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  My Site News: Great Article on "Volleyball Fitness"  

Monday, June 5
Great Article on "Volleyball Fitness"
Volleyball Fitness   
Written by Willem Kramer on Thursday, June 01, 2006

With your summer break around the corner and high school workouts at an end the chances of losing some of your “Volleyball Fitness[1]” are quite large. Although a loss in fitness is reversible (you can train and regain your Volleyball Fitness) it can cause you to lose your touch, increase the chances of getting hurt, and make the start of your high school season twice as hard.

To help you stay fit for Volleyball and in shape for upcoming club tournaments or next year’s high school season I have listed several important Volleyball Fitness elements. Many of the listed basics are used by the Alabama, Texas A&M, and the Italian and Dutch national Volleyball teams. They range from training your power to eating well and helping your body recover fast.

You can ask your coach or trainer about the practical application (exercises, a weekly schedule, etc.) of everything you read here. They know you best and can help design a program tailored to your specific needs.

Power – Jumping high and hitting hard

Your power is what makes you hit hard, jump high and move fast. In almost every sport power is what makes the difference between winning and losing. Looking at it from your physical abilities, your power = your strength x your speed (force x velocity).

You can improve your power with sprint, jump (aka plyometrics), or resistance exercises (i.e. olympic lifts). With sprint and jump exercises you can use your own body weight as resistance. The resistance exercises require you to use additional weight, for example in the form of dumbbells or barbells.

The key to improving your power is the intensity with which you do the exercises. It is very important to run as fast, jump as high, and apply as much power as you can. Everything but your best is useless when it comes to increasing your power. Because of the intensity level of power drills the number of reps should be low, the amount of sets high, and the rest in between sets long.

With one or two power workouts a week, consisting of three to five exercises each, you are on your way to a higher vertical and a more effective spike. To save time you can combine your power with your endurance workout (see Volleyball Endurance). Make sure you finish all your power exercises before starting your endurance workout.

Athletes can start power workouts at the age of twelve (keep in mind that the effect of power training on children is less due to a not yet matured CNS). Just like with every program it is important that the intensity and stress of each workout is tailored to the athlete.

Dynamic Strength – Staying injury free

Your dynamic strength forms the foundation of your power (see Power – Jumping high and hitting hard) and is important in staying injury free. Without the proper amount of strength you get hurt every time you use the power you have.

You can compare the function of your bodies’ dynamic strength to the frame and the brakes of a car. A car with a very powerful engine needs a very strong frame and brakes to go with it. If the frame or brakes cannot deal with the power generated by the engine the car will fall apart or will get involved in an accident.

The same goes for athletes and thus Volleyball Players. Without the proper amount of dynamic strength your body cannot deal with the power you generate during an approach, spike, or block. You have to be able to stop after a sprint, catch yourself after jumping, and control your arm during a swing. Your dynamic strength helps protect your joints and muscles.

In general strength exercises are sports specific. In contradiction to power workouts, strength workouts are slower (less snappy), require a higher amount of reps, and less sets.

To prevent injuries and stay strong you can train your dynamic strength twice a week (a total of twenty two to thirty sets, or 5 to 8 exercises, should be sufficient). Make sure you train your core, lower and upper body. A strong core helps prevent back problems and allows you to use your legs and arms more efficient. Strong upper leg muscles help protect your knees and strong lower leg muscles help protect your ankles. A strong upper body, and in particular your upper back and rotator cuff muscles, help prevent shoulder injuries.

If monitored well, players can start a strength program from the age of twelve. For most children exercises without added (use only body weight) resistance are sufficient. Just like with every program it is important that the intensity and stress of each workout is tailored to the athlete.

Volleyball Endurance – Keeping up your game

Aside from power and strength you need (speed) endurance to stay or become Volleyball Fit.

Your (speed) endurance allows you to jump high and hit hard throughout an entire match. A steep decrease in performance during a match can be caused by a lack of (speed) endurance.

