Fostering an Active Childhood for an Active future

Kids | Classes | Loxlee

Fostering an Active Childhood for an Active Future

As of 2019, 1 in 4 Australian children aged 2-17 were considered overweight or obese. The World Obesity Federation predicts that up to 250 million children worldwide will be obese by 2030, which is a massive jump from recent data of 150 million obese or overweight. There are many reasons as to why this is steadily increasing and although important, this article does not aim to address such issues. Rather, explore the benefits of creating a starting point and building a strong foundation for continued physical activity into adulthood.


It is no surprise that physical activity has noted tangible benefits for children. Such benefits include improved motor patterning, cognitive development, healthy body weight, social skills, self-confidence, and attention within school. A more recent view has considered the concept of physical literacy. This term is defined as “… the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge, and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.”, which basically means recognising how and when to move your body, why you should, as well the social skills to be active with others.

In order to assist development of physical literacy, it is imperative that we consciously reflect on the benefits for engaging in movement. These may include observations of skill improvements, positive experiences, and connection to people and place. Failing to realise noted benefits may not reinforce and reward participation from physical activity, lessening the likelihood of continued physical activity and movement into adulthood.

The development of physical literacy is not just relevant to children but also elite athletes. A holistic approach to exercise from an early age is needed in order to create a well-rounded athlete that can successfully overcome barriers in their career. Some examples include the internal motivation to overcome injury for the first time; the self-awareness as to why training may need to be altered due to injury; and developing social skills for strong relationships and awareness away from the physical performance sense. Promoting physical literacy from a young age has the potential to be carried through for life and is important to ensure an active adulthood.

Creating an exercise environment that is enjoyable or fun can help promote physical literacy. At START Training, that is a major consideration when programming for children and our highly qualified exercise professionals are well adept in this area. Feel free to check out our social media outlets or call the clinic on 3356 9119 for more information!

Kids | Classes | Loxlee
Loxlee Blacket running kids classes at START Training

Written By Loxlee Blacket – AEP

How to Deal with Injury as an Athlete

Lisa | Pole vault | START Training


Lisa | Pole vault | START Training

So as part of our job as exercise physiologists we work really hard to try and keep athletes injury free. This comes in many forms, specifically education around recovery strategies, injury prevention training and strength and conditioning. However, sometimes things just happen, and when they do it’s important to remember that this is not the universe spiting you. It’s usually an accumulation of variables. At the time, each of these variables seem uniquely unlinked but as you start to process these in hindsight (the god of all reflection) you start to see how you managed to get that injury.

So today I thought it prudent to talk about the toughest part of being an athlete… being injured. As I am injured at the moment, most of what I am about to say really rings true, I can honestly say I am speaking from experience. So for all those athletes out there who are going through injuries, this is my 5 point guide to surviving!


One of the hardest parts of being injured for an athlete is the inability to do what they love, mainly training for their chosen sport. What I have learnt over the last 6 weeks is that this is a great opportunity to find the joy in other areas of your life. Although nothing will fill the void of training for what you love, sometimes you may find a variety of new things that bring you joy. I am a big believer in everything happening for a reason, so I have taken this time out to find balance in my life. Who knows what that means for you, but for me I started a range of new activities that I will continue once I am back jumping at my best!


One of the things I have really struggled with is pre-planning and forethought. ‘When I get back to training I’ll do this…’ The key to surviving injury is to remind yourself that you can only perform with the skills and capacity you have on that day in that moment. If that means 60min in the pool is what I can do, then I will do that will all the gusto I can! Thinking too far ahead at the road back can become overwhelming, so best to do what you can in each day and focus on doing that with all your energy!


Something that my newfound skills in improvisation acting has taught me is that sometimes when life throws something at you, all you can do is put a smile on your face and just go with it! I am not saying this is easy, trust me I have had my fair share of moping moments. However, this doesn’t help anyone, least of all you! Take the time to be sad and process the fact you are injured but remind yourself that out of something bad can always come something good. For me I have really taken this time to rekindle my love for the sport. I have never been so excited to get back to jumping. Seeing the positives really helps remind you that although it may feel like it, the world is not collapsing around you and the sun will come up tomorrow! Oh, and let’s be honest it will probably be a cracker of a sunrise so get out of bed and enjoy it!


Injury is more mentally taxing than anything else! You are constantly reminded of how much you can’t do things you really want to! So, it’s important to really lean on your team in these periods. These are the people who remind you how awesome you are and importantly how you don’t forget how to run, jump, play cricket and do backflips in 6 weeks. These are the same people who remind you to get up off the couch and go and watch the sunset rather than watching repeats of pole vault meets over and over again. Injury is not easy, don’t feel like you have to do it on your own, lean on your team because even in the moments when you don’t love yourself, they will remind you to embrace your awesomeness.


This one is my favourite, although you can’t do what you love, you can do a multitude of other things that are just as hard, maybe even harder. You may even surprise yourself and find something you really love! If I’m honest, I haven’t found something amazing, turns out bike and swimming is not my cup of tea but I challenge anyone to enjoy an hour on the bike as a runner! In saying that though, at least the weather is good for swimming, this is how you take the positives. 😊 Everything you do today, every experience, every injury is just making you a better athlete. When you are injured you are building mental resilience, so go hard, do the right things and you will be back better than ever in no time!

