Cricket training secrets: Foam rolling
This is part one of a series of tips that are often overlooked by traditional cricket coaches. All are proven to give you the edge but because they don't originate in the cricket world have not been picked up by the mainstream of players yet. That's why we are calling the series "training secrets". This secret is about foam rolling.
The cricket team I play in has a variety of ages from teenagers to early forties. At least half of them mention they are feeling sore before play, and everyone gets stiff after the match. Hips, back, ankles and thighs all can suffer.
It's more than annoying though. Even mild pain can damage your technique.
That's because your natural range of motion is reduced when muscles and tendons are enflamed and sore. The stiffer you are the harder it is to get through your action or get into position to play your shots. Even worse, the more sore you are the more likely you are to get injured.
Step in the friend of the cricketer and the enemy of muscle soreness: the foam roller.
Foam rolling is like a cheap massage. It allows you to relax your muscles, get rid of painful knots and scar tissue and get your range of motion back to normal. Not a bad deal for a small tube of foam.
Go to the average cricket ground or gym and you won't see too many foam rollers being used. It's far from a conventional technique. So what gives? If it's so good why isn't everyone doing it?
I think the mean reason is cricket's conservative attitude. It takes a long time for new ideas to come in. Take the reverse sweep. Yes, it's an unconventional and risky shot but it has been around for over 30 years and is still considered new and fangled by some.
What chance has foam rolling got when it comes from a background in physiotherapy and not cricket?
That's kind of why it's still a secret, but that's a good thing. You can use it to get the edge. While all the opposition are getting rid of the cobwebs in the early overs, you are already loose from ball one.
How do you foam roll for cricket?
Foam rolling is simple and doesn't take long to do. The best place to get all the details is the excellent free eBook Self-Myofascial Release: Purpose, Methods, and Techniques by Mike Robertson (ignore the geeky name, it's a great read).
You can pick up a foam roller pretty cheap too (Amazon sell them here) so there is not much of an excuse, especially if you are having problems.
Avoid the foam rolling mistake
One final word of warning though. It's easy to fall in love with your foam roller and use it too much. While spending 40 minutes a day foam rolling is not a bad thing in itself, what usually happens is that people spend time foam rolling instead of other training.
Foam rolling is great for 5 minutes as part of a warm up or cool down but should never replace actual training either in the gym or on the pitch.
But if you suffer from nagging soreness or injuries that won't go away I can't stress enough how much this simple technique will help you become more supple, less injured and a better player.