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Virat Kohli and his love affair with weight lifting

Kohli has been a champion batsman in the recent times across all 3 formats of the game.

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli. (Photo Source: Twitter)

For the better part of its existence, cricket was not considered much of a physically demanding sport. Back in the days, the design of the game was an outcome of ample time. Test matches – which in its current 5-day format still bore crowds – split into weeks. As such the sport never demanded physical exertion in terms of intense running, jumping or utilising muscle strength. Seldom would a cricketer make it to the list of ‘the fittest athletes in the world’.

Nevertheless, this perception of the game changed about three decades ago. The advent of limited overs cricket has resulted in a paradigm shift as far as cricketers’ fitness levels are concerned. No longer do batsmen have the luxury of defending over after over. The layout of the game forces them to hit the big shots. Running between the wickets is of great importance in the shorter format of the game. It allows batsmen to convert the 1s into 2s, which, when added up, are all valuable runs to the team’s total. Likewise, the fielding side aims to save every run possible. As a result, fielding standards have sky-rocketed over the last few years.

Generally speaking, cricket today necessitates players to be far leaner, stronger, and more athletic than they were ever before. Notably, a modern day cricketer who brings together these traits in his physique is none other than Virat Kohli.

A rightful ambassador of the game for his superlative strokeplay and his audacious captaincy, Virat Kohli is already a master in its real sense. Virat is nothing short of a world-class athlete. Strikingly quick between the wickets – check a remarkable fielder with a solid throw – check, power to smash the ball into the stands – check. It’s intriguing though how a phenomenal player like Kohli exhibits sustained levels of such fitness while coping with the imposition of a packed cricketing calendar. The answer lies in a recent addition to his fitness regime – weightlifting.

Shankar Basu- The Man behind the making of a fit Kohli

The gentleman who has been responsible for the Indian skipper’s fitness success is, of course, Shankar Basu. He came under the spotlight following his stint as the fitness trainer of the Indian national cricket team, more so because he worked with Virat Kohli, a household name in world cricket. His collaboration with Virat in the gym persists as Basu is now the strength and conditioning coach of the Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Shankar Basu was certain that if he were to conduct a fitness test in the RCB squad, it would be Virat Kohli and South Africa’s superman AB de Villiers who’d pass with flying colours. “Captain Kohli is a total pro,” Basu says with the typical fitness-coach-like enthusiasm. This is the man who introduced Kohli to weightlifting, which has translated into added strength, flexibility and endurance in India’s ace batsman.

The benefits of weightlifting, as an added training for athletes, is a matter of debate. Experts who study the effects of weightlifting are still uncertain about its gains. The preconceived notion that surrounds weightlifting is that it diminishes athletes’ performances. However, Gary R. Hunter, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is a believer of the sport. Dr. Hunter says, “There is no doubt that an appropriate weight-training program would improve efficiency in pretty much any athlete.”

Similarly, Shankar Basu also believes in the profits that lie in weightlifting. Around eight to nine months back, he handed Kohli a stick and emphasised on developing the right technique of lifting weights. Despite Kohli’s constant badgering, he didn’t graduate from the stick to actual weights until after two months. Once he had mastered the movement, Basu thought it fit to hand him a small bar. “Now he’s a proper lifter,” Basu says proudly.

Despite the spotlight being on muscle growth, weightlifting hides under its cloak the invisible element of flexibility. Basu points out that from the array of athletes who take part in the Olympic Games, the most flexible ones are of course the gymnasts. Close on their heels are – surprise surprise – weightlifters. The best in the business support weights overhead well in excess of 200kgs. In the snatch, for instance, such a feat of strength would not be conceivable without flexible shoulders and wrists.

More importantly, the entire lower body requires flexibility to attain the full ranges of motion when executing the lift. Kohli’s huge strides forward that allow him to pull off the perfect cover drive are a testimony to his flexibility. When he flicks the ball off his pads, often from outside the off stump, those are his flexible wrists coming into play.

Weightlifting helps in enhancing power and speed 

Apart from promoting flexibility, weightlifting also develops enormous amounts of power and speed. In order to propel a weight over his head, speed coupled with strength are key for the weightlifter. Kohli brilliantly transfers the perks he receives at the gym onto the cricket field. Virat is explosive off the blocks when running between the wickets. In spite of playing off the back foot, he darts across the pitch to comfortably make the other end. On the field, he covers tremendous ground to cut off the ball, only to follow it with a rocket throw which he generates from his robust shoulders. Weight lifting strengthens Kohli’s lower limbs, which allow him to incorporate that explosiveness between the wickets and while fielding.

Lifting weights often germinate a fear of bulking up in athletes. They are afraid of losing their agility and speed. Au contraire, sportspersons are beginning to resort to weightlifting more often to develop both speeds as well as agility. As for cricketers, bulking up is out of the question given the intense cardio workout that they undergo on the field. Beyond a shadow of doubt, Virat Kohli is a testimony to the success weightlifting entails in a top-notch athlete.

If there is someone who makes batting look easy today, it is Virat Kohli. However, that efficiency he brings to the crease ensues from hard sessions in the gym. With weightlifting being a fresh boost to his fitness routine, Kohli has attained unprecedented levels of fitness in his career.  For a cricketer like Virat Kohli to sustain at the highest degree, the focus on fitness was of paramount importance. Weightlifting has just been his latest arrow to his quiver.

Can't wait to get back onto the field. Almost there now 💪✌️😃. 14th April ⏳

A post shared by Virat Kohli (@virat.kohli) on

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