Originally published in the Spring 2019 issue of Your Court, the official digital magazine of USA Volleyball.
Have you ever unwrapped a piece of chewing gum, popped it in your mouth and immediately tried to blow a bubble? Have you been successful? Probably not. But what if you’ve chewed on that same piece of gum for a few minutes, tried to blow a few smaller bubbles and then tried to blow the biggest bubble you can? Were you successful then? More than likely, you achieved your goal.
In the U.S. National Team gym, we treat warming up as an integral part of our training and competition routines. Similar to the work required to blow the biggest bubble of gum possible, the body requires work to perform its best.
There are four primary components to a complete warm-up.
Prepare Tissues and Joints (2-4 minutes)
The goal of this phase is to prepare the muscles, tendons and ligaments to generate and transmit the forces that the body produces and then must accept. Some of the most common ways to do this are to stretch out, use a foam roller or use a similar device to provide tension and compression onto the tissues. This process initiates the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles. Increase Body
Temperature (4-6 minutes)
Heating up the body starts to “turn on” various processes that allow it to better perform athletic movements. The heart rate increases, which allows more blood to flow throughout the body at a faster rate. The blood vessels also open wider, allowing a higher volume of blood to move with each beat of the heart. In the U.S. National Team gym, athletes like to hop on a bike and pedal in a series of 30-second intervals.
Activate Muscles and Various Movement Patterns (3-5 minutes)
In volleyball, it is important to warm up the shoulders, lower back, hips, hamstring, quadriceps and ankles. An ideal warm-up isolates each muscle group first and progresses to multiple muscle groups at a time. Start with small and individual muscles before progressing to big, multiple joint movements. Heel raises and shoulder circles progress into skipping with arm circles. Glute bridges and body weight planks turn into jogging and squatting.
Activate the Nervous System (2-4 minutes)
Volleyball is an explosive sport, and the nervous system controls the ability to be explosive. Finish a warm-up with exercises that rapidly change the level of your center of mass. Jumping/landing, running/backpedaling and shuffling/cutting are examples of exercises that will activate your nervous system and improve your coordination, reaction time and power
Take a look at these exercises in action. Then, try them yourself!