Fitness for Fast Bowlers Made Simple (Part 2) | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Fitness for Fast Bowlers Made Simple (Part 2)

This is the 2nd part of John Cook's guest spot on PitchVision Academy. Part 1 talked through the rationale for training and mobility. In this part we complete the picture.

A second attribute of fitness you can work on as a fast bowler is strength.

But where do we need strength and what is the best way to develop this?

This is where examining the literature can aid us. Simply looking at the bowling action may lead you to believe that bowling is an upper body strength activity. What may surprise you then is that the lower body has more relevance.

Research by Phillips and colleagues showed significant contributions by the lower extremities in the way in which bowling speeds were generated. A study in 2006 also highlighted the fact that the higher velocity bowlers had greater lower body strength levels.

More specific to this, analysis has shown that the centre of mass deceleration over the delivery stride phase was the strongest predictor of ball speed in fast bowling groups.

Given that the legs need to absorb forces of around 4 times your bodyweight, it is clear a large amount of strength is required in the legs.

So how is the best way to build strength in the legs?

The squat would be the obvious choice, but can we improve on this?

Bowl on one leg, train on one leg

Looking at the bowling action, we can see that the large forces are distributed on just one leg.

A new study tested the difference in muscle activity and testosterone response to unilateral and regular back squats.

Researchers were surprised that the unilateral squats triggered a slightly greater testosterone response than the bilateral back squats. Both exercises produced comparable muscle activity in the lower body.

Training using just one leg also increases stability and experimental evidence has shown that more weight can be handled using single leg methods. For more, see this excellent article by Ben Bruno

Additionally, mobility issues - where the back rounds at the bottom of a squat - are removed by using single leg variations such as the split squat and Bulgarian split squat.

A more cricket specific way of training the legs for cricket therefore may be to incorporate single leg exercises into your routine.

Developing explosive power

Strength is important, but to bowl fast we also need power to get the ball down the other end quickly.

When compared to other sports, fast bowling displays similar patterns to javelin and baseball pitching, where by the largest body parts actively accelerate and decelerate smaller body parts.

In such a sequencing pattern, the stronger more heavily muscled proximal joints should become active before the weaker but faster distal joints. This means strength training should be focused on the more central muscles as previously discussed.

While the impact that the lower body must cope with at the is quite high, the relative resistance that the upper body must overcome is very low.

You only get about 0.15-0.18 of a second for force to be generated. As a result training maximum strength development in the upper extremities may be pointless as the fast bowler may not have sufficient time to reach maximum force capability.

In fact for the upper body, slow and heavy resistance training may even decrease maximum rate of force development

Ballistic and explosive type training, on the other hand, increasse maximum rate of force development.

Medicine ball training has been shown to increase the speed at which the upper body limbs can exert force and is a more suitable training method for the upper body than traditional weight training.

Here are some examples of medicine ball training:

Final thoughts

In this brief analysis, It has been shown how analysing a sport and determining the physiological requirements is vital in designing a fitness training program.

This article is only touching the surface, however as this is a massive area to cover but hopefully this will get you thinking about your next workout and how you can make it more cricket-friendly.

If you require further information, have any comments or questions; please feel free to drop me an email.


  1. Elliott B C, Hardcastle P H, Burnett A F, Foster D H (1992) The influence of fast bowling and physical factors on radiological features in high performance young fast bowlers. Sports Medicine Training and Rehabilitation. 113-130.

  2. Dennis R J, Finch C F, McIntosh A S and Elliott B C (2008) Use of field-based tests to identify risk factors for injury to fast bowlers in cricket. British journal of sports medicine. 42(6): 477-82

  3. Phillips E, Portus M, Davids K, Brown N and Renshaw I (2010). How do our ‘quicks’ generate pace? A cross sectional analysis of the Cricket Australia pace pathway. In M. Portus (Ed.) Conference proceedings from Conference of Science, Medicine & Coaching in Cricket, Cricket Australia, Brisbane.

  4. Pyne D B, Duthie G M, Saunders P U, Petersen C A and Portus M R (2006) Anthropometric and strength correlates of fast bowling speed in junior and senior cricketers. Strength Cond Res. 20(3): 620-626.

  5. Ferdinands R, Marshall R N and Kersting U (2010) Centre of mass kinematics of fast bowling in cricket. Sports Biomech. 9(3): 139-52.

  6. Hurrion P D, Dyson R and Hale T (2000) Simultaneous measurement of back and front foot ground reaction forces during the same delivery stride of the fast-medium bowler. J Sports Sci. 18(12): 993-7.

  7. Jones M T, Ambegaonkar J P, Nindl B C, Smith J A, Headley S A (2012) Effects of unilateral and bilateral lower-body heavy resistance exercise on muscle activity and testosterone responses. Strength Cond Res. 26(4): p1094-100.

  8. Grimshaw P, Lees A, Fowler N and Burden A (2006) Sport & Exercise Biomechanics. Taylor & Fransis group. New York. USA

  9. Gambetta V (2007) Athletic Development; The Art & Science of Functional sports conditioning. Human Kinetics. Lower Mitcham. South Australia

  10. Karppinen S (2010) Strength Training for Fast Bowlers: Resistance to Resistance Training. In M. Portus (Ed.) Conference proceedings from Conference of Science, Medicine & Coaching in Cricket, Cricket Australia, Brisbane.

  11. Zatsiorsky V and Kraemer W (2006) Science and Practice of Strength Training.2nd Ed. Human Kinetics. Lower Mitcham. South Australia.

  12. Newton R U and McEvoy K P (1994) Baseball Throwing Velocity: A Comparison of Medicine Ball Training and Weight Training. Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine. 8(3): 198-203

John Cook is a strength and conditioning coach who recently completed his Masters degree in the field, graduating with distinction. John has worked with athletes from a vast number of sports including cricketers ranging from junior right up to First Class level. A keen cricketer himself, John has competed at junior County level and is an ECB level 2 qualified coach

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