You may have heard from fellow squash players or coaches about the need to do the split step to reach the ball in time to play an attacking shot.
There are lots of good videos on youtube that explain how to do a split step in squash. In this article we will understand why we need to split, how to do it correctly, and how to train for it.
The split step
As squash is a high intensity sport that requires quick reactions and agility, the split step was developed as a footwork technique that improves movement around a squash court.
The objective is to maximize your speed around the court while applying minimum energy.
When doing the split step, you are trying to propel yourself towards the ball and taking the first step the moment your opponent hits the ball.
How to do the split step
A split step involves a small hop and landing on the foot that will push you in the direction you want to go.
Say, if you want you reach the front right corner from the T position, you will take a small jump and land on either your left or right foot. The foot you land on will then launch you towards the front right corner as you lunge into your shot.
This small hop and land trick makes court movement faster and efficient, allowing you to retrieve any shot your opponent plays. Professionals have spent years perfecting the split step in order to land on the correct foot and step into their shot effortlessly every single time. The key to timing the split step involves watching, timing, and exploding off the T.
Watching your opponents shot
You have played your shot and have returned back to the T. Now you must observe your opponent carefully for what shot they are about to play. Dont look at the ball, and dont look at your opponents face. Your eyes should be fixed on their racket.
Watching your opponents racket tells you 2 things:
1. When the shot is going to be hit.
2. Whether its a drive, drop, cross, or boast.
If you time your jump correctly, you can land on the correct foot and get a head start towards the ball that you Judged from your opponents downswing.
Timing the split step
When watching for when your opponent is going to hit the ball, you should make the jump just when your opponent is starting their downswing. Jumping too early or too late would greatly hinder your movement. This is why many players hold their shot so that the opponent mistimes their split step.
Split step Landing
You should land either on your left foot or right foot, depending which foot you want to push off from. If you are going to your left , then you should land on your right foot.
You should also try to consistently land on your toes instead of your heel so that you remain light and float on the court.
Practicing the split step
The split step takes time to make it a natural part of your game. At first you will have to make a conscious effort to watch the racket, jump, and land on the correct foot. But with practice you wont have to think about it.
For practice, keep the split step in mind during drills, focusing on timing.
The other part of split step training is using an agility ladder. Doing different stepping patterns on an agility ladder will help condition your legs to quick lateral movements as we do when split stepping.
Using a jump rope is another way you can strengthen your calves to become quicker and efficient on court.