Cricket has always had a strange relationship with fitness. There is no one training method that fits all.
It's a testament to the inclusive nature of the sport that it can easily allow for success whether you are a beast, a rake or a chubster.
Of course, we know strength and conditioning (S&C) helps. It must do, why would professional teams hire strength coaches if it didn't?
We are also uneasy about it.
Does it make you too bulky? Or too selfie-obsessed narcissistic? Does it stop you being able to play cricket as well as you can? Isn't it boring? Does it cause mental health issues (as the article above hints at)?
These are complex questions with no single answer.
No wonder most people are confused.
Let's try to unpack it a little and get your fitness for cricket back on track.
The truth: Cricket fitness starts with culture
One thing that is rarely mentioned is the culture of your team, but that's important because culture is the basis of many player's fitness training.
If you are a professional cricketer with a strength coach in the back room team, you have to work hard to avoid fitness. Questions would be asked if you didn't treat your body right.
If you are in social cricket team the opposite is true. You will be ribbed for going for a run or drinking a protein shake. You are accused of taking it all too seriously.
More likely, your team is somewhere between the two. There is general acceptance of some fitness training, but you can be seen to take it too far.
Understand this, because it will dictate strongly how you train.
If your fitness ideal doesn't match the team culture, either change the culture or live with being an outsider.
Find what it is that motivates you to train in this environment. It might be a desire to be contrary. It might be pure passion to become a cricketer. Whatever it it, get on with it. Work within those constraints by using your inner motivation.
Break though cricket fitness confusion with testing
Let's assume you have both the desire to be fitter and a culture that gives you room to do it. Because if you don't have those thing you can stop reading now.
Still with me?
The next barrier is confusion.
S&C is complex. People study it for a lifetime. It contains terms that blow the average player's mind. Read an article by Wellington School Coach and fast bowling fitness guru Steffan Jones and pretend you know nothing about fitness. It reads like a foreign language.
(Steff is brilliant by the way, but you need a good base of knowledge to get the most from him.)
In this sea of confusion we cling onto the life raft called "just":
"Just lift some light weights and bowl..." "Just run when you bat in nets..." "Just do 50 press ups a day..."
Whenever you hear "just" when it comes to fitness for cricket, set off your balderdash alarm. It's bound to be incomplete advice.
Mostly the "just" is right, but it's also over-simplified.
In reality there is no "just".
S&C is a balancing act of strength, stamina, mobility, core stability, balance, body awareness and power. It doesn't all transfer to cricket, but enough does to make it worthwhile for injury prevention and performance improvements.
But it's confusing. Where do you start?
Not many people are so into that part of their game they spend hours reading and researching and asking for advice.
But you can test.
Work out what you need most, look up some ways to do it online and get started.
See what happens.
It takes time, a couple of weeks up to a few months: If you need to get stronger hit the gym and lift up heavy things. If you need to get more flexible start stretching. If you need to lose fat, try a diet plan.
How did it go?
If you saw progress, stick with it. If you saw anything else, try a new plan. Not everything works for everybody. You need to see what works for you.
To get you started, here are some questions:
- Does your body allow you to get into good positions to have an effective technique?
- Do you put enough power into your shots and bowling?
- Can you maintain focus and concentrate over a whole innings and match?
- Are you injury-prone?
- Can you move and dive athletically?
- Can you move fast enough to chase a ball down or make a quick single?
- Do you enjoy fitness and are motivated to do it, even when it's not directly linkable to cricket?
If not, work out how you can use S&C to improve things based on the time, motivation and equipment you have.
- Fitness is influence by team culture. Learn how to use it.
- No one thing works for all, so ignore the over-simplified advice and test for yourself.
- Have fun!