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Squash Drills - 120s

Published: 29 Nov 2007 - 05:33 by bosartek

Updated: 24 Sep 2008 - 17:05

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Hello. Is anybody here familiar with the specifics of the ghosting routine called "120" used by players such as Peter Nicol under coaching of Neil Harvey? The only real description of it I've ever managed to locate is from an interview with Mr. Harvey found here (down about half way):


I understand the concept of curving around to arrive at the side of the ball, but how does the 120 pattern differ from regular ghosting exercises? Specifically, I was hoping for a detailed explanation, so that I may actually try it on court. If anyone actually knows the pattern and how it is to be performed I would much appreciate their help. Thanks!

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From dmennie - 04 Dec 2007 - 08:02

Hi Bosatek,

The sequence for a "120" is as follows

Ghost to the front f/h 10 times; Front b/h 10 times; f/h front to b/h front-b/h front to f/h front (called doubles) 20 times; f/h front to f/h back 20 times; b/h front to b/h rear 20 times; f/h front lobbing to b/h mid court boast 20 times; b/h front lob to f/h mid court boast 20 times; Completed in under 5mins; take 1min rest repeat do this 10 times. The movement to the front corners is 3 steps forward and 2 steps return to the T; this eliminates the shuffling backwards that can catch you out during a match. See Neil Harvey article for this

Do not stop if you make an error keep going. Your brain in simple terms has 2 halves an; Analyst which learns; and an Integrator that makes the learned stuff habit and done without thought. You are aiming to have flow and movement and balance become fully natural rather than having to analyse and make corrections because in a match situation you do not have a capacity make these corrections and still be focussed tactically. The 120 drill takes practice; start with doing one with the timing element; rest 1min then do another without timing; just complete it. Next session do 2 with timing and a third without. Use this method to build up to 10. Once you have completed the 10 the barrier is broken  and you should be able to  do the 10 regularly.

This drill is not on David Palmers DVD. Training methods are always changing just as the game is.

All the best

David Mennie

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From rippa rit - 02 Dec 2007 - 14:43   -   Updated: 02 Dec 2007 - 15:04

First answer, I have not seen the David Palmer DVD.

The idea of ghost training is to emulate a game, so you are using the same energy systems.  So to set up your goals, for example,  just use your stop-watch and time some of your games (15 minutes), and rallies( between 5 and 10 hits going front to back, side to side), and length of matches (75 mins) and you have the basic peramaters, and that is never constant depending on your opponent and how explosive the game is, how good the opponent is, how many errors and winners are made, and who does the most running/defending.  And then factor in the fact that there is a break in between each game of 2 minutes used for a rethink and rehydrate, get your breath back, change your shirt, shoes, sox whatever. These figures will help you set up some norms.

If you want to do as the pros do just use your stop-watch to time their rallies (pick one of the videos of the British Open), and speed of rallies, eg number of hits per rally versus the seconds. Length of a game and duration of the total effort.

I think each time you perform this exercise you decide why you are doing it, eg:

  • for speed (acceleration)
  • technique (strokes/swing)
  • movement (weight transfer/fluid  movement)
  • stamina (keeping up the intensity for a  long period)
  • train all the energy systems  used during a match
  • recovery from the  front of the court

Prioritise each session, and maybe finish off with a big burst and just go like the clackers.

Not everyone thinks this ghost training is necessary, and it probably is a bit pointless unless you have some pre-determined goals, and finally work up to emulating a game in every possible detail.  If there is no detail it might be better to do court sprints using the same patterns.  Record the results, and retest can give an incentive.  To retest the parameters must be duplicatable or it is not a test.

Personally, I like to use ghosting to introduce volleying and lobs into rallies too. It is also good to call the shots so you are running in the right direction and not just running all over the place not knowing where you are hitting the ball, and so on.

Let's know your score,

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From bosartek - 02 Dec 2007 - 09:27   -   Updated: 02 Dec 2007 - 09:36

Sure, I understand. Mostly, I was curious about the level at which the top players perform such drills (i.e. what kind of times do the top athletes work towards for a set of ghosts in something like the 120; what do they consider a "hard/fast" workout versus a "medium/relaxed" workout?). In other words, what exactly is the type of training (number of sets, times, rest periods, etc.) required for them to compete at such a high level? Not that I intend to push myself as hard as I can with total disregard for proper technique, but just to have a reference for comparison. I have not seen the Palmer DVD, but perhaps he goes into the details of some of his training methods (?).

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From rippa rit - 01 Dec 2007 - 22:07

I am not a stickler for times for this sort of stuff like some coaches are.  I go on quality v duration and then gradually try to improve on that.  Speed is not necesssarily the essence in my book, nor is the duration. Some sets can be for stamina, some can be for speed, some can be for technique - a mixture of both is good. As soon as the quality of the exercise drops off change to maybe just court sprints, and make the whole session go for 30 mins.

Use a stop watch, keep records for comparison. 

I had a student that was the slowest at number of court sprints in 1 minute in a squad of six - and you guessed right, she was the Australian Champion and subsequently World Champion, a little slow, but read the game very well, and was crafty, good head too.

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From bosartek - 01 Dec 2007 - 18:11   -   Updated: 01 Dec 2007 - 18:25

Thank you for the feedback! So, if I am understanding correctly, the 120 consists of two rotations of six-point ghosting (12 ghosts = 1 set), one minute rest, 10 repititions/sets (12 x 10 = 120)... is that correct? I realize that reading about it is not as effective as seeing it, but does my routine (described in previous post) sound at least comparable [assuming that I am moving correctly/smoothly]? What is the ideal time to work up to for each set? The mental part certainly makes sense (1st slow because you have a long way to go; 6th slow because you reach a wall realizing that it is only half over; 10th fast because it's the last one). Although, I would think the first set might sometimes be a bit faster in instances of an overly enthusiastic start. I know that was often the case when I ran cross-country and did 24 x 400m/16 x 800m interval training.

