In part one of this autobiographical training guide Steffan Jones, professional fast bowler, told us how he discovered the power of strength training to bowl faster. But he was about to take things to another level. Here is what happened in 1999...
The winter of 1999 in preparation for 2000 English season was my first attempt at training specifically for cricket. This is the winter where I began to take things seriously. I began to research more on performance training and spent hundreds of pounds on training books.
At the time I was bowling 78mph. I was hoping to add a yard onto my bowling.
During the winter I followed a basic weight training program. It was nothing intense, simple basic training focusing on body parts. The gym facility we had at the time was machine based so athletic training wasn’t really possible.
Yet, I still managed to increase my pace.
Moving beyond the gym
My pace increase in the 2000 season wasn’t down to weight training primarily. My training that winter revolved around "SAQ" based training (Seped Agility and Quickness).
As part of my research I contacted Alan Pearson at SAQ international in 1999 and explained what I was looking to achieve with my winter training. Immediately, he sent me a program which focused mainly on speed.
I was doing:
- parachute sprints
- fast feet ladder drills
- various plyometic jumps
- Sidewinder drills
- medicine ball throws
- weighted ball bowling
I learned so much at this time, becoming a case study on what worked and - more importantly for when I became a coach - what didn't.
For example on thing I realised is that conditioning drills where you flog yourself are pointless. I simply did SAQ work with some shuttle running. It worked. During the 2000 season I bowled 2422 balls in Championship cricket and 953 in One day cricket. I was fit to bowl that is for sure. When everyone else was injured I ran in all day. I realised that Running in to bowl is a straight line. It's simple to get specifically fit for that purpose: Do it lots of time and decrease the rest periods every week.
Weighted balls for fast bowling
The main reason for me bowling a lot quicker at that time was a 12 week weighted ball bowling program I received from Alan.
Nothing else changed massively during that winter preparation. I was bowling with a 1000g small weighted medicine ball. That is about 300 times heavier than recommended! However my view differs from most: when the ball only has 20% additional weight to normal (as the expert will tell you) it doesn't feel different. For the method to be effective the heavy ball has to feel heavy enough to make the normal ball feel light.
In hindsight, 1000g was a bit too heavy and I no longer prescribe anything heavier than 400g (dependant on strength levels of the bowler) but it worked and gave me a great foundation. I believe I coped with the excessive workload and strain of a very heavy ball because I was robust from my rugby background. I wouldn’t give a 1000g ball to a young bowler these days as I know most have been sat by the computer for years and want to jump straight into my arm speed program and expect results.
The good and bad results of speed training
As you might expect from my focus on increased speed and stamina, I became a better bowler. That season I took 40 championship wickets and 30 Sunday league wickets. I was powerful at the crease and causing problems to first-class batsmen.
Speed had won the race. My love for trying to bowl quickly began. With the help of Alan Pearson and SAQ International I had found the most beneficial method of training for me as a fast bowler.
But things were far from perfect. I faded in the last month of the season and only took 4 wickets in 4 games.
I was motivated to stop this from happening and moved into the next off-season determined to become a 90mph bowler who took wickets from the first to the last games.
I actually became obsessed with it. This would also cause me problems during the next 10 years of my career.
If you want to find out what they were so you can avoid the same pitfalls, read the next part on PitchVision Academy, click here for part 3.