It is no accident that when you watch top grade players, their styles have a great deal in common, with personal styles added to the mix. They play with movements that result in efficiency, strength and responsiveness. You lose a game if you expend much more energy than your opponent, so efficiency matters. As does the ability to respond, to get to the ball and hit it with purpose and direction. That's what these drills are about. Practice makes better !
Some of these drills are for the experienced player and some for the junior improver. All require that you dedicate at least five minutes each session to serious practice - before a game, during a coaching session, or in a quiet moment on your own.
A few of the drills below were developed at Hanworth Squash Club, and of those, some were suggested by members of our Junior Squad. Some have been adapted from drills on other squash sites, to whom we are grateful, and some are age-old standards, that you overlook at your peril.
|One player alone drills
|1 player alone, rail practice, alternating sides
|The basic drill - all improvers and above should start their session with this to warm-up both themselves and the ball. I prefer to start on the backhand, as for me this is a more regimented stroke.
Start by standing by the corner of the service box, hitting gentle shots to a medium length down the line. As you get your eye in, and the ball warms up, hit longer and higher, with the occasional low drive.
Do not start hitting hard balls from cold - graduate to harder shots over at least a minute or so.
Always decide what shot you are going to play before you play it.
|Gets your eye in, and gives you time to refine your squash style. To get the backhand style correct and comfortable, and to play forehands with precision, and varied length and strength.
|1 player alone, rails, drops and lobs
|You must have warmed the ball up before you lob. After five minutes of rail drills, move forward playing shorter rails. Play a drop and lunge forward to play a cross court lob. The lob needs confident early timing, a slightly shortened backswing, and a short but strong and free-flowing upward flick. Don't think about where you are hitting the ball on the front wall. Just feel for the back corner as you hit the ball up.
|The lob is your 'get out of jail' shot. It buys you time and stops your opponent from dropping you.
|1 player alone, serving practice
|You need a warm ball for this too. Mixed in with a rail session, play a few serves. Practice hard serves, soft looping serves, forehand serves and backhand serves. Remember, if you want a high looping serve, stand as far forward in the box as possible. This lets your trajectory be steeper. Remember that some courts have low ceilings, so don't rely on a looping serve.
Practice narrow angle serves, playing the ball near the centre line, and wide angle serves, playing from near the wall. Serve some serves from low down, and some with a racket held high and open. This helps you find which serves you are best at, which you should use at critical points in a match.
|To get the serve into a groove, and build confidence with angles.
|1 player alone, drop shots
|Player feeds a gentle ball from hand to himself and drops the return. The aim is to land the drop on a marker or piece of A3 paper by the wall halfway from the front to the service box. This can be timed - number of successful shots in one minute or so.
|To improve drop shot accuracy.
|1 player alone, centre line alternate drives
|Player stands a little behind the T and drives alternately backhand to the forehand and forehand to the backhand, aiming for the centreline of the front wall.
|Timing and directional hitting. It is surprisingly easy to hit the ball out of reach.
|1 player alone, figure of eights with bounce
|Player stands on T, hitting forehand to front wall near left wall. Ball returns off side wall and bounces. Player backhands ball to front wall near right wall. The ball rebounds off the right wall and bounces, ready for the repeat forehand to the left.
This is a more accessible exercise, a halfway house to the same exercise played with volleys.
|Rhythm and accuracy.
|1 player alone, figure of eights volleys
|Player stands on T, hitting forehand volley to front wall near left wall. Ball returns off side wall, and player backhand volleys ball to front wall near right wall. The ball rebounds off the right wall ready for the repeat forehand to the left.
It is vital the the racket returns to a high backswing - there is no time as the ball rebounds towards you for a late backswing - you must be primed and ready to swing cleanly.
