Vertical Jump

Volleyball Performance Training: The Other Skillz

Following the loose theme we've had this month of volleyball training (but really, let's be honest, all of this can apply to most sports), I thought it would be beneficial to highlight a few other athletic skills/movements that are woefully under-trained in volleyball players. It's all about the vertical!

But not really.

It drives me nutso that coaches and parents and the players focus singularly on improving the vertical jump. Yes, it's important, but how does one get to the net to jump? How does one move fast enough to get behind the ball to pass it well?

I've worked with dozens and dozens of volleyball players and I've seen terrible movement quality all the other planes of motion. Great volleyball players are more than their vertical jump heights! (tweet that) I've listed a handful of movements that would behoove any volleyball player, and coaches, to implement in a regular training rotation.

Side Shuffle

I can, without exaggeration, tell you that I've seen volleyball players side shuffle with the grace of a new-born giraffe. How in the world can a volleyball player move around the court while keeping their eyes on the game, without side shuffling? Answer: Not possible. Side shuffling is the most efficient and most strategic way to move around the court.

Transitional Movements

Above are just a few examples of transitional movement drills. Along with side shuffling, there are times when players need to sprint forward or backpedal quickly and then run in a completely different direction. The ability to change directions rapidly is essential in volleyball, especially if there's a wild pass or tip off the net.

Heidens

Yes, I know volleyball consists of jumping up and down, and not side-to-side, but reinforcing lateral movements is a boon for volleyball. Heidens also teach force absorption and production in the frontal (lateral) plane. Most of volleyball consists of lateral movements, so if a player is strong side-to-side, not only will it reduce injury risk but she will be more confident moving sideways and will thus do it more.

Rolls

There are a lot of opportunities to dive, roll, and fall on the ground in volleyball. Learning how to do so safely is imperative. Learning how to pop back up again after a quick "hello" to the floor is vital for scoring points. Because rolling and tumbling is not a part of our everyday lives (at least, most of us) the vestibular system might be a bit slow in re-orienting. However, if you train rolls, you're also training the vestibular system and strengthening its ability to readjust quickly.

Add these into your training arsenal and there will be a guaranteed bump in performance.

5 Tips for the Vertical Jump

As mentioned a bunch of times by now, our theme for this month on the blog is Training for Overhead Athletes. The holy grail of performance indicators for volleyball players is, without doubt, the VERTICAL JUMP and with good reason, the sport is won or lost in the air, so an athlete will clearly have the advantage the longer they can stay in the air to execute their portion of the play. Stevo did a great job talking about the pros and cons of the vertical jump as a test itself back in January 2012. You should check it out.

Now, if you read that post, you will clearly understand the limits of the test, but you may still be wondering "Okay, okay, Stevo... I get it. But can you PLEASE give me some tips on how to jump higher. I promise I won't vert test every day, nor will I ever allow my knees to cave!" Okay, since you've promised not to break the golden rules, I'll go ahead and give you my top 5 for improving your vertical jump. Please note, they are in order of basic to advanced:

  1. Get Stronger - you're entire body needs to be stronger to jump higher, but obviously some heavy emphasis on the lower body is required. And, NO, it's NOT your calf training routine that will make the difference. Think hips and hamstrings. You can pretty much read any other post on this site to learn how to do that.
  2. Try - yes, I'm throwing this out there: to jump higher, you must commit to doing so and that involves actually trying to achieve #1. Focus on it, embrace it, and it will happen.
  3. Practice Jumping Variations - Not just vertical jumping, but jumping in all planes of motion with as many variances as you can think of. And, for the love of your joints, please don't execute these with poor form and at 100% intensity/effort. You must be smart and your body will get much more from refining and perfecting technique than from being a hard-headed fool.
  4. Short Sprints - running is a plyometric activity, so add in some very short, high-intensity sprints.
  5. Consider Re-Working your Genetics - this is the "advanced" tip... what do I mean? At some point, you may need to acknowledge that your vertical jump dreams may not be achieved in 12-weeks and sadly (believe me, I know from personal experience) there's no amount of training that will fix the genes you were dealt. Once you realize it will be a tough road, go ahead and start back at #1.

