Strength Training for Cricket

Combining Power & Strength Training

We thought we would add in this important discussion as a link between several articles that we have posted lately regarding power development, how it links in with strength, and how it all really fits together – with what the overall aims are.

Cricket players these days have begun to recognise the need for a strength training program in order to improve performance. However as we have touched on, functional strength is not an end in itself, but can be built upon and improved upon by converting such strength into sport specific expressions of power speed and agility.

So how do we combine the strength training and the power training together? To maximise power, agility, speed and quickness, Tudor Bompa recommends periodised training that is broken into 2 parts, and has a specific focus in each;

  1. Increase the recruitment of fast twitch muscle fibers
  2. Increases the discharge rate of the same fast twitch muscle fibers.

Part 1 you achieve by lifting heavier loads with lower repetition counts and closer to the maximum amount of weight you can lift. Such training recruits a higher number of fast twitch fibers than standard higher rep/lower weight bodybuilding, and this fast twitch recruitment is the primary reason for doing this training.

Now part 2 of this equation, which is increasing the discharge rate of these fast twitch fibers is what becomes the focus and what we are aiming to achieve from power and plyometric training. The discharge rate is basically how quickly these fast twitch fibers fire, and improvement in this is dependent on the speed of muscle recruitment, intramuscular coordination (coordination within the individual muscle) and inter-muscular coordination (coordination and smooth and efficient movement between muscles).

So lets use the squat as an example. To focus on increasing the recruitment of fast twitch fibers we perform squats with a weight that is 80-85% of our 1RM (the maximum weight we could lift if we only had to perform 1 rep.) This movement will be very slow, which is always the case for maximum strength. However once we are focusing on the discharge rate, we perform these squats with 30-35% of our 1RM, and are aiming to move faster and execute the squats rapidly with a high level of speed.

There is often still debate in athletic circles about whether the best way to develop power output is to train with maximum weight and increase the recruitment of fast twitch fibers or whether power and plyometric work to increase the firing rate is the best way. However it isn’t black and white, and empirical evidence suggests that a combination of the 2 is ideal, and when periodised in a simple and easy to follow way as world leading periodisation for sports expert Tudor Bompa outlines, a base of maximal strength is a very sound platform from which to build and improve performance in power. But one final point on this, as Tudor Bompa outlines ‘Heavy loads do not allow for a sport- specific speed of movement, therefore the transition from maximum strength training to sport specific speed is vital to sports that require accelerated movements.’

 

“Greater gains are reported with strength trained team sports players on a wider range of performance measures following a combination of both high force and high velocity ‘power’ training.”

Paul Gamble

 

Focusing on the Most Important Abilities

If you have had a look through Strength & Power Training for Cricket you will notice when going through the program section, that the number of power and plyometric exercises used in any one program at any one time is relatively small. We limit the number of different plyometric exercises in a program to a relatively small number intentionally.

It is ridiculous the number of athletic texts out there that list dozens of different exercises to somehow try to squeeze all in together. Well then where the hell are we supposed to start first? Not only that, but this gives the impression that so many different power and plyometric exercises must be included in order to generate the improvement in ability we want. However this is certainly not the case. This is not bodybuilding where we need millions of different exercises and reps to isolate a certain muscle in dozens of different ways. We only need to focus on the handful (at most) of exercises that will give us the greatest possible conversion of our functional strength developed into handball specific expressions of power that we crave.

 

“During the conversion phase, coaches must plan training with the lowest number of exercises that closely relate to the skill. Programs must be efficient with 2 or 3 exercises performed dynamically over several sets for maximum return.”

Tudor Bompa

 

Furthermore, with too many power and plyometric exercises to think you need to fit into a program, it is easy to forget the reality that these exercises are merely the icing on the cake, combined with the already existing strength training program. They are only one relatively small part (albeit an important and very useful one) of the overall program, and certainly do not exist in a vacuum where we forget everything else, and only use these. They are performed in concert with the existing strength training exercises, as well of course as actual handball training.

So it is key to first identify if you are primarily a batter, bowler or all-rounder, and to specifically identify your primary targets of physical improvement. This will be your guide in deciding where specifically to focus your energy when first developing key strength, then combining this with cricket-specific expressions of power.