This is part 1 of a 2 part series. To go to part 2 click here.
Chen Yanqing weighs 57kg (9 stone) and is 5ft 2 inches tall. She is also a double gold winner in Olympic weightlifting. Despite her size she has developed incredible power.
Imagine how you could use that kind of instant access to strength, speed and power on the cricket field.
Most people take a look at the weightlifting during the Olympics and think they could never copy the highly technical lifts: Cleans, Jerks and Snatches. They may even worry about getting injured. However, it's easier than you think to learn the lifts and their variations. Plus weightlifting is has one of the lowest injury rates of all sports: Far lower than cricket.
The benefits of this type of exercise certainly outweigh the costs.
1. Improved speed and power
Moving a weight quickly requires you to produce a great deal of upwards, moving your ankles, knees, hips and back in a chain. This is the exact same chain that you use when running and jumping. This means Olympic Lifts (OLs) will improve your running between the wickets as you can see here:
If you are a fast bowling it can also improve your 'hang time' or jump to the wicket. A critical element in the production of pace into the ball:
2. Improved endurance
It may seem counter intuitive but OLs also improve the heart and lungs. Research by Dr. Michael Stone discovered large increases in cardiovascular fitness after starting a program of lifting. This is due to almost every muscle in the body being recruited to get the weight into position. The body burns more calories both during and after a session. It's also a more specific type of endurance as you are producing power quickly then resting, as you would do when batting or bowling.
3. Improved coordination
OLs use the entire body in one movement. It takes coordination of the body to move a weight effectively. The better coordinated you are the more likely you are to be able to learn good cricket skill techniques and generate more timing and rhythm on the pitch.
4. Reduced risk of injury
When you use OLs you are learning to stabilise your core during movement.
This is an essential skill for injury prevention. Traditional core exercises like crunches and bridges isolate the trunk muscles outside of movement. However when you bat, bowl or throw you need to keep your core stable while your limbs move. OLs target that overlooked area.
Additionally, the techniques themselves can be learned in a very safe way. Many argue that OLs present less of a risk than training with machines as they are more natural whole body movements compared to isolated machine exercises.
In part 2 we discuss how you can add OLs to your training without having to spend weeks learning techniques. Click here to go there now.
Image credit: Steven Lui
If you want a more comprehensive guide to reducing injury risk and increasing cricket specific fitness, check out county strength coach Rob Ahmun's guide on PitchVision Academy.