Strong stable shoulders will not only facilitate more sixes, but help increase you level of control with the bat and ball. Your delt’s (deltoids) are your shoulders for the anatomically challenged, they allow you to lift your arms up to the front, to the side and to the rear amongst other movement patterns. Your delt’s will play a pivotal roll in controlling your shoulder movement through all ranges of shots, throwing the ball, reaction speed when caching and of course your bowling wrist position and arm speed.
Lets look at the shoulder muscles and their importance in cricket:
Made up of 3 heads- Anterior (front) Lateral (side) and Posterior (rear)
Anterior / front delt's uses and examples:
Holding your arms out in front for a catch, keeping the bat strong for a paddle sweep, and keeping your arm high in your bowling action.
Medial / Lateral:
Cocking the arm to throw, cutting the ball, facilitating rotation in the arm for spinners, stopping you from collapsing when landing from a dive.
Posterior/ Rear delt:
Controlling your back lift, keeping the arm secure while bowling, running the bat in during a quick 2.
Of course these uses are intertwined given that the movements described above often use more than one head and there are many other stabilising muscles involved in these shots and movements but for now we are going to focus on the large muscles.
Now we know what the are and why we need them. Let’s look at how we keep them healthy.
Yes I said keeping muscles healthy. Im going to define a healthy muscle in terms of its mobility rather than the actual composition of the muscle fibres otherwise we will be googling terms left right and centre!
When we go through the exercises for the shoulders its important for a sport like cricket that we look for optimal range of movement through out the joint. The shoulder joint is a ball in socket joint like the hip which allows for circumduction meaning it can move in all angles. This is absolutely amazing for the techniques required for cricket however as it allows for so much movement this comes a greater risk of injury. How many guys do you know in your team that ‘used to have a gun arm’ but now take take 5 run up steps and underarm it in? Therefor we need to strengthen all three heads without compromising the mobility.
A great exercise for developing your circumdutionality (made up word!) is the Turkish get up. Holding the weight above your head and manipulating your body around the joint to increase the mobility. You can see the Turkish get up here -
Right, we have the what they are, why we need them and making sure they work. Now what we have all been waiting for…. lets get those bad boys strong!
Like with any muscle we want to stimulate the muscle fibres to micro tear and re grow stronger and neurologically adapted. I’m going to take you through a simple 3 exercise protocol to increase strength and size before increasing power and speed, all of which will develop stability and control.
My aim here is not to throw all sorts of imaginative funky exercises at you (although people that know me know that I love doing that!) it’s to make sure the basics are done well and efficiently. ‘Do the basics well’ and all that....
The scapula is going to be doing a lot of stabilising during all of these exercises so make sure your fully warmed up for the sessions. You can find my shoulder warm up routines here -
Over head press (bar/ dumbbells)
There’s a huge debate around overhead pressing and it’s safety on the shoulder joint this often comes down to your current capability and how restricted your shoulder is at the moment. It may also depend on your current level of scapular control (shoulder blade) That being said it’s a great starting point if all of the above check out.
Behind the head press is usually a problem for a lot of people so let’s stick with pressing in front of our head for now. For me, the over head bar press is 50% about strengthening the shoulders and 50% about controlling the movement with our upper back muscles which have huge benefits to all manor of cricket shapes.
What’s the difference between using a bar and dumbbells?
Dumbbells allow you to manipulate your grip either to hit a slightly different angle and provide variation during a set. This is a good option for beginners as it allows you to develop your own press path rather than being governed by the bar. The bar however allows you to load more and in my opinion it helps with symmetry.
-Drop the hips backwards and switch on the core
-Make sure the hands are in a position where mid way through the press your arms are at 90 degrees mind your chin on the way up and you nose on the way down ( I’ve seen many a chin and nose scrap from this one!) Don’t lean back to press, if the movement becomes hard use the legs to get the bar up but lower it down slowly. Be really careful racking the bar as to do so often means taking the joint out of a favourable position plus you should be tiered
Perform 5 sets of 5 reps, make sure to give your self a minimum of 2mins rest between sets.
The weight you want to be using should be heavy enough so that you almost fail on the last rep but not to easy that you can bang them out with too much more in the tank.
If you are at home and don’t have weights or access to a gym then there are some banded and body weight variations you can find in my home workout examples here -
Rear delt landmines
The rear delt get neglected, there’s no two ways about it! We live in a forward facing world so it takes a lot of foresight and diligence to train the posterior chain (back) muscles. As mentioned previously the rear delt plays a huge role in all shots, throwing and bowling, it’s also a big component in a well rounded and healthy shoulder look!
There are many ways to train your rear delt but I have chosen the landline version as I particularly like the subtle changes in angle you can use as well as the fact you are standing and using other stabilisers to help with the movement.
As it’s difficult to load this exercise heavy it plays nicely into the hypertrophic range of 12 reps or 60seconds of time under tension.
Once again secure your core Have a solid starting point, I like to use mid thigh on my opposite leg Allow for a nice stretch of the pec at the top of the movement Slowly lower the bar keeping your chest out and shoulders back.
Single arm D.B. power press
Back to the 5 reps for some explosive power work now. This exercise can be done without swapping the legs however I like to use this to incorporate the whole body and a bit more explosive.
Power is strength and speed combined which is very consistent with many of the cricketing movements we see so this really is the culmination of the previous phases and the appropriate stage for actually playing.
Core, core, core Practice with a light weight first Don’t let the weight drop, make sure you control the movement on the way down. Don’t be afraid to use a dip in the catch (dip your hips at the top of the movement)
There many more exercises to hit the delt’s however when I’m in a no nonsense frame of mind I look to nail the basic ones well! There are many more shoulder exercises and program protocols you can follow with kinetic crickets specifically designed programs for cricketers so be sure to check them out.
Shoulders can make or break your progress on and off the field so get those delt’s fired up packing a punch and ready for the demands that cricket will inevitably throw at them!