Volleyball Conditioning Guide: How to Prepare for the Season
Playing a sport at any level requires a certain amount of physical fitness.
You have to be able to perform the required movements to accomplish the basic goals of a game.
If your goal is to be a good volleyball player, you’ll need to do more than simply go through the motions.
The best players can perform highly athletic movements repeatedly and without tiring quickly.
Volleyball players need to have the ability to sprint, cut, jump explosively, and repeat the process countless times in a match.
The only way to achieve this type of endurance is to properly condition the body for such a task.
Regardless of when your typical volleyball season begins, you must start preparing ahead of time, so you’re ready to play at a high level immediately.
This volleyball conditioning guide will walk you through the process of getting yourself in shape to play competitively.
Before You Get Started
It’s important to remember that voleyball conditioning programs often stress the body beyond what a normal practice, game, or match would.
Before starting any training that features intense physical endurance, you should consult a physician who can determine if you’re healthy enough to train.
Most volleyball clubs require some form of physical before participation each year, but an at-home or independent conditioning program has no such rule.
Thus, it’s up to you to take the appropriate precautions and ensure your body is capable and there are no unknown conditions that might threaten your health.
The Truth About Volleyball Conditioning
When you hear the term “conditioning,” your mind may automatically wander to images of long, grueling distance runs intended to break the will of even the best athletes.
Aerobic conditioning workouts consist of moderate exercise over a long period.
A long run at maybe 75% effort for a fixed time frame is an example of an aerobic workout.
The benefit of aerobics is that it trains the system to use oxygen efficiently while powering output for long periods (aerobic energy).
The truth is mile runs or endless sets of stadium stairs are NOT as beneficial to volleyball players as once thought.
Of course, aerobic conditioning is an important piece of the conditioning puzzle, as we will discuss further.
However, someone who can run 10 kilometers with no problems might still struggle to make it through a volleyball match.
How’s it possible that aerobic fitness alone isn’t enough for volleyball players?
1. Volleyball players and distance runners have little in common.
The average volleyball point lasts 15 seconds or less.
This would lead us to believe that anaerobic energy might be more valuable than aerobic energy.
Aerobic energy is important to the entirety of the match, but it doesn’t benefit the short, explosive plays of volleyball points.
2. Aerobic exercises can negatively impact volleyball performance over time.
Do not take this as an excuse to avoid all aerobic exercise.
As part of a comprehensive volleyball conditioning program, distance work is important.
Focusing solely or primarily on long distances can inhibit explosiveness, speed, and quickness.
This would be detrimental to a volleyball player.
3. Aerobic exercises are not beneficial for preventing injuries that commonly occur in volleyball.
The required agility and explosive movements in volleyball lend themselves to certain types of injuries like damage to the structure of the ankle or knee.
Aerobic workouts do not strengthen the areas surrounding the joints that might be impacted by volleyball movements.
Additionally, longer distances can negatively affect joint health in the form of overuse injury.
Do not take these warnings as a mandate to skip all runs of a mile or more!
Aerobic workouts can be beneficial when performed toward the beginning of a larger conditioning program.
Building endurance can help tolerate the conditioning exercises and instill the mental toughness required to endure a long match.
After several weeks of including aerobic conditioning exercise, you can cut most aerobic work from your conditioning plan.
The simple act of exercise will be enough aerobic conditioning in the long term once you have a good aerobic base built up.
For those who prefer to keep some aerobic work in their conditioning plan, try this aerobic mobility plan (perform each pair for 30 seconds, 3 -5 times per pair).
You shouldn't be winded!
Control your effort.
- Lateral Lunge & Dead Bugs
- Upper Clams & Walking Leg Cradles
- Straight Leg March & Groiners
- Bird Dogs & Overhead Bodyweight Squats
Choosing a Plan
Like almost everything in life, volleyball conditioning programs are not one size fits all.
There are several things to consider before settling in on a conditioning routine.
- Do you have access to a weight room or gym equipment?
- Do you have access to volleyball equipment (balls, net, court)?
- Do you have access to open space or an area to run?
The answers to these types of questions will guide you to the type of workout you can reasonably expect to perform in the off-season.
The plan below requires no equipment and can be done anywhere with some available open space, just like these exercises for volleyball players.
The conditioning plan below is comprehensive enough for high-level volleyball athletes (high school or higher) but can be tailored to meet your needs.
This plan assumes the athlete is reasonably fit and isn’t working out for the first time in her life.
When following any workout plan, two basic rules should be followed:
- Weightlifting should be separated by a non-weightlifting day (important for younger athletes).
- DO NOT SKIP WARM-UPS OR COOL DOWNS
Always Stretch & Warm-Up
The value of a good warmup can’t be overstated.
