Try these core exercises for cricketers! Let’s face it, this is mostly going to refer to fast bowlers. Yes you need some core strength for spin bowling and batting but the fast bowlers out there are doing the brunt of the heavy lifting. But who amongst us can say their core is too strong? So even if you spend the day standing at first slip with your hands on your knees, feel free to read on.
Have you noticed how many players have been out recently with the dreaded “side strain”? In a 10 year study from 2018 of professional Australian and English fast bowlers, over half had sustained at least 1 side strain. 30% of these had at least one reoccurrence, with 30% of this group having 2 or more reoccurrences. With an average recovery time of more than a month, this is an injury to avoid where possible. A strong core is crucial for this.
The other significant injury to avoid as a fast bowler is a lumbar stress fracture. These are more common in younger cricket players, which is thought to be due to bone immaturity in the lumbar spine. Stress fractures are also commonly associated with “mixed” bowling actions which Jamie talks in detail about here.
One of the ways you can avoid the mixed bowling action of spine hyperextension that tends to occur with stress fractures is a rock solid core.
Lastly, wouldn’t you like to bowl faster with more accuracy? Well a strong core can help you to release the ball in a more consistent manner with potentially higher speeds.
What is your core?
Most people refer to your abdominals and obliques (think 6 pack and sides) as your core muscles. However, we will also look at strengthening lumbar spine musculature – erector spinae and quadratus lumborum, as well as your glutes. Strong spinal muscles are important for maintaining a strong erect spine position through your delivery. Strong glutes are important for not collapsing in you hip in your delivery stride.
Can’t I just do some sit ups?
Well yes you can. However specificity when it comes to training is important. Muscles respond best to exercising them in a position and manner that replicates the activity that you are training for. Sit ups are great for getting stronger but don’t overly match a bowling position.
There are plenty of ways to do this with a little imagination. These are some of my favourites. So lets get exercising…
Core Exercise for Cricketers 1: Forward pulls
- Stand with 1 foot forwards and 1 foot back replicating your bowling position.
- Facing away from the machine with the cable pulling from high.
- Start with your arm straight and just behind your body, then pull the cable down and forwards similar to a bowling action.
- Allow your trunk to flex slightly at the same time to avoid hyperextending your lumbar spine.
This is worth doing on both arms. Even though you probably don’t plan on bowling with the wrong hand it is good to try to keep some muscle symmetry.
I particularly like this exercise for mimicking a strong delivery position. If you don’t have a gym membership/cable pull machine you can use a powerband or TheraBand tied to a door.
Core Exercise for Cricketers 2: Four Point Planks and Side Planks
Everyone has tried a plank on their elbows at some point. I prefer for cricketers to use a 4 point stance. When you lift opposite arms and legs it creates more torque on the spine that has to be controlled.
- Make sure you keep your spine in neutral or slightly flexed because there is no point being strong in a hyperextended position prone to stress fracture.
Core Exercise for Cricketers 3: Side Planks
Side planks are also good at tiring your trunk lateral flexors (obliques, quadratus lumborum) that we were referring to earlier when talking about a side strain. You can drop your hip to the ground then back up again or just practice sustained holds.
Core Exercise for Cricketers 4: Wood Choppers
- Stand with your feet hip width apart parallel to the cable machine. The cable will be on the lowest rung.
- Start in a slight squat position with the handle near your shin. Keep your spine in a neutral (flat) position.
- Drive with your legs and pull the cable up and away over your shoulder with comfortably straight arms, allowing your trunk and hips to both straighten up taller and rotate away from the weights.
I like this exercise for low back musculature strengthening whilst again having to control rotation through the trunk and pelvis. You will also get some added glute and upper thigh strength gains.
Core Exercise for Cricketers 5: Rotations in a Lunge Position
- Stand in a lunge position with aligned perpendicular to the cable, with the cable at waist height. Most of your weight should be on your front leg.
- Keep your arms comfortably straight and rotate away from the machine through your torso.
- You should do this facing both directions, and also alternate which foot is forwards – so essentially 4 separate positions.
This exercise is good for core engagement but you will notice more of a glute and groin fatigue. These aren’t technically core muscles but are incredibly important stabilisers holding your body in the correct position through the delivery crease.
We tend to give strength exercises 2-3 times per week, where you do 3 sets to fatigue. Be aware of what days you are training and playing so that you aren’t bowling in a fatigued state. I generally like to have clients have a rest day after their core work. So we try to put the strength exercises after training/games, or if you have 2 days rest from cricket do the strength work on the 1st non cricketing day.