We all recognise the importance of fitness in our lives. It’s not just about being better on the cricket field. Regular training makes you healthier and, let’s face it, damn good looking.
Yet fitness is so often the cause of mistakes that lead to the opposite: weaker, more injury-prone, run down and looking awful.
It’s not your fault this happens.
Regular gyms staffed with trainers who don’t know how to get results with cricketers. Coaches are not versed in fitness training beyond a cursory knowledge. You rely on advice that is at best ineffective and at worst dangerous.
It’s time to take control of your in-season training.
So, let’s take a look at the 4 most glaring errors that you never want to make. Do the opposite and you will find your game, and your body, improving.
1. Playing to get fit
The vast majority of cricketers never go near a gym. The reasons are many from motivation to money. The numbers of excuses are even greater. A common one is that you don’t need to do any fitness work during the season because playing and training is more than enough to keep fit and healthy.
The problem is that cricket is not a balanced sport. It’s played unilaterally; you bowl and throw with one arm. You bat sideways. Any repetitive unilateral movement is going to eventually cause you to break down (it’s why bowlers get back pain and side strains).
Good training counteracts that damage by strengthening and mobilising the joints in ways that don’t happen on the pitch.
Yes, all the gym time in the world won’t be the same as ‘overs in the legs’ or ‘time in the middle’ that’s true. But the gym is really there to counteract the bad stuff about overs in the legs (like a sore back or painful soreness in the keeper’s legs).
Plus, you can use specific gym work to build stamina (and lose fat) so you don’t spend your first few games of the season puffing around and feeling awkwardly unfit.
2. Ignoring strength
Cricket relies on power. To throw or bowl a cricket ball you need to move your arm quickly. To hit a ball you need to swing a bat that weighs less than 3lb. In other words, when you play cricket you spend a lot of time training the ‘speed’ aspect of power and no time working on the ‘strength’ part.
By default, when you train for strength, you are building up a base that isn’t there. You throw harder, bowl faster and hit the ball harder because you are covering all aspects of power instead of just one.
It’s why men can bowler faster than women. The have more strength.
Coaches prescribe jogging as a way of “getting fit” and gyms are packed with cardio machines for all kinds of ways of torturing yourself for 20-30 minutes in the quest for fat burning and building an aerobic base.
It’s all a big myth.
Yes, jogging will improve your ability to jog, but cricketers don’t jog. We walk. Most of the time we walk. Sometimes we run or sprint or stand still but never for 20 minutes at a time. Unless you are an umpire. So why would you jog?
And worse; jogging puts strain on your joints, lowers testosterone levels, reduces mobility in the hips and reduces power output.
Marathon runners can’t bowl at 90mph or hit a ball over the ropes. Just don’t do it. If you want to lose weight look at your diet. If you just want to be cricket fit, get strong, train hard at nets and do interval training.
4. Ignoring movement
“Movement” is a catch-all term for running, changing direction, bending, throwing and jumping. Its stuff you need to do on the cricket pitch but rarely find yourself doing in the gym.
And it’s here that movement becomes a problem, because if we don’t cover it in the gym we are relying on getting it right with no practice.
How can you learn to get low or get in the right positions without regular practice?
The best time to develop these skills is during training. A good range of fielding drills will teach you all you need to know about movement. Yet most club players train once a week at most. You can’t make strides forward if you are training so infrequently.
During the summer it’s sensible to shoot for more movement work (2-3 times a week) and there are ways to do that:
- Ensure your pre-game warm up contains plenty of fielding drills.
- Play matches that are short format so you have to do a lot of fielding during the game.
- Do a ‘movement training’ session on days where you are not in the gym, training or playing. Use SAQ drills to develop agility and speed.
Use whichever way works best, but remember to shoot for at least 2 sessions a week during the season.
Yes, even when it rains.
For tips on how to put this all together into a training plan, get Strength and Conditioning for Cricket at all Levels by Glamorgan CCC strength coach Rob Ahmun.