Shout out to all my awesome athlete friends who are currently injured, can’t wait to see everyone back on the track!

Follow this link to see another one of my blogs!

By Lisa Campbell

Australian National Champion 2019

Commonwealth Games Representative 2018

Accredited Exercise Physiologist

World Cup Representative 2018

Oceania Representative 2019

Movement is Key

Movement is key. The statement says it all, however I feel it may be beneficial to elaborate just a little more… We as health professionals can sometimes get caught up seeing everyone as needing rehabilitation in whatever field we may be in. But it is important to remember that not everyone is ‘broken’, and that sometimes just moving is important. I have previously written an article called “movement helps recovery” (link below), however I thought I would expand on this in respect to the topic of rehabilitation. I will rehash my main points from the previous article, however there are many other reasons why movement is key, such as mental, heart and lung health.

Two major ideas we try to instill in all clients that come through START Training are:

  1. Something is better than nothing.
    1. It doesn’t matter if you are walking, swimming or spending hours in the gym. Doing something is always better than nothing. If you are having a busy week and are still able to exercise 2 days as apposed to your regular 5, then that’s still awesome. If you aren’t exercising the your ‘ideal’ amount but are still trying, that’s magic.
    2. We need to remember to stop comparing ourselves to others. Which I know is much easier said than done. But my point remains.
  2. Enjoyment!
    1. If you enjoy an exercise or activity you are more likely to continue doing it and it won’t feel like a chore. If its something you want to do, then you find it easier to make time for that activity.

YOUR BODY IS BUILT TO MOVE! This is crucial to keep in mind. As much as exercise or sport can seem like a burden or an avenue to injury, the body actually functions better when it moves. It has been proven that movement improves joint health, increases muscle strength and durability, whilst also helping with a plethora of chronic diseases ranging from between heart disease, lung issues and cancer.

The first step is remembering to move and building a habit. Start small and what you are capable of and build from there. One of the best ways to start is make a regular time around work or other commitments. But make it regular. I recognize that this becomes more difficult with shift work, however, the premise remains, and you can work out how it will fit into your days best. If you are organised, it becomes easier.

Habit building and encouraging movement is imperative when talking about weight loss. If you build a habit this works best in conjunction with a well-structured meal plan. The exercise and movement help bring the energy expenditure higher than the energy input, causing the deficit necessary for weight loss. The important thing to remember is that you move!

As I have mentioned previously, maintaining movement and strength is important when rehabilitating an injury. This is vital to maintain strength and range of movement. REST is often advised with an injury, however we need to remember active rest is what we should be aiming for. Active rest means adjusting exercises to prevent any exacerbation of the injury, and/or changing the mode of exercise to simply maintain fitness levels. By preserving maximal movement, we are able to limit range of motion lost, muscle wastage, and keep muscles active and functional. For more information on this topic of movement and rehabilitation please follow the link

Exercise has been shown to not only assist rehabilitation of injuries, but also many chronic diseases in terms of prevention and treatment. This includes a broad range of conditions such as; diabetes, heart conditions, COPD, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and the list goes on. With more Australians not hitting the daily recommended targets for physical activity, it’s an important time to remember to MOVE. It can be as simple as walking to dog.

One of the biggest benefits of movement is the positive effects it has on the brain. It has been shown to help many mental illnesses such as memory loss, depression and anxiety. Exercise stimulates release of particular chemicals (like endorphins and serotonin) in the brain which help improve your mood. Regular exercise is best. Its extremely important to remember to carve time out of your day for exercise. There are so many health benefits of exercising that everyone should  aim do it as often as they can.

Far too often we as clinicians can focus on ‘moving correctly’, or someone not exercising in the ‘right way’. We need to remember that movement is key!! Getting too focused on correct technique or viewing everyone as a rehabilitation case is far too common. We must be more accommodating to make sure we are helping everybody stay active and moving and always remember that something is better than nothing!

Why Load is Key during an AFL Pre-Season

As the off-season nears a close, many Australian Rules Football clubs across
the country will commence their pre-season. One reason pre-season exists is
to develop the physical qualities required to complete in-season matches.
Additionally, increased opportunity to participate in a greater proportion of
training allows the body to prepare for the spike in load once the first trial
games are underway.
Essentially, players need to “load to withstand load”, and this is a great way of
understanding a major element behind performing pre-season. Smart coaching
staff will consider this, all the while monitoring load in order to avoid the upper
threshold to overloading and increasing injury risk. Research from 2017 found
that AFL players who completed less than 50% of pre-season training were 2x
more likely to sustain in-season injury than those who completed greater than
85% of the pre-season. A strong relationship occurred between training loads
completed during the pre-season period and in-season weekly loads, as well
injury during the season in elite AFL players.
Those that completed more in pre-season were able to complete a greater
proportion of main training sessions as well matches than either a player
completing moderate or low levels of pre-season. Getting the load in during
the pre-season enables more in-season training which was favourable for
match availability. For those that completed a greater amount of pre-season
training, they also spent less time in rehab during the season. Coaches must
look to incorporate strategies which promote strong participation rates and
where applicable, find ways to include injured players within the larger playing
group, therefore promoting greater squad numbers for the upcoming season.
This comes into line with similar evidence in cricket and rugby league,
suggesting that building fitness capacity and a chronic load foundation aids in-
season injury prevention.
Here are several tips for Australian Rules Football coaches and strength and
conditioning staff:
o Injury rates are highest during the pre-competition phase, where teams
will usually play trial games and even higher for a player with low loads
in pre-season
o The highest injury risk period for players is in the trial games as well it
was found between games 12-17 in the season
o Potential special consideration should be given to those with a low pre-
season accumulated volume
o High training loads during the pre-season timeframes allowed players to
develop adequate physical qualities which geared them up for increased
training and competition in-season
Players should aim to complete as much of the planned pre-season training
program as possible in order to develop the resilience to tolerate in-season
training and matches. However, for athletes who are currently injured and in
pre-season, do not forget the importance of your own rehabilitation programs.
It becomes a balancing act between completing the rehab program and
participating in training with the rest of the team.
START Training is currently based at Wilston-Grange AFL Club, Stafford. If you’d
like more information or guidance about what to do in your AFL off-season,
START Training have experienced Exercise Physiologists who specialise in sport
specific periodisation and programming. START Training have the expertise to
maximise your on-field performance in both individual and team sports
through tailored exercise programs.
Contact the clinic on 0411 299 110 or via
email [email protected] to find out more!
By Loxlee Blacket – Exercise Physiologist
-Relationship Between Preseason Training Load and In-Season Availability
in Elite Australian Football Players (Murray et al., 2017)
– Preseason Workload Volume and High-Risk Periods for Noncontact
Injury Across Multiple Australian Football League Seasons (Colby et al.,


