How To Coach Strength Into Cricketers
They may not look like big chested hulks (although some like Kallis, Flintoff and Irfan Pathan come close) but to bowl quick, put revs on the ball or hit the ball hard you need to have strength.
The pros have strength coaches to plan their every gym visit. Grass-roots coaches and their players may not even have access to a gym.
But that doesn't mean you need to ignore the usefulness of strength training in your sessions.
You just need to understand your limitations then work within them.
It's still perfectly possible to make even the youngest players stronger; as long as you do it within your limitations.
Where do you start?
First up, find out where your players are when it comes to strength. There will be a wide variation of both natural levels and types of training. It's vital not to assume anything.
So from your players get some basic information:
- Do they go to the gym or do any strength work outside of cricket?
- If so, how long have they been doing it and what are they doing?
Find out who trains and what they are doing so you are not doubling anything up.
A player who his going to the gym 3 times a week and doing heavy compound lifting will only need support work, while the kid who just plays cricket and Nintendo will need to do more.
Testing can give you more concrete numbers that a vague report from each player, but mostly this is not important. Unless you are an experienced strength coach, tests don't cross over well to actual match fitness. Plus your players start training for the test, which defeats the point.
Basic principles of strength training
Once you know the starting point of your players you can start to consider putting a basic strength plan into place.
The basic principle of strength training is to do no harm.
You might think that is obvious - and for most coaches it's the reason they avoid doing any strength work with players - but once you start it is easy to get carried away.
But just like cricket, the key is to get really, really good at the basics so injuries are prevented and performance in cricket skills goes up.
After that, there are some simple concepts you need to remember when putting your plan in place. You can find those here: Principles of cricket fitness
Mixing strength and skill
With a limitation of time and equipment, your best bet is to combine net time with strength training.
This always starts with a good warm up, which you can easily extend to some bodyweight training.
After the basic warm up, add in a circuit that covers off the main movements for improving strength.
If you have some money for equipment you can also do a strength/power circuit with kettlebells, resistance bands or both.
When it comes to strength, it's important to keep the reps low and the rest long. This can be tricky with no weights on lower body training. The general rule I think about is that if you can do more than 10 reps of a "big" knee or hip dominant exercise easily, you need to find a way to increase resistance. That means recommending gym work.
Other ways to combine strength training with nets include:
- Adding strength exercises to normal 'downtime' such as when a batter is waiting for a turn in the nets or bowlers are waiting for their over
- Using BATEX to get players running between the wickets to improve elastic strength.
Even one session a week will help with de-conditioned players or trained players just wanting to maintain strength.
If you want to make bigger strides you will need more sessions; 2-3 a week will start to show good improvements in your strength base.
This may mean scheduling specific strength sessions for your players or it could be that you tie up with a gym with a trusted strength coach or instructor who understands the needs of cricketers.