There's a huge range of different fitness tools and devices available now, of a wildly varying degree of use and effectiveness. Amongst this backdrop of 'must-have' gadgets carefully marketed to part the fitness enthusiast from their money in the quest for the next latest and greatest workout tool, sometimes the simpler things get lost.
The humble Skipping Rope is one such oft-forgotten item, yet for the squash player in particular it is an invaluable addition to your kit bag. Cheap, portable, and easy to use, no squash player should be without one!
Despite often having the rather soft image of children jumping rope and singing songs during breaktime at school, Rope Jumping is actually taken pretty seriously by many athletes. it's a staple part of boxing training for one, and there are actually competitive Rope Jump competitions that are even televised in the US!
Skipping is a great cardio workout, that can easily be adapted to vary intensity. Adding in a small bounce in between each rope swing at a lower speed, or working continuous jumps at a higher speed, are two simple ways to make a big difference in terms of difficulty.
Alternatively short bursts of higher speed effort can be included in an interval format, or you can just work at a steady pace for longer durations. The repeated bounces are a basic plyometric type action, so they are good for developing repeat dynamic force production, which is very beneficial for squash. There are also great balance and coordination benefits to improving your skipping fluency, especially if you haven't tried it since the playground!
Technique is simple and will improve with practice, but make sure you use an appropriate length rope - the handles should reach your armpits when you step on the rope with them held up. Make sure you stay light and on the balls of your feet, with brief, soft floor contacts - done properly it will actually be of a lower impact than something like jogging. Squash court floors are ideal to skip on, as they are sprung and thus have a little more give to them.
We have several skipping sessions here on the site, and there are also some excellent skipping based workouts and demonstrations on YouTube - the video here is a great introduction with 23 progressive exercises and footwork patterns to work with: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZX-NdILjBWY
I heartily recommend all squash players keep a skipping rope in their bags. Skipping is a great addition to any warm-up thanks to its easily progressed intensity and the little room needed, and it is also a great workout in and of itself if you want to get a bit of extra training in and you're tight for time and space.
Gary Nisbet - B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
Squashskills Fitness & Performance Director
Looking for some ideas for drills and sessions to incorporate into your training to help boost your movement?
Sign up to SquashSkills today for full access to over 2,500 fitness & squash coaching videos!