Volleyball players need high levels of conditioning to explosively sprint, change directions, jump and hit the ball point after point.
However, Tony McClure, former strength coach for the New Mexico State volleyball team, explains that aerobic workouts, such as jogging, that are commonly used for volleyball conditioning may actually impair your game rather than improve it.
“I frequently hear from high school athletes that their coaches take them out and have them do stadium runs or mile runs,” says McClure, who earned the NSCA Assistant College Strength and Conditioning Professional of the Year Award during his 15-year tenure. “This is not beneficial for the sport of volleyball.”
The problems with aerobic workouts for volleyball
If you’re not familiar, an aerobic workout involves moderately-intense exercise performed for a long duration. For example, jogging at 70 percent of your max effort for 30 minutes is considered an aerobic workout. This type of exercise improves your aerobic energy system, which uses oxygen to power extended duration activities.
All athletes, whether you play volleyball, softball or soccer, need aerobic conditioning to an extent (more on this below). But solely relying on aerobic workouts for volleyball conditioning has a few problems:
Aerobic conditioning is more appropriate for distance runners than volleyball players. McClure performed a detailed analysis of volleyball games and found that 90 percent of points are under 15 seconds. This requires a highly trained anaerobic energy system, which powers explosive bursts of speed and explosives for short durations.
Aerobic workouts will impair your performance. “When you go out and run long distances, you’re decreasing your speed power, agility and quickness,” he explains. “That’s everything that you need for volleyball.”
Aerobic workouts fail to prevent common volleyball injuries. Volleyball is a multi-directional sport, meaning that you’re moving in different directions, planting and cutting on one leg, and jumping and landing. In most aerobic workouts, you only move straight ahead, so you’re not training your body to handle volleyball movements. Also, long-distance aerobic workouts can cause your body to break down from overuse if you’re not careful.
So should volleyball players never do aerobic workouts?
There’s a time and a place for aerobic exercise. When first beginning an offseason training program, it’s beneficial to add some light aerobic work into your routine. This builds a base of aerobic endurance, which will help you recover faster between sets of lifting, speed drills and volleyball drills. Instead of jogging, try this aerobic mobility workout.
However, this should only last for about 3-4 weeks. After that, you can cut aerobic exercise out of your routine. Your strength and speed workouts, practices, and games provide a sufficient level of aerobic conditioning without having to dedicate time to it.
The ideal plan for volleyball conditioning
McClure recommends three conditioning workouts per week leading up to the volleyball season. These workouts should focus on short sprints, changes of direction and multi-directional movement to simulate how you move during a volleyball point.
The Monday and Friday workouts feature a high volume of Sprints and Shuttles. You’re allowed to fully recover after every rep so you can move with maximum speed and explosiveness through the workout. It may not feel like traditional conditioning during which you’re gasping for air, but you’re training your body to produce explosive power, recover and do it all over again—a critical skill for volleyball.
Wednesday’s workout is an obstacle course that’ll test your conditioning and toughness, and once again attempts to simulate the demands of a volleyball point. The course will condition your body to fight fatigue so you can maintain your strength, speed and power throughout the toughest points of a match.
Here’s the workout:
After each rep, rest for 6-10 times as long as it takes you to complete the rep.
5-and-Backs x 7-15 each direction
Begin in your volleyball ready stance at the center court line of a basketball court. Sprint to your right and touch a cone five yards away. Change directions and sprint back to the starting line.
5-10-5 Shuttle x 3-5 each direction
Begin in your volleyball ready stance at the center court line of a basketball court. Explode laterally and sprint 5 yards to your right and touch a cone with your right hand. Reverse direction and sprint 10 yards to the far cone. Touch the cone and sprint back to the middle line.
60-Yard Shuttle x 3-6
Begin in your volleyball ready stance at the baseline of a basketball court. Sprint to a cone 10 yards away and back to the starting line. Repeat to a cone 20 yards away and then 30 yards away for a total of 60 yards.
80-Yard Shuttle x 1-2
Begin in your volleyball ready stance at the baseline of a basketball court. Sprint to a cone 15 yards away and back to the starting line. Repeat to a cone 25 yards away and then 40 yards away for a total of 80 yards.
Complete the “obstacle course” as quickly as possible and have a partner time each rep. Rest for about 3 minutes between each rep, and repeat 5 times.
- Begin in your volleyball ready stance at the baseline of a basketball court.
- Laterally shuffle to your left toward halfcourt until you’re a few feet past the 3-point line. Quickly switch and laterally shuffle to your right forward until you reach the center court line.
- Now do a 5-10-5 Shuttle. Your first move should be in the opposite direction of the baseline where you started the drill.
- Sprint through the finish of the 5-10-5 Shuttle to the opposite baseline.
- Do 5 jumps, attempting to touch the backboard of the basketball hoop.
- To finish the drill, sprint to the opposite baseline.
After each rep, rest for 6-10 times as long as it took you to complete the rep.
5-and-Backs x 10-22 each direction
5-10-5 Shuttle x 7-15
60-Yard Shuttle x 4-9
80-Yard Shuttle x 2-3
If you’re a young volleyball player or don’t have much experience training, then these workouts might be a bit too much for you. There’s no shame in trimming the number of reps throughout the workout so you can maintain your form. Quality is always preferred over quantity.