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Volleyball Training Journal issue 007
November 13, 2007

1) Developing Volleyball Leg Strength

2) Volleyball Strength Training the Hamstrings



The most common exercises volleyball players choose to increase leg strength are...

1. Hip Sled. The hip sled is done by lying on your back, pushing weight with your legs. This may be good for increasing general lower body leg strength, but is a non-sport-specific movement. Ideally, you want to strengthen your legs with ground based movements that occur in volleyball.

For example, in volleyball, and most sports, you won't ever find yourself lying on your back pushing with your legs.

Movements in volleyball occur with your feet in contact with the ground (ground based). In volleyball, you create movement by force that you exert into the ground. How effective you are at using ground reaction force has a major influence to your performance on the court.

The most common strength training exercises for improving leg strength involve squat variations.

2. Back Squat. The back squat exercise is a ground based exercise.

Because of how well squat variations simulate sporting movements (running, sprinting, and jumping), it's often said, "If you don't have squats in your program, you really don't have a program."

Squat variations strength train the quadriceps and gluteals much more so than the hamstrings. It is very common for volleyball players to leave out exercises that train the hamstrings because they think hamstring strength isn't important. They may also not see the importance of exercises such as the deadlift that strengthen the hamstrings in a sports specific manner (especially jumping).

To leave out hamstring exercises is a mistake.

By not training to increase hamstring strength, you may be at risk for injury. In fact, by having weak hamstrings, you may be limiting yourself from being able to increase the amount of weight you can currently squat.

The reason for this is the antagonist muscles during the squat are the hamstrings. Your antagonist muscles during a movement will limit your strength. So if the hamstrings are weak, you may actually be limiting how much you can squat.

Interestingly, it is common for your squat max to go up just by adding deadlifts to a volleyball strength training program because the result is increased hamstring strength.

Another reason to strengthen the hamstrings...

Most of the time muscles in your body work against one another. These groups of muscles are called opposing muscle groups (or agonists and antagonists).

An example of opposing muscle groups are the quadriceps and the hamstrings. The ratio of strength (comparing quadricep strength to hamstring strength) of these muscle groups has an impact on how optimally the body functions. This paradox of muscle function allows for efficient movement.

The quadriceps are a much larger and stronger muscle group than the hamstrings. However, if all you do is train the quadriceps (leg presses, squats, etc.) you will be at risk for developing muscular imbalances of opposing muscles groups which could lead to inefficient movement, not to mention injury.

By the way, the cause of ACL injuries is often due to weak hamstrings and also not being able to decelerate body weight effectively. In volleyball, most ACL injuries occur after landing from blocking.

Eccentric leg strength is often referred to as deceleration strength.

Leg pressing exercises such as the hip sled, lack the deceleration movement you benefit from when you squat.

During each squat repetition, you are not only strengthening your legs on the way up but also on the way down. Therefore, squats have the benefit of training the legs eccentrically (strengthening while muscle lengthening), strength that's important for athletic moves like decelerating your bodyweight when landing from a block.

Being able to effectively absorb ground force is a big key to athletic movement.

So basically, even though these muscles work against one another, the strength ratio of quadriceps to hamstrings is important when considering efficient movement and injury prevention.



You want to have hamstring exercises as part of your volleyball strength training.

For information about what exercises I think you should be doing to strengthen the hamstrings, follow the link.

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