Stronger forearms give more power in your shots and the ability to go on and on.
But a few wrist curls at the end of the workout like a bodybuilder doesn't cut it. For batsmen who want to score runs, isometric grip training – rather than growing your forearms - holds more importance. This is because flexing and extending your wrist with added resistance will do precious little for increasing cricket-specific grip strength.
So, why do you need a stronger grip to bat?
It starts a virtuous circle.
Suddenly you will be able to perform a few more reps in your exercises. Forearms are the ones that give in when you are doing pull ups. So, even before you start feeling it in your back, you have to stop because your forearms are burning or you are losing your grip.
Likewise, when you do deadlifts or Olympic lifting moves, your forearms give in way before the rest of the muscles do.
So a stronger grip is the first step in making you stronger. Which is the first step in making you better at cricket.
Don't fall into the size trap
When you ask a regular gym-goer, what he does for his forearm, you get a prompt answer,
"I do 4 sets of reverse curls followed by 4 sets of wrist flexor curls and 4 sets of wrist extensor curls."
Over the years, I have seen people incorporate a lot of other fancy forearm moves in their routines. These exercises do offer some advantages, especially to build size of your forearms. They contribute more towards hypertrophy rather than your grip strength.
A major difference between these 'forearm size' moves and cricket-specific forearm training is that the latter are isometric moves. In short, the length of your muscles do not vary. Here are some examples that I have found to be highly effective.
Exercises for Grip Strength
This is one of my favourite isometric exercises. It looks and sounds simple but it is one hell of an exercise!
Grip a pair of dumbbells (heavier that the ones that you would normally do dumbbell curls with). Decide upon a distance like from the rack to the exit of the gym. If you are working outdoors, even better - you can go for a long walk! All you do is to walk the distance with these dumbbells and get back to where you started. Remember not to rush to cover the distance and keep almost the entire body in an isometric state (including the core).
This is another big one!
Sounds simple enough but it needs a lot of dedication. Select a pair of weight plates of similar weight. Hold the plates so that the plain surfaces are up against each other. With fingers on one side and thumb on the other side, hold these for as long as possible. Record the length of time for which you can hold it. Repeat with the other hand. Build up on time or weight over a series of workouts.
In addition, using thicker Olympic bars (for instance 30mm bars or axles) when doing resistance training and Olympic lifting work and thicker bars when doing pull ups will make a world of difference to your grip strength.
Take home message
Training for forearm size principally involves performing isotonic resistance exercises like wrist curls whereas cricket grip strength will come from training forearms with isometric moves.
Grip strength is one of the most neglected part of strength and conditioning for athletes of racket and bat sports. However, there seem to be very few better and quicker ways to add more punch to your shots. If you do work on improving your isometric grip strength in combination with a total body exercise plan, chances are that soon enough, you’d be watching the ball sail into the crowd every time you decide to get under it!
Dr. Deepak Hiwale is "The Fitness Doc", a medical doctor, specialising in sports medicine and a cricket lover with a special interest in helping fast bowlers bowl quicker and in preventing fast bowling injuries.