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.
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