When it comes to a sheer explosive workout, squash is right on top of the sports spectrum. It's intense, high-speed and demands oodles of strength and endurance. Pit yourself against a wall on a squash court and a pounding heart accompanied by legs aflame is sure to be your reward. Ritwik Bhattacharya has been hitting that wall for over - years now. Here he offers gems from his fitness regime - gems that have been polished by years of sweat.
Mix 'n' match
At the core of Bhattacharya's fitness regime is a simple philosophy - mix it up. "Play different kinds of sport. It helps improve basic co-ordination because different sports use different muscle groups. Even now I cross train a lot; just play whatever is available."
He believes that it is impossible to maintain the same training regime all the time. "You need to keep switching routines just so that you don't get bored. I do something only if I enjoy doing it at that point. If I don't feel like running I go for a swim. It's important to put quality in the workout rather than just going through the motions."
He does not want you to get too comfortable out there in the sweat of things. "When you are doing aerobic training, there is a certain rhythm; you can run non-stop for an hour. But you consume more energy if you stop and start -- run for a minute and rest for five minutes. That's where anaerobic training comes in, its mostly interval training where you do short sprints on the treadmill or the cycle, or even swim laps. It helps increase speed, agility, quick movement and quick feet."
Get a balance
One of the major problems of racquet sports is that one side of the body is left undeveloped. Bhattacharya urges you to work the other side harder. "Since I play right-handed, my left side is not as developed so I exercise hard to offset that. That includes a lot of weight training with putting load on just the left side. There have been times when I have worked only on one side." He knows that disproportionate development spells disaster. "You need overall development as balance is crucial. It will prevent lots of injuries and is essential to be technically perfect in your sport."
Bhattacharya wants you to get wholesome. "A trainer in England told me that most of the people who come to the gym work only on the front of the body --the biceps and chest -- because they want to look good. But for a pro it is very important to have a well-developed body. We need to work a lot on the back, the triceps, the hamstrings and the glutes. In fact, everyone should."
A fast game like squash makes strenuous demands on a players' body. Hitting the ball requires explosive strength while sustaining that strength though a game demands great aerobic stamina.
And that means that you'd better have a strong core. Ritwik Bhattacharya calls it "playing from the gut".
"You really need to train the core because this is where you get all your energy from. It's the most neglected area, a lot of people think just because they do some crunches they'll be fine but you really need to train the core."
"Nothing shapes it up like a Swiss ball. I do a lot of work on that even when I'm travelling. There are hundreds of exercises you can do on the ball, and you have to pick and choose and see what suits you the best. It's a very flexible tool -- even if it's a simple thing like bicep curls you can do it while sitting on the ball. So you are doing stability and strengthening at the same time."
To supplement or not
"Ideally amateurs don't need to take any dietary supplements," says Bhattacharya. "The nutrition that you get from regular food is enough; it is only if you have a certain deficiency that you need to look at supplements. Even then natural foods should be able to suffice the need. Also if you take supplements without doing proper research it could play havoc with your hormones."
He does not want regular folk to ape the pros. "As pros we spend almost 4-5 hours in training and spend anywhere between 3000-4000 calories. I take whey protein especially when I am travelling because the food alone may not be able to replenish all the spent energy. But if an individual is spending only about an hour in the gym and burns about 1000 calories, he should not require any supplements."