Cross-Training options for Volleyball Players

Build Strength, Avoid Injury and Stay Motivated

Woman lifting weights in gym
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When it comes to volleyball training, it is important to do more than just simply play volleyball. Why? While playing volleyball is great for getting better at the game and improving individual skills, other exercise activities are all necessary in order to develop into an all-around package.

You want to be strong everywhere, not just in the muscles that volleyball typically trains. Total body strength is proven to help athletes avoid injury, and to be better at their chosen sport.

Utilizing other forms of exercise to round out your overall strength and conditioning will help you keep your workouts fresh and keep you from burning out.

Volleyball games are unpredictable. You could be playing for an hour or three hours. When it is 32-31 in the fifth set, you better have the endurance to put that last ball away. Also unpredictable are the movements you may be required to make in reaction to the ball. It is in your best interest to make sure all your muscle groups are solid, and cross-training can help you get there.

Cross-training simply means doing a physical activity outside of volleyball that trains muscles in a different way. Cross training takes many forms, and can and should be individualized. 

Some of the most common cross-training exercises for volleyball players include running, weight training and plyometrics. There is something to be gained from just about any type of exercise whether it trains your muscles or your cardiovascular capacity.

Cardio Cross Training 

Your cardiovascular capacity is important in volleyball. Even though the game allows you to rest with natural breaks between points, a long, tough match can quickly turn volleyball into an endurance sport.

You should do cardiovascular training for several reasons:

  1. To make it through practice.
    Making it through practice every day is much tougher than a game as it should be. Your coach may require you to run distance or sprint for conditioning. The more you cross-train the better you will be when you start running lines.
  1. To make it through games.
    Since the length of the game is never assured, you need to be ready to do whatever it takes to stay strong until the last ball drops. You want to be as good as you can be at the end of the game so you can continue to make plays and finish the other team. If your vertical jump has

Cardiovascular exercise is anything that makes you breathe heavily for a length of time. Running is a great way to cross-train, but it is not the only way. Here are a few great cross-training exercises that will help your cardiovascular endurance:

  • Running (sprints, distance, stadium steps, sand)
  • Plyometrics/Jump training
  • Inline Skating
  • Cycling
  • Cardio machines (stairmaster, elliptical, stationery bike)
  • Swimming
  • Aerobics

The list is endless. The key is to find something that you enjoy doing, that works up a sweat and that causes you to pant a little. Build up over time and you'll start to notice a definite difference in your staying power on the volleyball court.

Strength Cross Training

There is no doubt that strong muscles help in volleyball. If you want to hit the ball with any power, you have to have a strong shoulder and core. If you want to get up higher in the air when you hit and block, strong legs are key.

If you want to set the ball all the way to the antenna as well in set five as you did in set one, you need good strength.

However, huge bulky muscles can be a hindrance to certain movements. If you look at most elite volleyball players, their muscles are lean, long and toned.

The most obvious way to strength train for volleyball is to lift weights. Make sure to work on all your muscle groups. All your muscles work together so over-training your shoulders and arms while ignoring your quads and calves is not recommended. To build long, lean muscle, use lighter weight so you can do lots of reps.

If you're not sure how to strength train correctly, make sure to ask a trainer or coach about good form and which exercises are right for you.

Concentrate on all your muscle groups:

  • Shoulder
  • Chest
  • Arms
  • Lower Back
  • Glutes
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Abs
  • Calf

Weight training is not the only way to build up your muscles. Yoga is also a great strength training exercise which is much less stressful on the joints and also helps your flexibility. The bottom line is choosing something that challenges your muscles and pushing yourself to get stronger every time you do it.

Pitfalls to Avoid

Whenever implementing a cross-training regimen make sure you think it through. Not every form of exercise is a good idea for every person. Here are a few things you should ask yourself about your cross-training:

  1. Is this the best choice for my particular body?​ Cross-training is meant to make you stronger, not weaker. If you have bad knees or a weak lower back, running on cement is not the best choice for you. If you run at all, consider running on grass or sand to limit the pounding on your joints. But whatever your situation, listen to your body. If it hurts, this might not be the best cross-training exercise for you. There are lots of other choices for you to explore .
  2. Am I over-training?
    Getting extra workouts in is great, up to a point. There is such a thing as over-training. Our bodies have limits and while we should push them when we can, it's not a good idea to do so during the meat of your season because it can lead to injury and fatigue. If you have big matches scheduled, take care of yourself and rest when you need to. In other words, save it for the game. Keeping fit outside the gym is fine to do during the season, but intensive cross-training is best when done in the off-season.
  1. Does this sport have a high rate of injury?
    You can get hurt doing almost anything, but most cross-training exercises will help you avoid injury. However, you must choose wisely. Stay away from sports where there is a good chance you can hurt yourself. Especially during the season you should stay with relatively safe forms of cross-training activities.
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Your Citation
Oden, Beverly. "Cross-Training options for Volleyball Players." ThoughtCo, Mar. 9, 2016, Oden, Beverly. (2016, March 9). Cross-Training options for Volleyball Players. Retrieved from Oden, Beverly. "Cross-Training options for Volleyball Players." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 18, 2017).