If you are looking to compete in any sport in the modern age of sports science then you know by now that at the highest level any slight competitive edge can make or break a performance.
Strength and conditioning is a great way to improve your overall athleticism, which translates to an almost guaranteed and straightforward improvement to in-game volleyball performance. More explosive spikes, quicker defensive dives, higher offensive and defensive vertical jumps. And that’s just the start.
Volleyball technique training is good, but that seemingly superhuman fast twitch movement needs to be developed in the gym with a sport specific strength and conditioning program.
The best, world-class volleyball athletes use strength and conditioning to improve their game, so in this article we’ll be using our collective 15+ years of S&C knowledge to explore look into the importance of strength and conditioning in volleyball and how you can implement it to become the best you can be.
What is strength and conditioning in volleyball?
So the term Strength and Conditioning gets thrown around a lot in the health, fitness and sport industries, but it is more often than not mis-interpreted. Strength and conditioning is so much more than squatting the bar and doing hill sprints, sure some strength and conditioning sessions might include these but, in our experience, a carefully designed training program will have a broad range of exercises and conditioning drills that mimic the specific movement patterns of the sport in question.
Which means that while it’s possible that during the more basic off-season training phases a Volleyball and a Football, strength and conditioning plan may contain some similar exercises, the overall implementation and exercise variety will differ significantly as the training phases progress and we move closer the to competition.
So Let’s break it down. Strength, in the context of the sport of volleyball is not about being powerlifter strong it’s about building strength in the specific muscles that are responsible of the specific movements of the sport (think quads and hip flexors for sprinters). Similarly conditioning isn’t about having marathon runner endurance. It’s about developing your bodies energy systems to perform as efficiently and as effectively in your sport and having muscular endurance to perform at this level for as long as possible.
Five traits that strength and conditioning improves….
We’ve found over the years that the biggest 5 areas that strength and conditioning improves for volleyball players are:
- Cardiovascular Endurance / Energy Systems conditioning
- Muscular Endurance
Let’s break these down one by one…
Why do you need physical strength in volleyball?
In order for a you to succeed in volleyball at the highest level you will need to cultivate a strong fundamental strength base, this strength will be applied directly to the court as well as being used to develop the other essential aspects of strength and conditioning in volleyball.
For example if you are looking to increase your jump height, power training your lower body and posterior chain is important. However, without a fundamental base level of strength in your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves and lower back, progressing into power training poses a difficult challenge both in terms of benefit and injury risk.
A strong strength base, specifically trained with the chosen sport in mind serves to strengthen your tendons, ligaments and supportive muscles required for the high impact and velocity of the volleyball courts, which will greatly reduce your injury risk both on the court and in the training room, it will also give you a strong platform to leverage into greater, power, agility and endurance improvements.
What is volleyball conditioning?
Volleyball is an explosive sport that focusses on extremely rapid exertions of force that will see you jumping, diving and leaping in a number of directions over the course of a match which can last (depending on level and competitiveness) anywhere between 45 minutes to 2 hours
During which there’s a constant interplay between your body’s energy systems, in order to to perform at a high level and remain explosive and able to compete over such a long period of time training each of the energy systems used is essential.
Why is muscular endurance important in volleyball?
In any physical activity there are two main factors that will dictate how long you are able to perform effectively for:
- Your overall conditioning (see above)
- Your muscular endurance
Your muscular endurance plays a pivotal role in being able to perform as close to 100% as possible for the duration of the entire match, training to increase your muscle’s endurance will serve three huge benefits, firstly it will allow you, together with your improved overall conditioning remain “fresh” on the court for as long as possible, reducing fatigue and allowing your technique to shine for as long as required, Secondly enhanced muscular endurance will allow for better recovery between points when at rest, this is particularly apparent when combined with effective energy system conditioning. Finally tired muscles are dangerous muscles, when muscles tire they lose their explosive power, stability and overall coordination which in a fast paced game like volleyball can be a major injury risk.
Why is agility important in volleyball?
Agility is the ability to change direction at high velocity, which if you’ve ever watched or played volleyball makes up essentially >50% of all movement on the court, having a high level of athletic agility will allow you to fire off an offensive spike and reset, return and then be ready for any potential returns in an efficient manner allowing for greater court control and overall performance.
Why do you need power in volleyball?
Power is the application of strength at a high speed, which similarly to agility makes up a significant part of your movement on a volleyball court. Whether it’s jumping to the net, diving for the ball, sprinting to close distance, spiking the ball, serving from the edge of the court or closing distance to minimise your opponents free space; it’s all rooted in your ability to generate power. A powerful volleyball athlete is more often than not a victorious volleyball athlete.
