Coaches think it and say it all the time about their players. But what does that statement really mean? What characteristics do we really desire and need our athletes to display to become more competitive?
Some coaches think that all that they are required to do is put their athletes through a few strength training circuits or have them perform some heavy squats or hang cleans. Other coaches simply “hand their athletes off” to the strength coach or even an opposite sport coach (i.e. a football coach is sometimes the likely culprit), to take their athletes through the paces of the development program, all while keeping their fingers crossed that the athletes come back as more effective players. With the exception of a few rare instances (where great communication exists between the strength coach and the volleyball staff) there needs to be more ownership being taken to be fully aware of what the athletes are doing to improve. Think of it this way; this single aspect of your athletes’ development, can make or break the physical capabilities displayed out on the court. Therefore, it is too important to let go by the wayside.
This article will attempt to provide greater insight into some fundamental aspects of volleyball-specific training for performance. It will also shed light on some common mistakes that are often found in practice gymnasiums, weight rooms, and volleyball training centers across the country. After reading the article, a volleyball coach will possess greater knowledge to understand if their strength training program is headed in the right direction.
STRENGTH VS POWER
Let’s go back to the issue of strength for a second. Many coaches are quick to throw around the terms strength and power synonymously. However, it needs to be noted that this is inaccurate; the two are entirely separate qualities. Because of this, it’s important to determine the exact difference between strength and power as it pertains to the necessities displayed on a volleyball court. Strength is simply the force that an athlete can generate (it is not dependent on time). On the other hand, power is force times velocity, or more simply stated – strength combined with speed. It’s obvious that with this definition that power is actually what we are after! Many coaches get caught up in strength numbers (like increas¬ing 1RM strength in a squat or clean) and continue to require their athletes to lift very heavy loads in a slow fashion.
In fact, strength is actually maximized during slow muscle actions and minimized when velocity increases. Inversely, volleyball requires acceleration to produce the necessary force out on the court. Research has actually proven that training induced improvements in maximal strength do not always equate to great improvements in power development (remember: power is the key quality we desire). This becomes even truer the more advanced an athlete becomes. Let’s take the vertical jump for example:
It is a multi-joint, power-oriented movement and measure of performance. With the volume of jumping that takes place on the court, many volleyball coaches are very interested in jump performance. There has been extensive research done on the subject and the training for its improvement.
Research has shown us that jump performance only improves markedly following strength training in subjects who begin their training program with average or below-average strength levels. In contrast, individuals who have been previously strength training for a more extended period of time (greater than six months) or already have higher levels of strength will no longer realize terrific jump increases through heavy strength training. So, we know that other methods must be incorporated to training plans. These methods include explosive-ballistic methods such as plyometrics and medicine ball throwing.
Author: Shawn Myszka, avca.org