Lets talk about something applicable.
In essence, a game of cricket is a collection of explosive actions. Performing these actions as powerfully and as accurately as possible is the key to being a successful cricketer.
This article focuses on the 'powerful' part. First of all, let's discuss a bit of science.
There are three types of muscle fibres in the body- cardiac muscles, smooth muscles and skeletal muscles. Skeletal muscles are responsible for movement. When coordinated by the Central Nervous system they allow us to move.
Skeletal muscle can be further categorized into fast twitch and slow twitch muscles. Slow twitch muscles are good for endurance events but do not produce a lot of force. Marathons are run using slow twitch muscles. On the other hand, fast twitch muscles fatigue fairly quickly (after approximately 30 seconds) but can produce a much greater force. Fast twitch muscles are almost solely responsible for lifting heavy objects and performing quick contractions as fast twitch muscles can contract much quicker than slow twitch muscles. For more information about muscle composition and contractions have a look at any book on human anatomy.
As I'm sure you've realised, cricketers are mainly concerned with movements which require quick, forceful contractions of fast twitch muscles. Although a game of cricket takes place over a long period of time, it is not an endurance event. Like I said, cricket is a collection of explosive movements. Cricketers need power.
As I mentioned before, fast twitch muscles are responsible for movements which require a lot of strength and movements which require a lot of velocity: these qualities are inversely related.
By this I mean that if a movement requires a great deal of strength, the velocity of the motion will be very low. Watch a powerlifter going for a personal best: the bar will be moving very slowly because the movement require a high level of strength. Conversely, if you pick up a tennis ball you'll be able to throw it as quick as you can because the force necessary to move the object is very small.
So, how can we turn this information into a methodology for training? If you're a bowler, the faster your arm comes over, the faster the ball comes out!. If you're a batsman, the faster the bat comes through, the faster its going to come off your bat! So how do we make things quicker?
The answer is power training.
As I've mentioned before, Power is the product of force and velocity. If you increase the velocity of a movement but keep the the resistance the same, your power will increase. Power in sports terms is just the combination of moving an object as quickly as you can. For a given activity, if you are told your power has increased, it means that you have performed the activity with greater force, with greater speed, or both.
Physiologically, if your power increases for a given movement, three things could have happened:
- You have become better coordinated at performing the movement. Your central nervous system has learnt which muscles to fire and in what order to increase their efficiency.
- Your muscles are contracting quicker. The quicker the contraction, the faster the speed of the movement, i.e. your velocity will have increased. This is known as the discharge rate of the fast twitch fibres.
- You are recruiting (using) more fast twitch fibres. If you recruit more muscles, you will produce a greater force.
Hidden between the lines of the last two points is something that is all too frequently overlooked:
MAXIMUM STRENGTH TRAINING
Maximum strength training teaches your central nervous system to recruit more muscle fibres. Once we have the ability to recruit these muscle fibres, through power training methods we must then teach the central nervous system to contract these muscles quickly. The result is a powerful movement.
Research has shown that greatest increases in power were obtained from higher force and not from high velocity training (Aagard et al, 1994; Enoka, 2002). This goes for all sports. Why do you think 100m sprints are muscly? In my experience, cricket coaches are willing to include high velocity training into their programs but shy away from any form of strength work. The vast majority think strength training is the same as bodybuilding and envisage strength training turning their young cricketers into muscle bound hulks. This is just ridiculous.
I'm going to end things here by summarising:
- Cricket is an explosive (power) sport. We must train to accommodate this.
-Maximum strength is the determining factor of power. We must train maximum strength first and then convert it to power (note: this isn't strictly true for all athletes, but I believe it's the right way to train for those new to strength training)
- Strength training WILL NOT MAKE YOU MUSCLE BOUND.
In my next article I'll talk about how to train. If you're impatient, you can research this yourself. I suggest you start at http://www.rosstraining.com/. It's a fantastic website. Alternatively, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I promise I'll get back to you.