Bowling in cricket is the most injury-prone task a player will be undertaking in this sport! If you are a fast bowler, you are probably the most susceptible to injuries! However, regardless of the type of bowler, one needs to take good care of their body fitness while playing cricket.
Having a good exercise routine and a healthy diet is a great way to maintain fitness. However, simple and easy-to-do things like stretches and warm-ups can vastly help you in the long run!
This report [opens in a new tab] by the Journal of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests that “The risk for muscle strain injury can be reduced by the incorporation of a period of warm-up and stretching before sports participation.”
So, in today’s post, we are going to focus on the easy stuff. Let’s look at some of the simple warm-ups that you can do in order to keep yourself injury-free before you start bowling while playing cricket.
DISCLAIMER: IT IS IMPORTANT TO LEARN THE EXERCISES UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF A CERTIFIED PRACTITIONER, PHYSIOTHERAPIST OR A COACH. THEY WILL ENSURE THAT YOU FOLLOW THE CORRECT TECHNIQUES. IF YOU EXPERIENCE ANY PAIN WHILE DOING ANY OF THESE EXERCISES, STOP IMMEDIATELY AND SEE YOUR DOCTOR. THIS POST IS WRITTEN ONLY TO HELP YOU IDENTIFY THE EXERCISES.
Overall Body Warm-up (Steps 1 to 3)
The best way to warm up your body for playing any sport is to start with the overall body warm-up routine. For this, the easiest form of exercise is running.
Running is a great way to warm up your body as it flexes most muscles of your body. You don’t have to run for several hours. Remember, we just want to warm up our body and save all the energy for playing the sport.
Running about 2-3 rounds of a normal sized ground should be enough to start with. Furthermore, run at a pace that is comfortable for you.
A good way of judging your pace is that you should be able to talk while you are running without panting much (or feeling too breathless to speak). So, the pace of your running should only be moderate.
2. Backward Running
Backward running is one of the most underrated exercises when it comes to warm-ups as it seems to add no value to our muscle strength.
However, in reality, backward running is quite important and useful. While running comes quite easily to us, running backward is not natural at all. Thus, doing this exercise on a regular basis can really build our capacity to run backward without falling.
Apart from just warming up your body, this exercise comes in really handy when taking sky-high catches where you often need to run backward to catch the ball.
About 3 rounds of 100 meter backward run on a daily basis should be sufficient enough.
3. Side Running
Side running is another great exercise for beginning your warm-up routine.
This exercise, in addition to warming up your body, uses the inner and outer muscles of your leg, and warms up your muscles around the hip and the groin area.
You can do a side-to-side movement for about 20 seconds in one direction. Then repeat the exercise for 20 seconds in another direction. An ideal recommendation is to repeat this whole drill 2-3 times.
If you feel like taking this to the next level, you can even do the side-to-side crossovers which gives a nice warm-up even to your back muscles.
Here’s a video to help you understand it a bit further –
Pro Tip – The time spent on any of the running exercises should be a total of about 10-15 minutes. However, this time can vary based on season. In summer season, the body warms up faster, so you can reduce it to about 8-10 minutes. In the winter season, the body takes longer to warm up. Thus, the duration in this case can be increased to about 15 minutes.
Lower Body Warm-up (Steps 4 – 8)
Now that you have done some basic cardio (mentioned in steps 1-3), your body is already starting to warm-up. However, we need to also warm-up certain muscles that are going to be used specifically for bowling while playing cricket.
Thus, it is now time to stretch each and every section of our body individually such that injury can be avoided of the muscles doing the heavy duty.
It is recommended to warm-up your whole body in one direction either from top to bottom or from bottom to top!
I like to do it from bottom to top. This means, start from your ankles and move upwards targeting specific parts of your body until you reach the muscles around the neck and head. So, let’s get to it!
4. Ankle Stretches
You can start with stretching the ankles. Your ankles need to be stretched appropriately as the muscles around your ankles lift the whole weight of your body, and faces quite a lot of force while running.
There are a couple of exercises you can do to stretch your ankles –
4.1 Ankle Up/Down Movement
This is pretty straight forward. Simply stand on one leg (on your left leg to start). Move your right leg outward in front of you. Now, move the ankle in an up and down movement. Make sure to stretch your ankles to the maximum.
Do about 15-20 repetitions for your right ankle.
Next, you can keep your right leg on the ground, and move your left foot outward in front of you. Repeat the upward/downward motion of your left ankle. Another 15-20 repetitions for your left ankle should be sufficient.
