Author Dolores Gurule’de Duran is a certified fitness trainer and CAP II certified coach. She has been coaching volleyball for 20 years and played at the University of New Mexico.

A lot has changed since I was a collegiate volleyball player, and I’ve had to adapt. What has remained, however, is the need for athletes of all sports, including volleyball, to go through periodic and regular strength training. Many conditioning and weight programs today are sport-specific because we have very few multi-sport athletes.

But, did you know that 30 of the 32 first-round NFL draft picks in 2017 were multi-sport athletes [American Council on Exercise]? Some believe that single-sport specialization among our youth is troubling, and that we should let kids be kids. If more kids were multi-sport athletes, they would become better all-around athletes, have more fun and be less stressed.

Let’s look at the difference between sport-specific athletes and multi-sport athletes. Sport-specific athletes are more prone to injuries because they perform the same athletic movement over and over throughout the year. The same muscles are constantly being used repeatedly, never getting a chance to rest.

Multi-Sport vs. Single-Sport Athletes

Multi-sport athletes have fewer injuries because by engaging in different sports, the demands of muscle use are different, and this in turn allows the body to build strength more evenly.

Flexibility is also important. Cross-training exercises that more evenly stress all muscles provide for a body-stage that can more easily be kept flexible through stretching. The only thing worse than overstretching a conditioned muscle is overstretching a weak one dependent on a strong one.

Also, experiences gained from different sports and teams are essential for quality. Different coaching, different environments and different challenges develop a more competitive, well-rounded person.

As coaches of athletes who want to specialize in volleyball, it is our responsibility to provide our athletes with a well-rounded program. Periodization is important in all phases of volleyball training. When strength training for volleyball, the object is not to build big muscles since they rarely give improvements in power. Strength training should be incorporated into training phases that lead into the competitive phase.

Volleyball is a sport that demands high levels of anaerobic power engaged quickly. The athlete must be able to recover and generate that same power again and again to complete a match.

Recovery comes from the aerobic system, which should be trained on a consistent basis. Aerobic capacity can be increased through conditioning drills and through specific aerobic training. An overall program must be pre-planned with variations in training specificity, intensity and volume. This will help us organize training and performance improvements through periods and cycles in the program.

Add Strength and Conditioning To Your Team's Workout

Most coaches are reluctant to use their two-hour training slots for strength and conditioning instead of on-court practice. I believe that strength and conditioning are essential in athletic performance, and it is our duty as coaches to incorporate some type of strength and conditioning programs. They can be incorporated into the club cost and offered as individual training or training in teams.

As a mother to a collegiate volleyball player, I have seen (my and) her injuries and lack of performance. It’s not because she is lazy but because she was sport-specific, and in her younger years did not train strength and conditioning enough. She was conditioned to worry more about her skills and performance to get that slot on the top team.

After playing at a junior college, she was recruited to a four-year college that is more demanding. My advice to her, being a volleyball coach as well as a strength and conditioning coach, was to put her off-season effort into building strength and conditioning.

Her skill level was already high, so I suggested she train skills twice per week and strength and conditioning five days per week. Upon arrival to her new college, she had lost eight pounds, built muscle, and was faster and stronger; she earned the starting libero position. She was recruited for her defense ability but was always a six-pin player. I believe the strength and conditioning training prepared her to slide into a new position with little skills training.

Every athlete is different, so training depends on the mental and physical attributes of the individual. Sports provide leadership, discipline, character and learning how to interact. These benefits are so important to our athletes today because sports are the building blocks for our athlete’s success in society.

The best plan of action we as coaches can provide is to remember we are mentors first, teachers second and coaches last. Our responsibility to our athletes is to teach them in a safe and fun environment. We need to provide them with all the necessary tools to prevent injury and increase their performance in volleyball or sports of their choosing.

Example Program

Off-season = Base Phase

  • Building lean body mass, increasing power and work capacity by improving explosive lifting skills and maintaining volleyball-specific endurance. Fitness testing should be done during this phase.

Aerobic fitness test

  • Speed and agility test
  • Strength and power test
  • Flexibility test
  • Body size test (height and arm span)

Off-season = Strength Phase

  • Strength and power training needed to improve vertical jump, stamina, agility and increase in explosive power. Circuit and basic strength training programs can be used during this phase.

Plyometric training

  • Bounding
  • Box jumping
  • Circuit training
  • Tosses and throws

Off-season = Peak Phase

  • Speed and agility training can be done through skills training which play a role in game situations.

Competitive = Season

  • Maintain strength and conditioning twice per week. This phase is the goal for all the other phases. Players performance should be at a high level due to all the strength and conditioning they obtained through the off-season.

Transition = Rest and recovery prior to starting off season training.