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Beach Volleyball Workout

November 1, 2005 Print This ArticleShare

Author: Michael Greeves

Beach volleyball - The Game

By most accounts the first volleyball court was put up in the 1920s on a beach in Santa Monica, USA, where families played 6-against-6. Within several years it became a main sport at a French nudist camp outside of Paris. Then 1930 witnessed the first two-man volleyball game played in Santa Monica, while on the other side of the world beach volleyball spread through France, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Latvia. During this time in the US, volleyball became an escape from the depression, giving people warm sand and beautiful weather to distract from the misery of economic down-trodden. The rest of the world, meanwhile, adopted volleyball and made it into a very popular sport (currently 800 million players worldwide, while 24 million in the US).

Throughout the decades following its birth, beach volleyball steadily achieved growing sponsorships, with first-place prize going from a case of Pepsi in 1948 to $4,000,000 in total prize moneys in 1994. A year earlier the International Olympic Committee had granted Beach Volleyball Olympic medal status. Modern-day beach volleyball is now a fast and competitive game, requiring a high-level of skill and physical fitness. This means that, in addition to your volleyball skill, your physical fitness level must be spot-on, if you want to get to the top and compete at the top. Read on!

Beach Volleyball - The Demand

Beach volleyball requires its athletes to be fast and explosive, especially because each team has only two players who must cover the entire court. The ability to dash into position to play the ball must be optimal, and often a player must dive at the ball and then recover quickly. Changing direction, or “cutting,” is also an important maneuver. A high and quick vertical jump is a critical factor in performance, as is a powerful spike to shoot the ball with high velocity. In fact, a good vertical jump height often precedes an effective setup, block or spike, because the quicker the athlete can get to the desired height, the better the opportunity to “play” the ball as required by the situation. The metabolic profile of these explosive actions are derived primarily from the ATP-PC energy system (Dyba W, 1982; Stegemann J,1987; Naar D, 1982).

Beach volleyball is characterized by short, repetitive bursts of actions ranging from 5 to 10 seconds on average. A game can last between an hour to over a couple of hours. This means that these explosive actions are repetitive and intermittent with active rest. This active rest occurs briefly while anticipating the next maneuver, as well as during the short break period after the ball goes out of play and before the next serve is delivered (once the referee has signaled for the match to begin, the server has only 5 seconds to serve the ball). During the game the body constantly draws from the ATP-PC energy system. Training, therefore, must optimize this system, as well as its recovery.

Beach Volleyball - The Injuries

Acute injuries in beach volleyball are most common in the knee, followed equally by ankles and fingers, while overuse injuries are more common in the lower back, followed by knees, and then shoulders (Bahr R, 2003). The acute injuries to the knees and ankles are likely caused by jumping and landing or in sudden change in directions, while the acute injuries to the fingers are from hard contact during the spike. Overuse injuries are likely due to excessive-volume training and/or general weakness of the involved areas. Although injury rate and game-time loss in beach volleyball are considerably lower than those in many other team sports, serious volleyball players with any sort of injury can still suffer longer-term impaired performance. Training programs must address injury prevention.

The Beach Volleyball Workout

In order to lower the risk of injuries, structural support should be maximized. This structural support may help improve the body’s ability to disperse forces properly, and it may enable tissues to resist mechanical damages during high forces. Increasing structural support involves training to increase tissue mass and should include hypertrophy exercises, which are typically moderate-load, higher-volume resistance training. Some examples are squats, deadlifts, bench presses, cable rowing, and military presses with repetitions that range between 6 and 15, and sets that range between 3 and 5 per exercise. Hypertrophy training should be accomplished early in the off-season so that it doesn’t distract from the training of specialized strength as the pre- and in-season approaches.

A critical performance factor in beach volleyball is jump height, so improving this the vertical jump is an important element in any volleyball training program. Jump performance appears to be based on the quantity and rate of force developed at the hip, knee, and ankle joints (Ashley C.D., 1994). Improving explosive power in these areas should help increase vertical jump performance, but since arms contribute 10% to take-off velocity (Harman E.A., 1990), strength of the upper body must not be neglected. Exercises such as power cleans, power jerks, and power snatches are very effective at increasing power output in all of these areas. Other effective power exercises are medicine-ball throws and plyometrics (although plyometrics are used very conservatively and only in specific training phases to prevent excessive impact that can lead to overuse injuries). Although labiality of sand surface decreases jump height (and ground-reaction force) as compared to the rigidity of indoor surface, the biomechanics of jumping in both environments are mostly the same and require the same training mechanics and velocity.

Because of the short bursts of high-energy actions followed by active rest stress mostly the ATP-PC energy system and not the lactic acid anaerobic system, the training program should tap into the high-energy phosphates while preventing the production of lactic acid, the metabolites that reduce high-energy performance. Exercises can include sport-specific drills done for 5 to10 seconds on the sand court, or strength exercises such as power cleans and power jerks done for 2 to 3 reps with intermittent recovery. Medicine ball exercises can be used, as can plyometrics. These protocols train the body to quickly restore the ATP-PC energy system so that it can continue to perform at a high level.

A scientific program design should enable the beach volleyball athlete to perform with greater power and speed, prevent decrements in performance due to fatigue, and minimize injury risk. These are the factors that lead to winning and success!

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