Endurance conditioning for fast bowlers

6th November 2013

By Jock Campbell

I’ve been asked many times over the past couple of years why are our fast bowlers breaking down consistently!? Most people asking me the question are always looking for that one key answer they’re promoting and as I’ve said in many articles it’s not only one reason, but a host of many. Most recently I’ve been questioned about aerobic training for fast bowlers: are they doing enough running to harden them up for bowling? One bowling coach even suggesed they should go for an hour road run the day before a test match.

What is endurance? Simply put it’s the body’s ability to maintain elevated heart rates for long periods due to physical exertion, anywhere from 2 mins to 7 hours for a cricketer. You may also have heard it termed the aerobic or cardiovascular energy system.

How is it involved in fast bowling & cricket? The results that Gator Tracker and now Bupa Tracker have shown us like Peter Siddle covering 36.2km in one Test match innings, averaging over 120beats per minute heart rate for the whole time (7 hours), and Brett Lee maintaining heart rates over 170 beats per minute during each over, it’s clear there is a large endurance component in the game of cricket and particularly fast bowling.

Cricket is a running based game, James Pattinson runs into bowl, David Warner runs to the ball in the field, Mike Hussey runs to back up throws and between the wickets, so ideally cricketers need to do a great deal of running to prepare physically for cricket. Best to keep off the roads and hard surfaces, we play cricket on grass, although sometimes in the sub continent the ground feels as hard as concrete. To reduce the risk of injury, run on grass, trail or soft sand.

What did the top players do? Brett Lee runs in the soft sand which is far more forgiving for his ankles after 6 operations, Glenn McGrath, Michael Clarke and Matty Hayden used to power up the sand hills, McGrath also had a love hate relationship with the rower, Brad Haddin loves his boxing and Ricky Ponting used to run, ride and row to get himself prepared in this area for this area of cricket preparation.

Can you get it just from bowling: As bowlers have limits on the amount of deliveries they bowl each week, it is difficult to get enough conditioning, whilst allowing the body to repair from bowling. There’s up to 12-15 x the bowlers boy weight going through the front foot each ball when bowling, and far less when running or cross training. It’s very difficult to quickly and consistently stress the aerobic system and improve it through bowling alone. However adequate bowling volumes and intensities that you reach in matches must be prepared for in training. You can’t expect to bowl up to only 60 balls in training and then cope with bowling 20-25 overs in a day – that doesn’t make sense.

Considerations & how to train: As cricketers have a great deal of energy systems and skills to train they must make the most out of every second for training, so to train in season we need to use cardio vascular training in two ways. First, make it part of a recovery session, where it can be non- running activities the day after the match, or day before. Endurance training done at a light to moderate intensity will help reduce muscle soreness, increase energy levels and maintain the cardiovascular system. So as a recovery activity a 20-30minute exercise bike session or 15-20 minute jog can be added in with your pool stretching and ice baths for great recovery results.

The second area is to really stress your endurance or cardiovascular energy system with high intensity interval training- this is the best way to get a solid training session that will really boost your endurance levels in a short period of time. These have the added benefit of keeping you lean by lowering levels of unwanted body fat. After a good warm-up try 4-6 times four minute high intensity efforts with one to two minutes recovery between each effort. Remember always to look to progress your intensity and number of efforts as you get fitter so you keep improving.

Top tips for youngsters

  • You need a solid running base to do well and last in the game of cricket
  • Stay off the hard surfaces to look after your joints
  • Use light to moderate endurance training for recovery
  • Bump up your endurance capacity for cricket with hard cardio intervals
  • Aerobic conditioning is a key component of fast bowling for recovery between balls, overs and spells and to be able to handle long periods of elevated heart rates
  • Build your aerobic base in the pre season & maintain throughout the season

Jock Campbell is a Sports Scientist, Elite Strength & Conditioning Coach & Level 3 Athletics coach with over 25 years experience training and coaching surf life saving athletes, including beach flaggers, sprinters and 2km beach runners. For more on Jock, see About Us.

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