If a fast bowler isn’t being physically stressed, you’re wasting your time! I truly believe that and feel passionately about it. I see it too often now. Bowlers spend all their time doing PREHAB work that’s focusing on INJURY PREVENTION as opposed to PERFORMANCE ENHANCEMENT. Yes, I know before you start shouting at me that strengthening your stabiliser muscles will in turn enable the FOCUS muscles to perform more efficiently and effectively. However, simply basing your program on Thera band rotator cuff work, band glute walks and planks will not STRESS the athlete sufficiently and prepare them for the rigours of BOWLING FAST. Please remember there’s 4 times and 9 times your bodyweight going through your body on back foot and front foot contact respectively. Now that’s STRESS believe me!
PREHAB work should be part of your RAMP warm up and that’s it. Two exercises, 1 upper and 1 lower, five to ten minutes, job done! I’ve seen bowlers spend 40 mins on basic prehab drills and leaving the gym genuinely uninspired and driving to another gym to do a proper strength and power session. That’s not right and in the long run could lead to injuries which you have spend 40mins preparing to avoid! Not in teams I’ve played for may I add.
Constantly applying STRESS to the human body is the single most important component of any training program. It’s fact that you must constantly be stressing the FAST BOWLER for them to maximise their athletic potential. However my main concern is that, are S+C coaches aware of how to stress the bowler and when to stress the bowler with the right amount of STRESS. This is why I believe we are STRESS MANAGERS! A coach must understand stress, its cause and effect relationship on the human body and how that relationship influences adaptations that help them BOWL FASTER.
Controversially, I’m not saying I’m right but I really do believe you need to have experienced the rigours of bowling to genuinely know when and what’s needed to Stress a bowler. I’m not saying as an S&C you’ve needed to play professionally, actually some of the best players make awful coaches, but you need to at least now how to coordinate your arms and legs together to bowl a cricket ball! How else can you expect the bowlers to have respect for you and listen to what you have to say . Just my opinion and to be fair the opinions of most players (How many S&C coaches are ECB qualified cricket coaches? Wouldn’t it be beneficial if they had to be?). If I was fortunate enough to be in a position of power in cricket I would insist ALL BOWLING COACHES are qualified S&C and ALL S&C coaches are ECB qualified coaches at level 2. Sorry, I’m not here to offend anyone but its my view, I’m entitled to it. I think cricket is unique in that because its a complex sport and very technical biased, the majority of trainers wouldn’t have played the game. It rarely happens in any other sport. Maybe that’s why cricket is decades behind other sports in the programs that’s provided. Once again I will refer to the lifting numbers most bowlers achieve. They are not ELITE STANDARD, whether we like it or not,its fact!
Until we as Strength and Conditioners start OVERLOADING the bowlers and STRESSING them without the worry of injuries , bowlers will never achieve the bowling speeds they are capable of. It’s such a fine line between STIMULATING and ANNIHILATING but its a line that needs to be walked on. I do however, sympathise with the S&C coaches because they are constantly questioned and undermined by HEAD COACHES who haven’t a clue on what’s needed to train a bowler. The whole coaching group needs to be on board with this way of thinking.
Hey, I’ve fallen over that line a few times. I’ve injured myself on more than one occasion by STRESSING myself too much. I’ve pulled my hamstring and strained my lower back by DEAD LIFTING too much. Bowlers who I’ve trained , some have been pros have been injured due to me pushing them to hard. However I’ve learned from my mistakes and put it into practice. One thing I will never do is be ultra cautious and not STRESS myself or my clients enough because of the fear of injury. This will achieve nothing. Remember you are a PERFORMANCE TRAINER not a PHYSIOTHERAPIST. If you constantly worry about injuries the bowler will never bowl quickly. You can hide behind the statistics of NO INJURIES etc but how many BOWLERS are genuinely bowling FASTER or more EFFECTIVELY as a result of your training. That’s your job isn’t it?
