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The effects of four-week resistance training on cricket bowling velocity
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Background: Sports at various levels are often performed at high speeds. This is evident in several sports ranging from non-ball sports like athletics to ball sports like baseball, tennis and cricket. The ability to generate high speeds has advantages in many sports as it gives the opposition less time to react. In cricket bowling, the ball release speed has a significant influence on the outcome of the delivery. A faster delivery reduces the batter's decision-making time and stroke-execution time and therefore increases the chance of him or her making a mistake and being dismissed. This increased velocity can be achieved through resistance training in bowlers. Resistance training enables an athlete to increase their overall strength and develop their power. This kind of training should be characterised by specificity as well as progressive overload. This can be done by performing bowling training (specific resistance) while implementing a progressive overload in the number of deliveries bowled and/or the number of repetitions and sets performed in general and special resistance training. Evidence suggests that these resistance training methods can lead to a significant increase in bowling velocity in cricket within a reasonable time frame. However, most programmes require specialised equipment or access to a gym, which can be quite expensive. They can also be very time-consuming. At the elite level, cricket players have access to physical trainers and physical training resources, and their time can be dedicated to performance enhancement. However, at an amateur club level this will probably not be the case. Recreational players are less likely to have the time available to do extra training at gym while others simply may not have the financial resources to join a gym. Therefore, in order to optimise training for amateur club players and coaches, finding a resistance training programme that can be used during practice sessions would be ideal. This resistance training should incorporate strength, power and cricket-specific training. Aims and objectives: The primary aim of this study was to develop and examine an appropriate resistance training programme to improve bowling velocity in amateur club cricket fast bowlers. This was done in two parts: first, an attempt was made to determine if amateur club level players have the time and resources to perform extra training to facilitate an increase in bowling velocity. This was achieved through a questionnaire. The objectives of the questionnaire were to identify the accessibility of resistance training in-season and identify whether players have the time to perform additional training outside of their normal training hours. The second part of the study sought to develop a time- and cost-effective training programme that amateur club-level players can use to improve their bowling velocity. Additionally, the programme had to be performed during training with minimal disruption to the normal training session, and it should not pose any risk of injury to the players. An assessment of the effects of this study was done. Methods: The questionnaire was sent out to senior club fast bowlers (1st and 2nd division) at various cricket clubs as well as distributed online for the participants to complete. The questionnaire aimed at acquiring information about the bowler’s cricket training and strength training load during the cricket season. It also retrieved demographic and injury information as well as their perception of the importance of strength and power training. Further, participants were required to state whether they had personally implemented training that contributed to an improvement in their bowling velocity and if they had a gym membership. The questionnaire was also used to determine whether players at club level had the time and financial resources to perform additional strength or power training (outside of their normal cricket training hours) that could produce an improvement in their bowling performance. The second part of the study was the development and implementation of the training programme, and assessment of its effects. Twenty participants were recruited and randomly assigned to an experimental (n = 11) and control (n = 9) group. Of these participants, 9 of the experimental and 9 of the control group completed the trial. The experimental group was required to perform the training programme for four weeks. This programme consisted of a combination of general, special, and specific resistance training. All special resistance exercises were done with a 3kg medicine ball. Additionally, participants were required to perform 24-30 deliveries each session with an overweighted, underweighted and regular cricket ball. On the other hand, the control group was requested not to participate in any strength training during this period and only perform their normal cricket training sessions. All participants' performance was measured through a testing protocol which took place at baseline, two weeks and four weeks after training. The variables measured included bowling velocity, bowling accuracy, upper body power and lower body power. Results: The results of the questionnaire showed that many amateur club-level cricketers were not able to perform additional training at home or at gym, despite their knowing how important strength and power training is for improving their bowling performance. This was mainly due to players stating that they do not have the time or financial resources to do so. Results of the testing protocol for the experimental group revealed significant increases in bowling velocity between the baseline test and two weeks of training (4.1km/h, p= 0.003) and between the baseline test and four weeks of training (5.1km/h, p< 0.001). This equates to a final 6% increase across the four weeks. This increase in bowling speed was not at the cost of bowling accuracy as there were no significant differences in bowling accuracy across the four weeks. There was also no significant difference in the upper body power and leg power across the four weeks. The control group showed no significant differences in bowling velocity, bowling accuracy or lower body power across the four weeks. However, there was a significant increase in upper body power in the control group across the four weeks. Conclusion: Utilising only a four-week resistance training programme − consisting of a combination of core and lower body exercises (squats, lunges, step ups) as well as cricket-specific plyometric exercises and weighted implement training − significantly increased bowling velocity by 6%. This had no negative effect on the accuracy of the deliveries and posed no risk of injury to players. It would therefore be advantageous for club level bowlers to utilise this programme during training sessions to improve their bowling performance. Recommendations have been provided for this.