For a full time dancer it’s often hard to know how to approach a long rest period and find the perfect balance between allowing the body to rest and recover whilst maintaining fitness and condition. If managed well a summer break can be used to rest the body and also allows an opportunity to improve on other areas. At times of the year when workload is high any auxiliary strength and conditioning has to be treated as second priority. Summer break can open up time to work on building strength, power and other aspects of fitness that improve a dancer’s aesthetics or their body’s ability to cope with classes, rehearsals or performance loads.

After an initial period of recovery or active rest it is best to begin preparing the body for what it will go through in the months ahead. Below is a guide to the main areas dancers should consider when planning a holiday maintenance regime:

DANCE The only way to really prepare yourself for your return to dance and maintain your dance fitness is to continue at least SOME dancing whilst on break. Compare your endeavours as a full time dancer to that of a runner training for a half marathon. If a runner went into an event with no training they’d hope to be able to physically complete the race but would have to deal with the high probability of a below potential performance, poor recovery and the high risk of sustaining anything from an annoying niggle to a more serious injury.

It’s crucial to recognise the effect that all the jumping, landing and leaping and general impact in that the choreography and class work has on the joints and soft tissue. Like any form of sport or activity the soft tissue has to adapt to the load over time and any sudden increases in dancing load leave the dancer at risk of developing niggles and injuries that could easily be avoided. It is easy for dancers to fall into the trap of ignoring these principles and feeling they are able to physically cope and keep up with what’s required of them when they return. In addition to the injury risk concerns from a performance point of view the only way to maintain dance specific fitness and technique is to keep up some dancing in your time away from your full time training.

ACTIVE REST: In most cases it is recommended to treat the first 1-2 weeks of an extended break as a period of ‘active rest’ in the same way that an athlete would approach the start of an ‘off-season’. When workload has been high and the body has been pushed to it’s limits it is imperative to allow some time for both soft tissue and the neurological system to recover. Active rest involves light movement or activity that places minimal stress on the joints and physiological system so that the person is able to keep moving without eliciting a level of stress that hinders the recovery process. It can be as structured as a pilates or yoga class, light cardio or gym session or can be as casual as going for a jog on the beach or playing frisbee with friends.

Active rest is advised over passive or complete rest for a number of reasons including but not limited to:

* Enhanced recovery process due to increased blood flow etc.
* Decreased muscle tightness and general stiffness
* Hormonal responses that contribute to mood regulation
* Helps maintain strength, fitness and range of motion
* Decreases likelihood of niggles or overuse injuries when dance or exercise is resumed.

AEROBIC FITNESS: The point of maintaining aerobic fitness is not only to ensure you can make it through a class or a routine. Increasing aerobic fitness also has a massive impact on your body’s ability to recover both day to day, week to week and when rehearsal or performance volumes increase. Working on this area requires a combination of aerobic cardio (i.e running, bike, rower etc) and also full body weights based training incorporating bodyweight to light weight exercises, high volume with minimal rest. These sessions could be circuit style sessions or class based and exact intensities depend on exactly which component of the cardiovascular system you are wanting to improve.

CORE STRENGTH, FLEXIBILITY: These are all areas that come naturally to a lot of dancers however even a small decline in any one of these things can increase the risk of injury or have an impact on aesthetics or control of movement. Incorporating a combination of activities such as yoga and pilates can be a good option and it is also advisable to maintain a regular routine of stretching and flexibility right through the break. Additionally methods such as foam rolling, trigger ball release and voodoo banding can be used to help maintain soft tissue and generally joint mobility.