Stress is caused by anything and everything the human body encounters. From waiting to go into bat to performing GERMAN VOLUME TRAINING (GVT). Stress is your body’s way of interpreting the world around you.” Stress is all encompassing stimulus and can be interpreted as the GENERAL ADAPTION SYNDROME (GAS)” Dr Hans Selye.
What this basically means is that stress isn’t a single, isolated event. It can be seen as a wave, were on some occasions you aren’t stressed and other occasions you’re at PEAK STRESS LEVELS. The key point to always remember is that you’re always stressed. The key for a S&C coach is to know when to take the bowler to the top of the wave and when to take him back down. This is also dictated by outside factors as well, like family stress, sleep patterns, diet and other external STRESSORS.
Stress is the signal to the body that something has to change, something must adapt to reduce the amount of stress exerted on the body if it was to happen again. If the stressor is large enough it triggers ADAPTATION. If it isn’t, what happens? Yep, the body STAGNATES and gets lazy. This is what happens currently with FAST BOWLERS. The body is always in a state of I’M ADEQUATELY STRONG!! Adequate doesn’t get you bowling fast!
Its important to mention here the RESIDUAL EFFECT OF TRAINING . By knowing when and what new training stressor should/can be added to the program the body will be FORCED TO ADAPT in the appropriate manner.
One key point to emphasise here is the fact that a quality program will ENHANCE PERFORMANCE aswell as make you more ROBUST and less susceptible to injuries. Injuries will happen though at some stage, that unfortunately is a guarantee. That’s what makes training FAST BOWLERS unique. I really believe you’re not training them to avoid being injured but training them to improve their performance and have LESS INJURIES. Whatever you think as a newly qualified S&C just out of university and read millions of research papers, BOWLERS WILL GET INJURED get your head out of the sand. How you prepare them for that moment is what will separate you from the average trainers.
Where most S&C and in fact Head/Bowling coaches fail the bowlers is in their fear of OVERTRAINING them. Bowlers in fact end up UNDERCOOKED by the time the season begins because they’ve not spent enough time in the PRE COMPETITION PHASE, where bowling lots of balls should take place. Coaches are so afraid of OVER BOWLING and OVERTRAINING their players they never stress them hard enough to see a full SUPER COMPENSATION response. Yes, while severely over bowling / training a bowler will have extremely negative effects on their performance, a more mild dose of overtraining, know as overreaching, will yield drastic improvements. From a S&C’s perspective It’s having the know how , with experience and knowledge to STRESS the bowler in order to have the desired training effect and PEAKING FOR GAME DAY.
Overreaching and exposure to high bouts of STRESS, when given adequate time to recover, can lead to a delayed effect, resulting in the body rebuilding to a level above and beyond their previous state. This phenomenon is known as SUPERCOMPINSATION. This will force the bowlers body to adapt to higher levels and in fact bowl quicker than they previously did.
“Only when standing at the brink of destruction does man truly realises his potential” – Ancient Samurai Maxim
My take home message from this article is simple. Clearly, you must not severely overtrain or put your bowlers under undue STRESS , however , to truly be of benefit to YOUR bowler in YOUR team you must OVERREACH them to maximize their performance gains. In order to do that sometimes Injuries will happen but learn from it and make sure it doesn’t occur again. Once you get good at STRESS MANAGING you know how far you can let them fall over the cliff before pulling them back up. Stress is a double edged sword. It can build a FAST BOWLER to bowl “Rockets” or it can cut him/her down to bowl “DIBBLY DOBBLERS”. The S&C’s most important job is learning how to wield the sword to constantly spur ADAPTATION.
Thanks , keep learning and keep pushing yourselves.
My next articles will cover
A. THE RESIDUAL EFFECT OF TRAINING
B. TRAINING EVERY MUSCLE CONTRACTION . ECCENTRIC, CONCENTRIC AND ISOMETRIC
C. HOW TO STRESS THE BOWLER ON A DAILY BASIS AND HOW TO STRESS THEM ON A WEEKLY BASIS