So, how can I improve my fitness specifically to impact my cricket and give me a better chance of staying on the field, bowl faster and hit the ball harder.
Your posture is absolutely vital both on and off the field. Posture in everyday life creates habits and can either alleviate pain or exacerbate it. Cricket is a game of making repeatable shapes therefore if we can enable our joints to perform the movements they were designed to make them we can not only get better but help prevent problems further down the line.
Action: in a nutshell upper body posture requires strengthening your back (posterior) muscles and releasing your front (anterior) so exercise 1) face pull exercise 2) chest door stretch release.
The human body wasn’t designed to run full pelt, slam your foot into the ground jack knife over your hips and try and kill someone with a leather cricket ball, neither was it designed to repeatedly plant one leg forward and swing like crazy all day! Therefor we need to give the joints structures as much of a chance to handle the demands of the game as we can! All cricket movements can be broken down and regressed back to the big 5 lifts. Squat, deadlift, bench, pull up and shoulder press. They certainly aren’t the only exercises you need but working a phase where you utilise these lifts to overload the structures ie. hips, knees, ankles and shoulders would set you up for a more stable body!
Action: get your squat form in focus, initiate the movement from the hips, keep the weight through the heels and make sure the knees don’t internally rotate.
Wow, ‘functional’ really is a buzz word in the fitness industry, “be functionally fit” “functional training” but what does it mean. I think it’s been blown out of proportion slightly, now I’m as up for a funky swiss ball exercises as the next guy but let’s be clear having one foot on a bosu with a Kettle bell in one hand and a stability band pulling you off balance before you can perform a simple one leg deadlift on solid ground is barking up the wrong tree. Functional training is about performing a movement to uses multiple ranges and angles. Initially performing them on the ground! Once, and only once these become the norm should you progress onto less stable environments.
Action: Perfect the T-drill (single leg deadlift) this exercise requires ankle, hip, knee and adductor stability. The safety net of 2 points of contact have gone so we now have a situation that mirrors a sports function but in a controlled and measurable manner.
Cricket is a power sport! Who would have thought it hey! There’s a lot of standing around and low level movement between balls but when the bowler starts his run up it’s all on! A bowler throws his body off the ground lands ferociously slams the ball into the deck meanwhile the batter tenses every muscle in his body ready to receive either a bouncer of which he needs to perform a big sway or duck or he receives a half volley where he needs to throw his weight into a controlled lunge and swing with all his might, you then have a wicketkeeper having to react and dive for a catch or a fielder sprinting off to chase the ball! It was exhausting even writing that! So try telling me now that the individual events of cricket aren’t powerful. We consider long and high jump in athletics to be power, speed sports but they get much more rest between bouts where as the for-mentioned event takes place 600 times a day!!!!! Therefore integrating power and speed training into your regime is essential not just to get better but to meet the demands in the first place.
Action: Release the weight! Make sure are warmed up properly but also not too tired. Power training has a sweet spot where it’s effective. If squatting try and add jumps in, if benching try an open hand release at the top?
The days of static stretching before the game should be long gone! Light Stretching is fine, it feels nice, relieves some tension and can make you feel a bit looser but be under no illusions that it’s preparing you to play. We need to activate not just the muscles that we are about to use but the muscles that support them. It’s even more vital if we have established a few weaknesses. The glute max is a powerful muscle take a bowler for example, the glute max is required to drive the body into the air and help absorb the landing. When we near maximal effort this muscle will need some back up from the glute med and other surrounding muscles. If these muscles aren’t activated effectively we can find a weak link in the movement and not only will we have reduced performance but a break down is not to far away. Imagine a police officer calling for back up and the nearest squad car is fast asleep after a few doughnuts!
“I can squat 2x my body weight” “I can run the 100m in 10.5sec” great (that’s is actually great by the way) however if you can’t deliver that in different directions then your a sitting duck in the field. Agility is such an important part of the game and with t20 and now t10 the importance of a few runs in the field is huge. Action: Perform suicides. Literally set out 2 cones 10 metres apart and perform shuttles either for time or reps.
Bring it all back
You could in some way justify most fitness elements back to their relativity to cricket. However try and reduce the tenuous linking where possible. Almost all sporting movements can be broken down to the big 5 lifts but where possible try to focus on not only the exercise type but the principle applied to it as well. For example, training slow tempo shoulder press has a place in encouraging stabilisation through the shoulder, scap and upper back in the initial stages of a program however it may not be applicable in a genuine maintenance phase when the shoulder is being asked to perform powerful movements. Sprinting in straight lines is another great training exercise but make sure that you do transition this to other movements that mirror on field shapes.
Action: Think of the 4 steps of exercise progression. Step 1. A safe exercise that allows me to produce maximal strength or power. 2. Transition that onto a single leg or a unilateral movement pattern. 3 Add further angles of movement to encourage a kinetic response from the whole body. Step 4. Arrive at the fully mirrored cricket shape. For example bowl throughs/ power hitting/ fielding drills.