An important part of volleyball training for successful club, high school, college and pro teams is the pre-practice strength and flexibility workout, which not only helps players improve performance but reduces injury risk.
To give you a comprehensive look at a well-designed workout, we filmed a 16-part pre-practice training session at Texas Advantage Volleyball Club (TAV) in Dallas. Our guide was Randy Brewer, who has an MS degree in Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
The 16 exercises you’ll see here build in intensity from the easygoing warm-up phase to dynamic jumps, sprints, shuffles and upper-body work.
To start off, here’s Randy talking about why this type of training is especially important for young female athletes.
Phase 1: Ankle Warm-Up
The first exercise in the pre-practice strength and agility workout is a simple walk, first on the toes, then on the heels. This gets the ankles warm for the more dynamic drills that will follow.
Phase 2: Crawl, Lunge, Glute Stretch
Next up in the pre-practice strength and agility workout are three exercises:
1. A crawl, where the athletes are on their hands and feet and walk their toes up to their hands.
2. Walking lunges where they take big steps forward, getting a full knee bend.
3. A sitting glute stretch where they put one leg on top of their other leg, then switch.
Phase 3: Lower Ab Work
Strong abdominal muscles are essential to playing great volleyball. Here, TAV players work their abs with a core exercise that is easily done by the entire team in just a couple of minutes.
Phase 4: 60 Second-Plank
After the sitting lower-ab work, players do a one-minute plank as a continuation of their core work. For younger athletes, the plank might be shorter in duration.
Phase 5: Side Shuffles
Especially with female volleyball players, lack of stability can lead to injury, sometimes of the season-ending variety -- like an ACL tear. Exercises like side shuffles help players strengthen their legs and improve their agility, which makes these injuries less likely.
Phase 6: Restart jumps, karaoke drill, spin run
The exercises you’ll see here all require changes in direction, which help warm up the ankle joints and all the muscles in the foot and prepare players for the quick start and stop moves they’ll make when they take the court.
Phase 7: Volleyball-specific sprints
The first 6 phases of the workout have gradually become more dynamic, and No. 7 takes it up another level with jumps, rotations and sprints. As trainer Randy Brewer mentions in the video, the specific combination of exercises in Phase 7 is designed to recreate moves that the players will make later in practice on the volleyball court.
Phase 8: Ladder drills and hurdles
Like most sports, volleyball requires quick feet, so this portion of the pre-practice workout has athletes doing precision ladder steps as well as fast hops through a row of hurdles.
Phase 9: Directional changes on ladders/hurdles
Building on the previous series of ladder and hurdle drills, these exercises are variations that include multi-directional movements and wide side-to-side hops.
Phase 10: Box jumps
Box jumps are a common training exercise in volleyball, but TAV adds a twist. Literally. As you'll see in the video, players jump on the box, then jump off, then rotate in the air before jumping back up again. This gives them extra jump reps that are more game-like than standard box hops.
Phase 11: Approach jumps
In this video, you'll see TAV players making hitting approaches, then jumping onto a box. Notice how they use their arms to propel themselves higher into the air. These are good reps for refining approach timing and strengthening the legs to improve the vertical jump.
Phase 12: Pulling exercises
The pulling exercises in this video help players strengthen their scapula and the shoulder blade muscles in their backs so they balance out the strength that they develop in the front of their shoulders by repeatedly hitting volleyballs.
Phase 13: Jump resistance exercises
Increasing a vertical jump is first about proper mechanics, and then it can include adding resistance, which is what the TAV players are doing here on the VertiMax machine.
Phase 14: Single-arm curl-ups
By now, you're well aware that core strength is crucial to playing your best volleyball and staying healthy. The single-arm curl-ups that you'll see here work the obliques, which are key muscles for spiking.
Phase 15: Push-ups with one hand on med ball
In this upper-body exercise, players do push-ups with one hand on the ground and one hand on a med ball. This builds shoulder strength, scapula stability and rotator cuff strength, all of which lead to stronger spiking and less risk of hitting-related injuries.
Phase 16: Weighted Ball Tosses
This is a simple exercise that you can do with a partner and a weighted ball. It builds explosive core strength for skills like blocking and hitting.