Strength: An over used and under utilized term among cricketers

Blog by: Kaushik Talukdar.

Edited by: Suryakant Tripathi.

Strength in today’s physical preparation world can be used in various contexts, and it is perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle for a well thought out athletic preparation plan. Strength plays a vital role to many athletic requirements such as endurance, speed, power, and skill. However strength is not always one dimensional in sports, as it is often perceived. This article will be divided into three categories a) Under reaction, b) Over reaction, and c) Moderation.

Under reaction – Twenty years back resistance training among cricketers was frowned upon. People literally thought resistance training would make cricketers slow (I do not blame them as the bodybuilding world did scare most coaches). However, most people did not realize that explosively swinging a cricket bat for hours, adding 12 times of ground reaction forces on one leg bowling fast were all extreme forms of resistance training. As the number of games increased, more cricketers got injured due to lack of systematic strength base. If we go back and look at the history of cricket between 1970-1990 and compare it to post 2000, we can clearly see that there is a significant change in format, rules and number of matches played in a year. It is the transition time between the mid to late 90’s and 2010 that most non-contact injury incidents were documented in cricket.

Over reaction- Fast forward today and we find every post on the internet reporting strength (pure force production spectrum) as the ultimate solution to every problem. Some of the fast bowlers even train like power lifters and chase numbers in the gym that is not only unnecessary but also dangerous. Strength is seen from a very one dimensional force production point of view. As I mentioned earlier strength is the foundation for many other qualities and it is more of a means to an end rather than end in itself for most cricketers. If you are a weightlifter or a power lifter it is a different story, you have 365 days to train the lifts and get strong but if you are a cricketer you will need to be fit to play most matches for your team. Most people do not realize that chasing 3 times or more body weight in compound lifts in exercises such as dead lifts, squats, bench press will still not meet the demands of repeated eccentric loading of the tissues among fast bowlers. As discussed previously, there are various ways to get a cricketer strong and incorporating a pure force production template will be never adequate.

Moderation- I am well aware that we live in a world that attracts solution to a problem in a black and white spectrum and that explains why we end up under reacting to certain things in life and over reacting to compensate for it. Physical preparation of cricketers is no different, first we dismissed the value of getting cricketers strong and now we are over compensating with numbers in weight room that belong to a different sport. Below are few points to help physically prepare cricketers without under reacting and overreacting to strength/ resistance training.

  • It takes time to build maximal strength, cricketers also need to endure strength, apply other qualities such as speed and skills to their sport. Therefore it may be more important to get cricketers strong enough to play the sport, increase longevity and durability and to achieve them they do not need to get 3 times body weight squat score nor do they have the time for it.
  • Build purposeful and productive strength. Strength should not be fixated on pure force production spectrum, neither it should be fixated on unrealistic unstable work performed on equipment such as a Bosu ball in the name of specificity. Build foundation and basics with authentic movement.
  • Lever will always play a part in strength training, basic physics. Expecting some of the fast bowlers to be performing like weight lifters and power lifters is trying to put round pegs in square holes. Longer the limbs compared to torso, greater the distance a bar travels. There must be a very good reason why most weight lifters do not have long levers or why athletes with shorter limbs choose sports such as gymnastics and weight lifting.
  • Progressively build dynamic strength (eccentric, isomteric, concentric and reactive) to accommodate stress countered in cricket.
  • Multiplanar and unilateral movement strength. Cricket is not played on one plane, rotational power and transferring force from one leg to the other is vital.
  • Monitor recovery and also consider the stress from both sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system when designing resistance training during season. Stress encountered during a central nervous system driven resistance training session such as plyometric, and heavy lifts will be very different to stress encountered in a low intensity long endurance based work for a cricketer. Therefore plan strength training wisely particularly during in season.

Kaushik Talukdar (Strength and Conditioning Manager)

Masters in Sport and Exercise Science.

Currently pursuing a PhD in Sport science and psychology)

Australian Strength and Conditioning Accreditation level -2



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