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From dmennie - 01 Dec 2007 - 15:02

120's or 120 shot is both a physical and mental drill. The full drill must be completed within a time frame and repeated 10 times with 1 min rest between sets.

It is not an aimless ghosting drill but movement specific drill. The footwork is not so much game specific but the flow that this drill gives is invaluable to smooth continuous movement required at the top level.

There are  a few tips to getting this correct and it is better to be shown by someone who can teach it to you. Reading  it and hoping to do it is a tough ask.

The mental side of this is that it looks impossible to complete but similarly to the 4 min mile barrier in running it is more than possible  for  a player of slightly better than average fitness to complete, you need to develope the belief in your self to do it.

It shows that our limitations to some point are created and maintained by our own belief structure. This drill pushes you beyond what you think you are capable of .

With regard to the timing of each one, the first and the sixth will be the slowest and the tenth will be done the quickest. If you are getting progressively more fatigued why does this occur? and it does by everyone who has ever completed the 10.

All the best

David Mennie

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From rippa rit - 30 Nov 2007 - 16:55

Just to add a bit more here.  There was a stage in my training where I really concentrated on changing feet, as well as direction, balance and body movement, especially  recovery from the front of the court.  You don't need a lot of space to practice the front half of the court (yeah you cannot do it at home in a stingy little unit, but you can do it under the house, or in the garage, in the courtyard.   Just extending the strides to 2/3 to the left, and back, and then 2/3 to the right and back, concentrating on getting that racket arm down, and weight transfer in a sequence during the movement. It feels great to get fluent weight transfer and all the movements working in unison....firstly with the feet, then with the shoulders and racket preparation, then with the ghosting of the stroke - taking it in small bites.....if you are awkward, falling over your feet, your body all uncoordinated, just take your time and gradually build up.

Of course, don't run around like a chicken with its head chopped off, but visualise what you are doing, and what type of shot you are chasing. Set up situations from a previous game, where your opponent was catching you out, and try to get it right, eg correct shot at the right time, and the ideal shot off the one your opponent was dishing up to you, and maybe you were replying to inappropriately.

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From bosartek - 30 Nov 2007 - 03:30   -   Updated: 01 Dec 2007 - 18:13

Thanks for the reply Rita! The routine makes sense. It seems I was just reading too much into it. As it so happens, I already do [and have been doing for a while now] the drills described, though technically my routine would be called "96" rather than "120." Twice a week I do timed star-patterns (with the same curved or "sideways" movement as Neil Harvey describes it) to work on footwork, racquet preparation, and overall endurance. I do four such modified stars as part of one set (6 ghosts x 4 stars = 24) with four sets total (24 ghosts x 4 sets = 96) and 50-60 seconds rest between sets. Adding one more set would thus give me 120, so it seems I was already ahead of myself! I just thought I was missing some critical component or innovation that challenged conventional squash technique.

In addition to my weight program, the 96 has proven challenging and helpful, and I am quite pleased with my training regimen overall. Still, I am always looking for new ideas! I like your suggestions for ghosting with a partner and will certainly give it a try. In the meantime, I'll see if I can add an additional set to my routine! Thanks again!


P.S. I also agree that one should start slowly and build from there. The drill is indeed a fitness-drill, but quality of movement and stroke production must come first. Move only as fast as to allow for proper technique for a given number of ghosts... only then increase the pace and number of sets and/or begin timing yourself. Great fun!

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From mike - 29 Nov 2007 - 23:05

Perfect Practice. I like that idea.

I think it's why I stop on Saturday once I get tired after a couple of hours. I know if I keep going I'll just be practicing (and finishing the session with) sloppy squash.

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From rippa rit - 29 Nov 2007 - 07:52   -   Updated: 29 Nov 2007 - 07:58

Most of the terms referred to are just names or nicknames for a type of training (invented by some guru or other), so 120's says what it is - you go on court and run around and return/ghost 120 shots before you drop - so it is a court movement training, as well as a fitness training routine (replicating the energy systems involved in a squash match). No doubt this training could be as vigorous or as detailed or as slack as you want to make it or are capable of doing.

In this forum we have spoken lately about a few things, eg watch the ball, do not know where the opponent is when playing a shot at the front of the court, cannnot see the ball when behind the opponent, etc.

When ghosting, if you really want to know how to move to mirror what happens in a match, get your partner to ghost with you, so as one person called it "ghost dance". To ghost by running straight onto the side of the ball is not realistic, as you are really going into a shot that has (in your mind) been played by your opponent, so if you go straight you are surely going to bump into them, hence the reason to move from the T in a semi-circular motion.  So give it a try by chosing some of the pair routines, eg rally down the forehand wall,  and we will call this one "drive ghost pair routine" if you like. 

If that seems pretty clear.  Now look at the other match necessities,eg clear the ball, watch the ball, keep your racket in a ready position, balance, swing through the ball, move into various court positions within the forehand wall to give different hitting and recovery movements, then bring in some volleys and so short stuff, etc.

So, my next observation is, this would be an aerobic routine with 120 shots, and a strength routine for your arm with 120 racket swings. 

You will have a choice of doing 10  really well, or 120  dragging yourself around and dying in the b..  by the end.   Start slowly, and build up is my suggestion.

Yes,  it is a really good idea, but  always have in mind  "perfect practice" so build up to it gradually so you do not  practice bad  habits.  So we will call it "10's PP Drill".

Seriously, if you are going to run around for fitness, what is better than doing it in the right "field".

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