THE VALUE OF UPPER BODY PRESSING FOR BOWLERS AND FINDING YOUR PLACE ON THE STATIC-SPRING CONTINUUM.
I was and still am a muscular and effort bowler. My training has made me this way. Over the years I’ve tried every training method going. Some have been logged others discarded. One thing I’m adamant about though is the value of UPPER BODY PRESSING. I’m a massive advocate of upper body pressing for Fast bowlers. I know it’s controversial and there are various more respected and educated trainers in the world who totally disagree. However having bowled for most of my life, 20 of them professionally I stand by my beliefs. For those not convinced on the benefits of the PECS and FRONT DELTS try doing a heavy pressing session 24hrs before you bowl. Now you can’t tell me your PECS are not used in bowling. I’ve found you can do a heavy BACK training session the day before a game but it takes a good 3-4 days for your CHEST/SHOULDERS to recover and regenerate before you can bowl comfortably.
I genuinely believe that all bowlers should be able to BENCH PRESS 1.25 of their bodyweight for them to be sufficiently strong enough. This is the minimum. However I do agree with the statement ‘How strong do you need to be before it actually has not influence on your performance’. Let’s not forget the ball only weighs 156g, so yes you need to be strong, but don’t spend all your life trying to go from 100kg bench press to 130kg. It doesn’t matter! As soon as you can BENCH PRESS 1.25 of your bodyweight just maintain that and spend your time on other training methods, technical or physical. Your body can only cope with so much stress so don’t place unnecessary strains on it by doing worthless training. Remember the ‘PINT GLASS ANALOGY’. You need to take some water out before you put more in otherwise it will overflow. This is very much like your training program.
FAST BOWLERS are a unique breed and deserve a lot of respect, time and effort for what they put their bodies through. I categorise bowlers into 3 types.
A, MUSCULAR AND EFFORT BOWLERS
B, BALLISTIC BOWLERS
C, RHYTHMICAL AND LEAVER BOWLERS
The training these 3 types do should not necessarily be the same. This is where the SPRING-STATIC CONTINUUM becomes evident.
At the STATIC end of the continuum, we have bowlers like SHOIAB AKHTAR, DARREN GOUGH, GRAHAM NAPIER, SIMON JONES, TIM BRESNAN, and SHAUN TAIT. These bowlers are the ones who ‘muscle’ the ball down and are, I believe good weight trainers and spend a lot of time lifting some ‘Tin’. Getting stronger might help these guys a bit, but getting more SPRING by focusing on ARM SPEED with reactive upper body training would definitely increase their bowling speed.
At the SPRING end of the continuum we have bowlers like JIMMY ANDERSON, WASIM AKRAM, DALE STEYN and SHANE BOND. These bowlers have genuine FAST ARM SPEED. So I believe, doing a lot of ARM SPEED WORK, ballistic and reactive training with these guys would be overkill. They already have it! These bowlers would and could have improved [they are/were obviously world class and legends anyway!] by increasing their MAXIMAL STRENGTH alone. Strength was /are their LIMITING FACTOR.
The third category bowlers are fortunate to be blessed with long arms and legs. They have great leavers and a mix of all training methods would help them as long as it doesn’t hinder their mechanics, flexibility and rhythm. Think ANDREW CADDICK, AMBROSE, MORKEL and IRFAN
There have been examples of bowlers who have actually moved along the continuum. I believe BRETT LEE was a SPRING dominant bowler in his prime and younger days and over the years has moved into more of STATIC dominant bowler. His body shape has clearly changed but still bowls 86mph+ in the twilight of his career. There is no right or wrong bowling type and there is definitely not a ‘ONE SIZE FITS ALL’ training program for fast bowlers.
Let me explain briefly about the difference between a SPRING PROFICIENT Athlete and a STATIC PROFICIENT athlete and how as a bowler/trainer/coach you can determine what your LIMITING FACTOR is.
