The game of Cricket has historically been known as "the gentleman's game." Until about three decades ago Cricketers were certainly not the fittest athletes on the planet. Often it was remarked that Cricket is physically an easy game which requires one to stand on the field for most of the day and requires little running, jumping or strength.
However with the introduction of one-day Cricket, the game has gone through major changes and the physical demands made on a cricketer's body has also increased dramatically. No longer can a batsman just continue to defend away for overs, he has to often use his strength to hit big sixes. The highly-developed levels of fielding in the modern times require a player to have strong shoulders and arms to make direct hits at the stumps. One look at the photo of a modern day player and a player from the 60s and you will notice the difference in the bodies of the two. The modern player is leaner, stronger and far more athletic!
As mentioned earlier, Cricket was not really considered a physical game, thus proper strength development was often ignored by Cricketers. Now if you look at modern day players like Mathew Hayden, Andrew Symonds, Shoaib Akhtar you will notice how these guys use their muscular strength to their advantage and perform better. Let us look at some proven benefits of added strength for a Cricketer:
- Prevent injury
- Increase running speed
- Increase bowling speed
- Increase throwing distance
- Reduce the effects of fatigue
- Improve bat speed
- Help with technique
The point of preventing further injuries I want to further explain to help understand the necessity of strength training. The great sir Don Bradman in a career spanning 2 decades played only 52 test matches, and no one days. On the other hand, modern day great Sachin Tendulkar in the same span of 20 years has played 167 test matches and 442 one day internationals! In short he has played more than 3 times the number of matches when compared to sir Don. This clearly shows the drastic increase in the physical workloads of the modern day Cricketer.
In such a demanding age, if a player does not have a strong body he will certainly not be able to survive for long in the international arena and will perish soon. Thus Cricket teams all around the world place a great deal of time on developing the strength of their players.
Developing Strength For Cricket
Now I will discuss how you can develop strength for Cricket. I mean real functional strength and not the type of training that asks you to balance on one leg and do the exercises. So here are the principles that you must keep in mind when designing your strength training program for Cricket. And by the way if any you have fears that strength training will make you too bulky and you will lose your agility and speed, then let me assure you that you cannot become too big with all the cardio work that you do on the field.
1. Use Compound Movements
Whenever you train with weights use compound movements like squats, deadlifts, military presses over isolation movements like biceps curls, calf raises, etc. Compound movements are best suited to build real overall strength that can be utilized on the field. Think of it, when you hit a six do you think you only use your arms to generate the strength? If that were the case then you would be able to generate the same power even if you were suspended in the air and asked to hit a six. Surely you cannot hit a six in that position as you would not be able to use most of the muscles in your body to generate that much force. So train using mostly compound movements.
2. Do Most Exercises Standing
A game of Cricket is played almost entirely standing up, unless you make a dive while fielding or to avoid a run out. Thus there's no sense in doing most exercises lying or seated on the ground or on a bench. For example do standing military presses rather than seated military presses, free standing dumbbell rows, rather than doing them supported on a bench, etc. This type of training will have a far better carryover effect on the field.
3. Focus On Progression
In any form of training progression is a vital factor, and it is the same for strength training too. Using the same weights for every workout over a long period of time will not help you improve. If you are scared of lifting heavier weights, then please do not bother entering the weight room because you will not benefit much. Ensure that you gradually add weight to the bar while maintaining proper form to keep progressing.
4. Frequency Of Training
How may days should you strength train? Obviously you cannot follow the strength training frequency of a weightlifter since you devote a lot of your training time to developing your skills and improving your conditioning. This means that you will have to follow a low frequency workout in the beginning to have enough energy left for your skills and conditioning sessions. For most beginners 3 alternate days per week works best and allows enough time for recovery. As you progress you can increase the frequency to 4-5 days a week if required.
5. Sets And Reps
Different coaches advise to use different combinations of sets and reps. Many trainers recommend lifting light to moderate weights for high reps. The reasoning they give is that it is unsafe to use heavier weights and it is unnecessary to do so since the players are not weightlifters. I agree that Cricketers are not weightlifters, but we are talking about strength development here. By lifting light to moderate weights you will never build a lot of strength. As far as risk goes, watch your form and you will do well.
I generally recommend training mostly using 5-10 reps and 3-5 sets for Cricketers. If your reps are on the higher side then keep the sets on the lower side, and if the reps are low then keep the sets on the higher side. Thus if you chose to do 5 reps then do 4-5 sets, and if you choose to do 10 reps then do 3 sets. You can and should vary your training between the rep and set ranges.
6. Proper Periodization
Once I was discussing with a trainer of a junior Cricket team about how they train. He informed me that with weights they do 4 weeks of mass training, 4 weeks of strength training and 4 weeks of endurance training. Hearing this I was surprised. I mean why does every Cricketer need to go through a mass training phase and an endurance phase? Cricket is not a game played on a bodyweight category basis, so why does one need to bulk up unless they are underweight?
As far as endurance goes, if all that running on the field and hours of skills practice fails to build any endurance then I am sorry but I fail to see how a 30-minute session of high rep training will build endurance. I am a firm believer that for a Cricketer, weights should be primarily used for strength development.
However the concept of periodization is very important for a Cricketer to follow. He should base his workouts depending on the time of the season. The off season should be used to build strength and power, and during the season you should try to maintain what strength you have gained during the off season. There is no sense and no real chance of trying to build additional strength when the season begins, so be truly devoted during the off season.
So now that we have covered the basic principles of strength training for Cricket it is time for sample routines. The routines given are meant for amateur Cricketers who are looking to add strength training to enhance their performance on the field. If you also need to pack on muscle size, then do the same routine and keep increasing your caloric intake gradually till you reach your ideal weight.
Do the following workouts alternately on 3 alternate days a week.
Do the following workouts alternately on 3 alternate days per week. Do 1-2 warm up sets for the exercises. Do 1 set of A 1 then rest 1 1/2 to 2 minutes and do 1 set of A 2. After finishing the assigned number of sets for A1 and A2 move on to B1 and B2 and do it in the same manner.
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Now what about season time? Obviously lifting heavy weights during that period is not a great idea. The objective of strength training during the season time should be to maintain the strength that is built during the off season. So keeping that in mind, follow an abbreviated routine from the off season. Here is a sample routine that you can follow when it's game time.
So there you have it sample routines for Cricketers to follow to become strong. Do not wait and think that the game's physical requirements are the same as it was decades ago. To be a modern day Cricketer you cannot ignore proper strength development. So go and hit the gym - the weights are waiting for you!