Fitness training for cricket is a contentious issue. Should you consider traditional gym work and running to improve your fitness for cricket?
I believe fitness is essential for almost every level of cricketer, but in the interest of balance lets review both sides:
The argument against fitness training
- Fun - Fitness training is boring and no fun. Who wants to pound the roads and pound iron in a sweaty gym?
- Specificity - Fitness training is highly specific. Runners don't train on a bike because it's not as good as running. The only way to properly get fit for cricket is to play as much cricket as possible.
- Time - Cricket is a long game and if you are talented enough you can be playing or practising almost every day. When do you get time to squeeze in a gym session?
- Age - You can't fight the march of time. There is no point in being fit if you are an older player.
- Bulking Up - Too much weight training will bulk you up and ruin your timing and technique with big muscles.
The argument For fitness training
- Performance - Fitness improves bowling speed, hitting power, reaction times and running speed. It does this for everyone without fail (no matter how old). What's more, even highly trained elite players suffer no loss of performance through bulking up - they are not training for huge bodybuilder muscles and neither should you (for more on the science of fitness of performance see Further Reading).
- Injury Prevention - Stronger bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons reduce the risk of injury.
- Teamwork - Training in pairs or in a team is great for building camaraderie between teammates. Making training competitive also makes it more fun.
- Variation - Playing cricket is the best way to get fit for cricket. That said, the body likes variation. Different activities cross train your body and keep your mind alert.
- Health - General fitness makes you feel and look better in the rest of your life too.
So while fitness should not overtake skills or actually playing cricket there really is only one way - from serious player to the park on a Sunday - an organised, specific training programme.