A braced front leg guide
What is a braced front leg?
A braced front leg doesn’t mean the knee has to be locked/straight at front foot contact, although this is what we commonly see. It simply means the lower body has slowed and is momentarily “locked” in a stable position allowing the momentum from the run up to transfer up the body into the ball.
Why is it beneficial to brace your front leg?
- Acts as a break to increase bowling speed
A braced front leg acts as the stationary frame of a catapult allowing efficient transfer of energy. Imagine the frame of a catapult breaking upon release the projectile.The projectile simply wouldn’t have as much energy behind it and the same applies too fast bowling. The front leg acts a break being applied after the run up. If the knee bends, then it will lengthen the braking time which increases the amount of energy wasted. A shorter breaking time increases the snap in the bowling action and is the most efficient way for energy to travel up the kinetic chain. Less energy wasted means more can go into the ball resulting in increased bowling speed. We have seen this in our clients with an improved action coinciding with an improvement in average and top speed.
- Increases delivery height
Not only will a braced front leg have you bowling quicker, but it will also make you a harder bowler to face. Less bend in the front knee results in point of release being higher which means that the ball will bounce more off the pitch. More bounce and pace sounds like a win-win so far!
- Reduces lateral flexion
The human body is very clever. It is also our worst enemy sometimes. When bowling, the focus of the brain is to get the ball from A to B as quick as possible. Your brain doesn’t care where the movement comes from that causes this action. So, when you lose energy through your front knee bending, your body tries to find this energy from elsewhere. It does this successfully by “falling over” and laterally flexing the spine to force the ball down to the batter. Doing this once would be okay. But repeatedly bowling with a lot of lateral flexion means back injuries and side strains are inevitable. A braced front leg fixes this as less energy has been leaked and therefore the need for lateral flexion is reduced. This reduces a fast bowler’s risk of injury and means they can play pain free cricket.
How you can get a braced front leg into your action
- Bulletproof your hamstrings
Your anterior(front) chain is the accelerator of the human body with the posterior (back)chain acting as the break. The key muscle group in the lower body posterior chain is the hamstrings and they need to be firing on all cylinders for the front knee to brace. There are loads of great exercises out there for the hamstring. The hamstring curl machine is not one of them. We want the knee angle to be as specific possible to the bowling action so a bent knee on the machine is not ideal. We prefer a bodyweight hamstring bridge for beginners to build up capacity. Once this is smashed you can progress onto the hinge pattern and start loading the hamstring in an RDL. Once this is mastered, a single leg RDL is a great place to go. We also want to be able to control eccentric (lengthening) hamstring muscle actions as this will show that they are working in their role as the lower body brake. Two great exercises for this are altitude landings and Nordic curls.
- Stabilise your knees
You need the brain to trust the stability of the knee joint to achieve a braced front leg.If the brain doesn’t feel safe potentially locking the knee, it is going to bend as a protective mechanism. How do you build that trust? Make yourself feel like a rock on one leg! In general, when we begin with clients, they wobble like jelly on one leg. This rapidly improves by consistently exposing them to having to balance on one leg. This doesn’t have to be boring with additional stimulus soon introduced to carry on challenging the dynamic stability of the knee in exercises like the one below. For a knee to be stable, it requires mobile hips & ankles and the upper & lower leg muscles to be nice and strong.
More pace. More bounce. Less risk of injury. Hopefully, you are sold on the importance of a braced front leg and have a good idea of how you can get one in your action. Check out the YouTube video we made on this topic for a few more key pointers.