The training for FAST BOWLERS is highly specific and requires a unique Strength developmental program. Simply using a ‘one size fits all’ training method is not only wrong but very unproductive. Fast bowling is very different from any other skill. There is nothing like it and it needs to be treated that way. The closest technical skill to it is JAVELIN THROWING and BASEBALL PITCHING. However these aren’t the exact duplicate of Fast bowling. Both are a single effort skill and don’t require massive amounts of repetition over a course of a day. These 2 skills are the closest to the BIOMECHANICS of bowling so it makes sense to use some of their training methods. Well, to me it does anyway!
It isn’t the scope of this article but I will touch on it. In terms of bowling being a repetitive skill I believe you shouldn’t dwell on that too much and OVER-CONDITION for it. Get fast first then as you get closer to the season, around March time BOWL LOTS OF BALLS in the nets at 70-80% effort [TEMPO BOWLING]. Yes that sounds old fashioned but, you know what, its right. Why are we putting these fast bowlers through endless conditioning session which doesn’t replicate the energy system, effort and movement pattern they will do in their actual event. The sessions I’m seeing in Indoor schools and Gym’s are great for any other sport but not fast bowling! You run in a straight line and perform a BALLISTIC skill at the end of it with maximum pace and effort. Walk back and repeat. Can you replicate that in a gym! No you can’t. A fast bowling program needs to do these things, in this order.
A, BUILD SPECIFIC MUSCLES TO LAY FOUNDATION FOR THE NEXT PHASE
B, DEVELOP MAXIMUM STRENGTH /RELATIVE TO YOUR BODYWEIGHT [Especially in the lower body] and TOLERATE HIGH LEVELS OF ECCENTRIC STRESS IN THE POSTERIOR CHAIN.
C. DEVELOP MAXIMUM POWER [RFD] IN THE PUSHING MUSCLES
D, USE THAT NEW FOUND POWER TO TRANSFER TO GAME SPECIFC ‘SPEED’
D, BE ABLE TO PERFORM THAT SPEED A NUMBER OF TIMES [Power-Endurance]
That’s it, job done. Save your Cross fit sessions, your strongman circuit [I do some strongman training but as a strength exercise not as a circuit], your 400m runs and your high rep Olympic lifts for another sport. I have nothing against them; yep I’ve tried them all and sometimes endorsed them but not anymore. I’m here to try and develop FAST BOWLERS!! This country isn’t blessed with a lot at the minute.
Ok, back to the topic of SPECIFIC STRENGTH TRAINING.
Specific strength training is strength that the bowler can actually apply to bowling. It’s developed through the range of movement and at specific joint angles and speeds that are used when bowling. It differs from GENERAL STRENGTH which is strength of the prime movers without regard for the event/skill you specialise in. It is however very important and a phase of training needs to be dedicated to this. Having a high GENERAL STRENGTH levels doesn’t necessarily mean you will bowl quicker. An athlete with a 2 x bodyweight squat may not bowl as quickly as an athlete with a 1 x bodyweight squat who has a higher level of SPECIFIC STRENGTH.The athlete with a lower level of SPECIFC STRENGTH hasn’t trained and transferred the GENERAL STRENGTH gains into more specific and ‘usable’ strength. In effect, SPECIFIC STRENGTH is the bridge between the Gym and the Sports field. It bridges the gap between GENERAL STRENGTH work [Bench, Dead lift, Squat, Overhead press, Chins] and the sports field.
I have seen it many times and to be honest I would see myself as one of these in the latter part of my career. My autobiographical article explains this. When I was doing weeks of ,unknown to me, SPECIFIC STRENGTH training I took over 200 wickets [all cricket] in 2 seasons! When I then became a ‘gym addict’ it didn’t help my cricket. I was brutally strong but not functionally strong for bowling.
Low level of BOWLING SPECIFIC STRENGTH will always hinder the potential for maximum performance and Bowling quickly.
Fast bowling has 3 special considerations that ultimately affect the type of training they need to do. In general, POWER for the fast bowler is primarily generated from A, Leg extension
B, Hip rotation
C, Trunk flexion
Training emphasis should be placed on the QUADRICEPS, HIP FLEXORS, GLUTEALS and ABDOMINALS. I would also include the PECS in there, especially RFD [Rate of force development] training which utilises the STRETCH SHORTENING CYCLE of the muscle.
