Year-Round Conditioning From Complete Conditioning for Volleyball by Al Scates, Michael Linn
Long gone are the days of beginning workouts a month or so before preseason practice begins. These days, athletes must train year-round to attain superiority over opponents. That includes volleyball players. Whether your level of training is basic or advanced, your concentration must be on improving throughout the year. That means following a year-round workout program geared toward achieving maximum benefits at the right time.
A volleyball athlete’s year-round training regimen can be divided into three 16-week phases: preparation, strength, and power. That leaves four weeks for rest, relaxation, and recreation. The cycle of exercises differs between the beginning and advanced levels, but all athletes should adhere to this schedule, starting with the first 16-week phase during the off-season and progressing to the strength and power phases. Exercises should be performed in the order presented.
BEGINNING AND ADVANCED CYCLES
Athletes with a limited amount of exposure to strength training should follow the beginner’s program. During each 16-week phase, the athlete will work out two days a week. An advanced athlete is one who already has developed a solid strength base. Advanced athletes will work out three days a week during each 16-week phase.
Training schedules for beginning and advanced athletes are designed to be flexible to fit an athlete’s schedule. For example, a beginner who works out two days a week can choose Monday and Wednesday, or perhaps Tuesday and Thursday-any two nonconsecutive days that fit into the athlete’s schedule and can consistently be followed. An advanced athlete typically will work out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Again, the program is meant to be flexible, and common sense should dictate. Every high school, college, or club team adheres to a different schedule, and athletes should tailor their personal workout routines around that schedule.
In the preparation phase, an athlete who has been idle for a period of time works gradually to become reaccustomed to a workout program. Rather than intensity, the emphasis is on high volume of repetitions and low weight. A good period of time is devoted to developing flexibility and proper form, strengthening tendons and ligaments, and conditioning muscles.
During the strength phase, reps are reduced and weight is increased, and the workout becomes more intense. The emphasis shifts to developing core strength.
During the power phase, reps are reduced even further and weight is increased even more. The emphasis shifts to working toward transferring some of the strength developed in the previous 16 weeks into functional power-things that can be applied on the volleyball court.
With any workout program, the goal is to progress until maximum results are achieved at the best possible time. Athletes refer to this as peaking. A well-designed workout program will incorporate periodization, which is designed to allow an athlete to peak at a predetermined time. Usually, it is before the start of a season, a crucial game, or whatever point the coach or athlete decides. That means you want to be finishing the 16-week power phase when this point in time is approaching.
Properly structuring a workout program means developing optimum progression. Like placing building blocks carefully, an athlete builds a solid foundation with the goal of working toward a peak where maximum results are achieved.
Technique Versus Tonnage
As with any weight program, it is important to perform each exercise correctly and safely. Just as the game of volleyball is very technique oriented, so is the practice of weightlifting among players. Technique should always be emphasized over tonnage, no matter how many times the lift is repeated. Over time, a player may begin to add increased weight, but with each increase a player must remain focused on perfecting technique.
Posture and Breathing
Good technique begins with good posture. Before performing any lift, you must be properly set, with a flat or arched back, a tight abdomen, chest out, shoulders back, and head raised and level. Every lift requires you to achieve a specific set position before beginning the first rep.
Correct breathing also is essential with any exercise. Take a big breath before starting each rep, then exhale at the completion of the rep. Holding your breath helps to stabilize the trunk muscles, making it easier to hold the set position.
Range of Motion
Training should be done using a full range of motion for all exercises. The benefits are many. Pushed to their full range, muscles and tendons develop flexibility. Muscle fibers are stimulated and joints are stabilized. Injuries are less likely. If injury does occur, proper rehabilitation will lead to a return to full range of motion.
Equipment and Safety
Many athletes avoid certain types of training because they think they don’t have the proper equipment or are uncertain about how to use it. Weight belts, knee wraps, and lifting suits are fine for bodybuilders, but most volleyball players have no need for them. Remember the emphasis on technique. Volleyball players who require belts or wraps are lifting too much weight. The goal is to achieve strength and balance. A player who has a history of lower back problems, however, or who simply feels more comfortable wearing a belt should not be discouraged from wearing one. In any case, you should use a spotter for safety.