How to create a strength and conditioning plan for volleyball?
When we build strength and conditioning plan’s to improve our athlete’s volleyball performance there are a number of things we consider:
- The physical demands of the sport
- Your physical ability or that of the athlete you are training
- The phase of training you are in (off, pre and in season for example)
- Technical training load (to prevent overtraining)
- Required rest / days off
When looking into the physical needs of a volleyball athlete the first that come to mind are lateral and vertical explosivity, balance, coordination and both bi-lateral and uni-lateral power in both the upper and lower body.
so structuring a Strength and conditioning plan will require:
1) Power exercises that increase vertical movement like explosive posterior chain exercises think clean pulls or jump step ups for example. A healthy amount of plyometric exercises like depth squat jumps, jump lunges, pogo jumps etc.
2) Strength exercises for the full body but a particular emphasis on the lower body and muscles surrounding the knee to minimise the risk of injury during rapid lateral movement.
3) Balance exercises that strengthen and improve the core as well as joint supporting muscles to decrease injury risk and improve athletic performance.
*Please bear in mind that any training session whether it is a strength, conditioning or volleyball session needs to be preceded by a dynamic warmup. Following RAMP guidelines (Rate, Activation, Mobility, Potentiation) to maximise in training performance and minimise injury risk*
|Hang Clean Pulls
|Banded Speed Box Squats
|Banded Reverse Row
|High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
|10 x 30 second rounds – High intensity/Plyometric exercises
|15 seconds each round
Exercises that you could include in your HIIT Conditioning sessions:
- Jump Lunges
- Medicine Ball Slams
- Lateral Bounds
- Medicine Ball Squat Throws
- Jump, Shuffle, Jump, Sprint
*Research has also shown that designated core training can contribute to an overall improvement in speed, anaerobic power and static balance as such I would advise including additional supplementary core training to any training phase.*
Example strength and conditioning program for volleyball
In order for you or your athlete to perform at their best in-season it is important that your training is correctly periodised and tailored to development of specific criteria depending on how close/far you are from season. This heavily monitored approach is important to make sure that strength and or conditioning training does not cause overtraining specifically when combined and trained in conjunction with technique/active sport training.
The training program as a whole is referred to as a Macrocycle, being broken up into phases that are each made up of a number of Mesocycles, each containing a collection of Microcycles (think Russian nesting dolls of training plans) Here’s a rough example that we’ve used successfully with our athletes…
*The duration of the in-season phase will be different depending on your particular level of play, this will vary from 10-24 weeks*
|Transition Phase Goal
|Increase fundamental strength
Increase joint health and strength
Increase core stability and balance
Increase aerobic power
Increase anaerobic power
Maintain balance and coordination
Increase anaerobic power and capacity
|Rest and recover
Non-sport specific activities
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need strength to serve in volleyball?
Strength is an essential part of the serve in volleyball as you need it in order to generate power (essential for any explosive fast movement). Technique will go a long way towards having a good serve, but combining technique with strength and power will help make it unbeatable.
How do you strengthen your arms for volleyball?
The best way to strengthen your arms for volleyball will depend on the phase of your training cycle, but typically a combination of resistance training and plyometrics focussing on compound movements that share similar movement patterns to volleyball would be your best bet.
How can I improve my physical fitness for volleyball?
The best way to improve you physical fitness for volley ball is to utilise a combination of high intensity interval training (HIIT) with a heavy focus on plyometrics and occasional sprint interval training (SIT)
If you’ve read this article and you now have a good idea of how important strength and conditioning is for the high level volleyball and how to structure your own training program, so give it a go and let me know how you get on!
Until next time!
Augustsson, S.R., Augustsson, J., Thomeé, R., Karlsson, J., Eriksson, B.I. and Svantesson, U. (2011). Performance Enhancement following a Strength and Injury Prevention Program: A 26-Week Individualized and Supervised Intervention in Adolescent Female Volleyball Players. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 6(3), pp.399–417.
Bora, H. and Dağlıoğlu, Ö. (2022). EFFECT OF CORE STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAM ON ANAEROBIC POWER, SPEED AND STATIC BALANCE IN VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS. European Journal of Physical Education and Sport Science, [online] 8(5).
Elif Turgut, Filiz Fatma Çolakoğlu, Pınar Serbes, Cengiz Akarçeşme and Gül Baltacı (2017). Effects of 12-week in-season low-intensity plyometric training on dynamic balance of pre-pubertal female volleyball players. turkish journal of sport and exercise, 19(1), pp.24–30.