Whatever level you play at, the idea that there might be some 'extra edge' available is a pervasive one, and this thought process sees a wide variety of tools, devices, and supplements used by players to attempt to improve athletic performance and to try to gain that extra advantage over their opponents.
When discussing aids to performance however, it's important to first establish their limitations. In the same way that you ‘can't out-train a bad diet' as the old saying goes, there is no ‘performance enhancer' of any kind out there that can override the effects of a lack of dedicated training or poor lifestyle influences.
The basis of any training plan – whether to increase your squash performance or to just improve your general health and physical profile – always starts with a good conditioning programme, sound nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle.
Training with intensity and a properly structured plan, eating well while avoiding contaminants to your health such as cigarettes and alcohol, and getting appropriate amounts of sleep/rest, are the very best ‘performance enhancers' out there for your squash. No additional tool or supplement will be of much use unless they're introduced onto already solid foundations. The key word with any nutritional product in particular is ‘supplements' – they're a ‘supplement' to a healthy lifestyle and workout regime, not a replacement for.
There are some performance enhancing tools available that are relatively well established by research and have demonstrated some benefits to people training for sport, and we've explored a number of these on the blog in the past - from apparatus such as respiratory muscle trainers and compression garments, to nutritional supplements such as creatine and caffeine.
Nothing will allow you to cut corners however, and benefits will only be fully realised if added to an already solid training programme/healthy lifestyle.
My approach to all of these kinds of things is to think of them more as a potential ‘plateau breaker' – if you've got your training, diet, and lifestyle factors all fully optimised and you've put a consistent effort in over a period of a few months (not just weeks), if you still feel then that you're no longer experiencing any gains from your efforts, then that is the best time to perhaps start thinking about introducing a novel new training tool or nutritional supplement that may help give you that extra couple of percent.
If you haven't got the basic foundations right however, you will always be far better served correcting those elements first before worrying about anything more complex to improve your athleticism or squash performance.
Gary Nisbet - B.Sc.(Hons), CSCS, NSCA-CPT, Dip. FTST
Squashskills Fitness & Performance Director
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