What kind of upper body strength does a volleyball player really need?
To be honest, not a whole lot! Well, let’s put it this way: adding bulk to your upper body would be a mistake. It puts more stress on your back, knees and hips than you would like. Being strong only goes so far in beach volleyball. Strength without mass is key. But let’s dive into the nitty gritty.
How much should I workout my upper body for beach volleyball?
It would be hard to say that additional strength could be a bad thing. Additional strength without additional weight would be a fantasy for every beach volleyball player. It’s good to be strong but when we dedicate hours to it when there are more important things to cover, there’s an issue. For example, would you rather be very strong and suffer season ending shoulder injuries throughout your career or would you choose medium strength but be able to finish seasons with a healthy body?
Beach volleyball is essentially a game of accuracy and precision. Power helps but ball control, vision and accuracy trump all of those skills. A more accurate volleyball player will destroy a strong volleyball player every time.
Whether you’re a weekend warrior competing in CBVA beach volleyball tournaments or an AVP pro competing in the Manhattan Beach Open, you’ve probably seen short, wiry, 50-year-old men make mincemeat out of 21-year-old Adonis’ who spend too much time bench pressing.
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This is an obvious statement but humans have a limited amount of time and energy. Because of this, you have to choose one way to train and hopefully you choose beach volleyball specific workouts, like our 60 Day Strength and Conditioning Training Program so that you only do exercises that give you the best bang for your buck.
If you are looking for general fitness and you need to live and die by 3 lifts, they would be deadlifts, pull ups and incline dumbbell presses but if you are a volleyball player, that changes. Volleyball players need more focus on their rotator cuffs so we can SURVIVE.
I'll get off my upper body hating pedestal now but the lesson is that it shouldn’t be your first concern. Pop it in from time to time like we do in our program but keep it light and fast! There’s no need to teach your body to move heavy things slowly.
Beach volleyball players should take more care of our shoulders than anything else. The muscles in the upper back help stabilize the scapula and shoulder girdle so adding in some pulls is a great idea.
When doing pressing exercises, choose them sparingly and keep it light and fast. You’ll have to pop up quickly from digs so you can put the ball away but you’ll never need to do that with your partner on your back so ditch the heavy bench press and skip the curls while you’re at it.
It's pretty widely known that beach volleyball players need to be explosive and our training should support that. I've seen many athletes do squats, box jumps, and Olympic lifts for their lower body but when it comes time to train their upper body, it turns into all slow heavy lifts that lead to great aesthetics. Sure, sponsors play an important role and it's nice to have your pecs and guns glistening in the sun when all the cameras are on you...
But, sadly, they won't be on you for very long because unless you train your entire body to be explosive, you won't be lasting long in any tournaments.
Upper body shouldn't be your number one concern when training for volleyball but it is an important thing to touch on. You do need strength to be powerful and we should be able to swing with power but we don't need to be able to move a lot of weight. The closest move we have that utilizes a true combination of power and strength is when we pop up from the ground. Beach volleyball players, especially, hit the ground on a regular basis and if you just made an amazing diving dig, you better get off the ground quickly so you can get ready to attack.
Burpees incorporate a very realistic volleyball movement pattern. Good burpees utilize an explosive push-up to get to your feet.
In our 60-day beach volleyball training program, we include explosive push-ups in two different sections. We use them for conditioning when we're doing burpees after some approach jumps.
We also use them solo in our upper body plyometrics section. If your strength is at the level to get you to do a natural clap push-up then it's totally fine to start doing plyo push ups on your knees or using a bench for your hands.
We also like to incorporate some medicine ball push-presses to get your hips synced with your arms that can simulate a blocking motion.
Start from your knees with a medicine ball on your chest, drop your butt to your heels and then explode your hips forward into the air as you launch the medicine ball to a partner, a wall or just open space.
This combination of hip thrust and elevating hands makes for a perfect volleyball exercise.
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