Nicholas Hogg, author and club cricketer, takes to the gym to see how amateur players can add some muscle to their game. See ball, hit ball, pump weights, hit ball harder.
Okay, we don’t need bulging biceps and shirt-busting pecs to power our way through a game on the village green, but with a combination of dynamic exercises, movements which focus on the strength and mobility required in batting and bowling, as well as core stability, this one-stop workout will help you perform all season.
Our panel of cricket fitness experts includes former New Zealand paceman Iain O’Brien, dynamo club coach Tom Flowers and all-round athlete-cricketer Adam Hollioake (not only a former captain of England but also a mixed martial artist and cruiserweight contender).
I stepped into the gleaming surrounds of Third Space Tower Bridge with our guinea pig, Pete Sandys-Clarke, actor and captain of the Thespian Thunderers CC, and Roland Khounlivong, master instructor for the ‘Cricket Power’ session, personal trainer and Thai boxer.
Gentle cardio, such as running, cycling or the elliptical trainer, plus – we all know this, don’t we – stretching.
Before any serious weight-bearing movements involving the posterior chain Roland explained it’s key to engage the core and the lower body muscle groups, preparing the legs for action.
Lay flat on your back with heels down and legs bent at 45 degrees. With a foam block pressed lightly between the knees, raise your hips to the ceiling, activating your gluteus maximus to protect your back. Lower again and touch the floor, and then elevate and repeat.
Build and keep stability in the shoulder joints. Whether scoring runs or taking wickets, your shoulders can take a real battering. Ensure they’re in tip-top condition with a weekly set of kettlebell halos.
Hold the kettlebell by the horns upside down beneath your chin. Circle the weight around your head in a fluid motion, without swaying from side to side and making sure not to overextend your lower back, and then repeat in the opposite direction.
To bowl quick Iain O’Brien said he needed “glute and leg strength”, as well as keeping bulk and power in the core. This compound lift works more muscles than any other exercise, from legs to back and grip. Roland focused on technique before adding weight, and ensured that we were performing the lift correctly. Raising a bar up to your waist sounds simple, but to do it well seek out expert instruction – get this movement right, and core stability and good posture are yours on and off the cricket pitch.
CLEAN AND JERK
Adam Hollioake would often hit the gym after a day in the field just to do this Olympic weight-lifting classic. “I’d lose strength during the season, but a session of clean and jerks in the evening would help me keep muscle mass.”
The clean and jerk works multiple joints and muscle groups and therefore involves a series of separate lifts. Lifting a heavy bar from below your knees to above your head is a serious proposition, and seek out your gym instructor for expert tuition.
From entry-level cricketers to current professionals, coach Tom Flowers has seen (and corrected) it all. His cricket-strength favourite is the lunge, the building block movement of any front-foot shot, and a great exercise for developing balance and poise at the crease.
Begin standing with a dumbbell in each hand. Step forward with your right leg and lower your upper body down while keeping your trunk upright. Return to standing and repeat.
MEDICINE BALL – OVERHEAD SLAM
Bowlers wanting to add another gear, this is the movement for you. Press the ball over your head, arms fully extended, before slamming the ball into the floor. Think of the force and body position in a bowling delivery, and this is what your body is battling. Resistance built up in the gym adds zip to that ball on match-day.
MEDICINE BALL – RUGBY PASS
Get that core twisting and turning, and feel the burn in your forearms and biceps, with a rapid set of rugby passes – either with a partner or rebounding off a wall. Another great exercise for batting stance stability.
BOXING – PADS
Pad work sharpens reactions and Adam Hollioake compared the decision-making akin to facing quick bowling. A boxing newbie, Pete Sandys-Clark donned the gloves, and after Roland adjusted his feet position, and got him moving his ankles, knees, hips and fists, Pete found power and balance.
BOXING – HEAVY BAG
Pads hone speed and deft feet, while the heavy bag builds explosive power. Hooking in boxing is almost identical to hooking in cricket. Power flows from the ankles, thighs, hips and core, and is unleashed at the end of the movement through the shoulders and arms. You can also strengthen deltoids with jab work, key muscles for that textbook front foot shot.
A light jog followed by dynamic stretching is the ideal period to reflect on a workout well done – visualise the positives the extra power will bring to your game.
Recovery time is vital to feel the benefits of the ‘Cricket Power’ workout, so avoid a heavy gym session more than two days before a game. Give your body time to rebuild stronger, and launch that ball over the ropes at the weekend.
All the exercises here are most effective when performed correctly. Ask your gym instructor for best practice, or come and see Roland in person at Third Space Tower Bridge, for expert advice.
Big thanks to the ‘Cricket Power’ team: Pete Sandys-Clarke @SandysClarke, Tom Flowers @Tflowerscricket, Iain O’Brien @iainobrien, Adam Hollioake @adamhollioake, Roland Khounlivong at Third Space Gym Tower Bridge www.thirdspace.london @thirdspacelondon