Squash Stretches and Flexibility Exercises
Squash stretching exercises to improve your performance and do away with squash injuries for good.
Man has been playing sports involving the striking of a ball with the hand, a racket, or bat for thousands of years. Many of these games were invented out of a need for recreation, limited by space or geographic location. The predecessor to squash, Rackets, is no different. Debtors imprisoned in Fleet Prison in London needed to find a way to get their exercise. They resorted to hitting a ball against the wall with a racket.
If you’re looking to improve your squash game or just seeking to prevent squash injuries it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that’s just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
This sport somehow escaped the walls of the prison and found its way to Harrow, and the school yard there. Boys at Harrow school quickly adopted the game and played it in an area called the “Corner.” It became so popular that soon two open air rackets courts were built on the school grounds. Court time was a commodity and many younger players were relegated to the small, stone-walled yards of their boarding houses or in alleys in the village. This made for interesting play with the many outcroppings and hazards.
These younger boys discovered that a ball with a hole in it “squashed” against the wall and made for slower play. It also allowed for more unique hits and required more skill. The players also shortened the racket used in the game, due to smaller courts. From this the game of squash was born.
Squash soon spread throughout England. Many rackets courts were divided into squash courts. People began building more squash courts for public and private use. Some people even began building them in their own homes. Although public acceptance of the game grew rapidly, administrative recognition took much longer. Until 1923, squash was no more than a sub-committee of the Tennis, Rackets & Fives Association. In 1923, the Squash Rackets Representative Committee was formed, and later became the Squash Rackets Association (RFA.)
In the U.S. squash had been regulated and codified for nearly two decades by the time the RFA came about. Squash was introduced to the U.S. in New Hampshire by Jay Connover who was an avid rackets player. He learned of squash from a Harrow graduate whom he attended college with in 1884. He built four squash courts, converted from two rackets courts.
By 1900 squash was getting a strong footing in Philadelphia as courts began to spring up around the city. In 1904 members of the various rackets clubs got together to form the first national squash governing body anywhere, the United States Squash Racquets Association. The USSRA set to standardizing the court, equipment and rules. The USSRA also held the first men’s national championship in 1907.
The version played in the U.S., until the 1990s used a harder, faster rubber ball, while the International version used the slower ball popular in England. The sport has taken on professional status with tournaments offering substantial cash prizes to the winners. It is played in singles and doubles competitions. It is currently played in 130 countries on over 47,000 courts worldwide.
Squash requires a good deal of agility and good reaction to move to the ball. Upper body strength is required to swing the racket and provide a solid hit. Overall conditioning is also important to be able to play a complete game. Flexibility is important due to the various contorted positions a player may need to move through to react to the ball. Even though the ball is a softer, slower version of the racket ball it often comes off the walls in different directions and good players learn to use this to their advantage.
The major muscles used when playing squash include:
- The muscles of the shoulder girdle; the pectorals, and the deltoids.
- The muscles of the upper legs and hips; the gluteals, the hamstrings, and the quadriceps
- The muscles of the forearm and upper arm; the wrist flexors and extensors, the biceps, and the triceps.
- The core muscles; the rectus abdominus, obliques, and the spinal erectors.
A good overall training program with focus on flexibility, agility training, endurance work, and cardiovascular conditioning will help the squash player stay healthy and able to rebound from injuries quickly.
Most Common Squash Injuries
Squash can lead to traumatic injuries when players quickly change direction to react to a ball or when they fall, striking the hard court surface. Chronic injuries can result from the repetitive swinging motion.
As with most racket sports; injuries to the shoulder and upper extremities are common. The common injuries experienced by a squash player include clavicle fractures, acromioclavicular (AC) injury, rotator cuff injuries, and tendonitis in the elbow (tennis elbow).
- Clavicle Fractures: The clavicle is a very small bone and cannot take large amounts of stress placed on it. Falling on the court, landing on the shoulder, can result in a fracture of the clavicle. The clavicle is a part of the shoulder joint so a fracture in clavicle is very painful and may result in the inability to lift the arm at the shoulder. Deformity along the clavicle may be noted. Pain and tenderness at the site of the fracture will also be present. Ice, immobilization of the arm, and transport for medical attention are the initial steps in treatment. An x-ray will be needed to determine the extent of the injury. A player should not return to activity until the clavicle is completely healed, to prevent re-injury of the bone.
- Acromioclavicular (AC) Injury: The most common AC injury is a separation of the shoulder joint. This results in a sprain of the AC ligament. In more severe cases the AC ligament and the costoclavicular ligament are both torn. This results in lack of stability in the joint and, in rare cases, may require surgery. This is often caused by landing on the outstretched hand when falling. Placing the arm in a sling, ice on the joint, and NSAIDs will help with this injury. Depending on the severity of the injury, return to activity may occur as early as 2 weeks, but severe cases may take as long as 10 to 12 weeks.
- Rotator Cuff Injuries: Rotator cuff injuries in squash may be due to acute forces or chronic, repetitive motions. Acute injuries to the rotator cuff complex may result in complete ruptures and require surgery. Once the muscles are damaged the integrity of the joint is compromised. Chronic injury to the rotator cuff is a result of repetitive swinging of the racket. This may start as discomfort and progress to moderate to severe pain in the shoulder. Rest, ice, and NSAIDs may be enough to reverse the chronic condition.
- Elbow Tendinitis (tennis elbow): The rotation of the elbow joint during the swinging of the racket and constant flexion and extension can irritate the tendon on the lateral side of the elbow. Once the tendon becomes inflamed it rubs on the bone and causes additional pain and inflammation. Each swing causes the tendon to move over the bone. The bursa protecting the tendon may become inflamed, as well. As the tendon becomes inflamed it becomes less flexible and further stretch causes more pain. Pain and tenderness over the tendon, reduced range of motion, and weakness in the involved arm may result from this condition. Ice, NSAIDs, and a special band may help alleviate some of the pain. Rest is the best treatment for tendonitis, allowing the tendon to heal completely before returning to activity.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Proper training, adequate rest between training or competitions, and good nutrition are all essential for peak performance in squash.
- A good overall conditioning program will help prevent the early onset of fatigue that can lead to injury.
- Using proper equipment and courts designed for the game will also prevent many acute and chronic injuries.
- Strength training for the muscles of the shoulder girdle will protect the shoulder joint. A solid overall strengthening program will protect all of the joints and prevent muscle strains and tendon issues.
- Stretching, as a regular regimen and after intense play, will keep the muscles flexible and ready to perform at their peak when called into action. Good flexibility reduces the incidence of many sports injuries.
The Top 3 Squash Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for squash; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions beside each stretch.
Assisted Reverse Chest Stretch: Stand upright with your back towards a table or bench and place your hands on the edge. Bend your arms and slowly lower your entire body.
Squatting Leg-out Adductor Stretch: Stand with your feet wide apart. Keep one leg straight and your toes pointing forward while bending the other leg and turning your toes out to the side. Lower your groin towards the ground and rest your hands on your bent knee or the ground.
Kneeling Heel-down Achilles Stretch: Kneel on one foot and place your body weight over your knee. Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward.
Get more Stretching Exercises here...
To do away with stiff, tight muscles and joints, and improve your full body mobility and freedom of movement, grab a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM).
In total, they include 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.
The DVD also includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you wherever you go.
The Handbook and DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.
About the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.