Fitness for Cricket – My evolution and Philosophies

Fitness for Cricket – My Evolution and Philosophies

    -Shane Watson

My Obsession

From a young age, I was always absolutely obsessed with fitness and pushing my body to the limits to get the absolute best out of what I had, to be able to see how good I could be. I was always extremely active playing all different types of sport and I knew that getting into the gym to get bigger and stronger was my absolute priority. As soon as I hit 16, I sourced a strength program from the fitness trainer at Queensland Cricket and I followed it to the letter. I went to the gym 3 times a week, every week from then on, spending at least 2 hours after school building my strength and fitness to get big and strong to be the best cricketer I possibly could be.

Doing 3 strength sessions a week for like 4-5 years meant that I was big and strong for my age and could mix it easily with the men, but with this big asset came some issues on the other side that would surface in a big way throughout my mid-twenties. Because my fitness was such a priority as was my skill development, I would end up going into games pretty fatigued, which meant that I would regularly cramp in games. But also, I was increasing my risk of getting injured as my muscles where already pre-fatigued when I was trying to push things to the limit during the game. This meant my fatigue would affect my ability to perform with my constant cramping as well as my ability to stay on the field due to my ever growing list of calf and hamstring issues.

Bigger and Stronger means bowling faster?????

I was always told, if I got bigger and stronger, then I would bowl faster and I wanted to be Brett Lee and bowl 160 km/hr. This sounded great in theory, but if this truly was the case, then why wasn’t Arnold Schwarzneggar the fastest bowler in the world??????? With bowling and running in particular, I totally believe that everyone has their own natural speed. Yes, of course you can increase it through technique, strength and fitness refinements, but I truly believe that you can only increase your natural speed by about 10%. Even if I desperately wanted to bowl as fast as Brett Lee, no matter how much I trained, and I tried, I could only bowl 147km/hr max and not for very long until I broke down with a back, hamstring or calf injury. So this theory, I tested out in a big way and I paid the price with all of the injuries that I got throughout my career.


My Guru

It wasn’t until I met the guru physiotherapist, Victor Popov, when my whole perspective changed on how I should train, what the priorities were with my training, fitness and cricket skills. I really started to understand how important rest and recovery were in the regeneration after a game as well as how important my core strength was as the foundation for my body balance and also very importantly, being very cricket specific with my strength and fitness programs.

This meant that I stopped over-training in the lead up to a game, so I would go into the game as fresh as possible – less chance of cramping and getting injured due to fatigue.  I made pilates a very important part of my fitness program, and the strength and fitness that I would do when time allowed, would very much mimic what I did as an allrounder in the game. So, shorter distances of running, tied in with some slower state running for general load, as well as very cricket specific movements with my strength training.

The Cookie Cutter approach????

Due to my history, I was very aware of my body and how to manage it, but when I had to be involved in the general cookie cutter, old school fitness sessions, which happened a lot, and still does in this day and age, even at the highest level of cricket, this was the time when I got injured the most. And yes, this drove me up the wall!!!! But with all of these constant learning experiences that I had from my regular setbacks throughout my career, I now have very strong thoughts on what I would tell my 16 year old self, when I was starting out on how to push my body to the physical limits to see how good I could be, while reducing the risk of having the injuries that I did.

My playbook that I believe everyone should use:

  1. As a 16 year old, do the same amount of pilates for your core strength development as you would with your general strength development – as core strength is the foundation to your whole body balance

  2. Do yoga every day, as this has been life changing for me since I got introduced to it 5 years ago – the theory of keeping the length in your muscles and neural pathways as your muscles and neural pathways get shorter with strength work and old age, makes complete and utter sense

  3. Only do cricket specific strength exercises without loading up your back and knees with heavy squats, dead lifts etc that put way to much unnecessary load through the areas that can be career ending if degeneration starts

  4. Only do cricket specific fitness outside of steady state runs for general body load. For example, as a fast bowler, doing fitness sessions around your run up length instead of the standard 200m and 400m efforts as well as the not cricket specific 2km time trials.

  5. Ensure that your skill development was the absolute priority, with your time split spent on skill and fitness development never creeping over 50/50 – Nowadays, the young cricketers coming through, I would say their skill to fitness split at times is a disturbing 30/70 – cricket is a skill based game, no matter how strong and fit you are, if you haven’t got great skills, then, well, you won’t be a cricketer for long.

  6. Ensure that you never go into a game fatigued due to your training workload in the lead up to a game

  7. Rest and recovery are as important as your physical and technical development – outside of game time

  8. Read and apply Tom Brady’s Method fitness training book – These exercises need to be cricket specific movements which I will be uploading in a tutorial very soon – Click on this affiliate link to download the book now.*

  9. Wearing the best shoes on the market to play and train in – For me Asics are easily the best on the market for running and cricket specific shoes. My choice is Gel-Nimbus for Running and Gel-300 Not Out for Bowling and Gel-ODI for Batting. Use the T20STARS discount code to get a 10% discount on every purchase.*

  10. Use Koda Electrolyte Tablets to ensure that you never ever cramp – like…..ever – A more detailed blog on cramping will be coming soon – Click on this affiliate link to buy them now with a 10% discount.*

  11. Compression Tights – Long tights for bowling/fielding and Short tights for batting

Note – I just want you to know that I am affiliated with the above linked products. Please understand that my recommendations are based on a deep experience of using these products to be the best cricketer I can be. I recommend these to people like you as I know they work, because I have used them throughout my career with great effect.

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