6 Unique Lifts

James Rulison
Clockwise from top left: Ty Loomis, Jeff Carlucci, Casey Patterson, Rett Larson, Hans Stolfus.

A throwback to July 2008. Volleyball sports performance trainer Rett Larson lays out six partner and team lifts to shake up your summer workout.

Warning. Things are about to get a bit weird.

If you’re a regular Volleyball reader, you probably have a pretty good idea of the kinds of exercises you should be doing to get yourself in volleyball shape. Most of the strength experts you read here advocate similar things—full squats, Olympic lifts, pull-ups, plyometrics, and rotator cuff strengthening exercises, just to name a few.

But sometimes, you just need to shake things up and unconventional partner lifts like these can be just what the doctor ordered. Not only do these lifts provide a nice change of pace, but they also hit upon the strength fundamentals that volleyball players need.

You should note these are advanced lifts and oftentimes your partner will be doing just as much work supporting your lift. Like any advanced exercise, start slowly with the basics and work up to the tough stuff.

1. Dual Deadlifts

Deadlifts are one of the best full-body strengthening exercises you can do, especially for volleyball players whose long limbs can make squatting difficult. Adding a partner to this lift increases its difficulty because it requires synchronization and balance.

Start with both athletes over the bar with feet underneath, hip-width apart. Puff your chests out to make sure your backs are set straight. Drop your hips slightly below your shoulders. On one person’s signal, take a deep breath, hold it and both slowly pull the bar off the ground. The bar should come straight up while your knees back out of the way. Keep the bar close to your bodies the whole time. After getting to the top, slowly lower to the ground and repeat for up to six reps.

Like any partner lift, make sure you have good communication. If you feel like you need to drop the bar, your partner needs to know about it.

2. T -Person Pull-Ups

I’ll tell you right now: the pull-ups are the easy part. The three-person pull-up is an advanced lift that’s ideal for strengthening the lats and biceps of the puller and the shoulders and core muscles of the two supporters.

Take a standard barbell and have two players of equal height hold it high above their heads. The supporters should have their feet apart for balance and should brace their abdominal muscles as the third athlete begins to hang from the bar. Perform 3-5 pull-ups in as smooth and controlled a manner as possible. Rotate through until everyone has done 15 reps. As always, communication between all athletes is key.

3. Partner Push-Ups

When you add a partner to the standard push-up you amp up the difficulty. From a volleyball standpoint, having to balance on the outstretched arms of your partner demands substantial shoulder stabilization which will help keep you hitting hard and uninjured.

To do it, simply have one player lay down on their back with another on top, both with arms outstretched and grasping hands. Alternate doing push-ups (top athlete) and presses (bottom athlete) until you’ve done 15 each. Switch positions on the next set and repeat.

4. Quad Push-Ups

If you have four athletes, quad push-ups are a blast. Have everybody lie down in a square with legs on top of the lower back of the person behind you. On one athlete’s command, press up. If you’ve done it correctly, the only thing on the ground should be eight hands. This is far more difficult than a regular push-up because you’re handling almost all of your (and your teammate’s) body weight. The quad push-up also demands a ton of core strength due to the additional weight on your back. Don’t let your body sag in the middle.

5. Partner Row-Ups

The opposite of the push-up is the row-up. This is another exercise where both partners will be working equally hard. One athlete lies on the ground, while the other stands above them in a braced athletic position.

To start, grasp wrists. The top athlete should brace and balance themselves with a flat back. The bottom athlete should bridge so their heels are the only thing touching the floor and they’re in a straight line from ankle to shoulder. From this position, the bottom athlete attempts to do 10 rows, pulling their body up toward their partner’s hands.

6. Bridge Sit-Ups

If you’ve ever done sit-ups on a bench, this is essentially the same exercise, except with your teammate as the bench. Have your partner get into the push-up position while you sit on their upper back (between the shoulder blades). Hook your feet under their thighs for balance. Try to get 5-10 sit-ups done and then switch positions. As you can imagine, this is a much tougher core and upper body exercise for your partner than it will be for you, so the bottom person should control how many reps get done.

Originally published in July 2008

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