5 exercises no cricketer should do. Ever. | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

5 exercises no cricketer should do. Ever.

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Absolutes are a rare thing. The phrase 'it depends' is always hanging close to the lips of good cricket coaches and fitness trainers. There are always exceptions to rules.

Except in this list.

When I see people doing any of these exercises in the gym I just want to wince. Partly because they wasting their time. Sometimes because it's downright risky. Mainly because their heart is in the right place (they came to the gym after all) but their execution is all off.

So what are these big mistakes and how do you avoid them?

1. Low weight and high reps

We start with a cheat by me. Technically this is not an exercise; it's a way of exercising. As you know, when strength training you use a weight that you can lift a certain number of times (reps or repetitions). The common misconception is that if you lift a heavy weight for less reps (say 1-5) you get 'bulky'. If you lift a lower weight for more reps (about 10 or more) you get 'toned'.

Putting aside the fact that this is unsubstantiated rubbish, it doesn't even make sense from a cricketing point of view. Cricket is about brief and powerful movements: sprinting, throwing, hitting. As power is strength times speed, the more strength you have the better you will get at those movements. That means focusing on lifting more weight less often (not vice versa). Simple.

2. Leg Press

Why leg press when you can squat? Most people do the former because it's easier. It's also pretty useless for cricketers. When on the pitch do you lie down at an angle and push a weight upwards with your legs? I don't know about you but I haven't done that in years.

It can also be dangerous. The easy way you can keep adding weight means that you sometimes need to flex your spine when lowering the weight. Can we all say "herniated disc" together?

It's better to learn a basic primal pattern like the squat, which has far more crossover to specific cricket injury prevention and performance. You don't need to lift a huge weight to get a benefit either. Variations like single leg squats and goblet squats teach you how to stabilise your core while having mobile joints at the hips and ankles.

3. Lat Pulldown

This is hated machine because it takes people away from another basic movement pattern replacing it with something shiny and easy. The pulldown machine doesn't work your support muscles in the same way. As you are playing a sport with plenty of throwing, it's important to train the shoulder with exercises that tire out your stabilising muscles rather than just focus on working the big Latissimi dorsi muscles.

Pulling yourself up is hard though, if you can't do a single chin up then you might think that turning to the lat machine will help. It's unlikely. You are better off doing some of these things.

4. The long wait/weight

I don't know about you, but I never seem to have enough time in the gym. Yet every time I go in I see guys (always guys) standing around leaving 5 minutes or longer between sets. They chat to each other for a while before another tough set of bicep curls. Have they not got somewhere to be?

Rest between sets is important, but why waste time doing nothing? Most people don't really need more than 1-2 minutes between sets, and even then you can fill the time with something else. Do some mobility work, work that rotator cuff or superset with another exercise.

5. Crunches

How do I hate the crunch? Let me count the ways. ONE; it sucks.

As strength coach Mike Boyle says, how many times during the day do you lie on your back and bend at the middle to raise yourself up? All of once when you get out of bed in the morning. So if you can do one crunch per day you are golden. The only reason to do more is to put your spine under great compressive pressure and risk hurting yourself. Let's not do that.

Instead focus on core exercises that stabilise your midsection while you are moving. That's what happens when you run, jump, bowl, throw and hit a cricket ball with a bat. An exercise like the Pallof press is ideal. Even press ups give you a better result.

Avoid these 5 and you will be doing better than most cricketers who hit the gym. I also want to give an honourable mention to a few other useless practices: Any exercise in a Smith machine (no fun in fixed planes of motion), any exercise on a BOSU ball, tricep kickbacks and shuffling along on the treadmill watching daytime TV.

image credit: jerryonlife


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That's a very valuable list, it's nice to see *why* you say not to do such exercises, rather than just 'don't do it!'.

However in 5 you say to concentrate on core stabilisation - could you explain a little further? It seems when bowling you are *pulling* yourself forward and then down with your lower back/abs, so why not do exercises (not saying crunches here) which would strengthen that movement?

