June 8, 2015 • Strength & ConditioningVolleyball

Conditioning for volleyball players

In volleyball, maintaining quickness and power during a rally or set and throughout an entire match is vital to maximize performance. The average rally in Division I NCAA women’s volleyball lasts 13 seconds, but rallies commonly last 30 seconds and, on rare occasions, can be as long as 60 seconds.

Movements performed in a rally are interval based, alternating among quick power movements (jumping, diving, accelerating in an approach or to the ball), and periods of waiting to react to the ball in go posture. Rest time between points can last from 10 to 30 seconds, depending on how quickly the ball gets back to the server, how much time someone takes to serve the ball and whether there are any substitutions. Timeouts can account for 60 to 90 additional seconds between rallies.

VolleyballConditioning for volleyball should focus first on developing a solid base of general conditioning and then gradually increase both changes of direction and jumping. A progression to more volleyball-specific interval-based conditioning should be the next step after obtaining a solid base. Aerobic, steady-state conditioning, such as jogging, should be avoided because it trains the energy system that is opposite the one used in volleyball and can diminish the explosive characteristics of muscle.

Conditioning base

Developing a base of conditioning before moving to volleyball-specific court conditioning is essential to prevent overtraining, provide adequate recovery to allow gains in strength and power, and reduce injuries. The amount of time spent in the base conditioning phase depends on the time of year and the conditioning level of the athlete. The base conditioning phase is implemented in the first of the two offseason training phases, which occur at the beginning of the spring and summer semesters.

The women’s collegiate volleyball season can last 16 to 20 weeks, followed by four weeks of winter break. At the University of Illinois, this break is used to unload the athletes. Usually, athletes are given the first two weeks completely off followed by two weeks of light, low-volume training focused on getting them active again. During this time, to unload their joints and promote recovery, they do not jump or perform quick changes of direction.

Because the main goal over break is mental and physical recovery and the volume of activity is very light, the athletes return to school not ready to perform high-volume, high-intensity volleyball-specific training. Therefore, the base conditioning phase that takes place at the beginning of the spring semester starts light and gradually increases the exercise intensity and volume of both cutting and ground contacts from jumping exercises. This progression prepares the athletes for a rigorous four- to five-week volleyball-specific training period to get them in shape for the spring competition season.

The base conditioning phase during the first summer semester is identical to the exercises performed during the beginning of the spring. The reasoning for implementing the same exercises is different.

In the beginning of the spring semester, the athletes were not physically prepared after time off for intense sport-specific conditioning. In the summer, the base conditioning phase is implemented to unload them from the jumping and cutting exercises that stress the joints, while maintaining a base of conditioning. This base phase lasts approximately four weeks and is followed by volleyball-specific conditioning drills during the second summer semester to prepare them for the demands of the preseason and competitive season to come.

Here are a couple of conditioning drills you can try with your athletes.


The purpose is to develop a base of conditioning while performing low-intensity interval training.

This drill is performed with a continuous clock. When the clock starts, you have 20 seconds to cover a specified distance and then 10 seconds off before repeating for the prescribed amount of time, as follows:

  • 120 to 130 feet there and back in five minutes, for a total of 240 to 260 feet. Rest for 120 to 150 seconds.
  • 50 to 60 feet there and back twice in five minutes, for a total of 200 to 240 feet. Rest for 120 to 150 seconds.
  • 20 to 30 feet there and back four times in five minutes, for a total of 160 to 240 feet.

Timed shuffle

The purpose is to develop a base of strength in go posture. Stand in go posture and maintain this posture throughout the entire drill.

  • The timed shuffle is performed between the centerline and the 10-foot line.
  • Start in go posture and maintain it throughout the drill while using good shuffle biomechanics.
  • Shuffle between the centerline and the 10-foot line, covering as much ground as possible in 10 seconds.
  • Pair up with another player. One performs the drill and the other sits out, creating a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio.

Jump, shuffle, jump, sprint conditioning

This introduces jumps and single-plane changes of direction in multiple movements to transition from base conditioning to position specific conditioning. It occurs during the transition phase of conditioning.

Pair up with another player. Start on the 10-foot line, facing the sideline of the court. Alternate participating in the drill and sitting out to create a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio. On the coach’s command, perform this series:

  • Three squat jumps for height.
  • Shuffle from the 10-foot line to the center line and back three times.
  • Three squat jumps for height.
  • Sprint from the 10-foot line to the opposite 10-foot line and back three times.

Alternate participating in the drill and sitting out, and alternate the direction you are facing to start each repetition.

Perform four or five sets of two repetitions with 20 seconds of extra rest between sets, or perform two sets of four repetitions with 90 to 120 seconds of rest between sets.

This is an excerpt from “Complete Conditioning for Volleyball,” written by Steve Oldenburg. The book can be purchased at www.humankinetics.com.

Leave a Reply