Former England Lions wicketkeeper Ben Scott – now of Kinetic Cricket – explains the importance of specificity when improving your fitness to boost your cricket performance.
I see ‘sports specific’ exercises in the gym all the time. The classic boxing exercise, punching with weights in your hand, or skiers on Bosus only weeks before heading for the slopes. Then there are cricketers trying to mimic shapes with weights and cables that leave me scratching my head.
I’m not ruling these exercises out completely (God knows I have plenty in my Kinetic Cricket programs), but the concept of sports specific exercises or ‘specificity’ is slightly more complex than that. It’s important to understand why we do these exercises so we can do them effectively and not waste our time.
Enter the MERCS scale, a method we can use to identify if an exercise is specific or not for what we want to achieve. Is getting down on one knee and practising our sweep shot with an Olympic lifting bar in the middle of a crowded gym actually helping or just making us look silly?
So how does it work? There are five main things to consider about an exercise to see if it’s great, worth doing or to be avoided.
- Muscles used during the exercise. Are these muscles used during cricket?
- Energy system taxed. Is this the predominant energy system taxed during cricket?
- Range of Movement (ROM) required. Are these related to the joints active in cricket?
- Contraction type. Is the contraction type and speed similar to that required in the action you’re looking to improve?
- Skill. Is the skill or movement sequence similar to that required in cricket?
Let’s pick two exercises: the leg press v walking lunge with a bar rotation. Now we need to go through each of the above and think about its relationship with these exercises.
In order to do this, we give each part of the MERCS scale a score according to the exercise’s similarity to cricket or the movements we want to improve.
No similarity – 1
Some similarity – 2
Close similarity – 3
Very similar – 4
Highly similar – 5
It is worth noting that the leg press is what is known as an open chain exercise where we are pushing the weight away from us, as opposed to the lunge where we become the weight, known as a closed chain movement. This is also a useful tool for identifying how specific a movement really is for us.
As you can see, this should help us decide which exercises are going to fit our programme better. This absolutely does not mean that the leg press is out of bounds and you should scour at anyone using it with a cricket top on! It will have its place in the world of fitness, but it is not as useful as the walking lunge for what we are trying to achieve.
There you have it – now you can pick your exercises to perfection or head to Kinetic Cricket where all programmes are designed in this fashion to help deliver training that really helps.