Bowling speed is generated by MOMENTUM from the run up and ROTATIONAL power in the trunk. It therefore makes sense that you also focus on running speed development. Linear running speed is crucial to bowling quickly therefore creating a greater need for LEG STRENGTH. Strength development in the legs will enable the bowler to better overcome the stresses on back foot and front foot contact] POSITION 1 + 2 TENT-PEG] so they can move through the bowling action with more velocity.
According to Coleman, A.E in his book ‘A baseball conditioning program for all season’. “50% of the forces in a standing throw primarily come from the 3 components I listed above” With that in mind a FAST BOWLING SPECIFC TRAINING PROGRAM should focus on training these components
To do that a program needs to be carefully planned and PERIODISED. A periodised program needs to have:
A, GENERAL PREPARATION PHASE [GPP]
B, SPECIFIC PREPEARTION PHASE [SPP]
C, PRE-COMPETITION PHASE [PCP]
D, COMPETITION PHASE [CP]
Within each phase there is a definite focus and a unique classification of the exercises. I classify my exercises according to the opinion of the greatest track and field coach of all time. Anatoli Bondarchuk.
There are 4 categories [Classification]
A, GENERAL PREPARATORY EXERCISES [GPE]
These are Exercises that are performed in the early part of the GPP [November/December]. Exercises that have different movement patterns and different systems [muscular and energy] to fast bowling. Generally speaking, these exercises are very all-purpose and used whatever sport you would play.
GPE exercises for a fast bowler would include;
Dead lift, Rows, Chins, Bench press, Overhead press, GHR, RDL, Cable rotations, weighted crunch, Lunge etc
Trap bar dead lift
Swiss ball press ups
B, SPECIAL PREPARATORY EXERCISES [SPE]
These exercises use the same systems [energy and muscular] to fast bowling but through a different movement pattern. They stimulate the same major groups and physiological systems used in fast bowling. For fast bowling SPECIAL PREP EXERCISES would include all relevant exercises that are EXPLOSIVE [mainly Strength-speed. Medium weight explosive exercises-40-60% RM] in nature.
They would include;
Olympic lifts and they’re variations [hang, blocks, pulls etc]
Speed squats [bands]
Explosive hanging leg raises
Barbell rotational bus drivers
Ballistic incline speed press [Smiths machine throw]
Standing cable rotation
Snatch from blocks
Hip extension prowler dragging
These exercises would be performed towards the end of the GPP but mainly in the SPP [January/Feb]
C. SPECIAL DEVELOPMENTAL EXERCISES [SDE]
Special developmental exercises use the same systems are fast bowling but not identical. They duplicate part of the movement but not the whole movement. The speed and the joint angles are the same as a key part of fast bowling. For example, ‘approach, back foot contact, front foot contact, delivery stride, follow through etc. Exercises in this category would include;
Medicine ball drills-Overhead throws, rotational throws, various jumps, Shock plyometrics [Depth drops and jumps]
Prowler-sled contrast sprinting
Med ball rotational shot pass
SJ Enhancing performance kinetic chain sequencing
Delivery stride and back foot contact shock training
Tornado ball wall rotational slams
Whole body med ball press and dive
These exercises would be performed towards the end of the SPP but mainly in the PCP [March]
D. The final exercise classification is the COMPETITIVE EXERCISES [CE]
As the name suggests this is where actual BOWLING comes in. Exercises are used that are identical or almost identical to Fast bowling. Here the hugely effective SJ ENHANCING PERFORMANCE ARM SPEED program comes in. Bowlers would bowl using various weighted balls, both over weight and under weight. All other training methods are no longer used or at best used in small volume for maintenance purposes. I would actually have bowlers bowling every day to transfer their new found GENERAL STRENGTH to COMPETITIVE STRENGTH.
Day 1. Arm speed program
Day 2. Tempo bowling [Bowling a high volume of balls at a lower intensity-focusing on developing GAME SPECIFIC WORK CAPACITY]
Repeat cycle two more times which leaves one day as total rest.
Weighted ball bowling
These exercises would be performed towards the end of the PCP but mainly in the CP [April]. This allows the bowler to use the Pre-season games as practice and skill transfer in a competitive environment allowing them to PEAK for the 1st important game. It’s then a case of maintaining the new found gains throughout the season
It is important to note that the whole system is based on the ‘PINT OF WATER’ principle. Everything is trained but the focus of each phase is different and something has to go before adding. This is called the CONJUGATE system but within BLOCK PERIODISATION. This is how I set things up. It may be wrong but for me it’s the only way to train bowlers to BOWL FAST!!