Core Strength & Power
Volleyball Player Functional Training

Core muscles of a volleyball player, just like anyone else, are always active whether moving, just standing, or sitting. Core muscles must function continuously to dynamically stabilize your body.

Basic Functions of the Core

  • Stabilization. Stabilization is the primary function of the torso. Your degree of stability represents how well you control body movement.

  • Lateral flexion and extension. Lateral flexion exercises are frequently left out of training programs and shouldn't be. The core should be seen as a solid cylinder that encircles the center of the body. All sides of this cylinder need to be trained. Core exercises used to train these areas include the side bridge and the side jackknife.

  • Rotation. Rotation is key to many sporting movements. When thinking about exercises for rotation, remember the core should be used to stabilize your body during movement. Rotational exercises can be used to increase the mobility at your hips and shoulders. Medicine ball exercises can be a fun way of training to increase rotational strength and power.

  • Flexion and extension. Torso flexion is an action that rarely occurs in sports. Adding sit-ups or abdominal crunches to a workout may be less desirable because of their functionality. The abdominals should be mostly trained by stabilizing or assisting movement of your limbs.

Functional Training and the Volleyball Player

Choose exercises based on functionality. An exercise is considered more functional when it closely mimics basic human movement patterns. Exercises that involve squatting, lunging, pushing, and pulling are considered to be more functional than single joint exercises such as the dumbbell bicep curl and machine leg curl.

  • Push-ups instead of bench presses. Although the bench press is a great way to enhance upper body strength, there are many other exercises that you could choose that would be more functional.

    Maybe the biggest disadvantage of the bench press is the fact that it's an open-chained exercise. Closed-chained exercises are better at training joint stability and enhancing functional movement patterns.

    Push-ups, medicine ball push-ups, and stability ball push-ups are all closed chained. These exercises have the benefit of training the scapular and humeral stabilizers which strengthens shoulder stability.

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Volleyball Functional Training

My Favorite Medicine Ball

Squat variations instead of the hip sled. While leg pressing exercises may be used to strengthen hip and knee extensors, they are functionally inferior to the squat.

Volleyball player functional training

Functional Training Exercises for Volleyball

In virtually all sports, movement begins at the ground. A volleyball player needs leg strength to move quick and jump high. Doing exercises that use the triple extension of the hip, knee, and ankle enhance their ability to use the ground effectively.

Because jumping is performed from an erect body position with balance and weight-bearing forces to consider, the back squat is more specific to jumping and therefore preferred over the hip sled (1).

Single-leg squat variations instead of machine leg extensions.
When an athlete performs the machine leg extension she is using a muscle action and nervous system pattern that are never engaged when running or jumping.

Again, the most functional exercises are closed chained. Most movements in sports occur on one leg. As a result, single leg squats are more muscularly specific than open-chained leg exercises.

Machine Leg Extensions Are NOT Functional

Single-leg-straight-leg deadlifts instead of machine leg curls. Your body will continually learn to move and reposition itself when training the hamstrings while standing, rather than being guided by a machine.

Also, the hamstring acts more as a hip extensor than a knee flexor anyway. In movement, the hamstrings main role is to eccentrically decelerate the lower leg and extend the hip.

Machine Leg Curls Are NOT Functional

Exercise Selection Guidelines for the Volleyball Player

  1. Learn basic movement. Start with exercises that use body weight as resistance until technique is mastered.

  2. Progress from simple to complex exercises. Athletes need to develop adequate mobility and stability before advancing to exercises that demand more dynamic strength and balance.

Progressively building dynamic strength. As with any conditioning program, the goal of functional training for volleyball isn’t just about getting stronger, but getting stronger through movement with the purpose of increasing volleyball player performance.

Selecting exercises. Exercises should be selected depending on the training level of the volleyball player. With an untrained athlete, at first, a workout program might consist of exercises that are less functional.

As an athlete develops strength, exercises that require greater stability and balance should be gradually added to the program.

Continuum of Function
least functional more functional most functional
leg press ----- machine squat ------- barbell squat -------- one-leg squat
leg curl --- back extension -------- two-leg deadlift ------ one-leg deadlift
machine bench press - bench press ---- dumbbell bench press --- push-up
lat pull-down ------------------------------------- pull-ups or chin-ups
machine row --- dumbbell row ----- inverted row ---- one-arm-one-leg row

1) Wilk, K.E., R.F. Escamilla, G.S. Fleisig, S.W. Barrentine, J.R. Andrews, and M.L. Boyd. A comparison of tibiofemoral joint forces and electromyographic activity during open and closed chain exercises. Am. J. Sports Med. 24(4):518-527. 1996.

Functional Volleyball Strength Training Related Pages

Volleyball Player Functional Training

Volleyball Strength Training Hamstrings

Volleyball Shoulder Stabilization Strength

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