High School Volleyball: The Best Off-Season Training Program
By: Meggan M. Brunette, B.S., C.S.C.S., USA-W
The two to three months before Fall season is the most important training time in a volleyball athlete’s season! This is the best time to build up strength and explosive power that can be maintained throughout the Fall season. Pre-Season training should include a combination of olympic lifting, core training, agility training, and overall conditioning.
Olympic Lifting increases your ability to explode out on the court, as you jump higher, and dive faster. Generally power lifting is done with lighter loads to ensure that each repetition is completed with great speed. Many coaches do avoid these lifts because it is risky for overhead athletes. However, I believe with the right supervision from a knowledgable and experienced coach they can be very beneficial. Olympic lifting improves stabilization of the entire body, trains the muscle fibers to explode in unison, and increases bone mineral density (preventing osteoporosis and stress fractures.)
There are very few local high school programs that get sufficient time in the weight room to build strength during the off-season. Therefore, it very important that athletes take the time to find a place to strength train during the Summer. Increasing strength by completing exercises such as squats, dead lifts, pull-ups, bench press, and a series of rotational core strength exercises sets the athlete up for a successful season. Most importantly, having a solid foundation of strength will increase the odds that the athlete will remain injury free. Strength training will be completed with heavier weights and lower repetition frequency with the maximal rest after each set, for best results.
Conditioning should be done with an emphasis on anaerobic and circuit training while including aerobic exercise. This combination of conditioning does not mean playing hours upon hours on the court. Many of my high school volleyball athletes want to play all day everyday. Although getting a lot of repetitions and playing time will help you initially, it is not good for longevity in the sport. For example, many new volleyball players want to play outside hitter, flying high and hitting hard. Therefore, they practice and practice hitting and jumping and eventually improve. That same player then goes on to college, excited for the opportunity to get a scholarship or even play professionally, and before they know it they are experiencing shoulder injuries and stress fractures. Due to the fact that volleyball is a multi-directional sport, athletes are also at great risk for knee and ankle injuries without the proper training off the court.
That being said, conditioning should be considered separate from the actual time they are playing on the court. Agility and speed training in combination with some longer duration cardiovascular training during the off-season ensures that the athlete returns to play more agile and with greater endurance. In every position, it is important that the athlete have good body control, fast reaction time, and ability to cover the court quickly for either a pass or hit. These demands of speed and agility are best met by anaerobic conditioning which are short time periods of work followed by intervals of rest.
Remember that before beginning any strength and conditioning program, volleyball players should be evaluated on ten factors of the athlete’s fitness. These include strength, power, speed, agility, mobility, flexibility, coordination, quickness, local muscular endurance, and aerobic capacity. In summary, an off-season Summer program for Volleyball athletes should include a combination of aerobic and anaerobic training which increases overall fitness levels. Strength training and olympic lifting increases power and explosiveness on the court, while decreasing risk of injury. Speed and agility training improves their movement on the court while speeding up their reaction time to the ball. Flexibility is always important both for speed and injury prevention and should not be overlooked. Most importantly, work hard and have fun with your training!