us

    Training ideas - videos show the task and the benefits

    All information and Videos on this site are the property of SquashAnalysis.com and is not to be reproduced without concent. All coaching Tips are general advice explaining methods of playing and learning, you should see your local Coach or Trainer for advice that suits your individual style. Squash Analysis uses cookies to store and receive identifiers and other information on computers, phones, and other devices.