Coaches and players have a great opportunity to enhance their team’s ability to make progress during a season by developing appropriate off-season volleyball workouts. In order to design the most beneficial off-season workout program coaches must first evaluate their player’s physical capabilities, design appropriate workouts to meet the needs of the team, implement the volleyball workout, monitor progress, and then transition into pre-season workouts and practices
Off-season volleyball workouts will help prevent injuries and allow athletes to arrive at pre-season with the physical capabilities they need to improve their volleyball skills. Most coaches agree that the off-season time period is one of the most crucial times for their players to advance their growth. The off-season begins anywhere from twelve to sixteen weeks before the first regular season game for younger players and can begin twenty four weeks to several weeks after the regular or post season for highly competitive players. Regardless of the skill level or age of the players all volleyball teams must take time away from the volleyball court and volleyball workouts. Time away from volleyball does not mean no physical activity is being done. Encourage players to pursue other interests and hobbies or play other sports to remain active. After the season is over and time away has been enjoyed begin to develop off-season volleyball workouts that will lay the groundwork for a successful season.
Evaluate Physical Capabilities
Before any volleyball workouts are completed first begin by evaluating what level player’s physical capabilities are at. Evaluating the level at which players enter the off-season period allows volleyball workouts to be designed to maximize gains. If no evaluation was performed the volleyball workouts run the risk of being too demanding increasing the risk for injury and burn-out before the season begins or would not provide any physical challenge leading to little strength gains. Start by testing players physical conditioning levels and keep track of their initial results because these will be used to design the off-season volleyball workouts and track progress. Before conducting any of these tests all players must be medically cleared to participate in physical activity and they must warm-up properly for five to ten minutes. Here are a few tests that will evaluate physical conditioning, the results will vary depending on the age of the athletes, but the results shown are generally accepted for high school aged athletes.
300 Yard Shuttle Test
Set up two cones 30 yards apart. Players will start at one end then run to the opposite cone and repeat this for a total of ten repetitions. Time the amount of time it takes players to complete ten repetitions, the times will indicate players anaerobic endurance levels. Anaerobic exercise is short-lasting, high-intensity activity, where the body’s demand for oxygen exceeds the oxygen supply available.
- Less than 60 seconds is excellent
- Between 61 and 63 seconds is above average
- Between 63 and 66 seconds is average
- Between 66 and 69 seconds is below average
- Anything over 69 seconds is poor
Depending on the results of the 300 yard shuttle test the off-season volleyball workouts should incorporate adequate anaerobic activity to build speed and quickness. Anaerobic exercise will also benefit players endurance on the volleyball court since most movements made during a volleyball game are quick bursts that result in lactate build-up in muscles. Anaerobic activities will increase the muscles lactate threshold reducing recovery time after games and increasing anaerobic endurance.
Players will perform the maximum number of burpees in 30 seconds. Count the total number of burpees completed, anything over 12 is a good result for women and anything over 16 is a good result for men. The results of this test will indicate levels of strength and agility.
This test will indicate the level of endurance in the leg muscles by performing the maximum number of body weight squats possible.
- Over 43 is excellent
- Between 37 and 43 is good
- Between 33 and 36 is above average
- Between 29 and 32 is average
- Between 25 and 28 is below average
- Between 18 and 24 is poor
- Over 49 is excellent
- Between 44 and 49 is good
- Between 39 and 43 is above average
- Between 35 and 38 is average
- Between 31 and 34 is below average
- Between 25 and 30 is poor
Standing Long Jump Test
Players will jump as far as they can from a standing position by crouching and exploding forward. The length of the jump will indicate the elastic strength of the leg muscles. Improving elastic strength allows players to store and release more energy in the muscles and tendons translating to more efficient and powerful muscles.
- Over 6 feet is excellent
- Between 6 feet and 5 feet 7 inches is above average
- Between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet is average
- Between 4 feet 11 inches and 4 feet 6 inches is below average
- Over 6 feet 10 inches is excellent
- Between 6 feet 9 inches and 6 feet 4 inches is above average
- Between 6 feet 3 inches and 5 feet 11 inches is average
- Between 5 feet 10 inches and 5 feet 6 inches is below average
Sit and Reach Test
This test will determine players level of flexibility in their lower back and hamstrings. Flexibility is often overlooked and stretches are usually performed as part of a warm-up routine, but they should be incorporated into volleyball workouts and will reduce the risk of injury. Players will begin by sitting down and extending their legs forward in front of their body. Then they will reach past their toes without bending their knees, measure the distance their fingertips reach past their toes.
Design Appropriate Volleyball Workouts
After the tests have been conducted the results must be analyzed to determine priority areas of future volleyball workouts. If players show a weakness in certain areas of their physical conditioning focus future workouts on those weaknesses, but the focus should not be so narrow that gains are not made in other areas. Here are a few volleyball workouts to get started.
Warm-Up and Cool Down
Each volleyball workout should begin and end with a proper warm-up and cool down routine. Dynamic stretches that incorporate movement while stretching will activate muscles and tendons for the workout as well as reduce the amount of lactic acid in muscles after a workout. Warming up with smooth motion enhances muscular performance and power. Studies show that dynamic stretching before a workout can help athletes lift more weight and increase overall athletic performance compared to no stretching or static stretching. Here are some good dynamic stretches:
- 90/90 Hamstring Stretch
- Alternating Leg Swing
- Arm Circles
- Cat Stretch (lower back)
- Dynamic Back Stretch
- Dynamic Chest Stretch
- Frog Hops
- Hip Stretch with a Twist
- Iron Crosses (lower back and quads)
- Knee to Chest
- Pelvic Tilt into Bridge
- Shoulder Circles
- Side Leg Raises
- Sit Squats
- Toe Touchers (abs)
- Torso Rotation
- Windmills (abductors)
Warm-up and cool down routines should be around five to ten minutes and activate the muscles that will be the focus of the workout. Also incorporate dynamic stretches that focus on the secondary muscles affected by the workout.
