Monthly Archives: January 2011
WARNING: If you are a novice to training and conditioning you may not understand this article.
This is one of the first volleyball training and conditioning articles I will share to release secrets not found on any other volleyball website or book (at least right now). As a whole the volleyball community is way behind when it comes to sports performance training and physiological adaptations.
So why do elite athletes hit the ball harder?
Let’s first address this from a muscular standpoint. Are the male Olympic athletes that pound the ball 80 mph or faster stronger than the average Joe? Do these guys spend hours and hours in the gym training shoulder strength and have bulging biceps and triceps? One look at their arms and you realize they have “average” sized muscles just like every other player. In fact, because they are tall, they tend to be a little bit skinny compared to other athletes.
Let me explain how it really happens.
Over the course of time as a player develops their volleyball skills they become more efficient at the movements required to play volleyball. It takes less effort to pass a ball, less effort to set a ball and less effort to HIT a ball. What does this mean from a musculature point of view? It means that you learn what muscles to use and what muscles not to use when performing fundamental volleyball skills.
The answer is that for 99% of athletes, less is more! Let’s get to the point.
For every acting muscle there is an antagonist muscle or muscle group. By TRAINING to relax like elite players, you too can increase your hitting speed. I will use an old example of how relaxing increases power output.
If you were driving your car and pushed on the gas to a constant rate of 25 mph, you would continue to travel at 25 mph until you ran out of gas. If you were to keep your foot on the gas at 25 mph then but your other foot on the brake pedal, you would begin to slow down. You are still pushing the gas the same but you are probably going 15 mph or 10 mph. Our antagonist muscles/muscle groups work the same way as the brake. As we try to flex (push on the gas), unless we train the opposing muscles to relax (let go of the brake pedal) properly we can not receive the maximum benefit.
Let’s use one more example to help us understand this a little better. Let’s say you can create 200 lbs of force in the vertical direction when jumping to do a volleyball attack. At the same time your antagonistic muscle group creates 60 lbs of force in the opposite direction by not relaxing completely. This leaves you 140 lbs of net force letting you jump high into the air. (200 – 60 = 140) If instead you focused on making sure you relax the antagonistic muscles and jumped effortlessly only exerting 160 lbs of force, but this time with 0 lbs of force by the antagonist muscle group, you only put out you are left with a 14.28% increase in net output (140 to 160 lbs) and 62% less energy expenditure in a single jump. (200 positive lbs + 60 negative lbs = 260 lbs of effort exerted, 160 positive lbs + 0 neg. lbs = 160 lbs of effort exerted.)
With 62% less energy used per jump, how much longer can you play at 100%? How many more jumps can you perform compared to your opponents? Will game 5 fatigue really be an issue any more?
Now you may be saying, that is why we condition. Using the above example, I have never seen a “traditional” conditioning program that allowed one athlete to perform 62% more or better than another athlete. In my training manual, I will show you how to do this. I am working diligently at this, but I want to be as thorough as possible.
So lets get back to why elite players hit harder. They hit harder because they relax the proper muscle groups. They have performed the skill enough times that they are comfortable relaxing the antagonistic muscle groups and focus primarily on the agonist or muscle performing the action. By doing this they are creating huge amounts of force and not “putting their foot on the brake!”
Now go relax!
See you on the court!
In my email this morning I received a drill from a “popular” volleyball drills for coaches, resource.
The drill was original and creative but lacked some critical elements required to train young volleyball athletes.
The drill consisted of 3 lines of tossers, multiple hitters and at least 6 players are involved in the drill. While an email can’t tell you exactly how to run every aspect of your practice, I want to address certain considerations that weren’t specifically mentioned in the email I received.
The first problem is that there are tossers! If you have been reading any of my articles you should know by now that we need to eliminate tossers! In a real game of volleyball there are no tossers. I realize that eliminating tossing from your practice may create a huge change in what you teach and how you teach it. Let me give a transitional idea as you work to more game-like practices. Instead of simply tossing the ball, have your players at the very least, toss the ball to themselves, and then set the ball to where they normally would toss the ball. This is a first step. Ideally, every ball that was going to be set, would come from a passer and every pass would come from an attacker or server.
