Since breaking into England’s Test team in 2003, James Anderson has emerged as one of the sport’s most gifted bowlers and is ranked third in the world by the ICC. His wickets have helped establish England as the Test side to beat and, ahead of next week’s series with Sri Lanka, the 29-year-old told ShortList about his training regime.
What’s the one physical aspect you’re always looking to improve?
My speed. I’m constantly trying to increase the mileage in my legs; bowling 25 overs in a day can be tough, so running is important. I prefer not to use a treadmill as I find running on grass puts less pressure on your legs.
What drills are best for speed?
Sprinting to an object such as a cone helps to build your speed. We do sprints in sets of six, like the balls in an over. We have one drill where you sprint for seven seconds, hoping to reach cones 50 metres away, and when the seven seconds is up you then have 23 seconds to jog back to the starting point — and then you have to do it again. It improves recovery time.
Which country has the toughest climate to train in?
Sri Lanka. The weather is 30 degrees and it’s very humid. Hot countries can sap all your energy. We have to acclimatise before the matches so we do everything outdoors when we arrive, and sun block is crucial.
Can you prepare yourself when you’re in the UK?
We’ve previously used special heat chambers in England. We’ll go inside these chambers and train for an hour at a time in sauna-like conditions — we have gym equipment in there.
What drives you to become a better player?
It’s easy to get motivated as an England player because we are the top ranked team in the world at the minute, and to stay there we have to be the fittest team as well as the most skilful. That’s generally the case with the world’s best teams; they’ve always had the fittest players.
You once tried boxing at an England training camp. How was that?
Not good. Boxing isn’t my strong point and I somehow got picked out with Chris Tremlett — he’s 6ft 7in and has the physique of a bodybuilder. Inevitably, I ended up cracking a rib. That was at a camp in Germany before an Ashes series. It was full-on.
What else did you do?
They had these ex-army guys putting us through our paces, and they were Aussies so they were winding us up about the series. They made us carry bricks around and got us to hold our arms out at head height with these bricks in our hands. And then they would get us to do these slow press-ups on the bricks themselves. It was fun, though.
Do you use any health supplements?
I’m a skinny guy who’s always been encouraged to put weight on, which I find hard to do, so using Wellman protein drinks helps me. There’s no point drinking protein and sitting on the couch though — I need to keep active to turn it into muscle.
Do you ever allow yourself the odd tipple?
When I first started trying to put weight on I read somewhere that [footballer] Paul Scholes once attempted to bulk up by drinking two pints of Guinness a day. So I went through a short stage of doing that and I’m still fond of the odd Guinness.
What part of your body suffers most from training?
When I run, my calves take a battering. If you ever have an ache after a session it just means that the exercise has had an effect.
What part of your body do you pay most attention to in training?
Looking after your back is important for any athlete, especially for me because I’m a bowler. One great way to keep it strong is to balance on your bottom with your legs in the air, holding a medicine ball to your side — which you continuously rotate between your right and left side.
Any other good ways to work your back muscles?
I used to find rowing machines good as they improve your physique in that area, but in recent years my back gets quite sore from it. Golf isn’t bad, either. It gets your legs moving and the swing can be good for all-round flexibility.
2012 is James Anderson’s benefit year; jamesanderson613.com