STRENGTH & POWER: There is huge variability here depending on your style of dance, your current areas of strength and your areas in need of improvement. Areas of focus can include:

* Joint control & stability
* Lower Body Strength & Power
* Upper Body Strength and Overhead lifting abilities
* Core strength and overall control
* Force transfer
* Jumping and landing mechanics

As a full time dancer it’s wise to think of at least the second half of your break as an opportunity to build yourself to be able to comfortably handle and recover from a full dance load. This could be done with a combination of class work (perhaps including alternative styles to what you do most of your training in), work in the gym or even other outdoor activities or exercise. Everybody’s holiday maintenance plan will look a little bit different depending on individual strengths and weaknesses, predominant style, body type etc. Regardless of how you choose to approach it you should see it as an excellent opportunity for rest and rejuvenation as well as a chance to improve in areas you cannot focus on when your classes, rehearsals and performances are priority.

Calf Tightness in Runners

Calf Tightness in Novice Runners

Calf tightness in novice runners is something we see quite commonly in the clinic. It’s important to remember that when you first start running there will be a certain level of tightness, just due to using different muscles and a different application of force through the ankle, knee and hip. However, problems can occur when we try to continue running without the appropriate supplementary strength and conditioning. Furthermore, secondary issues can occur when we begin to increase our volume of running, change to a firmer surface or even add speed.

As you can see there are many variables that need to be taken into account with a novice runner, but without the appropriate treatment, calf tightness can lead to overuse injuries such as achilles tendinopathy, “shin splints,” compartment syndrome, stress fractures and the list goes on. Therefore, it’s really important to make sure you address ongoing tightness and movement mechanics early as you begin to increase your running volume.

The two most common mechanisms for calf tightness in novice runners are:

1.       When people first start running they often start slow. Whilst shuffling along may feel like a good place to start it heavily limits hip extension. The problem with this is your glutes and hamstrings should contribute to hip extension propelling you forward and increasing stride length. Regardless of whether you are not strong enough to do this or your body just doesn’t know how the result is the same. Instead of increasing stride length by using upper hamstrings and glutes to propel you forward, you recruit through the lower hamstring and calf in order to move you forward. Therefore, the running action occurs from knee flexion instead of hip extension. This does two things, firstly you run up and down on the spot and get no forward momentum, and secondly, you overrecruit and tighten up through the calf.

2.       A second cause of calf tightness in novice runners relates to proprioception around the ankle. There are very few people who haven’t had some kind of ankle injury at some point in their lives. The problem occurs when the appropriate ligament retraining doesn’t occur post ankle injury. In the ligaments that surround our ankles we have specific receptors that send signals back to our brain to tell us when our joints are getting too close to end range, and to pull them back in line to avoid injury. Very simply put, if we create ligament laxity around the a joint due to an injury, we then have to retrain those ligaments to sense when the joint is moving outside of comfortable ranges and bring it back. This allows the body to make continual small adjustments that keeps the joints within controllable ranges. Therefore, if the body has poor proprioception at the ankle you get an over-recruitment of musculature in the lower limb trying to stabilise the ankle often presenting as calf tightness.


So, what do we do about it?

Well when dealing with novice runners the key is often to address poor neuromuscular development. So, if we take the first scenario the key is teaching the right muscles to do the right movements. If you are over-recruiting through the calf and the upper hamstrings are weak you need to first engage the muscles and then teach them to work within a functional movement. Doing your pre-engagement exercises before going on any run is important to encourage the weak or less dominant muscles to fire and do their job. Upper hamstrings are best engaged in a straight legged position, with the pelvis tucked under. Once you have fired up the upper hamstrings and glutes, use a functional exercise such as a sprinter squat to teach the muscles to work together.


If we take the second scenario you are going to be more focused on dextral control of the ankle. You will start doing this in isolation but, this will need to be integrated into the strength program. Single leg balance on the bosu as well as lateral and forward steps on and off the bosu is key in the beginning. However, this needs to be integrated into reverse lunges onto the bosu and other key unilateral movements that both encourage appropriate neuromuscular development but also teach proprioception at the ankle joint.

As with anything, each person is an individual with their own specific considerations and will require an individualised training program. However, if you are struggling with ongoing calf tightness, this is a good place to start. Feel free to give us a call on 0411 299 110 to book in me for an assessment!

For more articles by Lisa follow the link

 By Lisa Campbell

Accredited Exercise Physiologist – AEP

Australian Representative – Women’s Pole Vault

The Importance of Injury Prevention in Youth Sports

There has been increased injury rates in youth sports, particularly increases in severe injuries such as ACL injuries. This is partly due to the increases of training loads, sport specialisation at young ages and higher expectations/ stress for success. One thing as a health professional that I am passionate about, is building good relationships and habits, with exercise/ physical activity at early ages.  Constantly reoccurring injuries can play a negative role in keeping kids in sport. Hence why injury prevention protocols should be more widely performed.

With higher importance and stress on young athletes to perform, training loads are often particularly heavy, limiting time for adequate rest. This only takes into account the chosen sport and not all the other activities young athletes like to participate in. For example, if a Soccer player is trying to develop their skills to play at higher levels, they may be part of 2 or 3 teams per week with training on most days. This can occur whilst also training with a representative squad or development squad. The importance of managing training loads is extremely important. Overuse injuries   can occur due to a build up in fatigue, when the body is overtrained or not allowed to rest adequately.

Sports specialisation can become an issue for young athletes with regards to developing injuries, particularly overuse injuries. This is due to the repetitive movements performed throughout sports. If certain muscles are continually strengthened during sporting movements, while other muscles are not strengthened at the same rate, this  creates muscle imbalances which can cause injuries. This can occur in all areas from individual sports, to team sports. Allowing kids to play multiple sports with different movements and actions can help decrease biases towards certain muscles; whilst also encouraging the body to adapt and load different joints increasing strength and proprioception.

