Everyone knows you need to be fit to play cricket at your best.
Where the disagreements start is on the best way to do it.
Because fitness is cricket new (and still not fully accepted in many quarters) players who are keen to train have had to take lessons from other sports that have been faster to embrace the benefits of strength training: Rugby, American Football, Track and Field.
And in turn these sports have taken their cue from the original gymnastics and strongman training that dates back as far as the Ancient Greeks.
Over the years new ways of training have come and gone and come again, but you can always trace the orgins back to one of these two methods:
- Greek gymnastics: latterly changed to become calisthenics or bodyweight training.
- Strongman training: lifting an external weight like a barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell.
With such a rich history of both, which is best for cricket?
The case for bodyweight training
The better you know how it feels when you move, the quicker you can learn complex technical elements of cricket. That’s what bodyweight training can do for you.
Exercises like lunges and press ups help you create the same stability and mobility in your joints that you need to play cricket shots, bowl or throw.
But even if we are talking pure fitness the benefits are many.
Bodyweight training can be done almost anywhere for free and with no equipment. It’s ideal for those new to training or under-18s that can’t get to a gym because it teaches basic movements that you will need even if you use external weight.
However, the exercises are adaptable enough to be used by advanced trainers too. Press ups, for example, are better for injury prevention than the weighted equivalent bench press because they activate more core muscles and stabilise the shoulders.
You can also adapt bodyweight training for power with exercises like jump squats and clap push ups.
The case for weight lifting
Despite a false reputation for creating ‘bulky bodybuilders’, training with an external resistance (i.e. not your own body) is a very powerful tool for becoming a strong cricketer.
Unlike bodyweight training, you have total control over the resistance meaning you can overload your muscles easier and get stronger quicker.
Using weigh also means you can work on specific strength training. It’s very difficult to improve strength with bodyweight unless you are a beginner. However, by selecting the correct weight (one you can lift for 1-5 repetitions) you can build strength very quickly.
Power training can be done with medicine balls and Olympic lift variations.
And the winner?
Like most extremes, the answer to the problem usually lies somewhere in the middle.
The ideal training plan for a cricketer will include both bodyweight and resistance training. Resistance work will improve pure strength and strength-speed. Bodyweight training is there for muscle activation and speed-strength. Both can be used in core work.
For more advice on training for cricket purchase the online coaching course: Strength and Conditioning for Cricket at all Levels by Glamorgan CCC Strength Coach Rob Ahmun.