In part 1 of this 2 part series we looked at the best lower body exercises for cricket. This article focuses on the upper body.
I'm not talking about going to bars and chatting up lovelies here. Pulling exercises improve your cricket.
The right choices of exercise will stabilse your shoulders. This allows you to generate more power throwing, bowling and striking the ball. Strong back and shoulder muscles also prevent injury.
Then there is the added benefit of bicep hypertrophy or, as we sport scientists call it, providing a couple of tickets to the gun show. That one is for the ladies rather than the runs and wickets.
The best upper body pulling exercises for cricketers are:
- Chin ups/pull ups. Hard to do but the king of horizontal pulling exercises. If you can't do one unassisted use one of these assistance tricks until you can. If you can, crank them out at least once a week. You shoulders will love you forever.
- Rows. Rows train the movement of vertical pulling. This is important for overall shoulder health, and also to balance out the more popular pressing movements we talk about later. You can row in a number of ways: with a barbell for compound strength, with a seated machine for scapular retraction, with a dumbbell or kettlebell to focus on one arm, with a suspension trainer for increased core strength or as barbell inverted rows. Each has slightly different benefits, but any variation will do.
Like deadlifting, training pulling without any equipment is impossible. You either need something of a suitable weight to pull, or something of a suitable height to pull your body towards. An overhanging tree branch might be enough, but you do need something.
And if we pull stuff, we have to push stuff to balance it out. So while upper body pushing is the least applicable to cricket skills, it's just as vital to make sure we don't have any imbalances between the front and back.
(The more imbalance you have, the greater the risk of injury).
It's important to remember that balance thing for another reason too. It's much easier to do pushing exercises (you can do push ups anywhere) and most men like the results of bigger chesticles to look at in the mirror (c'mon admit it).
Those two facts mean you focus too much on pushing, leading to the dreaded imbalance.
So while important, you need to tread carefully with these exercises:
- Bench press. When done correctly, bench pressing is a solid exercise for building all round strength and shoulder stability. Vary the methods often between barbells, dumbbells, grip position and incline, but don't try and cover every angle in one go.
- Push up. Push ups are not as good for sheer strength as the bench press, but are superior in many other ways. Push ups strengthen the core because you have to keep your stomach braced while doing them.
- Overhead press. Pressing above your head is not strictly vital but for complete balance you can throw a few sets in if they don't hurt (they can do if you have a bum shoulder). Use a barbell with a higher weight and low reps for strength and dumbbells with a neutral grip as a variation.
I've thrown out a lot of variations in this article. That's because there are a lot of exercises to choose from. But the important thing to remember is that the exercises are probably the last thing you look at when picking up an exercise programme. They are the final pieces in a bigger jigsaw that is based on goals, available equipment and the time of year.
But when you drill down to the detail, picking these exercises over more traditional bodybuilding style isolation moves with save you time in the gym and yield better results on the pitch.
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