Because volleyball is more than anything an explosive sport (short bouts of intense activity) your endurance workout needs to be “explosive” as well. Tempo runs, sub-maximal sprints and continuous jumps are the core of a volleyball endurance workout. To help you get through these pretty intense workouts you do need a basic or general endurance. So, you’ll have to bike, jog, or swim a little as well to reach your peak.

You can train your (speed) endurance twice a week. A total of three to five endurance drills should be sufficient to maintain your form during a match or practice. If you want to you can combine it with your power workout. Make sure you start your speed endurance drills after finishing your power exercises.

Just like with every program it is important that the intensity and stress of each workout is tailored to the athlete.

Diet – Energy and building blocks

Your diet is a major factor in getting and staying Volleyball Fit. It provides the energy you need to workout and the building stones necessary for growth and recovery. The food you eat also has a huge impact on your body weight. Eating too much calories can cause you to gain weight and can ultimately hurt your game.

But what should you eat and what is better left untouched?


The carbs we eat are mainly used as an energy source. We use them especially during moderate and intense activity.

The carbohydrates we do not use are stored in our liver and muscles. If these storage units are full carbohydrates are converted to fat and stored around our organs and under our skin. You can prevent weight gain by eating what you need and not more (eat moderate portions of food – you can use the Calorie Scale on to figure out how many calories you need during your day).

There are two different kinds of carbohydrates, low and high glycemic. Low glycemic carbs tend to provide energy for a long period of time and help delay a hunger feeling. High glycemic carbohydrates boost your energy level for a short time but then make your energy level drop and trigger a hunger feeling. In general low glycemic carbohydrates are healthier than high glycemic ones (high glycemic foods are linked to overweight, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes). Although low glycemic carbohydrates are considered healthier they both have their place in an athlete’s diet.

To provide you with energy throughout your day and prevent sugar cravings you should focus on eating low glycemic carbohydrates. You can consume high glycemic carbs during and after a practice or match to replenish your energy fast. To prevent a crash or dip in energy after eating high glycemic foods you can counter with something low glycemic and protein rich within an hour.

Whole grain products, most veggies, many fruits, legumes, and fructose are low glycemic. White bread (and most other processed foods), white potatoes, table sugar, banana’s, many candies, and sports drinks are examples of high glycemic foods. For more information on the glycemic index, visit


Proteins are our bodies’ building blocks and make up between 12 to 15% of our bodies mass. Many cells and tissues, but especially our muscles, contain a considerable amount of protein.

Because cells have a limited life span and tissues suffer damage on a regular basis our body needs a steady supply of proteins. Your muscles, for example, need repair after every strenuous workout. Aside from functioning as building blocks proteins can also be used as an energy source. This happens mainly if we are short on energy from carbohydrates

Just like carbohydrates proteins can be converted to fat and stored around our organs and under our skin. This, just like with carbs, only happens if we eat more than we can store or use. You can prevent weight gain by eating what you need and not more (eat moderate portions of food – you can use the Calorie Scale on to figure out how many calories you need during your day).
Protein Quality

Eggs             100
Fish               70
Lean beef          69
Cow’s milk         60
Brown rice         57
White rice         56
Soybeans          47
Brewer’s hash      45
Whole-grain wheat 44
Peanuts            43
Dry beans          34
White potato       34
Fig 1. Protein quality of several foods, with 100 being the highest possible quality.

Our food contains either complete or incomplete proteins. Complete or high quality proteins contain all the building blocks we need for growth or repair. Incomplete or low quality proteins miss several or more of the necessary building blocks. In general animal protein has higher values than plant proteins. However, eating a variety of plant foods (grains, fruits, and veggies) can supply all of the necessary building blocks.

To supply your body with enough building blocks you should eat about 1 gram of protein per kilo gram body mass during your day. This comes down to about 50 to 55 grams for a 130 pound person. See Fig. 1 for protein examples.


Lipids (oils and fats) are an energy source and important for our health. Lipids help protect our organs, transport vitamins, and help suppress hunger. As an energy source lipids are used during light to moderate activity.

Just like carbohydrates and proteins, excess lipids are stored as fat around our organs and under our skin. You can prevent weight gain by eating what you need and not more (eat moderate portions of food – you can use the Calorie Scale on to figure out how many calories you need during your day).

