The Missing Puzzle Piece

Royce Deguzman
Side-to-side lunges: (A) Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, with the weight hanging between your legs. Shoulders should be pulled back and head in a neutral position. For a challenge, elevate the weight overhead.

When volleyball players train, a great amount of time is spent on explosive training to increase the vertical leap. And why shouldn’t it be? Volleyball is an explosive sport. All too often, though, too much emphasis is placed on jumping straight up and down (squats, box jumps, tuck jumps), when in actuality this skill is just part of the game. Lateral, or side-to-side, explosive movements account for a great deal of motion on the court, including back row defensive moves, blocking foot work, and transition. All things considered, a player’s ability to make strong lateral moves is extremely important for increasing vertical leap and for efficiency of most movements on the court and is too commonly left out of volleyball training regiments.

The explosive gains are not the only benefit you will receive from implementing this training. By isolating single leg movement patterns you engage your pelvic stabilizer muscles while developing your larger jumping muscle, the gluteus maximus. This effect, in turn, will shield the body from injury during playing and higher-level jump training. We refer to this method as “prehab,” meaning that we can strengthen the body to prevent injuries before they happen. The following series of exercises is a progression, working to strengthen and stabilize the glutes before moving into explosive bursts of energy. This is how we enhance protection and performance.

When working these exercises into your training routine, spend two to three weeks focusing on the first two – Side-to-Side Lunges and Box Step Downs. Do three sets of each, using the reps listed below. These exercises will develop strength and stability, thus preparing your body to transition into more explosive moves like the third and fourth exercises – One Legged Bench Blasts and Hockey Jumps. When you are integrating these final two exercises, you should also be doing three sets of each, using the reps below.

Side-to-Side Lunges

SET-UP Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, with the weight hanging between your legs. Shoulders should be pulled back and head in a neutral position. (A)

MOVEMENT Take a side step out, leading with your heal, while keeping your plant leg as straight as possible. Shift 90 percent of your weight to the bent leg and try to touch the weight to the floor without bending your back. Make sure your bent knee does not travel over you toe, meaning you have your weight shifted back to your heel. (B)

Quickly explode through the bent leg, generating enough power to propel yourself back to the starting position.

Challenge Option Refer to the back person in the picture. Elevating the weight overhead is a great way to bump this exercise up a level.

REPS 8-12 on each side, alternating

Box Step Downs

SET-UP Start standing with one foot on the box and the other leg elevated at a 90 degree angle. (C)

MOVEMENT Straighten off leg back to neutral and lower it to the floor as slowly as possible. Keep shoulders pulled back so that your back remains straight and your weight is on the heel of your planted foot. (D)

Lower your weight until bottom foot (just the heel) taps the ground. Push with your top leg all the way up, back to starting position.

Challenge Option Refer to the back person in the picture. The step down is being executed by crossing the off foot behind planted foot and will definitely challenge your body’s ability to balance and stabilize the glutes and other targeted muscles.

REPS 6-10 to each side, to be completed one leg at a time

One Legged Bench Blast

SET-UP Start standing with one foot on the box and the other leg elevated at a 90 degree angle.

MOVEMENT Straighten off leg back to neutral and lower it down to the floor, with a controlled motion. Keep shoulders pulled back so that back remains straight, and your weight back on the heel of your planted foot.

As soon as off foot touches the ground, blast hard with your top leg so that it elevates off of the box as you drive the off leg back upwards to starting position. Catch your weight using the same foot, and repeat the motions – slow and controlled on the way down, and explosive on the way up. (E)

Challenge Option Refer to the back person in the picture. You can blast all the way over to the other side of the box, catching yourself with the opposite leg as a way to beef up this exercise a bit, in explosiveness and in deceleration control. (F)

REPS 10-15 with each leg, to be done one leg at a time. (Challenge option will be alternating legs, since you are blasting back and forth.)

Hockey Jumps

SET-UP Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and shift your weight to your right leg and bring the left foot behind the planted one, prepare to explode. (G)

MOVEMENT Quickly explode with the right leg, in a more sidewise then vertical jump motion. Land on left leg, bend the knee and land softly. Right leg will travel behind the left leg to help give you extra stability when landing. (H)

As quickly as possible, jump off your left leg and repeat the process back and forth until you have completed the reps. (I)

Challenge Option Refer to the back person in the picture. By leaving your back foot elevated rather than touching it down after crossing it over, you can challenge your balance and your explosiveness.

REPS 10-15 each direction

Originally published in July 2012

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