I have previously written about “injury prevention for Lower limbs”  This focused on injury prevention in general for lower limb injuries. Follow the link for a refresher. With one of the key messages from this article being there are many protocols currently available that teams and clubs can implement that will help decrease injuries on a wider scale. These are not limited to just adult programs or lower limb injuries. There are specific programs aimed at youth such as FIFA 11+ kids, goalkeeper specific programs FIFA 11 + goalkeepers. These are just examples of programs that are readily available. Many sports have released their own version of programs aimed at injury prevention, such as rugby, netball, Soccer (FIFA) to name a few.

Many of these programs are focused around Neuromuscular control (balance exercises and strength) and sport specific movements (cutting, change of direction etc). The focus of this approach is to increase the bodies ability to utilise the muscles with control while performing specific skills and movements. They are performed as a thorough warm up, activating key muscles, and transitioning into more dynamic movements such as sprinting. Other proprioceptive movements are performed; such as landing on a single leg, to facilitate correct landing techniques.

While having some strength exercises throughout these programs. There is a lack of particular focus on certain muscles which may need to be strengthened. If we are looking at a general team environment, it can be quite difficult to deliver enough strength-based exercises throughout a session, while keeping everyone focused and with correct technique.


To further explain the importance of injury prevention I shall split it into two parts. Neuromuscular control and Strength training.

  1. Neuromuscular control

When discussing neuromuscular control, we are meaning the ability of the body to control and use muscles. It is an unconscious response of the body to use muscles in dynamic joint stability. This uses strength, control, precision, endurance and coordination. The importance of this throughout sport means you can perform movements with stability and control, limiting injury risk. Two key factors that lead to a decrease in neuromuscular control is fatigue and strength. Even with decreased strength, the body with still perform the movement, however often in a more compromised position increasing forces placed throughout joints which can lead to injury. As fatigue builds, there is decreased ability to use muscles to perform movements, and decreased proprioception (awareness of the body through space and time). With impaired ability to stabilise, which is an important part of the more dynamic movements performed throughout sport, the risk of injury increases.


  1. Strength Training

As explained above strength plays a big role in neuromuscular control, while also impacting muscle imbalances that are developed throughout sport. Specific and individualised strength training is a great way to decrease the risk of injury.

There is a stigma around resistance training in adolescences which can limit the willingness of participation when performing strength-based programs, either from parents or the kids themselves. Before going into more specifics, when strength training is mentioned, this doesn’t mean heavy weights will always be used. Particularly throughout stages of growth/ maturation, certain considerations must be used when prescribing strength programs.

Programs to help build strength and reduce injury can be implemented quite young. These programs focus around body awareness, movement mechanics and body weight exercises. As kids continue to grow, weight may be used to help stimulate strength-based gains. Throughout growth spurts alterations for load management of training and resistance work needs to be taken into account. With increased hormones rapid periods of growth, care needs to be taken. However this doesn’t mean all training needs to cease.  There is also a difference between male and female growth periods and considerations.


Here at START Training, we have many young, enthusiastic clients, who have either come in to improve performance or rehabilitate injuries. One consideration when dealing with injuries, is to try and stop future occurrence. This being the same injury occurring or other injuries that may develop from altered movement patterns or an overload on other muscles. Many, if not all, of our clients that have come through the clinic, have improved their performance, and some are even performing at higher levels that pre-injury.


START Training is also running Kids and Adolescence classes. If you’d like more information or guidance about injury prevention in youth sports or more information about the classes, Please contact the clinic on 0411 299 110 or via our website to find out more. Our Experienced Exercise Physiologist are here to help.


Written by

Will Holland

Strength & Conditioning Considerations for Squash


UPDATE: Over the past week I had the privilege of working at Uni Games as a Sports Trainer, providing first aid and other sports related needs such as strapping to athletes competing in squash. In the interim between treating players (in many cases attempting to do enough to keep them on the court), I ended up watching several hours of squash. The combination of treating injuries and watching game play was a unique opportunity in the area of athlete injury management. Furthermore, the time spent watching games allowed for analysis of physical characteristics and how they can be developed in a gym setting. Here are 5 of the key strength and conditioning requirements I took away from the week that any squash player can take on board:


Force Transfer

Squash is no exception to many sports that involve a transfer of force from the lower to upper body. Efficient force transfer can be described; if force created in the legs to get to the ball can be efficiently transferred to the upper body in order to assist the shot, the overall energy expenditure can be reduced. It is obvious when an experienced player can effortlessly connect with the ball and create the same energy shot after shot. One of the best ways to develop force transfer is through Olympic weightlifting. When performed correctly, Olympic weightlifting can greatly assist force transfer from the lower body to the upper body and improve other crucial elements of the game such as power and speed. It does however take several months to learn the motor patterns involved in Olympic Lifting, so other avenues for developing speed and power such as plyometric training may be suitable.


