Everyone who is involved in the health and fitness industry should be aware of the importance of stretching, before and after activity, to help lower the risk of injury. Whether you’re participating in a game of cricket on the weekend, involved in coaching and training or just enjoy keeping fit; we all know the frustration of succumbing to an injury that keeps us off the field or cricket pitch.
Yes, even cricket teams need to stretch and warm up before a game.
Stretching is the necessary process of elongating and warming up the muscles prior to exercise, to prepare them for physical activity. A warm up, correctly performed, will help to raise the body temperature, increase blood flow and promote oxygen supply to the muscles; all of this is aimed at preventing injury during sport. It will also help to prepare the mind, body, muscles and joints for the physical activity to come. A cool down is just as important to help the muscles and tendons to relax and loosen, to prevent them from becoming stiff and tight. A cool down also prevents waste products, such as lactic acid, from building up in the muscles.
One of the greatest benefits of stretching once you have put on your cricket uniform but before going out on the cricket pitch, is that you lengthen your muscles and tendons. This will allow for an increased range of motion, and means your limbs and joints can move further before a potential injury may occur.
Let’s look at the four types of stretches:
- DYNAMIC – a stretch through the full range of motion, eg an arm rotation.
- STATIC – a dynamic movement that is then held at the most extreme point, eg a lunge held at its deepest position.
- ISOMETRIC – a stretch against resistance, eg the splits whilst braced between two chairs.
- RELAXED – a stretch aided by resistance, eg a front split.
These different types of stretching focus on a different variety of flexibility, so it stands to reason that different sports require different types of stretching. For example, gymnasts require all types of flexibility, for cricket, only dynamic flexibility is required.
Stretches and warm ups for cricket
- Arm rotations – particularly recommended for fast bowlers. Spin each arm round in several directions, gradually increasing the speed. Perform 15 reps per arm or until you feel blood rushing to your hand.
- Hugs – to warm and lengthen back muscles. Hug yourself tightly then immediately try and clap your hands behind your back then hug yourself again. With each clap, try to bring your arms higher up your back. With each hug, focus on flaring your back muscles out and shrug your shoulders. Perform 15 reps.
- Front kicks – to lengthen the muscles in the backs of the legs. Put your hand out in front of you and using it as a target, attempt to kick your hand with the leg on the same side as your hand. Perform 10 reps with one leg, doing 2-3 sets in total.
- Side kicks – same as above, just kick out to the side. Again, 10 reps for 2-3 sets.
- Squats – make sure your knees don’t go beyond your feet. Go down as low as you can, ideally with your butt around ankle bone level. Perform 10-15 reps depending on your fitness levels.
- Seated torso twists – sit on the floor with your legs straight and wider than shoulder width apart. Bring your hands up to your armpits and twist at the waist, making sure your buttocks remains on the ground. Perform 10 reps on each side, with 3-4 sets.
- Seated side bends – same as above but bend to the side. Do 10 reps with 3-4 sets.
- Seated forward bends – remaining on the floor, bring your feet slightly closer together. Bend forward, making sure your back becomes curved. You want the back to curve to stretch the back muscles out. Perform 10 reps with 3-4 sets.
- Shoulder raise – lying on your stomach, put your hands on the floor, under your shoulders. Use your back muscles and your arms to push your torso up, but make sure your hips stay on the ground. Work up to locking your arms out.
Put on your cricket uniform and warm up!
Make sure you perform a general warm up before playing cricket, to prepare your entire body for the game; including your heart, lungs and muscles. Allow enough time so you’re not rushed but also take care to not overdo it and risk using up vital energy stores before your game even starts.