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In the final part of this comprehensive analysis of the art of fast bowling I discuss the vital peripheral elements. To return to part one click here.
Many bowlers at club level underestimate how important the final set of Laws are. However, without them you are never going to achieve your potential. If you really want to bowl fast, you must not ignore these Laws. It's not always about technique.
8. The Law of Fast Twitch
At it's most basic, fast bowling is about moving fast. As we know from Law 4, the faster your arm is, the faster the ball will be. A large part of this is technique but underneath that is your very muscle fibres themselves. As you may already know, our muscles are made up of slow fibres and fast fibres. The fast fibres allow you to produce force quickly. We are all born with different numbers of both but it's possible to increase the number of fast fibres through strength training. The advantages of the right kind of training should be obvious: faster arm speed and more hip drive.
However, you need to train fast to bowl fast. So leave the long, slow jogging and isolation exercises like bicep curls behind. You are looking to perform exercises that increase your ability to generate power in your action. This would be exercises that work your whole body, especially your hips and upper body. For example:
- Jump squat
- Olympic lift variations
- Plyometric push up
Additionally, other strength training should be performed as fast as you can using proper technique. Most of this strength training will be based on movements rather than muscles: Pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging and twisting. See this online fitness program from professional cricket strength coach Rob Ahmun for a complete program that can be done in as little as 2 days a week.
9. The Law of Deliberate Practice
Practice makes perfect they say. In fact, it's perfect practice that makes perfect. How do you practice bowling at pace with a deliberate outcome? There is nothing more effective than just bowling. You can bring in the help of a coach to work on your technique, but you can go and bowl anytime as long as you have a ball and enough space. Set down a target on a good length and just bowl until you can hit it at will and at pace.
England international Jon Lewis recommends you spend 80% of your practice time just aiming to hit a length at maximum pace. The rest of the time is working on variations like yorkers and slower balls. If you are bowling at a batsman (and most club training sessions will be structured like this) then ignore them and continue to work on hitting your target area even if you can't mark it. Always bowl off your full run up and never bowl no balls. If you can organise it, bowl in 6 ball overs rather than taking it in turns to bowl and rest for a couple of minutes between overs. This is to make your practice as realistic as possible.
If your pace is good in nets try and bowl in practice games; either in friendlies or middle practice. This will improve your ability to bowl fast under pressure. How much you practice depends on your age, time available and goals. The LTAD plan recommends if you are developing skills you should train your skills more than you play (especially if you are under 16). Experienced adult club players who are looking to hone rather than develop need less training time, but 1-2 pre-season and in-season skill sessions of bowling practice per week will show good results. If you are under 18 you may be subject to your governing body directives on fast bowling. These are designed to prevent over use injuries so I highly recommend you follow the guidelines, even if you 'feel OK'. Many stress fractures are caused by overbowling and since the ECB introduced limits to balls bowled in practice there has been a significant drop in injuries.
10. The Law of Mobility-Stability
A great deal of fast bowling is about technique. However, if you are inflexible or lack strength in your trunk you will be unable to get into the positions of maximum speed potential. You need to be able to combine mobility with stability. In practical terms this means having a good range of motion in your ankles, hips and shoulders. it also means having very stable lower back and knee joints supported by muscles that are able to prevent movement in your legs and abdominal area.
- Range of motion. To be able to drive your chest forward and bring your shoulders round as you drive through, you joints need to give you as much movement as possible. If you are finding these aspects of your action wanting then you should step up the amount of stretching you do. You can do this by increasing your warm up to include more dynamic stretches. You can also do yoga or pilates to teach yourself body awareness and increase your flexibility. Also, if you get injured a lot you may need to do something similar as lack of flexibility increases the risk of injury.
- Prevention of motion. Fast bowling generates a lot of force through the body. This makes the knees and low back potential injury points and the core (deep drunk muscles) a point of energy leak (see Law 7). For this reason you need to include exercises in your strength training that both improve the strength of your deep core and improve your ability to prevent motion (anti-rotation). You can get some ideas here.
A very simple way to test your mobility and stability is to see if you can perform an usupported full depth bodyweight squat without your heels raising off the ground. If you can't do this then more work may be needed. Bear in mind that this is an over-simplified test and if you are worried about this aspect of your bowling it's worth investing in this book. It contains a more full range of tests and some simple exercises you can add to your warm up or cool down to correct the problem.
Those are the 10 Laws, none more important than the other and all contributing to your ability to bowl a cricket ball at the maximum speed your genetic potential allows. Some bowlers will be able to reach 90mph. The average club fast bowler is nearer 75mph. Whatever your speed, followling the 10 Laws will help you bowl faster then ever before. For the drills to help you with this take a look at the advert below.
Start scaring the batsmen. You can now get drills and techniques on how to bowl faster from a world class coach.Click here to view Ian Pont's fast bowling course on PitchVision Academy.
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