Squash Coaching Blog: Right Leg or Left Leg?

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I know club players find this confusing because they so often see the professionals on SquashTV playing so many shots off the “wrong leg”, and it goes against everything they’ve ever been told, so why do the pro’s do it?

I’m going to give you my take in a few simple rules.

The “correct leg” for a shot on the right side of the court (forehand side for right-handers) is the left leg, and the “correct leg” for shots on the left side of the court (backhand for right-handers) is the right leg. The advantage of playing your shots off the “correct leg” is that it automatically puts your upper body in a textbook position ie. facing the side wall. This side wall facing upper body position makes hitting a tight straight drive easy.

If you play off the “wrong leg” your chest will be in a forward facing position, which pretty much restricts you to play a cross-court. So… if you play off the “wrong leg” you must turn your hips to create the side on position, as it will not happen naturally. This is easily done and is why squash players need a strong and stable core, but you need to be aware that any shot you play off the “wrong leg” you must turn your hips to create this side-on position.

OK, the rules:

 

Your Forehand Side

Superb “wrong leg” lunge on the forehand. The “wrong leg” enabled him to stretch quickly to intercept the ball before the second bounce in the back corner.

Generally play off the “wrong leg” (which is; right leg for right-handers, and left leg for left-handers).

The wrong leg is quicker to lunge across, so is a time saver, plus it will most likely be your stronger, more balanced leg (*), and balance is key to playing a good squash shot, especially if you are hitting straight. (* – right-handers tend to be right footed, and left-handers usually left-footed, so whatever “footed” you are this leg will be slightly stronger than the other).

Exceptions – play off the “correct leg” only when you have a lot of time. If there is no need to rush, or you are not trying to increase the pace of the rally with that particular shot, take your time and get into a “textbook” side on position by using the “correct leg” because it will increase your chance of hitting a very accurate shot.

Volleys should most often be played off the “wrong leg” because you want to pounce onto the ball, so speed is the key, so your movement needs to be direct and explosive with the “wrong leg” as it’s your most powerful.

Right-hander playing a forehand volley off the right leg (“wrong leg”), but the hips are turned nicely to ensure the chest is facing the side wall.

Your Backhand Side

Generally play off the “correct leg” (which is; right leg for right-handers, and left leg for left-handers).

The backhand is a more complex stroke, your arm comes across your body (whereas on the forehand your arm moves out into space). If you play off the “wrong leg” your chest will naturally face forwards, which can impose on your back-swing. When you play off your “correct leg” your chest moves to the side giving your arm plenty of room to back-swing.

So, whenever possible try to get your “correct leg” around as it will make your swing easier, and therefore increase your chances of hitting a good shot.

What I don’t like is when I see people lunge into the front backhand corner off the “wrong leg” when they don’t have to. It’s lazy. This should only happen if you are changing direction and completely at full stretch, but even then I feel it could be avoided and you’d be in a better position to play a good recovery shot.

Exceptions – so as you can see I’m a stickler for using the “correct leg” on the backhand, it simply makes good sense. However, if the ball is coming across your body quickly, ie. from a hard cross-court, and the ball is either low to your side or it is possible to volley, I would play this shot off the “wrong leg”. When the ball comes quickly across your body to your backhand side, speed is the key, and the “wrong leg” offers a slightly faster reaction time – but, you must find a way to move your hips round to the side, even if it is minimal, there must be some turn happening.

 

As you can see, one leg will be used considerably more in squash (your stronger leg). Squash players tend to be particularly one sided in terms of muscle mass. It is important to do some balance and stretch exercises outside of the squash court to help with this “one-sidedness”, to maintain balance and to prevent injury. Noting to dedicated needs to be done as a club player, but stretch for 5-10 minutes before and/or after matches. If you a gym goer then great, you can lift some weights on your weaker leg to keep it strong. If you are not, maybe twice a week, balance on one foot (the weaker leg) for a minute or two, that should do the job.

I hope all this wasn’t too complicated, and you can break it down and take away the simple rules.

And REMEMBER …….. any shot you play off the “wrong leg” – you must turn your hips to face the side wall, because it will not happen naturally and you need to avoid that front-facing position.

Backhand volley played off the “correct leg” because he has intercepted a straight drive
Nice example of a backhand volley played off the “wrong leg” as Marwan has volleyed Cameron Pilley’s forehand cross-court, so the ball was coming across Marwan’s body, hence why the “wrong leg” was used in this instance.

 

Great backhand drive position by Austrian hero Aqeel. Even though the ball was slightly behind him, it was still best to use his “correct leg” to ensure a stable body position.