Ben Stokes, 32, is a Kiwi Red Bull athlete and England Test Team captain.
How he’s one of the world’s finest athletes while having no fitness secrets is a mystery. Stokes became a legend in the 2019 Cricket World Cup after leading England’s innings and winning the Man of the Match award in the tied Super Over.
He was named Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World in 2019 and 2020 and won the ICC Award for Best Men’s Cricketer and BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2019.
Since then, he’s been England’s Test captain and won the 2022 T20 World Cup by top-scoring. OBE, too.
We took time between training sessions with Stokes and ex-England cricketer and England assistant coach Paul Collingwood to discuss fitness.
Stokes isn’t a “huge gym user” anymore, focusing on skills-based training and injury avoidance to stay on top. ‘I usually do 15 minutes of mobilisation and preparation before stepping into the nets for two hours,’ he explains. After 90 minutes of batting and 30 minutes of bowling, team fielding drills conclude the two-hour net session.
Collingwood said Ben is mature about what he needs. He’ll always finish. I’ve never seen a cricketer with such strength and agility.
Stokes avoids injuries by focusing on “prehab” rather than everyday gym activity. Stokes says, ‘My hamstrings assist secure my knee, so I work on them’. I’ll do lots of core exercises, mostly core circuits, to protect my back against quick bowling. It’s about conditioning my knee and back’s tiny muscles to exhaustion.
Stokes attributes his extended career to maintaining his prehab habits.
Stokes’s consistency in skills-based exercises impresses Collingwood. Collingwood adds, ‘We’ll make sure that he’s hitting the balls into the places that he wants to hit, or making sure that he’s fielding as he wants to with things like 100 catches on the boundary. Keeping the arms strong lets him throw the ball as hard as he wants.
Stokes, 32, made his Oval one-day debut in 2009. Thus, he has a lot of sports mileage. He avoids age-related injuries with smart fitness.
Collingwood said Ben’s physical activity during training has changed. When he was younger, he was an amazing physical trainer, sprinting and jogging even the day before games.
Stokes agrees, saying his primary change from his 20s is a greater knowledge of workload management. ‘The body isn’t as fresh as it used to be, so addressing things differently to my mid-20s is key,’ he adds. ‘Train smarter, not harder.’
Collingwood notes that part of this wiser approach to training is realizing that after decades in the sport, some things are second nature and his body no longer needs as much energy to produce the same outcomes.
‘As long as he maintains his strength and skill work up, then all of his energy is going into the game itself,’ he explains. That comes from experience and knowing what a cricketer needs.
Stokes’s meals depend on training, playing, and match venue. Stokes says he fasts and controls his food at home to make up for a more relaxed training regimen.
The performance staff manages his camp meals to guarantee a balanced diet. Stokes relies on caffeine, whether it’s coffee while he’s fasting, Red Bull when he’s fielding, or energy drinks during extended batting innings.
Stokes says his cheat food is Yorkie Raisin and Biscuit bars. Haribo Tangfastics and Revels. I can have a cheat meal or snack if I eat healthily 90% of the time. The occasional Chinese takeout is fine if you’re generally healthy.
Stokes seldom leaves cricket, but golf improves his game in several ways. ‘It retains hand-eye coordination and, I assume, some fundamental body movement.’
Collingwood coaches. ‘Cricket being a sport where you spend six-and-a-half hours out in the field for five days, you don’t want to pull too much energy out of the body with anything else,’ he explains. However, golf is a great mental relaxant.
Batting is like golf. Test cricket requires more body movement and aggression. Golfing slows swing and bat speed.
It’s largely a social and a break from the game! Stokes adds.