The goal in squash is to score more points and, thus, win the game over the opposing player. However, its performance also provides for a good cardiovascular workout. A player can expend (“burn”) from 600 to 1,000 cal. (3,000 to 4,000 kJ) per hour in a hearty game of squash. Because of this, it is a good aerobic workout. A typical game will find players exerting themselves at about 80% of their maximum heart rate as they travel from corner to center court and then returning to another corner or back wall, repeatedly, as play progresses throughout the game. Short bursts of speed are intermingled with short recovery periods, making for a high level of aerobic fitness.
The game also helps to improve anaerobic fitness as its activities help to strengthen and tone muscles, especially helping to strengthen the leg muscles with all of its running, and the muscles in the upper body, especially the muscles within the arms, shoulders, chest, and back. Balance and coordination are also improved in squash, as players must be agile as they quickly change directions and speeds throughout the game.
Squash is played in at least 188 countries and territories around the world. Countries where squash is especially popular include Australia, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Pakistan, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States,
Squash is played with a small, hard rubber ball in a court with two opposing players. When the game was first created, it was patterned after a game called racquets (or hard racquets), which is similar to today's handball. Because the floor area was so small when played inside a racquets court, the ball bounced very quickly off the wall, making it very difficult to hit. Somewhere along the line, the ball was intentionally (or maybe accidently) punctured with the hope it would not move quite so fast. Thereafter, the ball became “squashed” when it hit against the wall, gaving it its name: squash racquet or, today, simply squash.
The playing dimensions of a squash court, according to international standards, is 32 ft (9.75 m) long and 21 ft (6.4 m) wide. The front wall contains a horizontal “out line” that is 15 ft (4.57 m) off the floor. It continues along the two side walls, slanting downward, until reaching the “out line” on the back wall, which returns to being horizontal. The out line on the back wall is 7 ft. (2.13 m) above the floor. Shots hitting above or on the out line are considered out of bounds.
The front wall also contains a “service line” that is 6 ft (1.83 m) above the floor and a “tin,” which is a sheet of metal that begins on the floor and extends 19 in. (480 mm) upward from the floor. When the ball hits the tin, it produces a distinctive metallic ping, telling the players that the ball is out of bounds.
The floor is marked with a “front line” that goes across the width of the floor, separating the front and back of the court. It also contains a “half-court” line, which is parallel to the side walls, and separates the leftand right-hand sides of the back portion of the court. It is divided in half by two rear “quarter courts” that contain two smaller “service boxes”—the first one in the upper-left quadrant of the back-left quarter court and the second one in the upper-right quadrant of the back-right quarter court (as facing the front wall). The floor markings are used only for serves within squash.
Squash players use a racquet and a ball to perform their activities on the squash court. The structure of the racket is usually made of composite materials or metals such as boron, graphite, Kevlar, or titanium. The maximum dimensions of racquets are 27.0 in. (686 mm) long by 8.4 in. (215 mm) wide. The maximum weight for the racquet is 9 oz. (255 g), however, most racquets usually weigh between 4 and 7 oz. (110 and 200 g). The head of the racquiet is usually strung with synthetic strings, although natural materials were used in the past.
The ball used in squash has a diameter of between 1.56 and 1.59 in. (39.5 and 40.5 mm), and a weight of 0.81 to 0.88 oz. (23 to 25 g). It is made of two pieces of a rubber compound that is glued together to form a hollow sphere. Different types of balls are used depending on various factors such as player experience and expertise, atmospheric conditions, and court temperature. Because of these different types of balls, they are color coded to indicate different speeds and bounce. The colors and related speeds and bounce intensity are:
Eye protection is also used by squash players to avoid injuries from speeding balls and swinging racquets in the closed quarters of the court.
The two players playing a game of squash usually start with a decision as to who serves first. Frequently, this is accomplished by spinning a racket and seeing which player correctly guesses whether the logo ends up or down after the racket stops spinning. The winning (serving) player starts by deciding whether to serve from the left or right service box. In either case, he/she begins by placing both feet within the box without touching its lines. When served the ball must hit the front wall above the service line and below the out line. When it bounces past the front wall, the ball must land in the opposite quarter court. The receiving player then volleys the ball, and the volley continues until one of the players misses or the ball goes out of bounds. When serve changes players, it is called “hand out.” Only one serve per volley is allowed in squash.
