One of the hot athletic fitness topics of the moment is how to prevent injury and increase power in throwing.
As cricketers we should all be interested in that, especially bowlers whose shoulders regularly get quite a beating. Both benefits come from improving the stability and mobility of your shoulder muscles as part of an overall training programme:
"I do believe in developing and maintaining comprehensive shoulder mobility and stability. And in my book, that includes pressing overhead with the barbell (doesn't have to be heavy and should include behind the neck work), dumbbells and headstand/handstand work."
Don't worry, I'm not asking you to stand on your head to get you to throw better but there are some practical things you can do.
Training in isolation
One theory in vogue amongst coaches and personal trainers is to isolate each of the 4 muscles in your shoulder and train them for strength and flexibility separately. This may be useful in rehabilitation programmes after injury, but for cricketers there is no transfer of increased isolated strength/flexibility to better throwing or reduction in injuries. It also takes a lot of time do all the exercises. Time that amateur players simply don't have.
Throwing from the feet up
As Tracy Fober suggests in that quote above, shoulder stability and mobility is better developed using the whole body. This is because throwing and bowling are activities that involve a kinetic chain of muscles. That is to say, the movement begins when you plant your feet on the ground then is stabilised by your leg, trunk and chest muscles and travels through your shoulders and arms to the end of your fingers when you let go of the ball. That means all cricketers who throw and bowl need to work their whole body in similar ways: From the feet upward. What does this involve?
- Cricket balls. It's the most specific way to improve after all, so try and do some throwing or bowling a couple of times a week outside of match days. If throwing make sure you throw from a range of distances and avoid throwing or bowling in practice if you are feeling sore.
- Heavier balls. The trick here is to throw something slightly heavier than a cricket ball for a few throws followed by something lighter than a cricket ball and finally a cricket ball itself. The ratio is around 5:2:1 for best results. You don't want to be lugging super heavy or super light balls.
- Train your whole body. A training programme for cricket involves whole body strength exercises to ensure a strong kinetic chain, exercises that work every major muscle to prevent muscular imbalance, core stability work and balance work. The latter 2 can be covered by a complete warm up routine. All these are all vital components of a strong, powerful shoulder and action
- Warm up well. The warm up is vital to not only get your heart and lungs ready to play or train, it is also the best time for you to develop your core stability, balance and mobility.
Mobility too, is a key factor. This is because the more mobile your shoulder is the greater the range of motion it can move through, which makes your throw more powerful too. Mobility is not the same as flexibility though. So static stretching (that's when you stretch but don't move) is not beneficial. Instead you can build shoulder, leg, hip and trunk mobility into your warm up by ensuring a full range of dynamic stretches is included. Certainly before every cricket session and I would recommend doing it every day if possible or before every workout if not. So you can see how simple it can be to get better at throwing or bowling. A well planned cricket fitness programme combined with a couple of extra drills on practice days can see you in good stead for years of chucking that ball about.
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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