Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club - Part 1: Fitness & Testing

September 15, 2023 4 min read

In this first episode of our Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club mini-series, we talk with Liam Price, Strength and Conditioning Coach at NCCC to find out how the Wattbikes are utilised to support player fitness and development.

At the club, we use the Wattbikes to test two different components of fitness, the first of which is to purely test the aerobic threshold capacity of our players. Cricket is a long game, players can be expected to perform for typically 8 hours each day, and therefore we need to ensure our team can endure. For this, we look at conducting anything between 20-30km stints on the Wattbike.

In contrast to this, the second component we focus on is power. There are elements of the game, particularly for the bowlers, that require repeated explosive, rapid power output. The Wattbike is the perfect training tool for this as we can use the peak power 6 second test to work on maximum outputs, we also test the FTP (functional threshold power) every couple of months. By taking this intensive test off-feet using the bikes we can test maximum outputs using minimum stress on the body, ideal to avoid any lower limb injuries.

PERSONALISING TRAINING BY PLAYER AND POSITION

Different players require expertise in different components of fitness so we test and prescribe individual training programmes throughout the season to each person. But whatever the testing or fitness protocol, it’s always demanding on the body, so taking the players off-feet using the Wattbike is vital.

Throughout the season, we’ll test the players differently depending on the position and particular demands of the game on that person, always using the bikes in different modalities to suit individual players and positions.

So, for the bowlers for example, they produce a lot more force, their job is more physically demanding and requires huge outputs of power. Because these players rely on developing fast explosive power, we’ll likely use training and testing that focuses on anaerobic bursts, or interval sessions to mirror the demands of the game. Wicket keepers are also extremely explosive in the game, and we’ll tailor their Wattbike programmes accordingly.

Same with the batsmen, they are more typically leaner, creating relative power but need high aerobic capacity. So they will perform a number of aerobic sessions as due to the nature of the game, they will undergo long periods of being off the pitch, unlike in other sports. We’ll often turn to the ramp test, steering away from maximal testing and instead favouring submaximal testing, which is a great way for us to gauge where players aerobic capacity and VO2 max is without putting them through too much stress.

Having said that, despite the fact we want to optimise what each player needs for their position, we will also use the Wattbikes to help improve their fitness in areas that they may not be strongest at, looking at anaerobic vs aerobic capacities.

ADVANCED TACTICS: ISCHEMIC TRAINING

I first got the idea to include Ischemic Training in our players programme from researching the conditioning taking place within major league Baseball. Ischemic Training is a method of strength training using a low resistance combined with blood flow restriction. We use restriction cuffs on the lower limbs and get players to cycle for 15 minutes on the Wattbikes at little, or no resistance, about 95 RPM, focusing on an even power output through the legs and Wattbike pedal effectiveness score (PES) shown in the Wattbike Polar View screen. We repeat this through our recovery sessions.

Players have reported feeling fresher, having more energy and some of the factors that we regularly measure – including sleep, stress and soreness have markedly improved since we introduced this into our training.


DELVING INTO THE DATA TO AID REST AND REHAB

The data we get from the Wattbikes helps us to identify the need for rest periods and rehabilitation. Using the bikes, we can rehab lower limb, soft tissue injuries by getting the players back to generating the force they could, as quickly as they could before, without additional stress. Once we see the rate of force development we expect from that player pre-injury, we can get them back into using the 6sec peak power test to rebuild and strengthen.

From the data, we can build into each players’ individualised training programme. We work on a four-day block; we play Monday-Thursday, go through active recovery on Friday and Saturday and turn our attention to lifting and strength work on Sunday. The Wattbikes are key for our active recovery sessions, there are a few players who like to run in these sessions but most of the lads will just jump on the Wattbikes, all players are on the bikes at least once a week.

DRIVING HEALTHY COMPETITION

We like to keep training fun, it has to be engaging for the players. One thing we do every year in preseason is run our own indoor triathlon. A swim, 35km on the Wattbike then a 5km run. The Wattbike numbers can get quite competitive, and it’s amazing to see the race time that can be made up on the bikes by the better riders. We have to calm a few of the lads down sometimes!

In terms of competition, we actually actively stopped measuring players against other players, it wasn’t a tactic that suited the players, the game or their personalities. We prefer to use the Wattbike numbers to pitch players against themselves, encouraging them to beat their own numbers, and keep improving to be the best they can be. Sure, there’s always going to be a bit of banter between the guys, but really the competitive edge for each of them is to challenge themselves, to internally improve and progress.

The guys love the Wattbikes, in lockdown a few of them even took the bikes home and then from that, a few became quite obsessed with the 30km time trials, and started pulling in pretty decent times compared with more serious cyclists!


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