If you were to ask a volleyball player for the most crucial part of their training regimen, most of the answers would be: squatting, plyometrics, clean and jerk, or jump training. Of course it is good to focus on the lower body, but what happens after you jump? You hit! You could have the best approach in the game and jump 50 inches cold, but without proper core strength to create torque, your attack is probably not worth much.
When training abs, volleyball players should favor exercises that promote trunk (core) and shoulder torque (twist) movement patterns. The development of this specific movement pattern will promote the transfer of power from the explosive leg muscles through the core and out to the ball. The speed of the arm is directly related to the amount of torque created by the player’s body. To reinforce the idea to twist the back instead of extend it, high-level coaches will often say, “Show them the numbers on the back of your jersey.”
Volleyball—like so many other sports that require a twisting motion, such as golf, tennis, and baseball batting—is often said to be more about finesse than force. This is because an athlete with holistic body training will make it look effortless, while the athletes using only one or two body segments will look forced or unnatural. If the player is using his or her core to torque properly, the shoulder should act like a sling shot for the core. The more the core can wind up, the faster the shoulder will shoot.
The effect on your performance is not the only thing you can look forward to from upper body and core work. Your shoulder and lower back will be better shielded from injury as well. Your back is not designed to extend too far backwards; it is designed to have a large amount of rotation from side to side. So by training your body to use more torque when hitting, you will be less likely to injure your lower back and shoulder.
The exercises below are some of our favorites for training the upper body and core for a more efficient swing that is less harmful on the body. Add 2-3 sets of each into your training regimen using the reps provided, and enjoy the benefits to your game.
The X V-Up
Lie down on your back, right leg bent with foot flat on the floor. Your left leg should be fully extended, flat on the floor. With a kettlebell or dumbbell in your right hand, extend the arm fully and hold it diagonally from your body at about 45 degrees from the ground. (A)
- Keeping your right arm and left leg totally extended, pike upwards lifting your right hand to your right foot.
- Reach towards the toe and get your right shoulder off the ground to keep the core active. Be sure to keep your chin up the entire time to keep the focus on your core and not on your neck. (B)
- Slowly return back to starting position and repeat.
8-12 on each side
Keep both legs elevated the entire time.
(See athlete on the left side of the pictures.)
The Super T
Lie down on your stomach on a stability ball or incline bench. Holding dumbbells or plates, extend arms towards the ground with palms facing in. (C)
-Pull both arms back, keeping them totally straight. Pinch your shoulder blades together to make sure you get as much range on the movement as possible. (D)
-Slowly return to starting position.
Do this move in a high plank position, alternating arms. This will challenge the core along with the shoulders and back. (See the athlete on the right
side of the pictures.)
The Floor Angel
Lie down on your stomach. Holding light-weight plates or dumbbells, fully extend arms, aiming them down towards your feet with palms down. (E)
- With head neutral and arms fully extended and lifted slightly off the ground, rotate your arms slowly up above your head (as if you are doing a snow angel). (F-G)
- Be sure to keep your shoulders pinched back the entire time, and slowly return back to starting position.
As you bring your arms above your head, open your legs as well. This will challenge your glutes as well as your shoulders and back. (See the athlete on the left side of the pictures.)
Stand with knees slightly bent, holding a resistance band from an anchor that is to your side, at about head height. Be sure your arms are totally extended, with elbows locked. (H)
- Keeping elbows totally locked, twist your torso away from the band anchor so that resistance increases as you twist.
- Pause for a second when you are fully twisted, and then slowly rotate back to starting position. (I)
15-20 each side
Do this same motion with a medicine ball, twisting powerfully to release the ball against a rebounder trampoline, the floor, or a wall. When it bounces back up to you, repeat the motion.
Originally published in May 2013