Because at no point in the action do you you increase power from the flexing of your abs. All your core is supposed to do is keep your back stable while transfering energy from your legs to your arms. Gravity is the force that pushes you down. Your job is to keep your spine as safe as possible and the crunch doesn't do that.

i agree iwht all but not the last one, crunches do not hurt you if you do them correctly , The help you to get a strong belly and also if you are a little on the fat side , then can help a lot to reduc fat with cardio exercises to make to a better atletic cricketer. I have been doing cruches from about 1 year now and have a set of 6 pack abs and a strong belly and a strong back. And i personally feel that it has givin me more speed and more power in my cricket.

But if you are doing cruches , you should not forget ot do core strnthining exercises too as they are a must for a cricketer.

Crunches have been shown by Dr Stuart McGill to put a huge strain on the lower back. I admit in healthy, fit people you can probably get away with this strain but why risk it for an exercise that has no function in life or in cricket?

A 6 pack has no relevance to improving cricket performance or reducing injury risk. Sure, it looks good, but do you want to risk low back pain when you could get a 6 pack with good diet, cardio exercises and a ton of safer core exercises?

If you want to do crunches good luck to you, I'm sure its worked for you, a study of 1 does not make good evidence though.

so you are saying everyone in the world who does crucnches have lower back problems? You mean millions of people have lower back problems because of cunches?

Thanks for the explanation David. Someone asked "What do you think of the various hanging leg/knee raise movements? The Hanging Knees-to-Elbows and the straight versions seem appropriate."

...and you said they were 'not bad'. Could you elaborate? I was doing that as a core exercise during an injury rehabilitation a while ago, would that be suitable or is the other stuff you're outlined in other places far better?

He didn't say that Vishii.

I said the opposite: That you can probably get away with doing crunches if you really want to. I'm not trying to convince you to stop doing them, just telling you the evidence as I see it. My question is: why even risk it?

Hanging leg raises are reasonably good if done well. The danger is when the are done badly and you end up flexing and hyper-extending the lumbar spine outside of the ROM that it can cope with. Like crunches, you could probably get away with it if you had a healthy back but I wouldn't chose them first. They are pretty advanced.

Interested as to why you're opposed to anything on a BOSU - I've been doing squats on a BOSU with the soft side down, and lunges with a twist onto the BOSU with the soft side up. Both were part of a cricket-specific training plan a PT helped me come up with.

Mainly because you look like a circus act doing stuff like that! But to be serious, I'll answer your question with 2 questions: What advantage does doing a squat or a lunge on a BOSU ball have over on on the ground? What extra injury risk is there associated with using a BOSU ball?

I'd been led to believe it would improve core stability more than on-the-ground exercises (which I also do, though with more weight). I take your point about injury risk, though...

I have never seen any evidence that they do, and cleverer people than me have looked into it and stated that, in fact, they don't.

"Because at no point in the action do you you increase power from the flexing of your abs. All your core is supposed to do is keep your back stable while transfering energy from your legs to your arms. Gravity is the force that pushes you down. Your job is to keep your spine as safe as possible and the crunch doesn't do that."
Hmmm... where to start?
First gravity isn't the force that pushes you down when bowling!
Does a crunch not strengthen you core at all? surely you are better or off doing some crunches than no work at all on your core.

Also with regards to 2 you said "When on the pitch do you lie down at an angle and push a weight upwards with your legs?" you could say the exact same thing about squats when was the last time you stood in the middle of the pitch and squatted with weights? I don't think your completely wrong with that point but your analogy is ridiculous.

Fair points John, I'm not interested in convincing you, just telling you the facts as I see them. You are welcome to take them or leave them.

im an aspiring cricketer and recently finishd my studies in fitness.. as a conditioner id rather you not write off certain exercises. i could giv a reason 4 each exercise and im sure its because you heard about functional training that ur saying that but be careful.. every known exercise has its time and place..

Go for it keegan, Give your reasons.

starting at low weights and high reps.. it is near immoral to tel anybody just entering the gym to do a clean and jerk as injury is almost a definite. they need to be physically prepared for the stresses.this method of training will usually be used to set a base for further, more advanced training like speed and power. it also works great for sorting out muscular inbalances which often lead to injury and also rehab from injury.

next, the leg press.. so many people dont know how to squat right.. i would much rather see somebody on this machine than doing a pathetic version of a squat.. it works just about the same major muscle groups with less focus on the back and abs. so i totally agree that people that perform the exercise incorrectly are better off outside the gym instead of begging for an injury like you said but this could be useful for somebody like myself, training with a strained trap and cant load my neck, making the leg press the substitute to the squat..

