Optimum Cricketing Shape
Looking for the ticket for more wickets in cricket? Talent in all sports only gets you so far; the biggest part (and one you can fix yourself) is the condition you play in.
Of course, we’re talking health and fitness. Not only that, but we’re looking specifically at the kind of training and conditioning suited to all things cricket.
Let’s face it, cricket isn’t the easier sporting option played by older, less built folk as it was once misconceived. At a glance, the average player needs explosive power and speed for making those dashes between the wickets. A considerable level of endurance is required for lasting a test match, remaining focused and ready to make an agile move at zero notice, pulling all kinds of lunges and dives to field the ball. Then there are the obvious moves for which your body needs to be optimised. Anyone can throw a ball or swing a bat, but to do so with precision and superior force requires training.
Knowing and avoiding injuries. Safety first. Knowing which potential injury risks you face means knowing how to avoid them. We’re not talking about a stray ball, it’s about commonly pulled muscles and repetitive strains.
Hamstring injuries are one of the most common afflictions faced by cricketers due to explosive sprints and stretching beyond your capability. Bowlers, overreaching when you release the ball is another concern.
The answer? Hamstring stretches and a warm-up prior to a match is as essential, as in contact sports. If you’re feeling the warning signs of a pulled muscle, wear compression clothing to keep your muscles warm. If you suffer a pulled hamstring, stick to rest, ice, compression and elevation.
Lower back pain is just as common due to the regular hyperextending and rotating manoeuvres you’ll perform with batting and bowling, as well as crouching to unnatural positions to keep wicket.
As well as a pre- and post-game stretch, heat packs are a good way to ease the aches and pains. Feeling tight? Try hugging your knees with your back flat on the floor, followed by hyperextensions of your back while lying on your front. You’ll also find yoga keeps you more limber in the long run.
The next most common injuries involve pulls, sprains and pain due to the repetitive strain of your shoulders, sides and ankles. These injuries can be addressed with regular strengthening exercises (combined by adequate rest and recovery) so that your muscles are up to the task.
We’re not talking about bodybuilding. There are differences between developing the muscle for competitive bodybuilders and athletes. Cricketers need to be nimble with a full, dexterous use of their limbs. That’s not to say that bodybuilders aren’t those things, but the speedy, windmill movement of a fast bowl or a bat swing is going to be hindered by excessive muscle. The answer is building tailored strength, fitted with the required range of movements.
Core strength is paramount, and many painful side injuries are the result of a lack of abdominal strengthening. This means you need to focus on a diverse range of ab-strengthening exercises that don’t focus only on one movement. Crunches are a good place to start, but from there you should mix up the motions with weighted twists using a medicine ball as well as front and side planks. Don’t forget your lower back: hyperextensions on a roman chair lift will keep you strong all around your core.
Shoulder strains, aside from pulled muscles, are likely a result of overuse. This means that you don’t want to overdo it in the gym only to go on and further wear it out bowling. Your shoulders are strong, but it is a delicate socket that is easily overworked. Single-joint exercises will quickly wear it out so keep these to a minimum. These include lateral and front raises and variations of these movements. For stronger shoulders that don’t place all the strain on your joints, compound lifts are the answer. Just don’t go too heavy. Opt for 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps of a low-moderate weight. You’re building strength, not mass. The same applies to strengthening your legs and avoiding ankle injuries. Compound lifts will help with explosive power, especially lifts that involve going from zero-to-maximum resistance. Try the following:
✓ Shoulder presses
✓ Seated rows
Further to resistance training, your cardio ability has to account for more than endurance for fielding; we’re talking sprints. More than that, high-intensity interval training is an effective close match for the explosive speed and switch up from low to high intensity that you’ll experience through a cricket game. Using sprints as an example, sprint at full speed for 20 seconds and jog gently/ walk for a minute. Repeat this for 15 minutes. This will put you in good stead for a more intense game and, if the innings are slow, it’s always better to be prepared.