The next problem I see is that only 6 players were involved. If you have a typical team of 12, this leaves 6 athletes as ball shaggers. This is not a very important game skill. We need to get the other 6 involved. The obvious solution would be to set up a defense of 6 players on the opposite side of the net. This drill moved fast and would probably not work as well with a defense, and blockers may be a better option. 3 blockers at the net and only 3 shaggers would improve your team training by 25%!
This is how great volleyball coaches consistently produce great volleyball teams!
If you can consistently improve your volleyball drills by 25% over your competition, your team will improve 25% faster than the next team. It is that simple!
Lastly, although similar to the previous suggestion, adding blockers or defense makes the drill more game-like. Very rarely in a game will an attacker not have a block to hit against, around or through. Add a block and add a defense every time you can.
One more drill consideration. Have a goal! The goal of the drill as described suggested that each girl hit the ball over 3 times in a row to get a point. That is awesome! That is the kind of scoring that I like to see. Depending on the age and skill level of you team I also like to add in one more factor. It must be a factor that makes the athlete think during the performance of a skill. In volleyball games we have to make a lot of decisions and we have to make them very quickly. I will let you come up with ideas on your own of what thinking skill you want to train, but the point is that we aren’t going up to the net just to hit the ball over, but to perform an “attack” against the opponent based upon their weaknesses. Better practices make better games!
See you on the court!
As I have stated before, I am actually a supporter of Gold Medal Squared (GMS) and their movement in the volleyball coaching community. Coaches just beginning to coach volleyball should attend their clinics and will be better coaches for attending.
What I won’t attempt to say is that I am smarter or a better volleyball coach than the great coaches they have among their staff and their wealth of knowledge that they possess.
What I will attempt to do is suggest other ideas that may not be covered by them, or that I may find are more applicable to high school and club coaches versus coaches that are training elite athletes at the national level.
Visit their blog for insightful articles. They don’t post frequently, but they do post quality posts.
A post titled “Conditioning Specificity” caught my attention.
We have long said that motor programs are specific, and that physiological fitness is specific as well. There is nice article here that reaffirms these concepts. The NY Times article that is referenced is worth reading as well.
Long story short, get your players out of the weight room, off the track, and get on the volleyball court. And when you are there, play a lot of volleyball (get reps). Your team will be strong and fit for playing volleyball, and will be skilled as well.
I want to state boldly that I agree and suggest that you should never waste valuable volleyball practice time running sprints, doing lunges, bear crawls, stretching (see my stretching article) or any other kind of volleyball conditioning.
When a net is up and available, you need to be using it!
In fact even if the net isn’t up there are still plenty of volleyball skills we can work on.
What I do want to suggest is that volleyball specific conditioning does not have to happen in the gym, it can actually occur in the weight room. So contrary to their post I do suggest that volleyball athletes spend some time in the weight room!
The theory behind this is not that by doing “volleyball specific” Olympic lifts you will be a better volleyball player. No matter what your strength and conditioning coach tells you, there are no “volleyball specific” lifts or conditioning.
The secret is that the benefits of the weight room are not volleyball specific, they are general! If you are doing a traditional weight lifting regimen with barbells, dumbbells, and Olympic lifts there is a great benefit in learning to recruit more muscle fibers when performing a specific action.
A young female athlete that enters her first collegiate volleyball training program will realize that her squat increases dramatically within the first year. There are multiple reasons and more than a million research reports to support different conclusions. One reason as suggested by GMS is that you simply have learned how to squat better, practicing that specific movement. You have not improved your volleyball skill, but rather your weight lifting skill.
We know that the increase in strength is not directly related to an increase in muscle size or even muscle strength. So if it is not all attributed to muscle fiber strength, the number of individual fibers, the type of muscle fibers, etc., then what are some other factors?
