Alwyn Cosgrove put it perfectly recently when he said that any sport where men outperform women proves that strength is a vital factor to success. Research and practical experience has shown that the right strength training can:
- Prevent injury
- Increase running speed
- Increase bowling speed
- Increase throwing distance
- Reduce the effects of fatigue
- Improve bat speed
- Help with technique
- Help with concentration
In short, get you more runs and wickets on a regular basis. What strength training will not do is make you too stiff or bulky to play. If done correctly anyone can benefit from strength training. Even under 18's (although there are certain things to avoid if you are still growing).
However, as a commenter recently pointed out, any training is only as good as the context it is in. There must be as much crossover to the cricket pitch as possible or we are all wasting our time.
How to use strength training to improve your cricket
While there are many methods to improving your strength for cricket, the principles remain the same. Firstly let's get out terms right. I consider strength training to be any kind of training that requires you to move your body against a resistance with the aim of increasing strength, power or speed. This resistance could be anything from traditional barbells/dumbbells to bodyweight, medicine balls, resistance bands, sandbags, kettlebells, other people or just rocks from the garden. Most things work if done right.
How much strength training is right?
Like all fitness questions, the answer to how much strength training is 'it depends'.
Cricketers get the best benefits from strength training 2-4 times a week. Total training time can vary a little more but 1-3 hours split between those sessions seem to work best. The fitter you are the more you can do. If you are just starting aim for the lower end at first and build it up. This is the principle of progression in action.
Generally speaking you will want to do more strength work in the winter and less in the summer. This will give you sufficient recovery time during the season so your workouts don't impinge on your cricket skills work or games. This is a basic form of what coaches call periodisation.
What sort of strength training is best for cricket?
The best strength training is the type that gives greatest crossover to the pitch in both performance (speed, power) and injury prevention. This is generally referred to as functional training. While this is an area of great debate in the strength coach world, there are some generally agreed areas.
- Multi Joint. Exercises that involve the whole body have a greater crossover (more functional) because they more closely emulate what you do on the pitch. They are also more time efficient as you are training several muscles at once. Variations of squats, deadlifts, bench pressing and rowing are all examples.
- Explosive movements. Cricket requires you to move fast so generally your training should be fast. That may mean less weight moved more explosively but it will give you a better result on the pitch. For a couple of exceptions, see below.
- Progressive overload. Click here for more details on progressing your strength training.
You can read more about applying these principles in my complete guide. Subject to more debate and differing views are these areas:
- Core work. The core is a tricky concept. I have struggled with it myself as the principles above often don't apply. Core work is more about the muscles that stabilse while other muscles are moving. You should not ignore your core though as most coaches now accept. Have a look at my post here for some details.
- Corrective Exercises. A very modern approach to injury prevention is for strength training to include non-functional exercises taken from the world of rehabilitation to correct movements that may cause injury in the future. While I am still to be convinced (much of the science is beyond my current understanding) I can see some logic to making sure you can move through a full range of motion with equal strength on both sides of your body. There is research showing such imbalances can increase the risk of injury. Personally, I use certain simple exercises in my warm up to cover possible issues.
What to avoid while you are strength training for cricket
- Bodybuilding. Most exercises and techniques designed around bodybuilding are not needed by cricketers. For example, you would not diet and train to drop your body fat to below safe levels, you certainly would not want to take steroids and most single joint training is unnecessary.
- Machines. Free weights are generally better than machines. Machines lock you into a fixed single plane of movement. That just doesn't happen on the pitch.
- Incorrect technique. Weight training needs to be done correctly to ensure the risk of injury is low. Take the time to learn the technique for lifts.
If you want a more comprehensive guide to reducing injury risk and increasing cricket specific fitness, check out county strength coach Rob Ahmun's guide on PitchVision Academy.
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