Onto the lat pull down.. I love your link for "you're better off doing some of these" note, there are three versions of a chin up.. close grip under hand and over hand grip along with wide grip being the most difficult. look at your average obese kid that has not lifted a weight in his life. we dont expect a chin up to be done anytime soon but this machine can help strengthen certain muscles to a point that a chin up bar may be used. im not a big fan of shiny machines myself but this has its benefits.. along with that which you mentioned it could be considered as a functional method of training for the chin up..

nw the long wait/Weight.. i could not agree any more that i have only seen guys in gym either talking or on their phones or even watching tv and getting carried away for more than 3 or 4minutes.. defeating the purpose of gyming in the first place. and finally crunches.. show me one core strengthening exercise that is specific to cricket.. absolutely zero! think about it, we all know the benifits of a strong core including balance.. hitting harder,bowling faster and throwing further. ask paul collingwood,dale steyn,etc.. so all in all this exercise is great for strengthening the 6pack or rectus abdominus but in no way is it specific to cricket.. so finally, you are not wrong but saying no cricketer should ever do these, is a bold statement to make concerning the exercises you mentioned..

Great points you make keegan. I'm still sticking by my statement that those exercises should never be done. That said, I'm glad to see we can have a healthy discussion based on what is best for the player. My aim is to make people think and discuss rather than assume based on myths, and that is what we are doing here. Top drawer.

Hi David,

In regards to exercises what do you think about front raises and side raises, are they worth doing at 1-5 reps?

Those are isolation exercises so don't have much benefit in terms of athletic development. In fact front raises can be contraindicated in players with certain shoulder issues (and if not balanced with external rotation work can lead to imbalances). Of course if you want bigger shoulders they are great in the 10-20 rep range, but that's an image thing rather than a sport thing.


Just to let you know I'm a 15 year old fast bowler. I sort of got sucked into 'getting stronger' as a bowler, when I look back at the exercises I used to do, I have found they were all body building exercises 10 reps and although I put on 12 kg in the last few months, I'm worried I might start to bowl slower (thinking of shane watson). I stopped all upper body work because I'm now worried about bowling slower instead of the reason why I started training. Over time it actually became a body image thing as I've put a lot of muscle on. But overall cricket to me is more important than having a 'beach body'. This was my workout outline for the last 3 months.

> Push ups with 30kg brother on back
> Crunches with weights behind head
> 30 min of core strength (also stability ball exercises)
> Front raises and side raises
> Bicep curls/hammer curls
> Chin ups/pull ups
> Single leg squats holding 5kg on each hand
> Lunges holding 5kg in each hand

Overall when I look at it I think I should only keep doing the push ups variations, the core work, squats and lunges, and the chin ups/pull ups.

Do you think at my age the push ups (with brother on back) and chin ups/ pull ups are the only exercises I should do for upper body.
I'm also doing a lot of flexibility and dynamic warm up exercises as well as interval sprints (30 sec intervals). I don't want to lose my fast bowling ability (I've clocked 126 km before) and i believe if I stick to training as effieciently as I possibly can and getting the best out of myself, I have a chance at a career in the game.

gr8 article david but i would say the bosu ball CAN help a lot if u can use it for the right exercises like planks and press ups.

Actually, I know I mentioned it briefly in the article but you are right, the BOSU is not the worst thing ever. I could live without it as there are plenty of other ways to improve shoulder health and core stability, but it is not as evil as some so-called exercise tools.

BOSU push ups are good for core stabilisation and shoulder/trap health.

You don't actually pull yourself down/forward with your abs, you flex at the hips as a result of the transfer of energy from your run up, into your torso, because your lower body has stopped suddenly (front foot plant). Your core should really remain relatively rigid (with a bit of give), but you shouldn't be trying to generate bowling power by flexing your abs.

Look into 'starting strength' by Mark Rippetoe. You need to be strong to bowl fast, but biceps curls are not the answer. Squats, deadlifts (& Romanian deadlifts), pull-ups, military presses, power cleans, snatches, bench press and bent over rows are pretty much all you ever need to do in the gym for the rest of your life if you want to bowl fast. Hope you find that helpful.