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