England and Sussex cricketer Luke Wright is well known on the circuit for having 'fast hands' and a lightning blade. With a bit of practice you could build the same reputation in your club side.
If you have played cricket for any length of time you probably have a technique that you are comfortable with, but is it as effective as it could be at producing a fast bat?
Technique is a vital aspect, but if you are unable to produce a lot of force in a short amount of time you will never have the speed you want. Sports trainers call this subsection of power 'speed-strength' and it can be trained.
Generate force in the shortest amount of time
So how do we produce force quickly?
As a cricket coach I would look at technique first.
- Do you have a high backswing?
- Are you leaning into the shot?
- Is your bat accelerating through the downswing?
- Are you letting the top hand control the shot?
- Are you rotating at your shoulders?
All these are important for maximum force production. That’s the basics of physics in action. For example, a high backswing allows a longer downswing and more time to produce power.
I would want to work on these things with a player first. While I was doing that I would follow make sure these techniques are built on solid training principles.
Mike Boyle approaches these principles on a joint by joint basis. This fits nicely with training for bat speed so let me adapt his approach:
The lower body is crucial for simple physics reasons again. The more force you can generate against the ground, the more power you can produce. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. However that reaction can be slowed down if you don’t transfer it efficiently through your body.
Efficiency is lost when your have to compensate for immobile ankles and hips. So working on mobility in these joints will speed up your bat. The knee as a ‘dumb joint’ (that is to say it just follows your ankle or hip) needs to simply be stable through normal strength training.
Spine (the core joints)
Traditionally cricketers have trained to rotate these muscles to produce power (think sit ups with twists). What they actually do is stabilise to transfer the power from the legs to the arms. So if you stabilise your lower back and core you are teaching your muscles to be more efficient and swing the bat faster. One of the best ways to do this is through training with a 2-3kg medicine ball and a brick wall. Here you can keep your spine stable while your arms and legs move quickly: A pattern that will cross over to your batting.
Your spine still needs to rotate either horizontally or vertically though. The more you can rotate the more torque you can produce. The rotation needs to happen further up at the t-spine (upper part of your spine). Boyle has some great t-spine mobility exercises that any cricketer can add to their warm up. Although we know little about what difference this makes to your bat speed it certainly can't do any harm to add these little tricks in.
The take home message with the spine is this: When you play any shot or exercise you must think about rotating at the shoulders rather than rotating the core.
While the upper spine is mobile (hence the feeling of turning at your shoulders), the shoulder itself needs to be stable. We are back to efficient transfer of power here the same as the core. Ironically, the best way to get your bat speed up is to work the shoulder in a slow way. Inverted rows work well as does some of the 'prehab' stuff you can see in the Boyle article.
Finally it's important to put your newly efficient body through some whole body speed-strength movements. Research has shown that using heavier objects can alter your technique so it's better to focus on exercises that you can do at pace to teach your muscles to move fast. Power press ups, bodyweight lunges and squats are great examples of multi-joint movements you can do at speed.
How would this look in a training plan?
An example of a plan I use is a 2-3 day schedule lasting about 45 minutes per workout. Usually this type of workout is reserved for the off-season but can be done in season depending on your goals.
I would start with a 10 minute warm up focusing on ankle, upper spine and hip mobility. Following this would be 5-10 minutes of core work including shoulder stability exercises. You could also do some grip work here.
The main segment of the workout would contain: A two legged exercise like a squat or speed squat, a single leg exercise like the single leg squat or lunges, an upper body pulling exercise like the inverted row (not chin ups) and a pressing exercise like the rotation push up or power press up.
I finish with some high tempo medicine ball throws against a wall. A chest pass, squat throw and side pass are good options.
Always cool down and stretch. Foam rolling is also an option if time allows.
Nets would be on top of this once or twice a week It's quite possible to do these on exercises on the same day as nets.
No doubt Luke Wright doesn't go this far. He has most of this power transfer naturally, which is why his bat speed is so fast. Genetics play a big part but with practice like above you can certainly close the gap on him.© Copyright miSport Holdings Ltd 2008