Volleyball workouts that develop anaerobic endurance will include repetitions that are short in duration, anywhere from 25 to 60 seconds long and will be high intensity with little recovery time in between repetitions. These workouts will increase muscle strength and the ability to fight fatigue. Here are a few anaerobic exercises:
- Box Jump
- Box Skip
- Defensive Slide
- Depth Jump Leap
- Double Leg Butt Kick
- Feet Jack
- Football Up Down
- Frog Hops
- Hurdle Hops
- Jump Lunge to Feet Jack
- Jumping Jacks
- Lateral Speed Step
Aerobic endurance is also known as cardio and consists of workouts that are longer in duration and done at a consistent pace that the body is able to supply enough energy and oxygen for. These workouts will improve endurance and stamina and should be more prominent during the beginning of the off-season workouts. Here are some aerobic exercises:
- 2 mile run
- Elliptical Training
- Cycling/Exercise Cycling
Strength training consists of weight lifting to build muscles that are able to deliver more power on the volleyball court. Strength training can also include other exercises that use body weight resistance to build muscle. Each exercise should include 3 to 4 sets with 10 to 12 repetitions. Fatigue should begin to set in around the eighth repetition and subsequent repetitions should be challenging. Here are a few exercises to choose from that will build muscle for volleyball players:
- Crunches on Exercise Ball
- Dumbbell Bench Press
- Dumbbell Bicep Curls
- Dumbbell Flyes
- Dumbbell Lunges
- Dumbbell Squat
- Front Dumbbell Raise
- External Rotation
- Jackknife Sit-Up
- Oblique Crunches
- Preacher Curls
- Reverse Flyes
- Side Lateral Raise
- Standing Overhead Tricep Extensions
- Straight Arm Dumbbell Pullovers
- Straight Arm Pulldowns
- Tricep Pushdowns
Volleyball workouts that incorporate flexibility aspects will reduce the risk of injury. Increased flexibility also translates to more fluid and technically sound movements on the volleyball court. The dynamic stretches found in the warm-up and cool down section are a good start to increase flexibility. Yoga is another good way to work on flexibility and also improve balance, the following are good poses:
- Big Toe Pose
- Bound Angle Pose
- Chair Pose
- Child’s Pose
- Downward-Facing Dog
- Garland Pose
- Gate Pose
- Marichi’s Pose
- Upward Salute
- Warrior Pose
Implement Volleyball Workouts
Once the most beneficial workouts are identified now it is time to bring them together and design a program. First create a consistent schedule where days are identified as workout days and recovery days. The individual schedule can be tailored to meet the needs of the team, but a suggested schedule is workout days: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; recovery days: Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. The ratio of four workout days to three recovery days is best for off-season conditioning programs. Recovery days are great for targeting flexibility and having players stretch thoroughly will improve recovery.
The volleyball workout scheduled for each day should have a purpose and develop physical conditioning of a certain type of particular muscle groups. After targeting a particular muscle group allow a couple of days for recovery, never plan workouts on consecutive days that train the same set of muscles. A good way to avoid this is to alternate between strength and aerobic/cardio workouts, for example, if Monday is a strength training day then Tuesday should be an aerobic/cardio day. During the workouts ensure that proper form is being used for each exercise and take the time to demonstrate proper form before an exercise is attempted. Players should be able to use proper form when completing exercises, if they are unable to that is a strong indication too much weight is being used.
Incorporate volleyball activities every once in a while to keep things fresh and begin to get players touches on the volleyball. While the focus of off-season workouts is to build strength and endurance occasional touches on the volleyball will mix things up and begin to shake off any rust before pre-season.
Every few weeks players should complete the tests they performed at the beginning of the off-season to measure progress. Document the performance during each test and evaluate gains or losses in physical conditioning. The off-season program can be adjusted with other types of volleyball workouts depending on the results of physical conditioning tests. Plan volleyball workouts for a three to four weeks, re-evaluate, then plan for the next three to four weeks based on the results of the tests. Keep an eye out for overtraining, this can become counterproductive very quickly, if players are exerting themselves in the gym, but results are not materializing on the tests this is a sign of overtraining and increases the risk of injury. The most important aspect here is to document progress, that documentation is what will provide the insights to adjust the program.
Transition to Pre-Season
Once the off-season volleyball workouts conclude the focus of training with players should be on turning the endurance and strength gains into power specific to volleyball activity and endurance requirements to provide adequate recovery through the duration of a match.
Well thought out and properly designed off-season volleyball workouts will benefit players and act as a springboard for their development during the pre-season and regular season. Ensure that players are using the proper form and techniques when performing volleyball workouts to prevent injuries. The strength and endurance gains made during the off-season volleyball workouts will help players recover quickly during the season reducing the risk of injury due to fatigue. Successful off-season volleyball workouts will also enhance player’s skills on the court by developing the physical capabilities required to compete during a volleyball match. By evaluating players physical capabilities, designing appropriate volleyball workouts, and monitoring progress coaches are able to provide their team the foundation to grow their volleyball skills.