This is a guest article from fast bowling and strength coach Steffan Jones.
Here is how I set out a bowling session when I am coaching bowlers to get really fast. Unlike most coaches, I have learned to combine skill work with strength work to get the most from your action.
Every session follows the same routine from low intensity warm up drills to high intensity medicine ball throws or weighted ball bowling.
1. Raise heart rate/body temperature
Through low intensity movements we aim to raise core temperature, heart rate and increase blood flow. This can be performed as a slow jog around outfield, shuttle running or grid running. However drills that are dynamic in nature should form the basis of the jog.
This part of the warm up aims to wake up the smaller stabilizing muscles. (This is where the new buzz word prehabilitation would come in). You can see some of these drills in my online coaching videos.
The intensions here are to increase range of motion around key joints that are essential to the performance, such as the hips and lower back. If you are short on drills I have a lot of options specifically for bowlers here.
4. Potentiate nervous system
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 movements that are specific to bowling.
They will be done at maximal effort with the aim of increasing muscle fibre recruitment, especially the fast twitch fibers, Type 2a & 2b.
This phase aims to enhance your bowling performance.
The bowling action is split into small parts according to their role in the overall action.
- Approach: You can use various skips and bounding, prowler pushes, sled runs, chute runs and viper runs. All these are resisted types of running so you should “contrast” with free running.
- Bound: Plyometric style exercises like box jumps, split jumps and long jumps all work well here.
- Back foot contact: This is split into training the elastic and static parts of the back foot contact. You use plyometrics like altitude drops combined with isometrics like wall sits.
On a technical note; if the bowler sinks on back foot contact he lacks eccentric strength. If he lands but is unable to push off quickly he/she lacks isometric strength and has too long "coupling time", therefore can’t transfer the stored energy gained during the eccentric portion.
- Front foot contact: Various resisted drills teach the bowler to drive his back leg towards the target.
- Point of release: Various medicine ball high intensity drills: overhead, rotational, vertical press and horizontal press. These teach the body to transfer energy into the ball. We also use weighted ball bowling.
I would say that a full arm speed strength program is essential to the success of a winter bowling program. Medicine ball drills and weighted ball bowling cannot be over emphasised.
They form the bridge between ‘gym strength’ and ‘game readiness’. A fast bowling program cannot exist without this phase.
- Follow through: You can customise standard medicine balls throw to emphasise drive dragging back foot on the ground.
5. Intervention of skill
Here we focus on traditional technical work.
I view the body as split into two part; rudder and engine.
Each session focuses on one aspect of the skill. The key is repetition of thousands of balls over time of a perfect practice.
6. Performance of skill
After technique we move into a live, challenging situation like target bowling or net practice. Most coaches are clear on how this works!
7. Evaluation of performance
After every session we take time to evaluate performance, reflect on things and come up with a plan for the next session. This is a crucial step to improvement of skill, never skip it.
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.