I believe that there are certain basic bodyweight movements that should form the foundation of your strength training programs, such as push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, jumps, squats and sprinting etc. Unfortunately, as we get older and as the world has become more “push button” it is these same primal patterns that have suffered. When you were much younger your mobility and movement quality was most likely way better than it is today. It may be because you work in an office all day, spend a large part of your day sitting down and you are just not as active as you once were.
As your training age matures, the structure of your strength and conditioning program becomes more and more crucial to your longevity and overall success as an athlete particularly as a cricketer as the game takes so much time out of you. Your program must therefore be very specific for your needs and goals.
Exercise selection, volume and timing of workouts is all very important when it comes to choosing exercises as no two cricketers are ever created equal. The exercises that are typically programmed into a workout are squats and dead lifts. However it is crucial that you as an athlete or coach analyse the risk/reward of every exercise you have in your program. For example, poor shoulder mobility in most cricketers make exercises like heavy overhead pressing a big no no! I also don’t like the idea of bi lateral squatting, especially with fast bowlers who have enough spinal compression at delivery stride. Why not half the spinal compression in training and save their backs. I mean how many fast bowlers are we seeing blowout these days?
I have listed below some “bang for your buck” exercises that are not only safe bets but also very effective for building insane levels of functional strength.
Single leg Dead lift
The single leg dead lift is a single joint exercise where the movement is a sagittal plane hip hinge. It is a very complex exercise that requires a huge amount of muscle to work in synergy to execute the move with good form. It provides a huge amount of tension to the glutes and hamstrings while producing half the back stress that bilateral dead lifts do. On top of this it there is also an anti rotation component to the exercise as you are lifting weight off one leg. The spinal erectors, lower traps and rhomboids work together to create stability through the spine and scapular while the pelvic stabilisers and hip rotators work together to keep the pelvis moving in the sagittal plane.
For all these reasons the single leg dead lift is my favourite exercise for fast bowlers and any throwing athlete. Yes you lazy batsmen. You guys have to run, jump and throw too. So get dead lifting!
Pull Ups with Fat Gripz
I like to do them neutral grip with Fat Gripz to improve grip strength at the same time as improving pulling power and strength. Incorporating more grip, wrist and forearm strength protocols into your program is going to carry over to other exercises you do in the gym and also your game which is what we are training for.
For cricket players I prefer push ups to bench pressing because they are a more natural movement for the shoulders and scapular. It is also gives you more bang for your buck in that it is great for your core as well. To load the push up you can use chains, resistance bands or weighted vests. We may even do feet elevated or use a Bosu ball to create some extra instability through the upper body.
If you have read my SMART Core training series you will have seen the Supermans. They are a great way to improve core strength and stability. This exercise is awesome because you don’t need any gear. Start in a push up position and walk you feet back. This is primarily and an anti extension exercise with a bit of anti rotation in there too.
All cricket players or any athlete for that matter can benefit from more unilateral training. Unilateral training is awesome for improving core strength and joint stability. To create more tension and leg drive in the lead pull your toe up on your trail foot. You also want to make sure you control the down phase (deceleration) of the movement.
Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFEESS)
Like any exercise variation mentioned here it is important to move through the progressions only when you are ready for it. Start with goblet style and increase the load until you literally cannot hold anymore weight. Then move to suitcase where you hold two dumbbells at your sides and then finally a barbell. the progressions.
The swing is one of my all time favourite exercises because it promotes an explosive hip drive/ hip extension, teaches the power breath, activates the glutes and builds power endurance. Kettlebell swings must only be introduced when the athlete is ready. By ready I mean you must be able to hip hinge/ deadlift really well. This movement takes good hip mobility, core strength and stability and a precise technique.