Strength Training for Cricket

Periodisation: What is it, and why do I need to bother?

You have likely heard of periodisation before, and may have read about its use in conditioning athletes, particularly athletes in individual sports such as Olympic weightlifting. It all may seem very technical (particularly with all the numbers and graphs and %’s listed when you look at a weightlifters or a runners program) and over the top, and especially way too complex when all you want to do is train for a game of cricket. And indeed it is, we will not be doing any technical calculations or percentage listings or using logarithms and formulas. At the highest level of cricket some of this is done; with the layout of the whole year highly specific (yet obviously adaptable) and involves lots of monitoring of different variables and relying on software programs, as well as the combined efforts of several different specialists in their fields interacting together to refine minute elements of the program. However, this is highly unpractical for the everyday player who is simply conditioning themselves for their level of cricket. But the fact is, the basic premise of periodisation is still relevant, and its basic principles can still be used to layout a program in order to get the maximum possible benefit from your training efforts. And that is what we do in these programs – we cover the essentials, and lay them out in an easy to understand manner, and most importantly do it in a way that is realistic to follow for players who don’t have the luxury of being full time athletes and therefore are limited in time.


Periodisation is basically looking at a period of time in advance (normally the entire year or season), and then laying out the plan for the whole year/season in advance. This does not need to be detailed down to the most minute specifics in number of sets and reps. Essentially what you do with periodisation is break the year down into blocks or periods of training, and have particular areas to focus on whilst in these periods. This is important because when aiming to get the maximal benefit from training, it is best to have a specific focus in each period. Furthermore, the variables involved in training (sets, reps, tempo, rest times, etc) will also change depending on what the aims are, and therefore must be focused in specific periods of time.


Another way of looking at periodisation is like a pyramid, where 1 block of training is built on top of another, with one period laying the foundation for the next period to be built on. That is, a particular period of training, with its specific goals, is also aimed at preparing your body for the next period of training, in order to produce better athletic results, as well as less injury. Because simply performing and conditioning anything at the same time will not produce the same high quality results, and it certainly will not minimise injury. This highlights a further big limitation in CrossFit training methodology, when it comes to conditioning for cricket (or any sport for that matter), as in CrossFit, it is (generally speaking) a case of everything at the same time, all year.


An athlete who maintains the same type of work for longer periods of time will experience a plateau, stagnation of improvement or even a slight detraining, resulting in performance deterioration.”

Tudor Bompa
Periodization for Sports


We are only covering a very basic outline of the importance and benefit of periodisation with the ‘bare bones’ of some of its concepts, and giving a few examples as to how it relates to strength and conditioning for cricket. I do not want to waste too much space on covering all the intricacies of the benefits of periodizing training, but more so focus on actually laying out what a year-long training plan should look like when strength training appropriately for cricket, and being prepared in the correct manner. However if you would like to read a book that covers more detail about periodisation specifically for sports (and in an easy to understand manner), what better author than the world’s leading expert in periodisation himself; Periodization for Sports by Tudor O. Bompa PhD.


So what does periodisation look like for a season of cricket?

When we layout a year-long program for the periodisation of strength training for cricket, we think about it more as a ‘12 month period’ beginning the day after the previous season ended, rather than a ‘year’ beginning in January. That’s right, if you’re serious about effectively strength and conditioning and preparing and improving yourself physically for cricket, your next year begins the week after your season finishes, not necessarily with intense training, but with your periodisation plan.


Around the world, there are various incarnations of a season, and the dates and lengths of seasons vary from country to country as well as of course from grade to grade. Not only that, but if you are playing professionally or part-time professionally, you have multiple calendars and tournaments and no real set ‘season.’ However, most players around the world are local players, or junior players, who have a set schedule, which is how we will approach the periodization.


With our hypothetical programming dates, we have gone for a layout in which the season begins the first week of October, and ends at the end of April, with of course a 2-week break period (for most local players) over the Christmas period.


The schedule or the type of season may look quite different for various people reading this, however all the same principles and layouts apply, they merely need to be adjusted slightly to suit you. This will make more sense shortly. But we need a starting point to work from – as it is completely impractical to map out every possible layout of season or option, so this general 7-month playing season will be our approach.