There are physical and mental aspects that indicate the necessity of a warmup period.
This time should consume approximately 1/3 of your total workout (if you have one hour, allow 20 minutes for the warmup).
It’s important to warm-up dynamically. This includes more than the simple static stretches you see many people performing before activity.
Perform each of the following for 45 seconds:
- Arm Circles Forward
- Arm Circles Backward
- Jumping Jacks
- Alternating Scissoring Arms
Perform each of the following for 25 yards:
- High Knees (walking)
- High Knees (walking with rotating back)
- Lunges (walking)
- Butt Kicks (walking)
- Straight Leg Marching (include arms)
- Bear Crawl
Perform each of the following for 15 – 30 yards:
- High Knees (jogging)
- Butt Kicks (jogging)
- Lateral Shuffle
The Volleyball Conditioning Workouts
Ideally, you’ll be able to dedicate three days per week in the month or so leading into your volleyball season.
This will allow you to be fully prepared to take on the rigors of practices and matches.
All the workouts below feature movements to work the key athletic movements in volleyball:
Short-area sprinting, quick changes in direction, and explosive jumping.
Mondays and Fridays offer plenty of sprint and shuttling movements.
After each rep, focus on recovery and normalizing your breathing. In time, you’ll likely feel less winded, but these exercises will continue to work on repetitive explosiveness.
The Wednesday workout is a little more “fun” and presents more realistic volleyball scenarios.
The conditioning course will simulate volleyball movements closely and will train volleyball players to mentally struggle through the demands of a match and continue performing at a high level.
This workout plan will prepare you mentally and physically for the challenges of a volleyball season.
Remember to stretch and warm up first!
5 Over and Back
Start with 7 reps then add more up to 15. Get in a volleyball stance. Turn and sprint five meters to the right, touch the ground or a cone, and turn to sprint back. Repeat on the left. Each right, left, and back totals one rep.
5/10/5 Shuttle Sprint
Start with 3 reps then progress sequentially to 5. Get in a volleyball stance. Shuttle laterally five meters to your right, touch the ground or a cone, and shuttle laterally ten meters back the direction you came. Touch the ground or a cone there and shuttle laterally the five meters back to your right and end at your starting point.
Shuttle run – 60 meters
Start with 3 reps then progress to 6. Get in a volleyball stance. Sprint forward 10 meters then back to the start. Sprint forward 20 meters then back to the start. Spring forward 30 meters then back to the start.
Shuttle run – 80 meters
Start with 1 rep then progress to 2. Get in a volleyball stance. Sprint forward 15 meters then back to the start. Sprint forward 25 meters then back to the start. Sprint forward 40 meters then back to the start.
Perform dynamic cool downs after your conditioning workouts. You may also perform static stretches after your muscles are warm to help prevent soreness.
Repeat this course up to five times (start with three then progress).
Have a partner or time yourself. Try to beat your times each workout.
Rest after each time through the course for three minutes or so.
- Get in a volleyball stance.
- Shuffle 15 meters left then reverse to have your right foot forward. Shuffle an additional 15 meters.
- Perform the 5/10/5 shuttle sprint.
- Sprint to finish the 5/10/5 shuttle.
- Perform five squat jumps (also called Burpees – jump with full explosion in a blocking motion).
- Sprint 60 meters.
- Rest and repeat.
5 Over and Back
Start with 10 reps then add more up to 25. Get in a volleyball stance. Turn and sprint five meters to the right, touch the ground or a cone, and turn to sprint back. Repeat on the left. Each right, left, and back totals one rep.
5/10/5 Shuttle Sprint
Start with 5 reps then progress to 10. Get in a volleyball stance. Shuttle laterally five meters to your right, touch the ground or a cone, and shuttle laterally ten meters back the direction you came. Touch the ground or a cone there and shuttle laterally the five meters back to your right and end at your starting point.
Shuttle run – 60 meters
Start with 5 reps then progress to 8. Get in a volleyball stance. Sprint forward 10 meters then back to the start. Sprint forward 20 meters then back to the start. Spring forward 30 meters then back to the start.
Shuttle run – 80 meters
Start with 3 reps then progress to 5. Get in a volleyball stance. Sprint forward 15 meters then back to the start. Sprint forward 25 meters then back to the start. Sprint forward 40 meters then back to the start.
It’s important to note that not all volleyball players will be able to complete these plans due to age, fitness, or overall physical ability.
Any volleyball conditioning plan can, and should, be adapted to the participant(s).
Continue progressing to higher repetitions and less rest as time goes on.
Follow this plan or a variation of it for a month or more to be in top shape when that first game or practice rolls around!