Volleyball Program Design
Reps, Sets, Intensity, and Rest

The volleyball program design variables SETS, REPS, INTENSITY and REST PERIODS, are important to developing strength and power for volleyball.

In the 1940's Dr. DeLorme & Dr. Watkins created the 3 sets of 10 repetitions resistance training model. This was the gold standard at the time. 

The 3 sets of 10 reps progressive resistance training model stuck around for decades - but not anymore. 

Exercise science has come a long way since those early days and the 3 sets of 10 reps approach is far from the most effective program for several reasons. 


To get stronger, do less reps with a greater load

A SET is a set of exercise repetitions. 

REPS are the number of repetitions to perform per set.

For example, if you were to do 5 sets of 5 reps of the front squat, you would perform 5 repetitions for each of the 5 sets.


Another important variable to consider is INTENSITY.

TRAINING INTENSITY is defined as the effort put forth to complete a set. If resistance is too light, then you won't get stronger. Your muscles need to be challenged with heavier resistance.  

In resistance training, INTENSITY is expressed as a percentage of one repetition maximum (1RM).

Use %1RM to determine reps. For strength, you want reps to be between 30% and 60% your 1RM. In this example, 30% of 10 is 3 and 60% of 10 is 6. So the reps are between 3 and 6. This is what you want.

If 1RM was say, 15, then you would need to increase the load. 

Using the correct SETS and REPS is important, but there is also another extremely important variable… REST PERIOD.

The recovery time or REST PERIOD is the length of rest you take between each set.

When training to increase strength, it’s important to have adequate recovery between each set.

For exercises done in SINGLES, the rest period should be about 3 to 5 minutes. 

Remember, we're talking about getting strong. If you want to add more muscle mass then shorten the rest periods, but don't go any shorter than 90 seconds. 

And to really pack on muscle, you'll want to increase the total volume.

Training Volume (V) = Sets (S) x Reps (R) x Weight (W)

But most volleyball players aren't looking to get bigger. Most want to be stronger and more explosive. And added body weight can really hurt the vertical jump. This is why my training focuses more on increasing strength and less on increasing muscle size. 


Single, Superset and Circuit 

SUPERSETS and CIRCUITS are great for volleyball strength training. 

A superset incorporates two different exercises, one is performed right after the other with minimal rest. The advantage of the superset is you are able to get more work done in less time. 

For increasing strength, the pair of exercises should not focus on working the same muscle groups. For example, it wouldn't make sense to pair up the front squats and deadlifts.

Squats and deads are better done as singles...

Here is an example of program that has supersets with the focus on increasing strength. 

Same idea here with training circuits. Different muscle groups (or opposing muscle groups) are worked to allow time to recover.  

Here is an example of volleyball program design of training in circuits with the focus on increasing strength. 


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