This is an advanced exercise.
|Rhythm and accuracy.
|1 player alone, front corner volleys
|Standing near the centreline, a couple of feet in front of the T, and facing the left front corner, the player hits backhand to left wall one foot from front wall, hitting the volley return forehand to front wall one foot from side wall. Also mirror image drill in right hand front corner. This is a fairly advanced exercise.
|Wrist strength, reaction and preparing for a predicted bounce. Encourages early backswing.
|1 player alone, front corner floor shots
|The volley version of this drill being rather advanced, improvers would do well to start with this drill, with the floor in the picture. Standing five feet diagonally out of the left hand front corner, hit a forehand onto the front wall to a point one or two feet from the corner, and let the ball rebound off the side wall onto the floor. Then backhand the ball back the way it came, hitting it onto the side wall one or two feet from the corner, so that it comes off the front wall to bounce on the floor, before being forehanded again.
|Wrist strength, reaction and preparing early for a predicted bounce. Encourages early backswing.
|1 player alone, simple short corner volleys
|Standing six feet out from the corner, player plays a gentle forehand shot to their forehand wall, so the ball crosses the corner and comes back from the other wall. Player then plays a gentle backhand to play the ball back the way it came. The racket should be properly raised in the backswing for even this gentle drill.
|A good gentle warm up to get your eye in, and to practice hitting gentle shots with precision, and raising the racket on the backswing.
|1 player alone, long front corner exercise
|Standing one foot ahead of halfway between the T and the front right of the lefthand service box, play a forehand drive into the front right corner. Let the ball bounce on its return. If the ball hits the front wall first it will rebound between player and the front wall. The side wall, and the ball will pass between the player and the T. Player will need to take a step to hit a forehand or backhand to repeat the exercise.
With accurate hitting, player can control whether a forehand or backhand will be required next.
Upgrade the exercise by playing volleys instead of drives.
|Rhythm and accuracy with quick drives, and getting into position quickly for the next drive.
|1 player alone, rail and cross court work
|Player stands at back of service box hitting medium and hard rails. When a loose ball arrives, either a) player hits a cross court high corner lob, chases across and continues on the other side, or b) hits a reverse front corner boast that can be retrieved a little forward, and then continues as before.
|Shot selection, and consistency after recovery.
|1 player alone, rail drill with cross court boast
|Normal down the line varied drill, but to a length ball a foot off the wall player hits to opposite wall near the front wall nick, ball rebounds to centre of home wall, player moves forward to take the ball and stays on the same wall as previously. Alternatively, player can use the opportunity to move onto the other side.
|Open strong shots.
|1 player alone, rail drill with cross court volley
|Normal rail drill, but to a high rail, volley the ball either to a cross court kill, or to a cross court lob.
The cross court kill can either go to the corner, to the opposite wall for a cross court boast or be aimed at the nick by the opposite service box.
|Executing a planned shot - getting in the right position for a sudden attack shot.
|1 player alone, side to side drill
|Player stands on T facing front and forehands ball to hit left wall, climb and hit right wall before bouncing. Player then mirrors by backhanding the ball to the right wall, etc. Can take three on court using markers, or one player can walk the exercise forwards and backwards up and down the court.
Improvers with less backhand strength can turn after each shot to stay on the forehand.
|Timing, precision and alternating forehand and backhand shots. Taking the ball early walks the exercise backwards, and vice versa.
|1 player alone, side to side with front wall
|As side to side drill, but each ball is a cross-court boast, hitting front wall between side wall contacts. So, forehand to left side wall, front wall, right side wall, backhand to right side wall, front wall, left side wall, etc.
|Shot timing and direction.
|1 player alone, two side volley warm-up
|Player stands on T volleying ball, alternating forehand and backhand, recovering with the wrong hand where necessary.
|Quick steady shots.
|1 player alone, standing still rails
|Player stands still, feet making a good base, behind the inside corner of the service court, and plays steady shots off the front wall. Play can be forehand or backhand. The idea is to hit shots that can be returned without foot movement.
|High precision, rail angle and length. This drill encourages measured accuracy.
|One player coached
|1 player coached, corner ghosting
|Player moves from T to specified corner, hitting imaginary ball, stating target. Coach returns imaginary ball, stating specified corner. Each corner is marked, and player must reach marker for shot.
|Movement from T and consciousness of positional thinking.
|1 player coached, drive and boast, player at rear
|The standard drive and boast exercise.
Coach drives ball alternately down each side, while the player boasts each drive back to the opposite front corner.
Play to beat the coach and make this a real contest.
|Rear corner boasts on the move.
|1 player coached, drive and boast, player at front
|The drive and boast with roles reversed.
Player drives ball alternately down each side, with the coach boasting from each side alternately.
