How is match fitness different from gym fitness? | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

How is match fitness different from gym fitness?

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"Batsmen need to bat under match conditions and bowlers need to bowl under them, something that seems forgotten in the gym-bunny culture. Instead, fitness as measured by pulse-rates and bleep tests, is being confused with being match-fit - being ready to compete with an opponent rather than a dumbbell."

Former England bowler Derek Pringle snarled at England's lack of match preparation in the Telegraph newspaper.
He is right to look for reasons as England failed with both bat and ball. The question I have is this: what's difference between competing with an opponent and competing with a dumbbell?
More importantly, how can we as cricketers use this information to our benefit?

Gym culture: The case for the prosecution

One of the fundamental principles of training is called Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand (SAID). That means if you want to get fit for cricket you need to play cricket. The only thing you get better at doing press ups is doing press ups.
Playing under pressure also teaches you to play under pressure. We have all seen those batsmen who look incredible in the nets only to go into their shell in the middle. The difference is purely psychological and the only way to deal with this is to play in matches.

Gym work also gives players the wrong focus. Rather than training to improve their cricket performance the focus becomes on training to become better at the tests. Lifting more weight or getting a better beep test score becomes an end in itself rather than a means to an end.
That's not to say players should do no training in the gym. It's just that when fitness work becomes the focus rather than playing cricket it leads to poor form on the pitch.

Gym culture: The case for the defence

I'm sure even Derek Pringle would not argue against strength training totally. We know the benefits of regular exercise for health and performance: Fewer injuries, more power, more speed, better concentration, better recovery times and better body composition.
It's all too easy to make this an either/or situation: That cricketers should either play or matches or visit the gym. The fact is that both are important if you are serious about success.

Playing lots of cricket is important to success. The more you bat or bowl under serious competitive elements the better you get at it. But cricket also causes imbalances in our muscles that without fitness training can lead to increased chance of injury. The right fitness work can correct those errors before they become injuries, particularly with bowlers.

Additionally, training itself is a mental challenge. It's tough to keep going to the gym for an extended period and keep improving. You are in competition against yourself and that is just as important when you get on the field. Also, fitness training is something you can control and measure accurately. You can't measure how ready you are to compete as accurately.
Of course, you need to do the right sort of fitness work. With all training that is not specific there will be a certain amount that doesn't cross over to the pitch.

However, some things are universal to almost any sport: sprinting, jumping, changing direction quickly and striking are far more similar than different. After all, if you can run fast you can run fast playing cricket, hockey, football or chasing the bus.
In short, the difference between the gym and matches is the former gets you fit to play, the latter makes you play to get fit.

The verdict

Which side of the fence do you lie on? Do you think Derek Pringle is right and it's more important to play than train? Or do you support a bit of both? Leave a comment in the comments box and let us know.


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This is what IanPont had to say when I asked him 'What is more important to your performance, playing or training?'

'Playing gives you experience, training gives you skill.'

I think that sums it up nicely!

Very well put Mr. Pont!

In reality playing hones the skill and training adapts the body for playing.

I agree newbie. Training also helps prevent injury.

David, Maybe but the the training goal must be increased performance by getting body to be more efficient, not injury prevention Eye-wink

It's both. You can be the strongest and fittest in your team but if you do your rotator cuff in because you have not trainined it properly you will be sidelined and useless.

how do you suggest that the rotator cuff be trained to prevent injury? Thera band?

If are the strongest and the fittest, and been training correctly with regard to exercise selection and volume, you should not have problems with the rotator cuff.

What do you use newbie?

I like YTLW's


Interesting points. The obvious difference between match and gym fitness is that gym fitness helps provide support through core training and the ability to develop muscle strength, whereas fitness developed through playing any sport helps build muscle memory which is essential for the body being able to perform at optimum levels during the match itself.

I agree ed, great point.

Great article. Balannced training greatly reduces the risk of injury.

I agree Jesse.

how do you suggest that the rotator cuff be trained to prevent injury? Thera band?

That's an option. As are YTWL's

Now, I don't play matches--Cricket or otherwise--but I am a windsurf fanatic and Robby Naish put it well when asked: "How do you get in shape for windsurfing?"

His reply: "Windsurfing."

A great point Alex. I might counter with the point that while cricket is the best way to get for for cricket. Fitness work is the best way to get ready to play cricket.

Now, I'm into yoga but here in Canada, we love hockey. I don't know about cricket but in hockey, they say that the playoff season is a different season because of it's intensity and the grueling nature. So definitely a combination of both... you need the skill and experience to do well in playoffs, but also the stamina of gym fitness to sustain the long season without injury.

I beleive gym fitness should be used during the offseason. But when your near the start of the season start bringing in match fitness.

What makes you believe that?

gym fitness should be used more for prep and injury prevention and match fitness can be bowling batting or fielding practice so you can work under pressure.

I think gym fitness can be used for strength and power also so on the basis that you lose muscle if you don't train then you will lose power and strength if you don't train during the season. International cricketers play cricket throughout the year and I am 99% sure every one of them are in the gym at least a couple of times a week.

After missing a complete season last year due to snapping my achilles tendon, I have been training hard it the gym to get the flexiblity back and I feel ready to get back in the nets batting and bowling,however Mr Pringle is quite correct playing cricket it self is the best form of practise,but we all need to be fit if we are to perform at our best on a match day.

A good article but why must people always make grossly overexaggerated claims to drive their point home? "The only thing you get better at doing press ups is doing press ups." is nonsense. It may not help with match fitness and that is a good point to make, but there is still merit in doing press ups for other reasons. I think it would be more appropriate to take a more considered perspective instead of just launching into hyperbole.

I agree Andy, in fact you could say I was guilty of painting to clich├ęd a picture of the "anti-fitness" people. I suspect someone that set in their ways would not even read this site, let alone leave a comment! However, I do know people who think of fitness training as nonsense and the only playing will get you fit. I personally think it's the opposite: get fit before you play.

Check out I've used all sorts of training programmes and this I find is the best and very easy to understand.

I wrote about crossfit for cricket before

in the present modern cricket both are necessary

I agree with Derek 110%. I have had to deal with this problem of match fitness vs physical fitness for the past few years both as a sports scientist and trainer. I have witnessed athletes who give me level 15+ in bleep test but still wouldnt move their feet fielding after a spell of bowling

'Fitness' for the sake of it certainly does not help anyone apart from perhaps developing improved ability to set and reach goals.

That said, there are a lot of benefits to focusing on, say, the strength side of the speed-strength continuum because it leads to a big performance jump purely through training a previously untrained element of power.

Plus we mustn't forget the injury prevention benefits of improved core stability, mobility, tissue quality and balanced strength.

For me it's not an either/or. Get fit to play in the off season. Get strong, learn to run, jump and land, train your core effective, improve your mobility. During the season maintain that fitness in the gym and play to get overs/runs in your legs.