photo credit: al_green
Ty wrote to me recently asking:
"In the winter I worked hard on improving my strength and fitness. Now its the season, I have games on Saturdays and Sundays as well as skills training on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I'm not quite sure how often to go to the gym. Adding school and work to the equation, there's less time. But how often do you think I should be working on my fitness in the season?"
It's a common question. I'm sure time is an issue for most players at club level. It certainly is for me. Here is how I would like to see a player with little time structure their week during the summer.
Principles of summer fitness training for club cricket
Before we look at a typical week, lets look at the essential elements that go into club cricket training.
- Put cricket first. Cricket is the reason you improved your fitness in the off season so focus on cricket training and playing above fitness training. As we will see below, this means still working hard on your fitness, but putting it into the bigger picture to avoid being too fatigued to play at your best.
- If you can't improve, maintain. Traditionally science has viewed the in-season period as 'maintenance': A time to maintain fitness levels while not tiring yourself out for games. This is a solid strategy but has limitations. You can improve your fitness with some clever planning and enough time. However, if you can't make the time you can and should still maintain current levels.
- Always do something. While 3-4 fitness sessions per week is the ideal, even one 15 minute training session a week is enough to maintain fitness levels. Time is not a reason to avoid training.
- Plan ahead. By putting your season into 4-6 weeks blocks with a focus on a particular element of fitness you can improve it. For example, if you want to improve strength spend 4 weeks going to the gym 3-4 times and lifting high weights for low reps. If you want to improve your endurance do some interval training and gym complexes for 6 weeks. Don't try to improve both though, you will be unlikely to have the time and neither will improve if you compromise.
- Get enough rest. Recovery time is important in season. If you train on Friday night you may be sore for Saturday's game. Keep the intense training for earlier in the week and have at least 1 day off from all cricket and fitness work.
How to structure your week for the best cricket performance
Saturday is usually game day. A swim or gentle few minutes on an exercise bike might wake your system up in the morning. Otherwise focus on the match. Get the right fuel ready, make sure you have a cougar like warm up and cool down after you have batted or been in the field with some gentle activity and static stretching.
If you have no game you can take Sunday as a rest day. You can also get in a heavy weight lifting session or interval training session if you have no game. This will give you maximum recovery time as both sessions tend cause high levels of fatigue. If you are playing, avoid any intense work and repeat your Saturday routine. As Sundays tend to be less important matches you also have to option of doing a light resistance workout in the morning. Generally this will be a few bodyweight exercises or complexes in the gym. Keep it to around 15-20 minutes and you should not have much of a performance drop during the game.
Monday is weight lifting day. Most players with most goals would benefit from doing strength training on a Monday. This could be heavy weights for strength (if that is your plan), circuit training, complexes or bodyweight work. Whatever you choose, take 40-60 minutes to work on non-cricket specific fitness (that is to say, not skills drills, even high intensity). If you don't have that sort of time, you can still get a lot done in 15 minutes. If you are strength training on Sunday and Monday, make sure you are using a split routine of some kind (like a push-pull or upper-lower split) to give your muscles time to recover.
The rest of the week depends on how much time you have, your fitness goals and when you training usually happens. Aim for at least 1 fitness session per week. Research has shown that this is enough to maintain basic strength or endurance. 3-4 sessions work best if you are looking to improve an aspect of your fitness. You can do skills training and fitness training on the same day. If time is an issue, push to do more fitness work in your club training sessions. You can do bodyweight training, running between the wickets and fitness based fielding drills during a typical training session.
Remember you can get a lot done in 15 minutes at home if you don't have time to go for a run or hit the gym.
I find following a strength workout with an endurance type workout works well as you can train while still recovering. You can also integrate different fitness types into one session. Do remember to have at least one rest day though. It's important to be fully recovered from one workout before starting the next one. Although that doesn't always mean taking a rest day after every session. I usually take rest days on Tuesday and Friday. This is because I do heavy weights on Sunday and Monday (in a push-pull split).
I still then have time for another gym session and a run and be fully recovered for Saturday's league match. I vary this through the season but I always take Friday's off to ensure I'm fired up for the game. You may have to do things differently to fit everything in, but stick to the basic principles outlined here and you can improve even in season.
What about you?
What are your experiences on doing fitness training in season? Leave a comment and tell me how easy or hard you find it to train during a typical week.
If you want a more comprehensive guide to reducing injury risk and increasing cricket specific fitness, check out county strength coach Rob Ahmun's guide on PitchVision Academy.
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