We have a brand new edition of our popular ’11 Points on Fitness’ Q&A, this time featuring Egyptian star Mazen Hesham.
Mazen has been on a long road back from injury after first bursting onto the scene several years ago, but a big win over Diego Elias at this week’s British Open is a sign that he’s almost back to his best.
Q1) How important do you think fitness/conditioning is to the game? In your opinion, have the fitness requirements changed at all in the transition to the modern era?
A – I think it’s very important nowadays, because you can see there’s been a huge transition in the game where a lot of people are working more on their fitness, so you have to be really strong and really fit just to be able to win a normal match now. Being a top 10 or top 20 player you have to have this element to your game, you can be really skilful but you still need to be as fit as you can be to be successful on the court.
Q2) How many dedicated fitness/conditioning sessions do you complete in a standard training week?
A – My training programme is set by my Fitness Trainer Gary Nisbet (SquashSkills Director of Fitness & Performance), and we typically work 2 physical sessions per day in conjunction with my on-court work with my Coach Omar Abdel-Aziz. One physical session will be something like bike sprints, weights, or ghosting, while the other is usually a lower intensity mobility/core focused session. I train 6 days per week, taking Friday as my rest day.
Q3) How long do you spend warming up before an on-court practice session and/or match? Do you pay special attention to any certain areas and if so, why?
A – Warming-up thoroughly is particularly important to me to while I’m still working back up to full fitness after my injury. I do a lot of mobility and activation work in and around my hips during my warm-ups, using a combination of movement exercises and band/ball work. I usually warm-up for around 30-40mins before matches, and 20-30mins before standard training sessions.
Q4) What is your all-time hardest off-court training session? How often do you perform this session?
A – I hate track sessions! I used to try and fake an injury or something when I was younger to be able to skip it! But now I know if I need to do it, then I will do it.
Q5) In the aforementioned session, how do you keep up your motivation to not only finish, but perform well? Do you use any particular mental strategies?
A – It depends on what kind of session it is. When I’ve just lost a match to someone and I feel maybe I lost to him because I was tired or something, then in my next training session I think about how I want to beat this guy, I put this in my mind as a goal – because of this it motivates me to work harder to be able to win next time.
Other times I think more about how I really want to reach my full potential and achieve my goals, and then I just think about how I’ll be feeling good after the session because I know how hard I’ve worked to get through it all.
Q6) Do you use any particular type of training session as a ‘test’ to measure your fitness levels?
A – I rely on my trainer for my fitness testing and assessment, and we use the results of those tests to schedule out my next block of sessions. I also record my times for different sprint sessions etc that I do sometimes, and try and keep a record of those.
Q7) Do you incorporate any gym-based weights/resistance sessions into your training programme? If so, what are your main goals from this type of training? (i.e. endurance, power, injury resistance etc.)
A – My fitness coach puts a lot of weights sessions in my programme, as one of the main parts of my rehab programme has been a focus on getting stronger. I know that when I am strong, that I am less likely to become injured. I use mainly dumbbells, barbells, medicine balls, and resistance bands, with mostly familiar exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges.
Q8) Are there any particular items of training equipment you incorporate into your sessions that you feel especially benefit you as a squash player? (i.e. bungee cords, agility ladders, weighted vests etc.)
A – Not really. Most of my training over the past couple of years has been working on recovering and strengthening after my injury problems. For that reason, most of the exercises I have been doing have been working on just the basics and foundations. I’m hoping this Summer now that I’ll be able to start doing a wider variety of training to help push my body and my game onto the next level.
Q9) Do you follow any type of nutrition plan? If not, how have you learned to fuel your body best for your sport’s demands?
A – I have a very big appetite! I don’t follow any exact nutrition plan, but I do try and eat as healthily as I can. I think it helps a lot to eat healthy, I think it’s really important for a squash player. I am going to look at possibly getting a customised nutrition plan this Summer, to see if it makes a difference.
Q10) Do you use any supplements/vitamins etc as part of your diet/nutrition?
A – I take a few different supplements that I’ve been recommended by my coaches – mainly just a multivitamin, fish oil, Zinc/Magnesium, and Vitamin D. I also use protein bars/powders for recovery, and occasionally I will use an energy gel during a long match.
Q11) Do you utilize any recovery techniques in between tournament matches? (i.e. specific foods, drink, treatments, ice bath, etc.)
A – I try and make sure I eat well after my match to help boost my recovery ready for the next day, and I also try and drink plenty of water to re-hydrate my body. A good night’s sleep is very important for me as well, though I sometimes find it hard to do that after a late match when my body is full of adrenaline. I do a lot of mobility work already as part of my rehab programme, so I find that also helps relax me and ease tight muscles. I’ve recently purchased some Skins recovery tights as well, so I’m hoping that will be something else that might help me.