First I will suggest that the skill of pushing or lifting weight in general has improved. Regardless of if you now squat with 135 lbs on your back or squat with a pencil in your hand you are better at squatting.
Secondly, in lower level volleyball programs we often see a lack of effort. May I suggest that your athletes are trying as hard as they know how to. By putting an athlete in a weight room or any other kind physically demanding event, an athlete learns what it means to push or try harder. If you ask an athlete how many hours they spend trying their hardest during the day, giving full physical effort, you will realize what I mean. Our athletes are spending 2 hours a day on Facebook, and additional 1-2 hours watching television and during the school week 6 hours in a class sitting down. So many of our athletes don’t know what 100% effort is anymore.
Now to go back to GMS we have to ask, how much of the weight room transfers to the volleyball court? The answer is very little. This is easy to explain as we know that the difference between an athlete that jumps 36 inches and an athlete that jumps 38 inches is so small that it is near impossible to distinguish if we make all other factors equal.
So Coach, after your whole long article on why GMS is wrong, you are saying that they are right? I am saying that for volleyball skills, volleyball is the best! If you already are a talented athlete that is coordinated and talented, you may not need the weight room as much as others. For some people that are behind in efficient and proficient body movement, the weight room can serve as a source of overall increased body position and muscle control.
My volleyball specific training program that I am developing will agree with GMS philosophy and yet allow you to train for volleyball (kind of) while training for strength, flexibility, injury prevention (possibly the most important part) and every volleyball skill all at once. I am trying to get the program available as fast as possible, but I have high school boys and girls club going on right now. It will be available by summer time! If you need it sooner, email me to keep me working hard!
See you on the court!
A quick note on serve receive drills.
When coaching volleyball during practice to improve serve receive it is critical to keep track of how each passer is performing. By keeping track of performance you accomplish at least two things.
1) The intensity of the athletes improves.
2) You can identify you best and worst passers. (Most importantly which one of your “in-between” passers is better than the other)
Now back to attacking the serve receive!
Serve Receive – Offense
Every coach knows you must focus on the opponent’s weakest passer. How do you decide who is their weakest passer? As I take on new assistant coaches between high school and club, I always ask my assistant to let me know who they think is the bad passer and who we should target. (Ideally this is done by scouting the opponent previous to your game, but frequently in high school and club it happens on the fly.) What I have found most frequently is that we DISAGREE! And sometimes I realize that although they choose the weakest passer, it may not be the most effective choice.
A couple of things to consider when attacking an opponents serve receive…
1- Which attackers are receiving. The younger the player, generally the harder it is for them to pass and later attack the ball. Now the best passer on the team isn’t going to be hindered too much by having to pass then go and hit, but an “in-between” passer may not be able to perform this. In middle school volleyball and JV volleyball it is quite effective to serve the best player on the team to eliminate them from hitting the ball. As you reach the highly talented college bound volleyball players, sometime a serve to displace them is enough to give yourself a “chance” to dig the ball rather than get six packed in the face. Another fun exercise is to have your toughest server serve their best passer and/or attacker. If they can get the best player out of their groove and make them lose concentration because they are passing poorly, you can often stifle their serve receive strategy.
2- Where is the setter coming from and where is he/she going. Another basic one here, but yet very helpful serve receive strategy. The primary idea here is to serve to the person who the setter will run in front of if they are coming from the back row. This will hopefully block their view or distract them long enough to create a bad pass. I like to focus on the left side of the opponents court (Locations 1 & 2) when attacking the setter. If the setter is running from position 1 to set, it is easy to aim to spot 1 and accomplish two different goals. The first goal I described above. The second goal of attacking a setter is to serve to the athlete in position 1 because the ball travels the least distance and gives the setter the least amount of time to prepare. I often shift my servers to that side of the court because this again allows slightly less time than serving cross court to the player.
