Cricket Strength Training and Exercises

Cricket is a game that would appear to require little muscular strength. Viewed from a distance, cricket is such a seemingly gentle pursuit that the notion of strength training and exercises would seem to have a limited application. However, as with many sports that involve relatively lengthy periods of low activity punctuated by intervals of extreme muscular focus, cricket is deceptively difficult and it also presents significant physical training challenges for the athlete, especially at an elite level.

For batsmen, bowlers, and fielders, the primary energy system utilized during competition is the anaerobic lactic and alactic processes. In the acts of bowling, batting, and fielding, the intervals of activity requiring energy generation to power the athletes' muscles will almost certainly be fewer than 40 seconds. As all players in cricket are at some stage of a match called on to bat and field, much basic fitness training will be common to all players.

Cricket training is not exclusively an anaerobic focus. Players are often either stationed in the field or at bat for a number of hours at a time. Cricket, as both a traditional English summer sport as well as a competition played year round in warm, humid regions such as India, Australia, and the West Indies, places the demands of the environment on the players. Enhanced aerobic fitness and a strong cardiovascular system assist the players in dealing with the fatigue and impact on their attentiveness in the course of a long match.

The areas of particular fitness attention at each cricket position include:

  • Bowler: The nature of the position requires that a bowler have the ability to move explosively in the run up to delivery, as a speedy run up will physically translate into a faster delivery of the ball; the arm, shoulder, and core body strength and stamina are essential to deliver the ball repeatedly.
  • Fielder: The fielder must be prepared to react to the ball when hit, and to get to a ball, field, and throw, all as a part of a game that may last six hours or more at one time. Speed of movement and agility are critical to this position.
  • Batsman: Brute muscular power is not a liability to this position, but reaction time, batting technique, and balance in the crease are of primary importance. A batsman may be required to maintain his position for a number of hours. The cricket batting stroke relies upon core strength, particularly in the abdominal and oblique muscle groups, the gluteal muscles, and the upper arms and shoulders.

A cricket strength and training program will of necessity address anaerobic, aerobic, and weight training, and reaction time/coordination agility drills.

The aerobic training necessary to assist the player in maintaining strength and to battle fatigue during a long match need not be intense. In the course of a weekly training program, two 45-minute to one-hour sessions of moderately paced running, cycling, or other activity, at approximately 50-60% of the athlete's maximum heart rate will be a strong base. The goal is improved stamina and recovery times in the course of the primarily anaerobic requirements of cricket competition.

The anaerobic qualities of cricket are evident in the requirements of all positions. Plyometrics drills that stress jumping repeats and similar explosive movements are a useful drill for the cricketer. In a similar fashion, interval running exercises that mimic the conditions of the cricket fielder, by requiring short explosive runs of between 32.8 ft and 164 ft (10-50 m) at a segment, will tend to assist in developing the sprinting abilities of the fielder in tracking down a ball to be retrieved and thrown back to the wickets. These drills can be performed with the athlete beginning from a standing start, a running start, and a prone start, as if the fielder had dived for and missed a ball, so as to emulate the types of starts that the fielder would encounter in a game situation.

Variations of interval training that develop the lateral speed of the fielder, to react to a batted ball, include foot speed drills, where the athlete must negotiate his way through a series of squares, moving sideways as quickly as possible.

There is no physical size or weight limit placed on cricketers; the nature of the sport and its "all rounde" characteristics tend to encourage athletes with a measure of agility, at the expense of muscle. Muscle development is however an essential component of proper cricket training programs. High-repetition, low-weight regimes are commonly seen as the best way to balance the contrast between muscular size and agility. The key muscle structures that should be developed for improved cricket performance are the triceps (important to both throwing and batting), the upper chest muscles (batting and bowling), and the abdominal and oblique muscles of the torso (stability in all aspects of the game).

SEE ALSO Cricket; Cross training; Endurance exercise; Stretching and flexibility.