When a cricketer bowls a ball, throws the ball from the outfield, dives to take a catch, hit a ‘6’ or push himself off the ground after sliding to stop the ball going for ‘4’, his/her central nervous system [CNS] relays a message to the peripheral nervous system, which calls into action the appropriate muscle fibres to get the job done. This VOLUNTARY action constitutes the STATIC on the STATIC-SPRING CONTINUUM. The more trained you become, the better you are able to recruit muscle fibres. POWERLIFTERS are generally very STATIC but don’t have much SPRING. This is why the WESTSIDE TRAINING SYSTEM advocates a DYNAMIC LIFTING DAY for the main lifts.
On the other end of the continuum we have THE SPRING PROFICIENT athlete. On the whole and to keep it simple THE STATIC end of the continuum is VOLUNTARY. However the SPRING end of the continuum can be regarded as INVOLUNTARY. An athlete who is very SPRING PROFICIENT has excellent REACTIVE ability, meaning that the more force he takes in, the more force he’ll put out!
We have a really smart built in feature in our neuromuscular system that allows us to become more efficient and explosive in the sporting arena and even activities in everyday life. It’s called the STRETCH SHORTENING CYCLE [SCC].
In very simple terms it means every time a muscle lengthens [ECCENTRIC ACTION] the muscle stores energy like an elastic band. This energy is then used when the muscle shortens [CONCENTRIC ACTION]. Learning to use this SSC as a bowler is key to increasing your bowling speed.
So, before you start lying on the Bench to perform a Bench press [Incline Bench is a better option by the way!] take a minute to think, Would you benefit more from doing ,let’s say 10 SETS OF 5 REP CLAP PRESS UPS? Make sure you know which end of the continuum you sit. Make sure you know what training method will improve your recruitment and the effective utilisation of your CHEST muscles. Which are essential to bowling quickly.
If you’re a STATIC athlete you’re very strong but lack reactive ability. The majority of your training time needs to be spent doing reactive, ballistic and PLYOMETRIC type training that focus on utilising the STRETCH SHORTENING CYCLE [SSC] more effectively in the Chest muscles to use the stored elastic energy to propel the ball quicker
On the other had if you’re a SPRING athlete you’ve got great REACTIVE ability but lack MAXIMAL STRENGTH. You need to focus on lifting some weight and getting appropriately strong in the UPPER BODY PRESSING muscles.
The STATIC-SPRING continuum applies to virtually every athletic movement, whether jumping, sprinting, and throwing. It is therefore imperative that you know how to test to find your position on the continuum and how to train effectively and efficiently.
How can I find out if I’M STATIC or SPRING proficient?
The Upper body box jump and Depth drop return test
The first test is a simple SINGLE RESPONSE press up jump onto benches or boxes [lie in press up position between 2 benches/boxes]. Measure the height you can reach. Take a few trials with adequate rest and record the best effort. This tests the LONG STRETCH SHORTENING CYCLE [Greater than 250ms ground contact time]
The second test requires you to start on the benches/boxes and fall into a press up position on the floor. On touching the floor you need to explode back up. The idea is to minimise ground contact time as much as possible. This tests the SHORT STRETCH SHORTENING CYCLE [Less than 250ms ground contact time]
If your depth drop return score is less than you Upper body box jump it’s a sign that you’re using too much STATIC and not able to use the SPRING because you lack reactive ability. The CNS isn’t prepared to store and then release the elastic energy. Your training should be spent on utilising the SSC. Reactive training and Plyometric training should constitute the majority of your time.
On the other hand If your Depth drop return is equal or greater than the SR upper body box jump then you have established you are very spring-proficient and need to train MAXIMAL STRENGTH. Heavy weight training using various techniques like PARTIALS, ISOMETRICS and LOW REP HIGH SET lifting protocols fits the bill here.
This is an advanced article that I felt the need to write as I believe the information given to young and old fast bowlers is not enabling them to improve as athletes and fast bowlers. In saying all of the above it’s essential to note that a good foundational phase of training should be carried out by all bowlers. Everyone can benefit from all the training methods I described in the article. Remember, ‘YOUR BODY IS READY TO DEVELOP EVERYTHING AT ONCE, ENJOY IT WHILE IT LASTS! [E. Cressey. 2006]
Good luck for the rest of the season and please get in contact if you have any questions regarding training for Fast bowlers both Technical and Physical.
‘GET IT DONE’