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JAMES PATTINSON, PAT CUMMINS, MITCHELL STARC, JOSH HAZLEWOOD – AT THEIR BEST, THIS PACE QUARTET, ALL UNDER 24, COULD MATCH IT WITH THE BEST FAST BOWLERS CRICKETING TEAMS AROUND THE WORLD COULD PITCH UP. THE PROBLEM IS KEEPING THESE GUYS INJURY-FREE. THIS IS PART OF A UNIVERSAL ISSUE IN MODERN CRICKET – HOW TO “HARDEN UP” THE BODY OF YOUNG FAST BOWLERS AS THEY STEP UP TO ELITE-LEVEL CRICKET, WITH THE SPEED AND ATHLETICISM DEMANDED IN THE FIELD, DIFFERENT GAME FORMATS TO CONTEND WITH AND MORE MATCHES TO PLAY.
2XU COMPRESSION PARTNER CRICKET VICTORIA HAS HIT BACK AT THE PROBLEM BY PAYING CAREFUL ATTENTION TO ITS PLAYERS’ POWER, CORE STRENGTH, ANAEROBIC FITNESS AND WORKLOAD.
Cricket is not kind to an athlete’s back – a longitudinal study carried out in South Africa examined research gathered from South Africa, Australia, England and the West Indies to report that lower back injuries occur in almost 60% of cricketers. For fast bowlers, the overall injury rate is worse than for any other role in the team – fast bowling accounted for 41% of all injuries in cricket.
Simultaneous hyperextension of the lumbar spine and rotation of the thoracic spine and lumbar spine, especially when it occurs very rapidly as in fast bowling, places a significant amount of stress on the lumbar spine. This increases risk of injuries to the bones, joints, ligaments and muscles in and around the lumbar spine, which all results in back pain. Add to this the constant pounding through the front foot, which in most bowlers tends to take place well in front of the knee and hip, which worsens the impact through the lower body. Where do you even start in the quest to build a body to withstand what is often referred to as "biomechanically unnatural"?
Here’s how Cricket Victoria does it.
WITH THE STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING TEAM FROM CRICKET VICTORIA.
At Cricket Victoria, the most important test for the fast bowlers involves a 2km time trail to assess their anaerobic endurance and establish their maximal anaerobic speed.
A key aspect of training is the Field Running vVO2 session. vVO2max is the minimal running speed to produce VO2 max, i.e. it causes your muscular system to utilise oxygen at its highest possible rate. The idea behind these short running programs is to increases leg muscle strength and power in order to improve energy and muscle economy so the bowler can keep up his pace and consistency through a spell, a day and from day-to-day of a match.
Following an extensive warm-up, here’s what a typical session looks like:
TOTAL = 3037.5M
Complete a 2 lap cool down by alternating between walking quarter lap and jogging a quarter lap.
At Cricket Victoria, weights training is typically done twice a week, alternating two different weights programs, each emphasizing leg power through squatting actions and explosive leg press, and shoulder stabilization exercises, which include actions that pull the shoulders back and/or down. The onus is on improving muscle power rather than size, which is reflected in the tempo of the exercises and the number of repetitions.
Here are some examples of exercises used in Cricket Victoria programs:
Tempo – 2/0/1 (2-count on descent, no pause at the turnaround point, a count of one on the way up) Sets/reps – 3 x 8 or 4 x 6
Unrack a barbell by placing it high on top of the front deltoids with your palms underneath the bar and your elbows high and out in front of your wrists. Alternatively, cross your arms and place your palms over the top of the bar, again keeping the elbows high.
Place heels hip-to-shoulder width apart, toes slightly out. With you head up, sit your backside back as if sitting into a chair. Knees should push out over the line of the toes. When hips reach height of your knees, return to the start position, initiating the action with the buttocks and hips.
Tempo – 2/0/1 Sets/reps – 3 x 8 or 4 x 6 each leg
Stand relaxed, holding dumbbells by your side. Take a long step to the side and lower your hip to the height of your knee, pushing the buttocks back as you do so. Stand back up then step back to your starting position. Alternate legs.
Tempo – 2/0/1 Sets/reps – 3 x 8 or 4 x 6 each arm
Begin in a standard push-up position while holding dumbbells (hexagonal weights are good for beginners, as they won’t roll), with the weights just outside the width of your shoulders. Lower your body towards the floor slowly, holding a straight line between knees and shoulders. When your chin is just above the floor, push up quickly. As your arms and shoulders reach full extension, pull one dumbbell up besides your ribs, twisting your torso slightly as you do this. Alternate arms.
Tempo – 2/0/1 Sets/reps – 3 x 10 or 3 x 8
Bend at the knees and hips so you can hold a 45°angle at the waist. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Let your arms hang in front of you. Raise the arms to level with your shoulders, keeping the arms straight except for a slight bend at the elbows. Lower to starting position.
The bowlers will do a lot of core work in each weights sessions – 12 sets of it. Improving core power and stability, especially that during lateral rotation, will prove immensely beneficial in preventing back injuries. Here are a couple of examples:
3 x 10 each side, controlling the speed of the motion.
Attach a handle to a weighted cable set to the top height. Stand at a right angle to the cable, legs wide apart. Hold the handle with both hands, arms straight. Keeping your head (and therefore your torso) in line with your hands, pull the handle diagonally across and down your body, so that the handle ends besides the thigh furthest from the cable. Slowly return to the starting positing and repeat.
3 x 10 each side, controlling the speed of the motion.
Lie on your front with legs extended and arms extended out in front of your head. Raise arms and legs as high as you can while holding them straight. Hold for a 5-count at the top. Return to start position with control.
Because bowling is such a unique movement pattern the bowling loads are also monitored closely and progressed incrementally to help avoid injuries. The bowlers loads are built up in each phase to match those found in competition phases.
Ahead of the home Ashes series, Australian Team Doctor Peter Brukner said: “The total numbers of balls bowled at training and in games is planned as much as possible ahead of time and adjusted according to circumstances. What we particularly try to avoid is rapid increases in the number of balls bowled from week to week. We like a steady progression.
The modern day cricketer is required to fill in their daily activity via an app on their phone. This Athlete Monitoring System (AMS) allows the strength & conditioning staff and other coaches to track their progress in their given training cycle. The players fill out all their activity and rate its intensity using a Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale (RPE). This is combined with wellness data so that the coaching staff can modify the players’ training as necessary.
Recovery is an important aspect of their training and involves nutrition, pool or ice bath protocols, as well as using 2XU Compression garments to help minimize inflammation and speed up recovery.
MONDAY – pre-hab + weight training and ice baths (10 min. immersion)
TUESDAY – skills training + running session
WEDNESDAY – weight training
THURSDAY – skills training
FRIDAY – rest
SATURDAY – game
SUNDAY – game / rest