4.2 Ankle Rotation
Next, we can move on to ankle rotation. Again, lift your right leg outward. This time, move your foot in a clockwise direction. Create as big a circle as you can. After about 10 circular movements, change the direction and now move it into anti-clockwise direction for another 10 circles.
Next, keep your right leg on the ground. Repeat this exercise for your left foot with 10 circular movements each in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions.
The above video is only for reference purposes. You don’t need to do all the exercises mentioned in the video. First 4 minutes show how exactly the up/down movement and ankle rotations need to be done. You can do these exercises while standing up.
5. Calf Muscle Stretches
There are several ways of stretching your calf muscles. However, I’m going to recommend two simple and easy-to-do exercises to warm up your calves.
5.1 Downward Facing Dog Pose
Downward facing dog pose is a great way to start stretching not just your calf muscles but your complete lower back, including your hamstrings, and your shoulder muscles. The beauty of this exercise is that it is fairly simple and easy to do.
I would recommend doing this exercise either with a yoga mat or on the part of the ground which has some grass cover.
Ideally, try and touch your heel on the ground to get the maximum stretch. If it feels difficult at first, don’t worry, with regular practice your muscles will become flexible.
Once this exercise is done, we’ll continue in this pose and do the next exercise.
5.2 Calf Stretches
Calf stretches can be done as an extension of the downward dog pose.
To do the calf stretches, simply come on to your toes while doing the downward facing dog pose, and then touch your heel back on the floor. You can repeat this set about 15-20 times.
Once you get comfortable with this exercise, you can move on to increasing the intensity by keeping your one leg onto the other and repeating the same exercise. This is showcased in the following video –
After about 15 repetitions, switch the leg and repeat the exercise.
6. Thigh Muscles
Thigh muscles are the muscles present between the knee and the groin area of your body. These muscles are present on the front part of the leg.
It is important to warm-up your thigh muscles. Any injury in these muscles can reduce the movement of your leg, and subsequently affect your capacity to perform.
6.1 Standing Quadriceps Stretch
Quadriceps stretch is a simple exercise to stretch your thigh muscles. It is easy to follow, and quick to do. Here’s how to do the standing quadriceps stretch –
Stand on your left leg first, and fold your right leg backwards. Hold you right ankle when your leg is stretched backward and apply some pressure. Make sure that the pressure applied gives you enough stretch on your thigh muscles. The following video illustrates the process explained –
Make sure to hold your balance when holding your leg. Do this for about 20 seconds. Then, put your foot back in the normal position, and repeat the exercise with your left foot.
7. Hamstring Muscles
The hamstring muscles are muscles that are at the back of your leg from your knee to the buttocks.
It is quite easy to for your hamstring muscles to become stiff. Furthermore, stiffness in the hamstring muscles can lead to restriction in the motion of your body. This will result in lower performance of a cricketer. This is especially the case for a bowler.
Fortunately, there are several exercises for fixing your hamstring.
7.1 High Toe Touch
You can simply start warming up your hamstring muscles with a high toe touch.
Unlike shown in the video, I would advise the high toe touch to be done while standing in one place. Do about 10 toe touch for your right leg, and then repeat the same for your left leg.
Pro tip – While doing the toe touch, make sure you are using your opposite hands and legs for touching your toes. This means, the left hand touches the toe of the right leg and vice-versa. This gives a fair amount of stretch to your hamstring muscles.
7.2 Standing Toe Touch
While the high toe touch gently warms up your hamstring, the standing toe touch gives your hamstring a good amount of stretch! I highly recommend doing this exercise not just before bowling, but even after the end of a tiring session or a day’s play.
The video above explains the process of a standing toe touch pretty well.
While doing the exercise, make sure your knees aren’t bent. Try to keep your back as straight as possible. You know you are doing it correctly when you are feeling the stretch in your hamstring muscles upto the back part of your knees, but not in any other part of the body.
7.3 Static Hamstring Stretch (Standing)
The standing static hamstring stretch is similar to standing toe touch. However, in this exercise the focus is to touch the toe one leg at a time.
This is ideally carried out with a table or some sort of fixed material that is about as high as your hips. Then, just lift up one of your leg and rest it on the fixed material. Next, touch the toe of your outstretched leg with both your hands. Make sure to keep both your legs straight from the knee area.
Upon touching the toes, hold your position for about 15-20 seconds. Then, take the outstretched leg in the resting position and repeat the same process with the other leg.
7.4 Static Hamstring Stretch (Seated)
If you do not have any fixture or fixed material to rest your leg while doing the standing static hamstring stretch, an effective way to get the same intensity of stretch in your hamstring is to do the seated static hamstring stretch.
