By: Steve Yahns, MS, CSCS, NASM-PES Assistant Director of Performance, Lead Methodology Educator Spectrum Sports Performance Volleyball Specific Exercise, Series 5: Strength

A high level of strength is important for most athletes, and volleyball is definitely no exception. When we look at all the movements volleyball players go through during a game, we see a lot of jumping, hitting, diving, cutting, and accelerating. High levels of strength can help athletes perform these movements much more efficiently. But we are not talking about body part or isolation strength. Sure being able to lift a lot of weight on a leg extension machine can give an athlete “strong quads”, but does that movement directly help the athlete jump higher, run faster, cut more efficiently, etc? When we talk about achieving higher levels of strength, we are talking about functional strength or strength specific to the demands of that sport. As with the previous blogs, we must address the body as a functional unit throughout each exercise. That same approach goes for our strength lifts as well. Even though certain exercises may have an “upper body” or “lower body” focus, the entire body as a functional unit should be addressed to achieve overall strength gain in relation to improving volleyball performance.

Exercise #1:

TRX Supinated Pull-ups:

Supinated Pull Up - start position

Supinated Pull Up - finish position

First off, we use a TRX suspension trainer for this exercise. If you do not have access to a TRX, it’s not a big deal; a barbell on a squat rack will do just fine. The goal is to get as horizontal to the floor as possible, with legs straight. The hands will grab the TRX handles, or barbell, and pull the entire body up. It should be much more complex than that, however. The pull should originate from the upper back, mainly the shoulder blades. A retraction or pinch should occur before the athletes pull themselves up. After shoulder blade retraction, the athletes will continue to pull themselves up, while maintaining this retraction. They will pull themselves up as high as possible, while maintaining retraction and without shrugging the shoulders. Maintaining a straight line from head to toe is also very important. The athlete should also be flexing throughout their mid-section and glutes on each and every rep. Needless to say, pull-ups can be difficult, so bending the knees and putting the feet flat on the floor or walking backwards while in the TRX can reduce tension and make it easier to complete each rep properly. The goal of this exercise is to build upper back and arm strength, and also improve shoulder blade control to properly stabilize the shoulder. Usually 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps are performed with a slow tempo, or athletes can do an isometric hold of 20/30 seconds at the top to build isometric and stabilization strength.

Exercise #2:Band Rotation to Press:

Band Rotation to Press, Half Kneeling - start position

Band Roation to Press, Half Kneeling

Band Rotation to Press, Half Kneeling - finish position

The goal of this exercise is simple; it’s to improve rotational stability. Throughout a game, every player will need to rotate the body to hit, set, dig, cut, and dive. The ability for the torso to stabilize during rotational movement is important to maximize power and strength output, as well as to reduce the risk for injuries throughout the entire body. The athlete will be in a half-kneeling position, with the back glute and mid-section flexed. The athlete will take the band with the outside hand, extend the arm, and press the band straight out with the opposite arm. The act of extending the arm and pressing the band outward significantly challenges the torso’s ability to stabilize. Ideally, the athlete should not lose balance, shift the hips or torso, or move the front leg and/or knee. This can be very challenging, especially for those lacking core strength and torso control. Usually 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps are performed with a very slow tempo.

Exercise #3:Single-Leg Squat w/Mini-Band

Single-Leg Squat - start position

Single-Leg Squat

Single-Leg Squat - finish position

Squatting patterns are found numerous times throughout a game for all players. Every jump, cut, dive, hit, come from a squatting-like position. Earlier we called this our base position. How an athlete gets into to this position can determine if the athlete moves with power and strength, and can also lead to an injury if the athlete loads the hips improperly. The purpose of a single leg squat is to not only build strength and stability on one leg, but also to teach proper hip loading and body awareness. While performing this squat the athlete should bend the hips and knees at exactly the same time. The temptation can be to bend at the knees first and then the hips, this put a good amount of stress on the knees, which can lead to knee issues. The hips should go back and the knee of the working leg shouldn’t go out past the toes. The athlete should attempt to go as low as they can while maintaining good balance, and good posture. Good posture should really focus on a nice, flat back, without rounding throughout the upper back. While some may be able to squat their butt down to a parallel to the floor position, while maintaining good posture, others may not be able to go that deep. If good depth is a problem, adding something like a pad to the bench so they won’t go as deep, can help them perform this exercise properly. Lastly, the knee of the leg the athlete is squatting on is important to address. As we mentioned in a previous post, the glute is responsible for knee control. When the glute is shut off, the knee dives inward, which puts the knee at risk and causes the athlete to lose balance. Making sure that the glute is activated, and that the knee is in line with their hip and foot is important for athletes in all single leg movements. Throwing a mini-band around knees, as shown here, can help strengthen the glutes, and prevent the knee from falling in. Typically, 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps are performed, once again with a very slow tempo.


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