This is a guest article from former professional bowler, and current Strength, Conditioning and Fast Bowling Coach Steffan Jones.
Go easy on the hard work.
The only way to improve your fitness, pace and stamina is by stressing the body to the limit. You have to train hard. However, the body can only tolerate so much. Flat out effort is draining.
So how do you train and play hard without breaking yourself? Read on to find out.
Volume is not effort
Even though the volume of balls is less in Twenty20 than a first-class game the effort is far greater. As a bowler you know that anything short of maximum effort is going to go miles! Even with slower balls, the approach is flat out. In fact, we know that your heart rate never goes below 80% of your maximum in a T20 game as a bowler. I've recorded it.
That's a 1.5 hour sprint!
With that in mind, 10 sets of 3 reps of power cleans in the gym the day after a Twenty20 match is a bad idea, even though you have only bowled 4 overs.
Conversely, just because the team has just finished a first-class game doesn't mean that you need a day off. You might not have done much for a couple of days and even then it may have been at much lower effort.
So when you think about your training, remember that volume is important, but effort is the key.
Train hard after easy games
If you didn't bowl flat out the previous day, get them in the gym to do an intensive session: Anything that's heavy, fast and powerful.
Keep it simple. Then back off and recover.
Unlike batters, you win matches of cricket, so take care of yourself. You can score 900 runs in a day if you want but you're not winning a game if the bowlers are not getting them out. I’ve played in a few of those at Taunton. So, understanding when to overload and go hard, and when to back off, is a vital skill in your development as a fast bowler.
The rules of fast bowling effort
With that in mind, how many hard days can you take? The ECB directives for young fast bowlers at the minute state;
"...in any 7 day period a fast bowler should not bowl more than 4 days in that period and for a maximum of 2 days in a row."
That's not far off.
What it does not account for is effort. If you go hard you need more recovery, if you have an easier ride you can get away with more bowling. So, when considering your training, there are 5 key factors;
- Volume. The total balls bowled per session/game
- Intensity. The effort given in every session/game
- Frequency. The number of times you bowl in a week
- Expectations. For example, are you happy bowling at less than 100% or is it unacceptable? Do you want to bowl fast to get No 11 batter out and win the match or are you bowling towards an inevetable draw?
- Overreaching. How far you are willing to push. Can you test your body; can you go through the pain barrier for the team?
It's dangerous, not very sensible or realistic to push hard in all 5 factors. This is where problems arise. You can't bowl flat out in a game, then in nets and push yourself every day for more and more. It reduces pace and increases injury.
The key is knowing when to take out and what next to put in. Timing is everything.
That's why my rule builds on the directive;
Never have 2 intensive effort days straight after each other.
Or in other words, for every hard day there needs to be the same amount of easy days. This includes games and training sessions (gym or nets).