The process is quite simple to follow.
While seated on the ground, first stretch out both your legs. Then, gently fold your right leg such that it is perpendicular to the left leg (as shown in the image above). Now, slowly try to touch the toe of your left leg with both your hands. Hold your position for about 15-20 seconds.
Then, straighten your folded right leg, and now fold the left leg. Repeat the stretching process to get a good stretch in your hamstrings.
In order to get a good stretch in your hamstring muscles, you don’t have to do all of the above exercises. However, I would advise doing at least 2 of the above exercises.
8. Groin Muscles
Groin muscles, as the name suggests, are the muscles around your groin area which is basically the area around the joint connecting your legs to the rest of the body.
It is very important to warm-up your groin muscles. These are often the most neglected section of your body. However, these muscles are the most engaged especially when you want to run fast.
Make sure that you warm-up your groin muscles especially if you are resuming after a break. Otherwise, groin muscles can cause a great amount of displeasure.
8.1 Butterfly Pose
I find the butterfly pose to be the best exercise for warming up your muscles around the groin area.
This exercise will not only help you warm-up the muscles, but is also very helpful in releasing the stiffness after long session or a match.
The video above showcases the way to do the butterfly pose.
Pro Tip: While doing this exercise, make sure you push your legs just enough such that your groin muscles feel a stretch. However, don’t push it too hard as this can cause some prolonged pain in your groin area for a day or two. This can come in the way of your daily practice.
8.2 Seated Groin Stretch
Another great way to stretch your groin muscles is to do the seated groin stretch exercise.
The video above showcases the way to do the seated groin stretch.
Do this exercise about 15-20 seconds with about 2 rounds of this exercise.
Back Warm Up Exercises (Step 9 – 10)
As a bowler, your back muscles are used the most. I’m sure you may have heard the term, “He’s definitely bending his back”. This is assigned to a cricketer (mostly a fast bowler) who is really bowling fast and pushing his limits. This is because you need to exert your back muscles in order to bowl well, even for a spinner.
Now that you’ve done the warm up for your lower body, it is now time to move up and stretch your back muscles.
9. Back Extensions
Back extensions are a great way to strengthen both your lower and upper back muscles. Back extensions are great not just for sportspersons but also for just about anyone and everyone.
9.1 Superman Stretch
One of the easiest way to get a back extensions stretch is through the superman pose as shown in the image below –
Start this exercise with first laying on the ground in a resting position with your arms and legs stretched out. Then, slowly lift both your arms and legs in an upward stretch position.
Make sure your head is positioned parallel to your hands. You can choose to look in front but ensure that there is no unnecessary pressure on your neck. You should be feeling the stretch only in your lower back and shoulder blades section.
This is a great exercise to strengthen your back muscles.
9.2 Cobra Pose for Back Extension
Another great way to stretch your back is to do the cobra pose. Simply lay flat on the ground with your stomach facing the ground. This is the resting position of your body. Next, slowly lift up your back upwards supported by your hands.
Pro Tip: While doing the cobra pose, try to keep your hands perpendicular to the ground. Furthermore, ensure that your hips are touching the ground to get the maximum stretch to your back.
The cobra pose is a great exercise to stretch your lower back muscles. The flexibility in your lower back muscles allows you to be able to stretch more while bowling, and gives you the ability to bowl fast.
9.3 Back Extension in the Standing Position
This is another variation of the back extension. This exercise should be done in the standing position, and the effect of this on your back muscles is similar to that of the cobra pose.
In order to do begin this exercise, start with standing straight with your back upright.
Next, put your hands on your hips as shown in the image and start bending backwards. Try to push yourself in a comfortable position but ensure that you feel the stretch in the back.
A quick thing to remember here would be to make sure that you keep your knees straight. If you bend your knees, you won’t get the appropriate amount of stretch in your back.
10. Back Rotation/ Back Twists
Back rotation exercises are great for strengthening your back muscles on the left and the right side.
It is easier to understand the back rotation exercises and how it should be done by watching the following video.
The video above showcases various back exercises that can be done. This includes back extensions as well as back rotation.
The back twists can also be done with your legs extended instead of folded.
Upper Body Stretches
When it comes to the upper body warm-ups, you can start with stretching your shoulder.
11. Cross Arm Stretches
The cross arm stretch is a great exercise to start flexing your shoulder muscles.
To do this exercise, simply start with raising you straight upward perpendicular to your body and parallel to the ground. Then, move your extended arm inwards. Use your other arm to pull the stretched arm from around the elbow region.
