Generic exercise regimes are easy to find these days with endless muscle group splits available at your fingertips with a simple Google search. However, sport-specific training programs should be tailored to the unique movements that are essential to succeeding in your particular activity. Too often young athletes fall into the habit of performing weighted crunches and other traditional exercises in an effort to improve sports performance. This will most likely result in the ability to crunch with force, but it is certainly not the most effective method of improving the explosive extension and flexion necessary to spike a volleyball.
The following four exercises are excellent for stabilizing the ankle, knee, hip and shoulder joints. Furthermore, suspending the body using a Jungle Gym XT system engages the core muscles and trains the body through movement patterns that mimic those in volleyball. These functional, multi-joint exercises will improve your individual skills and cardiovascular fitness because of the many major muscles involved in each movement.
Furthermore, to spike a volleyball through a narrow gap in a block or quickly dig a hard hit ball while maintaining a stable base involves precise body control in space. These exercises also help practice moving with precision which is essential to achieving volleyball greatness.
PURPOSE Instead of a traditional push-up, this sequence of movements is a more volleyball-specific way of improving upper body strength. In addition to strengthening the chest and shoulders, this exercise trains the chain of muscles necessary for effective flexion and extension, which is important to hold a firm block position and spike.
REPS 12 pikes + pushups per set
TIP Great volleyball players are skilled at controlling their bodies in the air. If you find your legs are wobbling outward during each rep, slow your tempo as you raise your hips to help maintain a consistent space between your feet.
Many skills in volleyball, such as maintaining a strong position as you absorb a hard spiked ball, require the ability to avoid rotation. Without this core strength, it would be impossible to hold a firm block, dig a ball or pass with consistency. Many athletes focus solely on rotation; however, the ability to resist rotation is also an essential skill to possess. This exercise achieves this goal while also promoting shoulder joint stability.
REPS 20 controlled arcs per set
TIP Focus on contracting the side of your core that is opposite to the side your arms are extending toward each rep. For instance, when your hands are reaching the right shoulder, you should feel the tension increase on the left side of your body.
Instead of a traditional sit-up, a more sport-specific method of improving overall spiking ability is with repeated hip extension and flexion that focuses on engaging the core muscles. This exercise will improve balance, core strength and the explosive abdominal flexion necessary to spike a volleyball.
REPS 15 extension + flexion sequences per set
TIP Focus on keeping your arms and legs straight, relying on core (hip, abdominal) flexion and extension to perform this movement.
To improve vertical leap ability, balance and core stability. By holding each landing this exercise also helps improve ankle, knee and hip joint stability, which for volleyball is important for injury prevention.
REPS 12 jumps per leg
TIP Focus on contracting your abdominals as you try to balance each landing.
Originally published in December/January 2012