Single Leg Stability

The demands of squash require much of the game to be played while on one leg. Shots are most commonly performed in a lunge position with the player reaching for the ball and to get to the ball requires running which is also a single leg dominant pursuit. One aspect of single leg stability relies heavily on the proprioceptive abilities of the body. Knowing where the ankle is positioned in space without visual and vestibular cues can greatly improve energy efficiency and reduce lower limb injury risk. On top of this, the rotational forces from abdominal and upper limb twisting can significantly impact the lower limb and should be addressed within the program. These multidirectional forces are perhaps the most challenging to single leg stability. Furthermore, most squash injuries occur in the lower limb and include those such as lateral ankle sprains or overuse related knee issues. There were a fair amount of ankle braces and strapped ankles getting around which is one indicator of some of the commonly sustained injuries.


When utilised appropriately in a gym program, here are several examples of exercises useful for improving single leg stability:

          Sprinter Squat


          Assisted Pendulums

          BOSU Side Lunging


Adding in a rotational element, here are several examples of exercises useful for improving multi-planed single leg stability:

          Multi-directional Lunging

          5-Star Pendulum Touch

          BOSU Lunge with Ball Throw


Strength through Full ROM

Players can run into injury issues when the body is forced outside of ranges it has control in and is pushed into those ranges without the ability to maintain a safe position. For example, lunging forward for a front court drop shot can put the player into a ‘splits’ position with both legs wide apart. The momentum from the rest of the body can push the body into this position and without adequate mobility to prevent unsafe joint angles, injury can occur. Therefore, squash player need to be highly mobile but still able to develop force at end ranges. One way to achieve this is through exercising at depth or end ranges of movement.


When utilised appropriately in a gym program, here are some examples of exercises useful for improving strength at depth:

          End Range pulse work e.g. Single Leg Press with 1 pulse at end range OR

          Deficit Deadlifts and Sumos


Cardiovascular Endurance

Squash is a high intensity aerobic sport with often rapid anaerobic exertions. For anyone who has played, it goes without saying that your heart rate is up for lengthy time periods and players will fatigue quickly without adequate cardiovascular fitness levels. With fatigue comes a plethora of issues such as increased injury risk, reduced shot force output, impaired decision making, and loss of technique preservation. Aerobic adaptations can be achieved not only through the classic cardio based interventions such as running/swimming/rowing but also through altering basic principles in weights training.


When utilised appropriately in a gym program, here are several examples of useful strategies for improving cardiovascular endurance:

          Increase repetition ranges to 12-15 reps

          Reducing rest time (around 30 seconds)

          Introducing pre-fatigue at the start of a session before commencing weights


Acceleration-Deceleration Forces

In almost every rally, players were forced to rapidly accelerate in order to make a shot. For example, when the ball was played into the front court from the back court. Having the ability to rapidly get to a ball requires not only fast acceleration capacity, but fast deceleration ability. Good players know to get back to the ‘T’ as soon as the shot has been made and for this, quick deceleration or “braking forces” are required after or during the shot which is an eccentric constraint. “Eccentric” refers to the lengthening of muscle fibres under load and can be trained in the gym.


When utilised appropriately in a gym program, here are several examples of exercises useful for improving eccentric strength:

          Nordics & Reverse Nordics

          Romanian Deadlifts

          Single Leg calf lowers from a box

          Eccentric tempos in lifts e.g. 4:1:2 in a pull up


If you’d like more information or guidance about strength and conditioning for squash, START Training have experienced Exercise Physiologists who specialise in sport specific periodisation and programming. START Training have the expertise to maximise your on-field performance in both individual and team sports through tailored exercise programs. Contact the clinic on 0411 299 110 or via our website to find out more!


Written by Loxlee Blacket – Exercise Physiologist at START Training


Overcoming Flexibility and Mobility Plateaus in Gymnasts – Part 2: Shoulders and Upper Body by Sami Gurdon

Part two in our series of overcoming flexibility issues in gym sport athletes looks at shoulder flexibility and thoracic mobility. There is a lot of overlap in these two areas and both hugely affect overhead movement, handstand positions as well as posture and body lines. Like most sports gym sports involve a high volume of repetitive sport specific movement patterns. As a result there are muscles which become hugely over dominant and if the opposing muscles aren’t given some consideration in the strength and conditioning programs and appropriate mobility exercises aren’t implemented. When these areas aren’t accounted for postural changes can occur injury risk increases and skill execution and performance can also be affected.

THE BASICS: (Recap from part one)

General principles to consider are that mobility issues generally arise from either shortening of muscles being created by:

    • Sports specific repetitive movement patterns
    • Muscle imbalances: expected in almost all athletes – but must be managed if excessive to what’s required.
    • The body’s protective mechanism if it detects an unstable joint (very important to increase strength and stability and keep stretching to a minimum here).

There are many skills in gymnastics that require fast and forceful shoulder flexion (or ‘closed’ shoulders). This movement contributes to the overdevelopment of the chest and anterior (front) shoulder muscles which can cause the humeral head to shift forward creating the rolled shoulder posture that is all too common in gymnastics. As well as possibly leading to shoulder pain, stability issues or other movement dysfunctions this can also lead to poor thoracic mobility which creates further in achieving an open shoulder line in handstand positions. With the right approach to strength and conditioning and flexibility/mobility programs these issues can be addressed which will both improve performance and reduce the risk of overuse injuries of the upper limb and lower back.


Shoulder flexibility is a very important for gymnasts given that the handstand is the most fundamental body position required by the sport. When a correct handstand line cannot be achieved the gymnasts ability to perform a skill correctly is heavily compromised. Poor shoulder flexibility contributes to deficiencies in technique, deductions in competition and often creates compensations elsewhere.