This can be a real contest too.
|Winding up and driving from a boast and reading the front corner angles.
|1 player coached, drop practice
|Coach behind, feeds a medium pace down the line. Player must play a medium length drop, then go forward to play a medium length down the line.
|Long drops and rail precision and length.
|1 player coached, dead racket practice
|Coach has a pocket full of balls and fires hard shots to rebound to the T. Player stands a little in front of the T watching coach, making sure the racket is held no lower than chest height, and plays a dead racket shot to drop in either front corner.
|Reaction and handling body shots
|1 player coached, dummy and touch on centre line
|Coach kneels at wall by centre line and tosses balls one foot in the air. Player moves from T to drop boast the ball into the coach's hand. Possibly player crosses the court to dummy a rail between shots.
|Fitness and precision.
|1 player coached, fed cross court
|Coach feeds a serve into the opposite service box. First up player plays cross court return. Coach returns that into the opposite service box. Next up player plays cross court return. Can accommodate multiple players in an orderly queue.
|Standard cross court shots.
|1 player coached, fed rail drops
|Coach behind player, feeds a long drop down the line. Player drops to themselves, and then punches the ball back down the line. Coach repeats.
|Drops and the need to wind up to hammer a rail from a drop shot.
|1 player coached, fed rail drops and volley
|Coach, behind player, feeds a long drop down the line. Player drops to themselves, then hits the drop hard down the line. Coach returns high for the player to take on the volley. Should step back to the T before the volley.
|The need to wind up for the rail and the volley.
|1 player coached, fed drop, drive and lob
|Coach feeds a long drop. Player drops to themselves and drives down the line. Coach returns another long drop and player must lob either cross court or down the line.
|1 player coached, fed rails for double volley
|Coach feeds from back court to medium height. Player double volleys - player hits a straight volley and immediately return that same volley to a kill or drive down the line.
|Front of court reaction, with power returns.
|1 player coached, multi-ball sprint exercise
|Coach crouches at the centre of the front wall, tossing balls to each side. Player moves from the T to hit each ball back down the wall. Player then moves from T to each ball, dragging or hooking it back to the coach.
In competition players can be timed to complete the task,
This should really only be attempted with the more serious advanced player. With less experienced players it quickly degenerates into anarchy !
|Reaction, fitness and precision. A player new to this will often rush the hooking back of the balls, so scattering them and losing time following up each errant ball. The winner keeps a cool head and hooks each ball precisely.
|1 player coached, multi-ball shots
|Coach stands front centre with a bucket of balls.
Coach throws balls for player to alternately drive and kill.
|Front of court reaction to varied shots off front wall.
|1 player coached, feinted drive
|Coach feeds a long drop. Player feints a drive and then drives back down the line.
|Practices deceit - not necessarily feinting.
|1 player coached, drive and kill
|Coach feeds a long drop. Player drives back down the line. Coach returns and player kills with a chopped drive, a drop or a cross court flick.
|Setting up for a kill shot.
|One player drills, not alone
|1 player, 2 on court, short hitting
|Player stands on service line, hitting ball to one foot above tin, continually, forehand or backhand.
|Racquet and swing technique.
|1 player, 2 on court, varied rail work
|Player stands near wall on service line, playing balls with fixed medium force to hit the front wall at low or medium height. When a perfect ball arrives, player hits a higher ball to lob to the back corner, or drives hard down the line.
|Shot selection and understanding the results of different front wall heights.
|1 player, 2 on court, one side volley warm-up
|Player stands on corner of service box volleying ball down wall, hitting front wall around service line.
|Quick steady shots and volley technique.
|1 player, 4 on court, corner drops
|Player stands a little out of any corner, playing short drops onto each wall in turn, trying to play alternate forehands and backhands.
|Angles in the drop shot zone.
|2 player drills
|2 players, 4 players on court, rail practice
|Players alternate rail shots, moving back to the T after each shot.
|Deep corner technique and shot preparation.
|2 players, 4 players on court, volley and drive
|One player in front of service line volleys to other player at back who drives high and low altrernately. Swap between better player at front and behind.
|Volley and consistent high drive shots. A measure of each player's accuracy is how few times the ball crosses the court to foul up the other pair's play !
|2 players, straight game, handicapped
|I find the best way to handicap is for the better player to play to English rules, no point for winning the serve back, while the weaker player plays to PAR scoring. This makes sure that the better player gets more of a game, while the weaker player has the pleasure of seeing their opponent working hard. You can add in any extra rules that work for you, like no drops from the better player until they are four points behind.
