It's well documented that Zaheer Khan returned to fitness in 2013 by attending a "performance camp" in France. What can you learn from how Zaheer did it to help you improve your bowling stamina?
The exciting part for me is that he did it without the old fashioned mantra of "putting miles in your legs" and jogging. That's not to say he needed a lot of special expensive gear either. Everything the paceman did is simple to recreate at home, in the gym or even in the nets.
In fact, it's a great overall plan for any fast bowler who wants to bowl longer spells and come back for second and third times with equal fire. So lets take a look at what he did:
Bowling Stamina Tip #1: Get Committed
I don't know Zaheer Khan personally, but I do know people. I have seen cricketers transform themselves by making a big shift in attitude. You can see that with Zaheer clearly: You don't fly across the world to train unless you are serious about improving.
For most, this is the biggest hurdle to overcome. You want to improve. You make a plan. Then life gets in the way and you find you can't stick with it. So you give up and feel like a failure. This negative cycle stops even the best of intentions dead.
A practical way to deal with this is to stop it happening in the first place. Make sure your plans are realistic and achievable (like all good goal setting) and take some time to establish a routine that integrates your plan into your life. This can take a month or more, so cut yourself some slack if you fail a couple of times.
With your new found steely determination, you can move onto the more practical elements of boosting stamina.
Bowling Stamina Tip #2: Get Lean
Fast bowlers don't need to have low levels of body fat, but the more you carry the more dead weight you are lugging around, so it makes sense to get lean while staying healthy.
The fastest way to do this is through diet.
Zaheer's approach was to cut back on the starchy carbs like pasta and rice while stocking up on lean protein, especially from fish, combined with lots of vegetables. It's hard to argue with this approach as a strategy for losing body fat, and it worked for Zaheer.
Many argue that increased stamina comes from "loading" or extra carbs. This is true for long distance endurance events, but for the stop-start nature of cricket it encourages extra calories and therefore more fat. It's more sensible to balance your carbs.
Bowling Stamina Tip #3: Get Strong
Meanwhile, in the gym, Zak avoided the treadmill. Instead he focused on training that would make him stronger, more resistant to injury and more able to overcome the fatigue of a long bowling spell.
The regime was based on weight training (not bodybuilding which is also counter-productive). The focus was on raw strength in "big" lifts like squats and deadlifts. This was combined with exercises to strengthen the core across all the ways it can move (or to be more accurate, resist movement).
Bowling Stamina Tip #4: Get Powerful
Strength was the base, but strength alone does not translate perfectly to more stamina on the pitch. To do that Zaheer also needed to improve his power. The goal was not to increase his pace, but to allow him to maintain his existing pace while keeeping his mind clear and focused for plotting batsmen's downfall.
So, he would jump onto boxes, throw medicine balls and sprint: powerful movements that have similar effects on the body to bowling. His body learned to recover between bouts quickly, just like it would have to do between overs and spells in the middle.
And this is one of the secrets of good training for bowlers: You don't have to see the differences (like you do when you lose weight) you can feel them when you are in the middle. No one else may notice, but they will see you coming back stronger and longer, even if they don't realise it's your gym work behind the change.
If you want new-found stamina like Zaheer Khan, I can strongly recommend his training regime.