By AJ Lamb, MS, CSCS, PES, Senior Exercise Physiologist
& Joseph Zarett, Physical Therapist, Founder of Zarett Rehab & Fitnes
In the late fall of 2016, two of the world’s most elite squash players, Mohamed and Marwan ElShorbagy, came to our clinic seeking guidance. Both athletes had become familiar with Zarett Rehab & Fitness the year before and entrusted our team with managing their physical preparedness. Here is part of the protocol we created:
Stepper: 10 minutes
Foam rolling: 30 seconds each muscle group
Treadmill Lateral Band Walks: 3 x 30 seconds
First came a ten-minute program on the stepping machine to activate the gluteal muscles and hamstrings while minimizing strain on the knees. With the use of foam rollers, we applied pressure to the mechanoreceptors within the muscles that might have been over-stimulated from training or matches, ultimately allowing the muscle to be more supple and flexible. Foam rolling the hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes for approximately thirty seconds each provided a great baseline for the lower extremity to begin training. The second part of the warm-up was the lateral band walks on the treadmill. A resistance band around the knees created a stress on the gluteal muscles as the treadmill provided a consistent pace that couldn’t be mimicked walking on the floor. At this point, the soft tissue had been primed and adequately prepared to move through explosive movements under load.
Oblique Medicine Ball Slams: 3 x 6 repetitions
Keiser Runner: 3 x 10 repetitions
The first part of the resistance training program was dedicated to creating power and explosiveness. With a medicine ball, Mohamed and Marwan rapidly lifted the ball over head and slammed it to the floor just outside each foot, alternating sides. This dynamic core exercise used flexion and rotation to develop high levels of force. The lower body had its turn with our pneumatically-powered Keiser running machine—“the runner.” This machine provided a smooth, air-powered resistance through a motion similar to a leg press but with the kinematics of running in mind. We were able to quantify the force production in watts to objectively assess if one leg was displaying asymmetrical levels of strength.
Vertimax Lunge Matrix: 3 x 5 repetitions
Keiser Thoracic Rotation: 3 x 10 repetitions
Keiser Anti-Rotational Press: 3 x 10 repetitions
Keiser Cross-Pull: 3 x 10 repetitions
Keiser Cross-Over: 3 x 10 repetitions
Back Extension: 3 x 10 repetitions
Rotational Back Extension: 3 x 10 repetitions
The resistance training section was led by our lunge matrix using the Vertimax machine and a medicine ball. This exercise combined lunges in three different directions, upper body rotation and both horizontal and vertical resistance. The specificity to squash was very evident as the lower extremity worked to remain strong and stable through a variety of positions. This movement was paired with two core exercises on the Keiser cable machine: thoracic rotation and anti-rotation press. The rotational movement worked the external and internal obliques, which also help generate power in squash during a forceful swing. Just as important, the anti-rotational press engaged the core muscle as they resisted rotation and help stabilized the spine. As the core musculature was working during these two movements, the legs rested for the next round through the lunge matrix. The remaining exercises followed the common theme of improving postural alignment at the shoulder complex, thoracic spine, and upper extremities. Because squash athletes generate so much torque at the elbow and wrist, the shoulder girdle needs to remain stable enough to transmit these forces safely during high velocity shots.
Finally, each training session was completed with a physical therapist performing manual therapy on each athlete. These techniques were used to expedite recovery and enhance nutrient delivery to the damaged soft tissues. The system remained unchanged and the specificity of the protocols within the system were what gave each athlete a unique advantage against the competition.