A Guide to Training for Cricket - Part 2
3 non-negotiables fitness areas for every cricketer to focus on
Whatever your role in the team, age, fitness level or facilities you have available, these 3 areas should be a mainstay in your fitness routine. They will allow you to move more efficiently and safely. If you nail these 3 areas, you will go a long way to protecting common injury sites such as your lower back and shoulders. So, let’s get into it….
The core is the one area of the body that is involved in arguably every single human movement, even just sitting down. It provides structure and strength or if it is underactive, as you will see in people with poor posture, not much structure. Simply breathing engages your core. However, it is often associated with a 6-pack but in this case, we are talking about the trunk of your body including your obliques.
The goal of the core is to resist motion most of the time in the following 3 things: anti-extension, anti-rotation & anti lateral flexion. By resisting motion, it reduces the leakage of energy from the kinetic chain and put very simply, movement = energy.
The core acts as a bridge between the lower and upper body. We get force from the ground, and it travels upwards through our kinetic chain into our hands holding the bat or ball. If the core isn’t doing its’ job, then much of that energy generated from the lower body will not reach the bat or ball.
Not only will we lose energy resulting in a performance output drop off, but our upper body will compensate by trying to find this energy from elsewhere. This is when the spine moves more than it needs, to produce a movement that it shouldn’t have to such as laterally flexing or “falling over” when bowling. When repeating this thousands of times over a season, this results in injury, all because the core wasn’t doing its job!
Cricket is a sport with lots of overhead action from throwing & bowling. This ends up with people often experiencing shoulder pain. Therefore, they get in a gym and attack the symptom with front & lateral raises to try and build big deltoids. Then, for some reason they still get shoulder pain even though the shoulder muscle is stronger.
The shoulder isn’t the issue, it simply isn’t getting supported how it should. The pectorals, biceps & triceps all play a role in supporting the glenohumeral (Shoulder) joint, but none play as crucial a role as the muscles around the scapula. These muscles include the 4-rotator cuff muscles, trapezius, rhomboids & serratus anterior. In my opinion, it is pointless trying to single out one of these at a time but instead, get them all working to produce a movement.
Any pulling movement in a gym will get the desired activation as well as various YTW variations. As a rule, you should be doing a ratio of 3:1 for upper body pulling to pushing. What you normally see is the opposite with more pushing than pulling resulting in a weaker posterior chain.
You want the scapula to be able to comfortably move up and around the ribcage when moving your arm overhead. If the muscles previously mentioned are strong, then the scapula is going to be stable and happy to move how it should. This gives the shoulder the support it requires meaning that even if you don’t have big deltoids, you can throw and bowl overhead pain free!
In modern society, it is often hard to not spend much of the day in a seated position with hips flexed and short hip flexor muscles. This means when you stand up, those hip flexors are tight, and the pelvis is tilted forward in anterior pelvic tilt. This lengthens the hamstrings, giving them the feeling of tightness, and to achieve hip extension the lower back extends excessively resulting in pain or tightness.
This sitting needs to be offset by lengthening the hip flexors and getting the pelvis into a neutral position where it is stacked under the rib cage. This puts you in an optimal position to flex, extend and rotate your hips without compensating and getting that movement from your lower back. This transfers to cricket in a similar way to core strength. Every movement involves the hips, so we need them to move efficiently so that other areas don’t have to make up the work for them.
Hip mobility can be improved by a little and often approach. Spending ages stretching will give you excess and fake movement that will result in your hips revolting and being tighter than before. But, if you simply mobilise your hips for 5 minutes, twice a day with a few hip extension and rotation exercises then they will gradually open.
The common thing about these 3 areas is that if you improve them, they will relieve pain and tightness in other places such as the shoulder or lower back. It is vital not to attack the symptoms of pain but understand why you are feeling it. If something is hurting, then it’s likely because its doing more than it is supposed to and there is an underactive region nearby.
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