As mentioned in part 1 in this series muscle tightness and joint restriction and flexibility issues can be caused by strength imbalances OR by the neuromuscular system protecting an unstable joint. When trying to overcome shoulder flexibility issues with athletes it is very important to determine the underlying issue to ensure it can be addressed both effectively and safely.

Shoulder flexibility issues can be caused by 3 main areas in gymnasts:

    • Shoulder stability issues can be the cause
    • Tight Lats – can be purely due to volume or can be due compensatory movement patterning
    • Pecs – over-dominant in gymnasts affecting humeral head position and posture

Performance and Skill-related Issues:

    • Poor handstand lines
    •  Poor bridge position
    • Decreased repulsion off hands in tumbling, vaulting etc
    • Decreased power in release skills on high bar and uneven bars
    • Tendency to bend elbows
    • Tendency to throw head when trying to open shoulders

Injury Concerns:

    • Shoulder instability and rotator cuff issues
    • Shoulder pain, overuse injuries and acute shoulder injuries
    • Wrist and elbow pain
    • Increased stress on lower back in back handsprings and other skills involving shoulder and hip extension


The shoulder joint is structured to allow movement through a very large range, as a result stability is compromised. When the following principles are implemented gymnasts can actually be among the best athletes when it comes to achieve a balance between the strength and range of motion in this challenging joint.

Strength and Conditioning Programming:

    •  Rotator Cuff Strengthening and shoulder stability work
    • A balanced strength program including a strong focus on posterior shoulder strengthening (I.e Tricep and Posterior Deltoid strengthening)
    • Perform strength exercises through their entire range of motion with good form
    • Eccentric strength exercises to lengthen muscle fascicles (i.e Overhead straight arm skull crushers with slow eccentric phase)
    • Strengthening overhead movement and strengthening end ranges of motion

Flexibility, Mobility & Self Release strategies:

    • Soft tissue self release: for example trigger ball Pec release, foam rolling Lats etc.
    • Stretches that increase muscle length but limit the strain on joint capsule, ligaments etc.
    • Stretching shoulders in more than just the extension and flexion plane of movement
    • Incorporating isolative lat stretches, pec stretches as well as Scapular mobility work


Thoracic mobility is slightly different to shoulder flexibility and refers to the mobility and range of motion through the upper back. Poor thoracic mobility is common in gymnasts and contributes to the rolled shoulder and rounded back posture. It can cause issues in skills requiring trunk rotation and/or extension and affects handstand lines.

Limited thoracic mobility can place excessive strain on the lower back in skills that require extension as the body has to compensate for the lack of movement further up the spine. When the extension is isolated or concentrated to one region of the spine the risk of issues such as lumbar stress reactions and fractions, facet joint irritation and other injuries increases.

Performance and Skill-related Issues:

Refer to list above as there is significant overlap for thoracic mobility and shoulder flexibility issues and the affect that they have on skill acquisition and execution. In addition to this list poor thoracic mobility can create additional shaping issues and can lead to slight deficits in twisting skills as well.

Injury Concerns:

There is considerable overlap in injury risk for both thoracic mobility and shoulder flexibility.

    • Lower back injuries such as lumbar stress reactions, stress fractures, facet joint injuries etc.
    • Overuse injuries of the wrists can occur due to poor overhead positions and altered joint angles in contact positions.
    • Shoulder pain and overuse issues
    • Poor Scapular mobility and function
    • Neck tightness or pain


When trying to address this area there is a need to incorporate rotation based thoracic mobility exercises as well as extension based ones; this is an area that tends to be a bit overlooked in some programs.

    • Thoracic extension over foam roller (foam roller sitting under shoulder blades)
    • Pec stretch and chest openers laying long ways on foam roller
    • Pec, lat and abdominal stretches
    • Quadruped thoracic spine mobility exercise
    • Windmill and Archer rotational stretches


As gymnasts hit the age of accelerated muscle growth it is important to ensure that the gain in strength and muscle mass is complimented by adequate flexibility and mobility work as this is when they become more susceptible to the types of issues outlined in this article. It is important to look at what can be improved both on the team and individual level as there is huge variation between athletes based on factors such as body type genetics and individual skill sets.

Investing the time to work on implementing these things into the S&C and flexibility and mobility programs will improve aesthetics and body lines, strengthen handstand positions and will create a more coachable body to learn new skills and fine tune technique.

For more information on this topic please consider reading part one in this article or contact Sami at the clinic.

