This is a guest article from fast bowling and strength coach Steffan Jones.
Bowling is one of the most stressful and unnatural activities you can ask your body to do. The stresses involved are immense.
Luckily, most of the techniques I use as a strength coach working with fast bowlers to prevent injury also allow you to become a fast bowler. There is no doubt that a well-designed training plan is an essential tool for all fast bowlers.
I call my version of this system "RAMPIPE", adapted from a trainer called Ian Jefferys.
It's a a specific, progressive and periodised training program specific to those who want to bowl frighteningly fast.
Every session follows the same routine from low intensity warm up drills to high intensity weight training or weighted ball bowling dependant on the phase.
Here is how I set out every session.
RAM: Raise, Activate, Mobilise
The first section is almost identical to the method I use for a net session. You can find the details here.
Exact exercises may vary depending on the space and equipment you have. For example, in a gym setting you may not have the space for grid running and you need to do your mobility drills "on the spot".
The principles, however, do not change.
P: Potentiate Nervous System
As I talked about in my last article, this is where the intensity of the warm-up is increased to replicate your performance. This is the game ready section which will consist of training muscles and muscular contractions that are specific to bowling.
They are done at maximal effort with the aim of increasing muscle fiber recruitment. This phase will enhance your bowling performance.
Ideally you will have the space/equipment for the bowling drills mentioned in my last article. If not, you can skip them and move right to the strength/power portion of the workout.
The strength section is the main part of the plan.
In it we train 3 types of contraction (or muscle movement):
- Concentric: The classic, traditional strength training movement. Think of a biceps curl.
- Isometric: Contracting muscles while staying still. This activates more fibres without the same time required for recovery.
- Eccentric: Trains your body to absorb greater force and recruit more fibres. This gives a larger potential for strength improvement.
Most training plans don't consider all these options because they are not fast bowler specific.
We then break down the exact exercises, sets and reps depending on time of year. In strength training, this is called periodisation. Each phase is one step closer to the start of your season.
Upper body strength
- Phase 1 (4 weeks): traditional lifting for strength, low volume and explosive.
- Phase 2 (4 weeks): Shift to isometric training for strength. Use loaded explosive training for power. Phase 3 (4 weeks): Explosive training for strength maintenance with light weight. Use upper body pushing exercises or medicine ball throws for speed/power. You can also use complex training in this phase.
- Phase 4 (2-4 weeks): medicine ball throws, heavy ball bowling, or light bench press throw in conjunction bowling.
Lower body strength
Many bowlers assume that running and bowling is all you need for "legs" (or lower body training). However you need to be strong and powerful to prevent injury and bowl fast, so don't skip this section.
- Phase 1: Strength (squats, deadlift variations and loaded sprints)
- Phase 2: Shock (depth jumps, high volume strength, Complex training, sprint work)
- Phase 3: Explosive/speed/recovery. Here you benefit from the the previous phase (jump squats, speed squats, Olympic lifts variants, sprint work, plyometric jumps)
- Phase 4- Specific (sprints, plyometric jumps)
IP: Intervention. Performance
While it is important to work on technique when you are fresh and not tired from a gym session, you can still perform skill drills after training.
If you have space, and you feel fresh enough, perform drills in a session that focuses on one aspect of the skill.
Then move on to performing your skill based on outcome (target bowling or net practice).
As I previously also mentioned, it's crucial to review your performance after the session. This is equally true of your strength and power sessions.
Record the weights lifted, review if the workout was too hard or too easy, make sure you are progressing in the measure you wish to progress and never "go through the motions".
As with all training, fitness work gives you back what you put in. Work hard, work smart and bowl devastatingly fast.
Steffan Jones is a strength coach and fast bowling coaching with over 15 years experience as a first-class cricketer. For his full programme for fast bowlers fitness, click here.