During other hits (besides the serve), the ball must hit against the front wall, below the out line and above the tin. The ball is permitted to hit the back wall or side walls at any time during play, with the only restriction being that it must hit below the out line. In addition, the ball must not strike the floor between bouncing off the racket and hitting the front wall. Further, a ball touching either the tin or the out line is considered to be out. After the ball hits the front wall, it is allowed to bounce only once on the floor (and, as stated before, any number of times against the side or back walls) before a player must hit it against the front wall.
Players may move anywhere around the court. However, intentionally or unintentionally hindering the movements of another player is not permitted. Players typically return to the center of the court after making a shot—the most advantageous position for returning the ball. If the server wins the point, the serving player continues to serve until he/she loses the volley, at which time the receiving player becomes the serving player. Therefore, points are scored only when serving the ball.
A game is completed when the first player reaches 9, 11, or 21 points, whatever is decided by the players before the game starts. Scoring to 11 is today considered the official number of points for the completion of a game. If played to 9 points and the game is tied at 8 points, then the receiving player can state “set 1” or “set 2,” meaning the games will proceed to 9 or 10 points, respectively. Games played in competitions or tournaments usually are decided by the “best” of five games—three games out of five must be won to win the match. A referee usually officiates games when played as part of a squash league or during competitions or tournaments.
Warming up before starting squash is important so muscles can be prepared for all of the intense motions and movements involved in the game. Five or more minutes of low to moderate exercise will prepare for the activities in squash. Stretching exercises are also recommended, but after other exercises are completed, so muscles are less likely to be injured. After playing squash, take about five minutes to cool down. Light exercises or walking should be included. Stretching afterward is also recommended.
Squash injuries can happen. Tennis elbow, what is medically called lateral epicondiltis, is a common squash injury due to excessive use of the muscles and tendons in the forearm. Injuries to the lumbar region, knee, ankle, and general muscle problems are some of the other, more common injuries that occur when playing squash.
Forbes magazine ranked various sports as to their health benefits. Squash was rated as the number one sport of those considered by the magazine. The categories were cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, calories per 30 minutes, and injury risk. The first four categories were ranked, from 1 to 5, with 1 = nothing special, 2 = not bad, 3 = good, 4 = darn good, and 5 = excellent. The fifth category, injury risk, was rated on a scale consisting of 1 = low, 2 = so-so, and 3 = high. The category calories per 30 minutes was based on the energy expenditure of a 190-lb. (86.2 kg) person over a 30-minute time period, as provided by the American College of Sports Medicine. Squash ranked 4.5 in cardiovascular endurance, 3 in muscular strength, 5 in muscular endurance, 3 in flexibility, 5 in calories per 30 minutes, and 2 in injury risk—for an overall score of 22.5 that was good enough for the healthiest sport in the survey, including rowing, rock climbing, swimming, crosscountry skiing, basketball, cycling, running, modern pentathlon, and boxing.
Forbes states in its article: “The preferred game of Wall Street has convenience on its side, as 30 minutes on the squash court provides an impressive cardio respiratory workout. Extended rallies and almost constant running builds muscular strength and endurance in the lower body, while lunges, twists and turns increase flexibility in the back and abdomen. For people just getting into the game, it's almost too much to sustain, but once you get there, squash is tremendous.”
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U.S. Squash, 555 Eighth Ave., Ste. 1102, New York, NY, 10018, (212) 268-4090, Fax: (212) 268-4091, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.ussquash.com/ .
World Squash Federation, 25 Russell St., Hastings, East Sussex, TN34 1QU, United Kingdom, 44 0 (1424) 447440, Fax: 44 0 (1424) 430737, admin@world squash.org, http://www.worldsquash.org .
William A. Atkins, BB, BS, MBA