There are three main groups of lipids, unsaturated, saturated, and trans fats.

Unsaturated lipids are liquid at room temperature and are best for our health. They help lower our bad cholesterol and increase our good cholesterol. Unsaturated fats can be found in canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, avocados, safflower, sunflower, soybeans, corn oil, and nuts like almonds, cashews, pecans, etc.

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are a little less healthy. They increase our bad but do not influence our good cholesterol. Saturated fats can be found in beef, lamb, pork, chicken, egg yolks, diary (milk, cheese, butter, etc.) and plant products such as coconut, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. Low fat or fat free beef, chicken, and dairy products contain an acceptable amount of saturated fats.

Trans fats are spread able or solid at room temperature and are unhealthy. They increase our bad and decrease our good cholesterol. Trans fats are linked to many diseases and medical conditions. Trans fats or partially hydrogenated fats/oils are often used in cookies, cake, French fries, chips, margarine, and many other fast food and pre-baked store bought items.

For obvious reasons you should limit the amount of saturated fats, and totally avoid trans fats in your diet. Unsaturated oils are the way to go.

Recovery – Growth and Improvement

Despite what most of us think recovery is just as, if not more, important for staying and becoming Volleyball Fit as practice is. After each workout we have to give our body time to recover from the damage done (training is nothing more than applying a controlled amount of damage). Without enough recovery we get over trained and lose our fitness.

So what can you do to recover as fast as possible?

There are several things you can do that boost recovery. The proper amount of sleep, ice baths, active recovery, a good diet, and relaxing can all help you get and stay in a great shape.

Aside from helping your body recover faster, it is important to find the right balance between practice and rest. Working out too much will result in injuries and a reduction in performance, not working out enough prevents you from reaching your full potential.


Your sleep is important for your recovery. During your sleep your body activates a recovery mode and focuses on tissue repair and re-stocking energy. This recovery mode is less active during your day or waking hours.

To help your body recover as good as possible you need at least 8 and preferably 9 or even 10 hours of sleep. If you can’t get to 8 hours of sleep during your night you can use daytime naps to help your body recover. The combination of naps and sleep during the night should help you reach the necessary 8 hours.

Ice Bath

An ice bath (a bath filled with cold water and a bucket of ice cubes) can help your central nervous system (CNS) recover faster.

A Volleyball match, an intense practice (with a lot of jumping and hitting), and a power workout all drain your central nervous system. This is because your central nervous system is greatly involved in explosive activities (like jumping, hitting, and moving fast).

Taking an ice bath (sitting in a tub with water and a bucket of ice for 5 to 10 minutes) after a match, practice or workout helps your CNS recover faster and prepares your body for your next match or practice.

Active Recovery

A light jog or an easy fifteen minutes on a stationary bike the day after a match or intense workout can boost your recovery and help you deal with muscle soreness. Stretching on a regular basis, for example before bed time, does the same and is also useful for preventing injuries.

If you decide to stretch before bedtime remember that it should help loosen up your muscles. Stretching too hard does the opposite. Try to hold every (stretch) position for at least one minute and make sure it does not hurt. It should feel nice and relaxing.


Immediately after a practice or match your body works on restocking energy. By eating some high glycemic carbohydrates combined with some low ones and some protein you can provide your body with the nutrients it needs to do so.

Several hours after activity your body starts working on repairing possible damage (i.e. muscles). In this situations proteins, low glycemic carbs and some lipids are useful.


Make sure you relax and take time off or away from volleyball and training.

Watch a movie, hang out with your friends, read a book or do something else to get your mind off of volleyball every now and then. Although our bodies’ are amazing and can take a lot of practice and training they are not indestructible, RELAX.
[1] Being Volleyball Fit means being trained or prepared for the game of Volleyball. You have to teach your body how to deal with Volleyball’s unique features like an approach, hitting, defense, short bouts of high intensity, and such. With this in mind you can say that Volleyball Fitness is something else than for example soccer fitness.

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