Endurance training for cricket players
Strength & conditioning for cricket needs to take a multidimensional approach due to the nature of the game.
Cricket is a sport with a long duration, filled with short bouts of high-intensity activity and large rest periods.
Strength training will help you bowl quicker for longer and maintain energy through long innings, to a point, through simply being more efficient. But, to go the distance, you are going to need a solid aerobic base and also be comfortable operating anaerobically. In this article, we will take a look at the energy systems at play during a game of cricket and what elements you need to have running-wise in your cricket fitness training.
Energy systems used during a game of cricket
Whilst you don’t need to become an endurance athlete able to run a marathon, you need to be able to be comfortable at high heart rates and also be good at intermittently going into high-intensity bouts of running. You need to be comfortable working across all the energy systems in the table below, which isn’t always overly pleasant! Let’s take a quick look at the four energy systems. It is rare that any of these energy systems will work in isolation but the dominance of each will change depending on the activity, and your training.
The phosphagen system provides us with very short bursts of high-intensity energy using creatine phosphate as it's energy source. This will be used when sprinting, jumping & bowling. However, this system depletes very quickly and has a high work-to-rest ratio, meaning it takes longer to get back to baseline levels. This is why your first sprint will normally feel easy but after that, it will be tougher if you don’t have adequate rest.
Glycolysis is the process of breaking down glucose, which we consume in the form of carbohydrates, to produce energy. Aerobic glycolysis requires oxygen to be readily available and is once again used for high-intensity bouts of activity. The duration of this activity can be 15-30 seconds long which is similar to most cricketing actions in isolation. However, the work-to-rest ratio is 1:3-1:5 so the rest time when batting or bowling is sometimes too short to purely rely on this system.
This is where anaerobic glycolysis comes into the picture as this energy system does not require the presence of oxygen. This is likely to come into play when you have just run a quick two, which feels comfortable thanks to aerobic glycolysis, but less than a minute later you need to then run a 3. This energy system has a longer duration than our previous two but sees a significant drop in max power. This is why in our endurance training for cricket, we want to really focus on improving our ability to operate aerobically for longer, in order to maintain our power for longer, with less rest.
The oxidative system is the primary source of energy during low-intensity activity and where you will spend the majority of a cricket game. It is important to train this system in order to have the capacity to handle long durations of batting or fielding. However, if this is the only energy system that cricketers train, it becomes tough for them to up the intensity and go through the gears.
How do you train endurance for cricket?
Within your training, there should be a combination of different running styles. Steady-state running e.g. a jog, should certainly be a part of your pre-season but you don’t need to run yourself into the ground whilst doing this (no pun intended!). A simple 3-5 km run a week exposes not only your heart to a prolonged period of higher intensity (oxidative system) but also to get “miles in your legs”. This conditioning work shouldn’t be on a bike or rowing machine, unless you are recovering from a lower-body injury. Otherwise, that first game of the season will still leave you sore!
High intensity running
The second type is high-intensity running. This is the speed you will run into bowl at, about 75% of your full speed. Here, we aim to train harder than match intensity. This is going to look like 1-4 minute intervals at that speed. There are many methods to achieve this such as shuttle runs and fartleks. These sessions often aren’t fun, unless you like running, but are crucial to build your engine. In these sessions, we will predominantly use anaerobic glycolysis.
Repeat sprint ability
Maintaining your speed when fatigued is essentially what we mean by repeat sprint ability. This will benefit bowlers by allowing you to more consistently run in at your optimum speed and batters when running between the wickets. We like to merge this training with change of direction and agility work where there are a lot of short & sharp bursts of sprinting needed in a session.
Cricket is not an out-and-out endurance sport but requires you to be comfortable using all the energy systems mentioned above. This is going to require you to vary your training methods, would across multiple intensities and session durations.