With a year-long periodisation plan for cricket, the yearly training cycle is broken down into 3 main periods;


  • Preparatory – or pre-season (June-September)
  • Competitive – or in season (October to April)
  • Transition – or off season (May)


A couple important things to note with the ‘transition’ phase at the end of the cricket season;


  • It is important to realise that the transition phase (the month of May in our model) and the following years preparatory/pre-season phases overlap, and therefore it is helpful to look at this process as a continual cycle, where the end of one training season is also the beginning of the next,


  • The overlap from the transition phase into the following preseason phase will also vary in terms of the length of time dedicated to each, depending on the individual player (any injuries and more rehabilitation to focus on, specific focus on strength, extending the general preparation, etc) and the individual situation of their particular season (finished in late March/early April as a result of a shorter season than 7 months, away on holidays for all of May and early June perhaps, etc.)


So particular plans are not concrete, and must be adapted to each individual and their situation. We are covering the general outline of what a season should look like in terms of the goals in each period, the types of exercises done in each period, and how exactly to program them to fit in effectively to a cricket season. However one thing I will stress is that no stage should be skipped. If you are away on holiday for example, the general preparation should not be skipped and then just jump straight into the more demanding work, or injury will result, as well as a lack of performance.


We dive into a lot more detail in Strength and Power for Cricket, into the various cycles in an annual periodization plan, explaining in detail the aims of each period and how exactly to target these. Before then mapping out these in the program section.


But in a nutshell in summary periodization involves;


-A targeted plan beyond the immediate term (and just doing the same things continuously, before changing at random)

-Changes in primary goals from period to period

-Planned variation in exercises as well as sets, repetitions, volumes and intensities to reflect the changes in goals

-Better physical adaptions and less risk of injury due to monotony




A very important point on Periodisation 

The beliefs and practices around periodisation have continued to evolve and will continue to do so. For decades the approach with periodisation and its use has been one where very much a plan (of 8 weeks, 20 weeks, 12 months – whatever) was set in stone and stuck to religiously. The belief was that both input (training) and output (training response) were completely predictable, and as a result, an entire plan could be followed to the letter. However this is very much changing – particularly in team-based sports with so many variables.


High-level coaches and practitioners have been bringing periodisation and its application in sports into question, pointing out several key limitations to the approach;


  1. Training response differs from individual to individual
  2. An individuals training response (to the exact same stimulus) can also differ based on any one of a number of variables
  3. It is impossible to predict how someone will feel in a few days, let alone 13 weeks from today – as a result, how could you possibly lay out that they will lift a certain amount of a certain exercise that far in advance?


In other words, whilst planning and longer term vision is important, setting a detailed plan so far in advance and attempting to stick to it to the letter is impractical, and becoming less and less the norm.


So does this make everything we just covered irrelevant?


No! Because if it did, the discussion wouldn’t have been included. Either that, or this section now wouldn’t have been included. Both are important, as well as compatible with each other. The key concepts and principles that are covered in the periodisation discussion – building a base of stability then strength before bringing in more power, gradually increasing both volume and intensity, and adjusting the sets and repetitions and exercises progressively – all still apply.


Where periodisation gets brought into question is in the belief that you can plan specifically what you will be lifting in 8 weeks’ time, or 14 weeks’ time. Or how many times you will be lifting it. Or what speed you will be lifting it at, and how well you will do it, and how ‘powerful’ you will be feeling on any given day.


Stated clearly – it is important, to have an overall plan based around your goals, and an overall ‘skeleton’ of progressions to build on. However, sticking completely to something that is planned so far in advance is unrealistic, as well as very likely counter-productive. This is important to understand as you look over and get into the progressive pre-season layouts and in-season layouts that are about to be listed.


They are examples of how you may wish do progress and adapt as your pre-season progresses. They are built on the principles that we have covered in the periodisation discussion as well as all the points from section one. However they are not in any way suggesting that you should be at a certain progression at a certain point in time. The periodised programs are examples, showing how the principles covered may look in practice. They are a starting point.


In summary – don’t throw out the baby with the bath water

Variation in the stimulus as well as the primary focus is important. However, do not look at a periodised plan as something that is set in stone. Equally as important, when you come across information and other sources questioning periodisation and its use in sports, don’t take this as meaning that planning and progression and all the other associated principles that make up periodisation are useless. It is merely the rigid application and believing that inputs and outputs can be predicted well in advance like a maths equation that is questioned.

However, having a structured plan for where you are going, and what you will prioritise in different periods in order to get there is a vital part of the training equation.


Cricket Athlete