Building a Fitness Program for Beach Volleyball by Emily Stockman

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Ali Daley McColloch sets up Emily Stockman.

December 29, 2020: This story from 2015, that also appeared in print in the old Volleyball magazine, remains very popular with our readers year after year. We recently learned that the author was pro beach player Emily Stockman while putting together our 2020 VolleyballMag.com year in review story. 

By Emily Stockman for Volleyball magazine
With the beach volleyball season just getting under way, volleyball athletes are chomping at the bit to get on the sand. Whether it is your first beach season or your 15th, a workout program with the basic elements I’m about to outline will help you get into your best beach shape.

In order to have that successful season were all working toward, maintaining excellent overall physical condition is crucial. By working out with on-the-court performance in mind, we are not only setting ourselves up for success, but preventing injury as well. It can be easy to neglect our bodies in the offseason, but trust me, the harder you work in the gym, the stronger and more explosive youll be when it’s time to shine.

When training for beach volleyball, you want to make sure that you are covering all the principles of exercise programming specific to the sport. There are four principles that are critical for volleyball performance: power, strength, performance endurance, and muscle balance.

Beach volleyball players should perform power exercises rapidly in order to generate large amounts of force. This is important because we want to be explosive both horizontally and vertically.

You should perform 3-4 sets of each power exercise, with 3-6 repetitions in each set. Examples of power exercises are plyometrics, Olympic lifts, and resisted movements such as box jumps, hang cleans, and push-ups.

The strength training part of your workout will consist of compound movements that stimulate large amounts of mass to move the resistance. It is important for us to strength train in order to hold our athletic positions for prolonged periods of time. Strength training helps us to be more efficient in digging, jumping, and hitting, but most importantly it gives us the ability to cover the court.

For strength training exercises, you should perform 3-5 sets of each exercise with 3-10 repetitions in each set. These exercises might include squats, leg curls/extensions, rows, bench presses, etc.

Performance endurance will improve as your strength and power improve. The point of these exercises is to delay muscular fatigue for as long as possible, while the muscle is stressed for a prolonged period of time. These exercises really pay off during rallies that seem like they are never going to endand I dont know about you, but I refuse to lose those rallies because my legs got tired!

When targeting performance endurance, do power and strength training movements but perform only 2-4 sets of each exercise, with 12-25 reps in each set and only minimal rest between sets. Make sure, when doing these exercises, you work the same muscle group at least two times per week.

Muscle balance is arguably the most important component of your workout plan because by keeping our bodies in balance, we will not only make faster gains, we will also prevent injuries. There are not really any specific exercises for muscle balance; rather you must recognize your areas of weakness and use more resistance in these areas to correct the imbalance.

Another way to incorporate muscle balance into your workout routine is to superset exercises, i.e., perform one right after the other with no rest in between, alternating sets until all are complete. This works by engaging agonist vs. antagonist muscle groups. For example, doing a bicep curl with a tricep extension superset or a leg curl with a leg extension supersetengaging opposing muscle groups and keeping the back of your body just as strong as the front and vice versa.

As I said, beach volleyball is a very explosive sport, but it is also very technical and dynamic, and we need to be able to imitate those movements in the gym in order for muscle memory to occur on the sand. For example, use resistance bands when performing sprints, practicing arm swings, or doing jump exercises. This places stress on the body’s ability to react during a specific movement, which enhances neural efficiency (our brain’s ability to manage specific forces while under stress). By doing these movements over and over, our bodies will learn to react with control during competition.

Take weighted lateral lunges as a prime example of how this phenomenon works; if you have strengthened those muscles in the gym, when you have to make a lateral move to get to a hard-driven ball, your body is familiar with the movement and is able to perform it with control and not collapse.

There are many variables to consider when planning your workout routine, such as personal needs, area of weakness, position (blocker/defender), etc. But no matter what, the more often you can apply stress to these areas, the faster you will see improvements. Also make sure you mix up your workouts. By keeping variability in your routine, you ensure that your body never hits a fixed state. If the body is continually trained with new perceived stresses, the physiological system will have to adjust and improvements will continue to happen.

The original 2015 story in Volleyball magazine

Sample Exercise

Program Note: The example workouts that follow will get you started with your beach volleyball training plan. This plan is very basic, and I encourage you to add to it and change it to fit your specific needs. Have fun and good luck!

DAY 1
Warm-up
Elliptical 3-5 minutes
Dynamic stretches
Core and ab exercises
Power
Hang cleans 3×6
Box jumps 4×6
Medicine ball slams 4×6
Strength
Back squat 3×8
Superset: Swiss ball leg curls 3×10
Bench press 3×8
Superset: Inverted row 3×6
Muscular Endurance Circuit
3x through with 30-60 seconds rest between each completed circuit
Resisted burpees x15
Resisted step-ups x12 each leg
Mountain climbers x50
Cardio
Treadmill sprints: 3 30-second sprints, 30-45 seconds rest between
DAY 2
Warm-up
Jump rope 4 minutes
Dynamic stretches
Core and ab exercises
Power
Dumbbell thrusters 4×6
Bounders with resistance bands 4×5 each leg
Kettlebell hip swings 3×6
Strength
Lunge to step-up 3×5 each leg
Superset: Calf raises 3×10
Pull-ups 3×6
Superset: Lat pull-downs 3×10
Muscular Endurance Circuit
2x through with 30-60 seconds rest between each completed circuit
Dumbbell split jumps x15 each leg
Burpee to lateral step-up x12 each leg
Lateral cone hops x20 (over and back is one rep)
Cardio
Aerobic interval biking 6 minutes (sprint 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds)
DAY 3
Warm-up
Agility ladder (5 different patterns, 2x the length of the ladder for each)
Dynamic stretches
Core and ab exercises
Power
Deadlifts 4×5
Approach jump to box 4×6
Full body press 3×6
Strength
Front squat 3×8
Superset: Good mornings 3×10
Military press 3×10
Superset: Tricep dips 3×10
Muscular Endurance Circuit
3x through with 30-60 seconds rest between each completed circuit
Bosu ball shuffles x15 (over and back is one rep)
Medicine ball side passes x15 each side
Push-up to renegade row x12
Cardio
(30 second rest interval between sets)
Resisted sprints 3×15
Resisted side shuffles 2×10 each side
Resisted pulling footwork 2×10 each way

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