Hold your arm in this position for 20 seconds. Next, repeat the same steps for your other arm.
Pro Tip: While pulling the arm towards yourself, make sure that your back doesn’t twist or turn. This can take the pressure away from your shoulder and onto your back.
12. Overhead Tricep Stretch
Now that we have stretched our arm sideways, we are going to be doing the tricep stretch.
Although this exercise is known as the tricep stretch, it is great exercise even for your shoulder.
To do this exercise, simple raise your arm upright and fold it backwards from your elbow. Use your other arm to push the hand backward from your elbow and downwards onto your back. Try and ensure that the elbow of the stretched arm should be close to or behind your ear while making sure that your head is in the upright position. It’s really that simple.
13. Shoulder Rotations
There are multiple variations of the shoulder rotation warm-up exercises.
The simplest form of this exercise is to simply rotate the shoulder either from front to back or from back to front.
To start with this exercise, simply put your hands stretched upward and move both your arms backward and stretch them as much as possible. Rotate them backward and then downwards until both the arms reach your leg. Continue the rotation cycle forward raising your arms in front of you and then bringing them back to the start position of upward stretch.
This rotation is a back to front rotation. Do this exercise to create 20 such circles. Then, change the direction of the rotation to make it front to back and do another 20 repetitions.
14. Up & Down Neck Extensions
Finally, it is important that we don’t forget the warm-up and stretch our neck muscles. These are seemingly small by very important muscles.
We can start with simple up and down movement of the neck muscles to get the stretch.
In order to start this warm-up exercise, you can start with looking down or looking up (it doesn’t really matter). When looking down, try to touch your chin on your chest and feel the stretch in the back of your neck. Hold the position for about 5-10 seconds.
Next, move your head backwards such that you can see the ceiling or the sky (if you are in the ground). Make sure that you don’t bend your back but only the neck. Hold your neck in this position for another 5-10 seconds.
Repeat this exercise for about 3-4 times as per your comfort and we shall then move on to the next one.
15. Left to Right Neck Extensions
This exercise functions similar to the previous exercise mentioned above. However, the position of the neck shall change.
Start by keeping your shoulders straight and neck in the normal position where you are looking straight ahead. Now, first turn your head towards the right almost as if trying to touch your neck to your right shoulder. Make sure you don’t move your right shoulder ahead in order to touch it to the neck. Hold your neck in this position for about 5-10 seconds.
Next, move your head to the other direction in the same way and hold it in that position for another 5-10 seconds. Repeat this exercise for about 3-4 times or as per your comfort.
16. Side to Side Neck Extensions
Start this exercise by keeping your shoulders straight and neck in the upright position.
What you want to do is try and extend your left ear towards your left shoulder to begin with (you don’t want to touch it, but just extend it). However, make sure that your shoulder remains in the straight position and doesn’t move up or down. Try to get the maximum stretch without any discomfort. Hold your neck in this position for about 5-10 seconds.
Then, release your neck from the left position and repeat the process for the right side stretch. Try to move your right ear towards your right shoulder as if intending to touch your ear to the shoulder. Hold for about 5-10 seconds.
Repeat the process for approximately 3 to 4 times or as per your comfort.
17. Levator Scapula Stretch
This is a great exercise to stretch your scapula muscles that is the muscles that run from your neck all the way into your shoulder. These muscles rarely get stretched. Thus, it is important to spend a couple of minutes to stretch these muscles.
It is a bit difficult to explain how the levator scapula stretch works. The best way to understand this would be through the following video.
Make sure you don’t apply too much effort while doing any of the above exercises.
Bowling Action & Run Up Practice
Lastly, once your body is fully warmed up, you can start with your standing bowling action first. This can be done either by bowling a ball to your friend but without the run up much like throwing the ball to a nearby fielding but in your standing bowling action.
You can then start bowling with a short run up. Bowl a few deliveries (about 5-6 deliveries) with a short run up. Make sure you don’t put extra effort while bowling. It should just be a natural way of stretching muscles that you specifically use while bowling.
Slowly, increase the intensity of your run up and the bowling action.
Doing a few sprints before your start bowling can help you in increasing your intensity quite easily.
There are several exercises that you can use to warm-up your body. The ones mentioned above are not exhaustive. However, no what exercise you choose, what is really important is that you warm-up well as this can help maintain your fitness in the long run.
Lastly, please ensure that you take all necessary precautions while doing any exercises, warm-up, or stretches. Always consult your physician or a doctor in case of any pain or injury. Stay safe and stay fit!