|Making the weaker player face better shots, and encouraging strategic thinking.
|2 players, back and front court game
|One player must hit to the back, the other must hit to the front. So one player must play long drops, drop volleys, short kills, boasts and short cross court shots, while the other must play drives and lobs. Can score with advantage rule - see back court game.
|Long drops, drop volleys, drives and lobs.
|2 players, half court game
|As a regressive 3/4 court game (see below) with both players on 2 quarters.
|Rail and drop play in half of the court.
|2 players, back court (long) game
|A normal game but the ball must not land in the front court. Best played with an advantage rule - you land the ball in the front court, your opponent gets the advantage. Repeat and opponent gets the point. Opponent lands in front on his advantage, either you get advantage or the advantage is cancelled.
|Long shots, drives and long lobs.
|2 players, drive and boast
|One player drives ball alternately down each side. The other player covers each corner, boasting back.
|Rear corner movement and boasts, and front covering and driving.
|2 players, rail start game
|A normal game, but for the first few shots the ball must not stray from the receiver's wall by more than the width of the service box. Suggest 5 shots starting with the return, so server gets the first 'free' shot.
|Returning serve down the wall, general rails, and breaking a rail pattern with cross court play.
|2 players, short volley warm up
|Both players stand on service line. Left hand player plays backhand volleys, right player plays forehand volleys.
|Reaction shots and short volley technique.
|2 players, drive and lob
|Players remain near diagonally opposite corners of the court, one dropping to himself before putting up a cross court lob, and the other returning the lob as a volley or a boast to the first player's front corner.
|Lobbing and returning lobs. Planning a shot from a set up ball.
|3 player drills
|3 players, drive and boast
|One player at the front drives alternately down each side. Each other player covers one back corner, boasting back.
|For two players, boasting from drives. For the front player, front corner drives.
|3 players, whole court squash, rotating rallies
|Players stand out of a rally in a fixed order. Reverse order each game.
|Handling different squash styles.
|3 players, whole court squash, rotating shots
|Three active on court, taking shots in name order. A serves to B, then B returns to C, C plays to A, A to B and so on. Player clears towards back wall after playing their shot, moving forward to the T as the third player prepares to play the shot they must return. Reverse order after each game.
|Quick response to unexpected shots, and practice reading the opponent's shot.
|3 players, whole court squash, winning order
|Winner of rally serves to next rally. Loser of rally stands out, to be replaced by waiting player.
|Competition and handling different squash styles.
|Many players, 3/4 court game
|Non-players stand at back in the serving quarter. No balls must land in this serving quarter of the court. Winner receives from next in line, loser goes to back of queue. Each player can remember their own score. Suitable for several players if the queue is orderly.
|Serving to better players and down the line play.
|Many players, 3/4 court regressive
|As three quarter court, but when any player gains five points they must play in the two side quarters, and when any player reaches ten points they must play to the back corner only. Fifteen points to win the round. Possibly change sides when leader gets to five points and ten points.
|Improvers playing better players.
|Many players, 3/4 court with punishment
|Standard 3/4 court game, but with majority agreement a player who plays a weak shot, or who does not play some agreed method, must be punished. Typical punishment is to run from the T to each corner in turn and back, touching the corner with the racket.
|Encourages players to play every shot with thought.
|Many players, sliding back door
|Two players play one rally, winner stays on, while one, two or three players lurk in the middle of the back wall. A referee's let is of course called whenever the ball comes near the observers.
Whether the sliding refers to the shuffle as the queue moves along by one, or the movement of the queue to one side to avoid interfering with the next shot, I don't know.
|Whole court play is better that 3/4 court, though numbers are limited, and the variation of having a different opponent each rally is equally instructive.
|Many players, coached in turns, fed rail
|Coach feeds a starter ball down the line. First up player returns down the line. Coach steps forward and returns down the line. Next up player returns down the line.
|Steady shots down the wall.
|Many players, serving practice
|Place a bucket near rear corner of court. Players take turns to serve a warm ball. Compete for first to land the ball in the bucket. Advanced players must go in off side and/or back wall.
|Accuracy of service shots.
Copyright (C) Richard Hart 2015 - 2018