Exercises for Cricket: A guide to the Core
The core is the glue that brings together the lower and upper body and a non-negotiable area for cricket players to get strong, robust and powerful.
Core anatomy & function
The core refers to the group of muscles on the anterior side of the body around the trunk and hips. Whilst the abdominal muscles are the ones that everyone thinks of when referring to the core, because of the “six pack”, when we refer to the core we are talking about more than just the abdominals. This is because we are more interested in the functional benefits of the core rather than focusing purely on aesthetics. Functionally, the core is structurally integral to the body allowing you to keep good posture during basic and sporting activities by supporting, stabilising and moving the spine. It is also the gateway allowing force to travel through the kinetic chain between the lower and upper body.
Why is the core an important area for Cricket players?
As you will be aware, the core is vital to everyday life, so of course it’s going to be important for cricket but here is how.
When we speak about anti-rotation, we want you to think about scrunching up a piece of rope really tight and then releasing it. It releases with power right? The core is the same. We want to be able to resist rotation in order to build up energy so that when we release it back in the opposite direction, it is powerful. Summed up, too much rotation is a waste of energy. In order to anti-rotate, our obliques are going to need to be nice and strong especially.
When we apply this to Cricket, let’s think about ball striking. In your backswing, you want to create hip shoulder separation. If your core doesn't engage, then your shoulders will follow your hips or vice versa. This doesn’t create that build up of energy so that when released, e.g. your downswing, it lacks power. By resisting rotation, you allow your hips and shoulders to separate.
Whilst the lower back does have a natural S-shape to it, we often see cricketers with tight hips, underactive glutes and a weak core slip into an anterior pelvic tilt. This “flares” the ribcage and overly extends the lower back into looking like a banana. We’ve written in depth about fast bowling stress fractures of which lumbar spine extension is a risk factor.
A strong core allows us to control the pelvis and ribcage better to become more able to resist lumbar spine extension or “anti-extension”. One of our favourite coaching cues for this is imagining you have a string between your sternum and belly button. Now, try and make that string as short as possible. To do so, you will squeeze your abdominal muscles tight and come into a strong, anti-extended spinal position.
This not only gives cricketers the benefit of being less prone to lower back pain and injury, but through engaging the core, allows for a more efficient link between the lower & upper body, increasing power outputs.
Side strains are a common fast bowling injury and occur from repeated and excessive amounts of lateral flexion. The key muscles to resist this are the obliques, down the side of your torso. By resisting lateral flexion, your risk of a side strain will be reduced and delivery height will be increased. A good way to think of this is we want to get very good at keeping our ribs ‘stacked’ on top of our pelvis. This will have the additional benefit of decreasing the amount that your hips shift side to side whilst running, increasing your running economy.
What are the best core exercises for cricket?
Below are 4 of our favourite core strength exercises with a short description. Watch the video below for a demonstration.
Banded dead bug
The banded dead bug is a great core exercise as the band forces you to engage the upper half of your torso, making it harder for your lower “abs” to control your legs. A great anti-extension exercise.
The Pallof press works on anti-rotation through the core. The harder you push, the more perturbations and harder the exercise will be.
Plank pull through
The plank pull-through works on anti rotation, anti extension and also gets some shoulder stability work in the tank. A great exercise, but keep those hips still!
The farmer carry is the ultimate anti lateral flexion exercise. An easy exercise to do badly, focus on keeping your hips & ribs stacked on top of each other.