The last thing accomplished by serving to serve receive locations 1 and 2 is that if the setter wants to set the outside hitter or middle they have to do so almost blindly. I would say almost 80% of all setters are better at setting a ball that comes from in front of them that they later set in front of them. By serving behind them, you can often force them to set back row, or to the right side because it is easier. If they are a good setter this wont stop them, but it does make their life less easy.
The last paragraph spoke of an interesting point. Most setters are better at setting balls that come from in front of them, Why is that? It is because we condition them to do so. I have never seen a coach in practice toss a ball to the setter from behind them. The famous toss to the setter hit back, dig, set, hit that many athletes do is always done from in front of them, or setters turn around to set the right side attack.
Final note…If your setter is a beginner, entering the ball from the front does make it easier, but most important is that we realize what we are teaching. What habits are you ingraining in your athletes?
See you on the court!
This article is my first of many posts dedicated to Volleyball Specific Training. The first thing girls and guys do when they go to college is hit the gym. Whether your coach chooses kettle bells, bosu balls or Olympic lifts for explosive volleyball movements, it is one of the biggest changes from high school volleyball to college volleyball.
Because of “tradition” nearly every collegiate coach thinks that if they make their athletes stronger they will be able to perform at their best. As I take a look at Olympic athletes from many countries in the sport of volleyball, it doesn’t seem that they are extraordinarily muscular. So what is it that makes them so good?
Volleyball nutrition is a key element that I will not address right now. I just want to make a note, that there are very very few elite volleyball players with extra weight around their mid-section. They watch what they eat! Eat to train, train to win!
So how should be condition for volleyball? Let’s first ask, what are you trying to accomplish by conditioning? As both a volleyball coach and player I am 99% sure our primary focus is to be a better volleyball player individually and to win more games as a team.
Our goal isn’t really to jump higher, hit harder, or become stronger. Our deep down most basic desire is to be better and win games. What everyone is really trying to do is actually create better players. It’s just another way college volleyball coaches and high school volleyball coaches try and make their teams better.
Below is a quote from www.teachpe.com. (emphasis added)
This usually occurs when the two skills in question are similar in some way. Having already mastered one of the skills, makes learning the second skill easier. Coaches can aid this positive transfer by making sure the individual understands the similarities between the two skills and by making sure that the basics of the first skill are well learnt so that they transfer more easily into the second skill.
This occurs when having learnt one skill, makes learning the second skill more difficult. This more often happens when a stimulus common to both skills requires a different response. For example, a squash player who takes up tennis may find it difficult to learn to not use their wrist during shots. Negative transfer can be avoided by making sure the athlete is aware of the differences and making practice sessions similar to match situations to ensure a larger, generalized motor programmed.
Positive skill transfer is what many coaches always believe is happening. The research is not definitive on if positive or negative transfer is more common, but we do know that negative transfer does occur.
As a coach the last thing I want my volleyball conditioning program to do is to create a negative impact on my game performance. So while your performance and conditioning coach still tells you that “power cleans” are most similar to your vertical jump, he may not realize that if you train to power clean, your jumps will become more like a power clean (positive transfer) and limit your ability to jump forward for a back row attack. (negative transfer) My goal as a coach is not to develop skills to improve lifting performance, but rather develop skills to increase volleyball performance.
No you are saying, “Okay Coach, we get the point!” So what should we be doing? If you feel you absolutely have to hit the weight room, I suggest the least similar movements to volleyball. Avoid doing squats and power cleans.
I haven’t come up with a catch name yet, but I will be coming out with a training program designed specifically for volleyball. The program will consider all the things mentioned above plus many more reasons why you have to stop doing the crap you have been doing. It will all be explained in detail with videos.
For now, let me give you an example of a great exercise for volleyball. The forward lunge is an excellent exercise for volleyball. It is one of the most strenuous exercises on the entire leg musculature and it is a very rare movement in volleyball. Rarely do I put my right or left leg more than 1 foot in front of the other. There are specific of how and when to do them, which I will include in the first release.
Stop thinking in the box! If you want to be better in games, you have to be better in training and in practice.
See you on the court!