Recovery for an Elite Athlete

Recovery is one of those ‘athlete life problems’ that constantly comes up. We see a lot of athletes come through the clinic who say ‘I don’t have time to stretch post training’ or ‘I got to training late so I didn’t have time to mobilise properly.’ The real truth of the matter is you don’t have time not to! Trust me, I get it, there have definitely been times where I have just left the track and not stretched or skipped part of my mobility warm up because I couldn’t be bothered. However, what I have learnt is that my performance both physically and mentally improves when I take a little more care of my body. So here it is, here is a run down on the recovery mechanisms I use throughout my week and what I have found is the most efficient way to fit it into your schedule! If you can’t get access to massage or physio treatment there are plenty of other self-management strategies you can use! So, if I showed you in total the number of hours I spent on mobility/recovery each week it probably wouldn’t look like much, or who knows if you’re ‘that athlete’ it could look overwhelming. However, I have found a recipe that works for me and my body which is both time efficient and effective. The key to staying healthy as an athlete is staying on top of niggles as soon as you notice them. Which means CONSISTENCY IS KEY! Alright, here is my week and then we can discuss what it all means and why it’s important after this! Monday: AM: GYM
  • Pre session, voodoo banding, dynamic mobility, pre-engagement
  • Post session – stretching 10-15min
AM: Post Gym
  • MASSAGE – 1 hour (Northside Remedial Massage – North lakes; Fabian Misso: 0403223302)
PM: Running Session
  • Pre session, trigger release, voodoo banding, dynamic mobility, pre-engagement
  • Post Session – Jog Cool Down, 10-15min Passive Stretching
TUESDAY: AM: Running Session
  • Pre session, trigger release, voodoo banding, dynamic mobility, pre-engagement
  • Post Session – Jog Cool Down, 10-15min Passive Stretching
PM: Gymnastics
  • Post session: Passive Stretching
  • Pre session, trigger release, voodoo banding, dynamic mobility, pre-engagement
  • Post Session – Jog Cool Down, 10-15min Passive Stretching
THURSDAY: AM: Gym Session
  • Pre session, voodoo banding, dynamic mobility, pre-engagment
  • Post session – stretching 10-15min
  • Physio – Treatment
    • Dry Needling on whatever hurts
    • Manual Therapy – Can include joint mobs, manipulation, trigger point (whatever is necessary really that I am having trouble managing myself)
FRIDAY: AM: Massage – 45min PM: PV – Jump Session
  • Pre session, trigger release, voodoo banding, dynamic mobility, pre-engagement
  • Post Session – Jog Cool Down, 10-15min Passive Stretching
  • Pre session, trigger release, voodoo banding, dynamic mobility, pre-engagement
  • Post Session – Jog Cool Down, 10-15min Passive Stretching
OK, so yeah it really does look like a lot but don’t be overwhelmed because like I said consistency is key. If I could give you 5 tips to staying on top of your recovery to stay injury free this is what they would be!
  • PASSIVE STRETCHING: You may have noticed I don’t do any static stretching before my sessions! Well let me impart some wisdom! Somewhere along the line someone thought it would be a great idea to do static stretching before a training session… well please listen carefully. NOT A GOOD IDEA! Passive stretching prior to training actually decreases force output of the muscle. There’s a really big tangent I could go on about length-tension relationship of the muscle and the relationship between actin and myosin cross-bridges but I’ll spare you that 3 hours of light reading and tell you what you really need to know. Basically, passive stretching is very effective after your session to return tight muscles post training back to an efficient resting length, but prior training actually decreases performance of the muscle.
  • MASSAGE – I can’t explain to you how important it is to get regular massage. Sometimes you don’t feel like you need it but, let me tell you, you do! There are a few key benefits here that I like to take advantage of! Firstly, massage is effective in stress relief and immune system support. As an athlete there are a lot of stressors going on related to competition, performance, life balance and whatever else is happening. With the ongoing stresses placed on the body, look after yourself and recover with a massage. Let’s not forget the obvious, injury prevention, greater muscular range of motion, improved oxygen and nutrient transport to the muscles. If you are not getting regular massage, get on that! I see Fabian Misso at Northside Sports Remedial Massage, 0403223302, highly recommended!
  • VOODOO BANDING – This is like the god of time efficient mobility. If you are not familiar with voodoo banding it will change your life. It’s has a similar effect to foam rolling but it’s way quicker. By wrapping the muscle tightly with a band and moving through concentric and eccentric contractions, you can release the fascia surrounding the muscle and allow it to move free’er increasing range of motion. Probably takes about 2min to do and has an amazing effect on your range!
  • TRIGGER POINT RELEASE – ok this is one of those really effective mechanisms when used AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME! So, in quite basic terms the mechanism behind trigger point therapy is about finding small areas of tightly contracted muscle and releasing them off. However, here is the kicker, when you trigger a muscle, you yes release the muscle but also DISENGAGE the muscle. Therefore, trust me when I say trigger point mid training session is a terrible idea! If you are going to trigger point before a session, this is great, but you must then re-engage the muscle prior to your session. You are going to create some serious problems if you trigger a muscle mid sprint session!
  • ICE BATH – Yeah, not much else really needs to be said here, it’s super effective when you are competing over multiple days. It’s not the funnest experience but you feel amazing afterwards! You can also use EPSON salts warm baths, these are also great for that standard athlete muscle ache and recovery.
So if you are a bit overwhelmed, here is a bit of a crash course in what to use when! This is by no means the only way to do it, but based on my experience it seems to be fairly effective.
  • Pre-Session
    • Voodoo banding
    • Trigger Point – but then you must re-engage muscle
    • Dynamic stretching and mobility (leg swings, knee rolls, calf pumps etc.)
    • Pre-engagement
  • Mid – Session
    • Voodoo
    • Dynamic mobility
  • Post Session
    • Passive Stretching
  • Weekly Management – Massage, ice baths, stretching, voodoo banding.
So there it is, a bit of a crash course in mobility and recovery! Get on it guys so we can all stay injury free! By Lisa Campbell – Exercise Physiologist Women’s Pole Vault National Champion Commonwealth Games Representative World Cup Representative Oceania Representative