 

Intro: Overhead Athlete Basics

Note: Any time I use the phrase "overhead athlete" I'm referring to an athlete who's sport requires him or her to bring their arm(s) repeatedly overhead. The most common sports falling under this umbrella are baseball, volleyball, softball, swimming, tennis, and, perhaps the most awesome of the bunch, javelin. 

In the wake of SAPT's inception, back in Summer of 2007, arrived the immediate realization that overhead athletes would be the predominant population we'd be coaching and training within the walls of our facility. In fact, you could have nearly fooled me if you told me that the only competitive sports in the Fairfax, Mclean, Tyson's Corner, Vienna, and Arlington regions were baseball and volleyball!

Sure, we had, and still have, the pleasure of working with a host of people from countless other athletic "categories" - field athletes, track, powerlifting, endurance sports, water polo, fencing (yes, fencing), and military personnel - overhead athletes were and still remain roughly 80% of the folks we get to work with at SAPT.

As such, given such a large and varied sample size, and years to work with these individuals, we've had ample time to manipulate X, Y, and Z training variables to accurately delineate which constituents of a sound training program are going to most efficiently and effectively help the overhead athlete feel and perform at their best.

Throughout the month of August, we at SAPT are going to dedicate our time to providing you with solid and applicable information that you can immediately employ, be you a strength coach, physical therapist, sport coach, or athlete. And hey, even if you don't do anything related to overhead sports, you can still pick up some quality gems related to vertical jumping, shoulder-friendly pressing variations, Olympic lifting, sprinting, and a plethora of other topics that will undoubtedly pique your interest.

The primary reason we are devoting an entire month to the topics of training and management of overhead athletes is that it remains abundantly clear that there still exists a unfortunate paucity of coaches - sport and strength coaches working with youth, amateur, Division I, or Professional athletes - who truly understand the unique demands overhead athletes face, and how to account for these demands both on the practice field and in the weight room.

Due to the awful tragedy of early sports specialization, and the lack of coaches and parents (despite being well-intentioned) who understand how to implement a sound, yearly training model (that includes time OFF the court or field), we are seeing injuries occur in players at the young age of 13 that didn't used to happen until the age of 25 (or ever). Baseball players are realizing too late that's actually not a good idea to throw year-round, and youth volleyball players are experiencing an unprecedented volume of upper and lower extremity issues that could have been prevented simply by taking a season to play a different sport, and/or immersing themselves in a solid strength & conditioning program.

The overhead athlete's arm and shoulder continually undergo insane stressors that need to be accounted for; and not only by the strength coach but the sport coach as well, as they control how many times in a practice an athlete throws, hits, or jumps.

Let's take just a quick look at what a baseball pitcher's arm is assaulted with every time he throws a baseball:

- His humerus (upper arm bone) undergoes internal rotation at roughly 7,200° per second. In case you're wondering, and would like a more scientific way of describing things: that is a crap ton of revolutions in a very short period of time. - His elbow has to deal with approximately 2,500° of elbow extension per second.His glenohumeral (ball-and-socket) joint experiences about 1.5x bodyweight in distraction forces.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg, as we haven't even dived into the other demands the wirst, elbows, and shoulders face, let alone what occurs at all the joints below the shoulder.

These demands simply won't be attenuated by doing a few hundred reps of band work before and after practice, let alone throwing the athlete into the proverbial squat-bench-deadlift program overseen by the high school football coach.

Over the next four weeks, you can expect to find us discussing:

  • Practical warm-ups for the overhead athlete
  • Why power development for baseball, softball, and volleyball players needs to be approached differently compared to many other sports
  • Olympic lifting for overhead athletes
  • The truth about vertical jump training for volleyball players
  • The myriad myths and fallacies surrounding "shoulder health" and "arm care" programs
  • Biomechanical asymmetries - both undesired and desired - that accrue in an overhead athlete's body due to the inherent nature of the sport, and what to do about them
  • Energy system training
  • Nutrition for fuel during tournaments and game day
  • And, of course, as many Star Wars and Harry Potter references that we can find room for
  • And much, much, more

All of us at SAPT are looking forward to the next month together!