Team USA knows that despite having some of the best setters and hitters in the world, they'll need to execute a stingy defense if they want to bring home a medal from Beijing. That's why Patrick Borkowski, the team's strength and conditioning coach, has been incorporating exercises that strengthen the glutes and hamstrings and that increase hip flexor flexibility.
"Strengthening that area helps athletes get in a defensive position and perform multi-directional movements that are required to react to the ball," Borkowski says. "Being able to move in different directions defensively is essential, so we make sure were doing things that will generate power from the hips."
One of Borkowskis favorite exercises is the Rack Reverse Lunge. He has Team USA perform it once a week in the off-season.
Un-rack bar from pegs, then take two steps back
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart
Step backward into lunge position, keeping weight on front heel
Lower until back knee is almost touching ground
Drive forward into start position
Perform 6-8 reps on each leg, with a 90-second rest between sets
Stay on toe of front foot during lunge
Let front knee move over toes
Hunch over; keep chest up and abs tight
Step back with a stiff leg
Perform more than 8 reps at once on each leg
Use so much weight that it affects your technique