Every cricketer wants to be a more powerful and faster player. One of the most misunderstood methods to improve is plyometrics. Read on to find out the simple tricks you can use to master the basics.
What are Plyometrics?
Plyometrics is a catch all term for training methods that use fast, explosive movements like jumping. The aim is to improve the amount of force your muscles can generate. The crossover to the cricket pitch is most obvious in running speed and fast bowlers leaps. However, you can also use plyometric style methods to improve throwing distance and speed as well as hitting power.
A good training program for cricketers can easily incorporate plyometric methods as they don't require much special equipment. This means you can run power training sessions at your club using plyometrics without having to convince everyone to go to they gym.
Many coaches are reluctant to use plyometrics despite this. The main objections tend to be based on assumptions that can be overcome with some simple methods.
- You must build a base of strength. Due to the high intensity, high impact nature of plyometrics, most coaches advise against their use until someone has a good base of strength through traditional weight training. This can often be impractical, especially for recreational players. The solution is train plyometrics like you would learn cricket technique - start with simple, low impact exercises to develop correct technique and build up slowly to more advanced methods.
- Olympic lifts are more effective. Traditional strength coaching has focussed on the Olympic lifts in a gym environment for power. This method is highly effective but is different. It requires a gym with qualified instructors to teach the techniques. Either route to power is fine, but a combination of both methods depending on the time of year is even better.
- The risk of injury is high. This idea stems from the reputation that plyometrics are very high impact with lots of leaping, jumping and landing from height. This is true of advanced plyometric techniques but beginners start with much simpler methods and once mastered, slowly progress to the higher impact stuff. As a matter of fact, this progression technique actually strengthens your muscles and ligaments making you less likely to be injured.
Plyometrics for Cricket
The answer to correctly using plyometrics as a cricketer is to progress from technique to power with a number of drills as part of your pre-season preparation. I first came across these drills in Mike Boyle's excellent Functional Training for Sports. In it he outlines a complete guide to developing technique using the following steps:
- Phase 1: Learn to jump and land. This is the place for everyone, no matter how advanced, to start. Simple drills teach you to jump onto a box, landing quietly with balance.
- Phase 2: Increase force. The focus now moves to increasing load by jumping over an object rather than onto a box. Soft landing is still the emphasis.
- Phase 3: Introduce elastic component. Here the methods become more traditional plyometrics. It's done by adding bouncing to the jumping of the previous phase. It's vital not to attempt this phase until the first two are fully mastered.
For descriptions and diagrams of the drills for each phase, get a copy of Functional Training for Sport.
Finally, it's important not to focus fully on any method, plyos included, at the expense of all others. A good training plan incorporates a blend of methods for strength, speed, endurance, mobility and power.