This is a guest article from former professional bowler, and current Strength, Conditioning and Fast Bowling Coach Steffan Jones.
How do you train to bowl lightning fast?
Sorry to all the traditionalist out there, but you can't "just bowl". Not if you want real pace.
Neither can you expect to do endless conditioning session that don't replicate the energy systems and effort of bowling. The sessions I'm seeing in some indoor schools and gyms are great for any other sports but not fast bowling!
So what do we do?
We can get clever: take training advice from similar technical skills like javelin throwing and baseball pitching. While we also remember that bowling is unique. You run in a straight line and perform a skill at the end of it with maximum pace and effort. You walk back and repeat.
Bowling is vital, but it's just one element in a chain:
Build specific muscles to lay foundation for the next phase.
Develop maximum strength relative to your bodyweight, especially in the lower body.
Develop maximum power in the "pushing" muscles.
Use that new found power to transfer to game-specific speed.
Be able to perform that speed a number of times.
That's it, job done.
Save your Cross fit sessions, your strongman circuit, your 400 metre runs and your high rep Olympic lifts for another sport. I've tried them all and they don't help to develop fast bowlers.
Bridging the gap between gym and pitch
You can see that as you get closer to the season your training goes from more general to more specific. We do this to bridge the gap between being "gym fit" and match fit".
Most training plans are "general". They train strength without regard to cricket. An athlete with a 2x bodyweight squat may not bowl as quickly as an athlete with a 1x bodyweight squat who has a higher level of specific strength. The stronger guys strength is not usable because he has not transferred it.
But it is important to start here to use it as a base to get more specific.
"Specific strength" is the bridge between the gym exercises, like deadlifts and chin ups, and the sports field. When I was younger and doing weeks of, unknown to me, specific training I took over 200 professional wickets in 2 seasons!
Fast bowling has 3 special considerations that ultimately affect training. In general, power for the fast bowler is generated from
Training emphasis should be placed on the quadriceps, hip flexors, gluteals, pecs and abdominals.
Bowling speed is generated by momentum from the run up and rotational power in the trunk.
To do that a program needs to be carefully planned. A periodised program needs to have:
general preparation phase
specific preparation phase
Each phase leads into the next, moving from general to specific and building on the last.
Early on, you will perform more work in the gym. Generally speaking, these exercises are very all-purpose and used whatever sport you play: Deadlift, rows, chins, bench press, overhead press, lunge, press up and so on.
When you have build a foundation, you move into special prep exercises. Or to get explosive!
These exercises use the same systems as fast bowling but through a different movement pattern. They stimulate the same major groups and physiological systems used in fast bowling. For example, Olympic lifts, jump squats, prowler drags and smith machine throw.
Towards the end of the 2nd phase, we get more specific again.
Special developmental exercises use the same systems as fast bowling but not identical. They duplicate part of the movement but not the whole movement. The speed and the joint angles are the same as a key part of fast bowling.
You are now using medicine ball drills, resisted sprints and jumps. For example:
As you can tell, these are getting close to the season and should be performed around 4-6 weeks out from the first game.
Where does bowling fit?
No plan is complete without bowling.
Bowlers bowl using various weighted balls, both overweight and underweight. All other training methods are no longer used or at best used in small volume for maintenance purposes. I would have bowlers bowling every day to transfer their new found general strength to competitive strength.
These exercises ware performed around pre-season games as practice and skill transfer in a competitive environment. This allows you them to peak for the first important game.
Plus, as you get closer to the season, now is the time to bowl a lot in the nets at 70-80% effort. I don't say that just to keep the old-fashioned coaches happy, it works.
It's then a case of taking a lot of wickets and scaring a lot of batsmen!
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