by Dave Ellis, Coach, USA Racquetball and Jesse Serna, Conditioning Coach for the 209
If you want to be a successful professional racquetball player, you’ll need a physical trainer. You just have to have one to be able to match up with your opponents. Best scenario would be to have a trainer that is also a racquetball player. However, trainers and strength coaches familiar with tennis, basketball or baseball should ensure that there are sport specific understanding, exercises, and overall training. Make sure that your trainer has a degree in exercise science or is nationally certified by one of the major associations (NASM, ACE, NSCA, ACSM). Make sure you ask for references, because a good trainer will be happy to share their success stories.
There are seven important physical training needs, which at times, overlap: injury prevention, conditioning, strength training, flexibility/mobility training, agility/foot speed development, pre and post-match planning, and nutrition counseling. Racquetball is a demanding physical challenge, and we believe that the importance of each of these is somewhat obvious. Simply put if you get hurt you get worse. Strength and flexibility training are vital for injury prevention making it possible to participate at 100% for the entire season. Power and mobility training allow large, initial steps to the ball, while foot speed/agility allows for the “little adjustment steps” before hitting it. Proper conditioning promotes quick recovery after long rallies, and makes it possible to last through that tough tie-breaker. Pre and post-match routines should be set to both prepare for a match and then to prepare for the following match. That means taking care of what you put in your body, not just what you do with your body.
Let us caution you, however, about a danger of fitness training. If a complete program is done religiously, you will feel better, be more attractive, be stronger, be more flexible, and you will be healthier overall. This phenomenon can result in a form of “exercise addiction,” where on court practice can begin to be ignored in favor of physical fitness workouts. Both conditioning and on-court practice are super important, but remember, no one ever hit a game winning shot from the TRX station, nor from the pull up bar. It is interesting to us to watch an overweight, out of shape player dominating a match. With serves and rally shots, the player can control center court and really hardly even had to move. Beware of the trap of ignoring the on-court practice for the precision that you need to play at the pro level.