Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of strength training articles written specifically for volleyball players. Ryan Jobs B.H.K. of Coastal Fitness prepared this series with his staff and we will be posting new articles regularly. This article is written by Johann Windt (CSCS B.H.K, PN-1) and focuses on body durability. You can contact Ryan directly on the Coastal Fitness website, or send us a message on our contact page.
To help your team, you need to be on the court. Every coach in the world would choose a healthy role player over an injured all-star, simply because a player needs to be playing to lead a team to victory. Thus, a player’s durability is, in some ways, more important than skill level. Bluntly put, stronger athletes who move well are less likely to get hurt than their weaker teammates who move poorly. Thankfully, durability also happens to a trait that can be dramatically impacted by effort off the court, for a number of reasons.
Relative Strength is Functional Strength
Even though “functional strength” is an overused term in the fitness industry, it is true in a number of ways that gaining strength is legitimately functional, especially when an athlete improves their relative strength. “Relative strength” is defined as an individual’s strength in relation to their body weight, and is thus aptly displayed in the performance of body weight exercises like chin ups or push ups. This type of strength, in an athletic context, is always functional, because it increases an athlete’s capacity to perform work. Not only does their maximum capacity improve, such as jumping higher, but given tasks take less of their overall capacity to perform. Many injuries occur because the demand of a certain task, such as a player trying to land from a jump and explode laterally immediately upon landing, exceeds the body’s ability to complete the movement. Consequently, the weak link (ex. muscle, tendon, or ligament) gives way.
The application of this can be seen using this landing example. A strong player landing may only take 30% of their strength or power capacity to land effectively, while a weak player may require up 70% of their capacity to do the same task (See graph below). Two implications from this are: 1) the strong player has more residual strength left to complete another task immediately following their landing, such as turning and diving to reach a tipped ball, or jumping up again if necessary; and 2) landing takes less of a toll on the stronger player over the course of the body, lowering the likelihood of an overuse injury and giving more energy for the rest of the things they have to do. Therefore, increasing relative strength levels is extremely functional in an athletic context as it is one of the most effective ways to improve one’s durability.
Maintenance > Regression
The rigors of an athletic season take a toll on the body, as any athlete will attest to. This is why athletes are often fighting off aches and pains by the time they get to playoffs and why often times it is the team with the largest number of healthy players that comes out victorious. Additionally, the wear of a season on the body can result in lowered strength and power, which predisposes players to injury, as discussed above. Therefore, properly tapered in-season training allows for the maintenance of strength and power which should have been gained during the off-season. Since maintaining strength and power levels is essential for durability, not only is it important to build strength in the off-season, but it is also vital to maintain those improvements during the season.
Proper Mobility & Stability and Movement
|Lumbar Spine (Lower Back)
|Thoracic Spine (Upper Back)
|Scapula (Shoulder Blades)
|Glenohumeral (Shoulder Joint)
In conjunction with strength and power, proper movement patterns as well as optimum levels of mobility and stability where they are needed make players far more injury resistant. Although this topic was addressed in greater depth during our previous article, it is prudent to mention it again in this context.
Strong players with poor movement or improper flexibility and stability are still at risk on the court. In the strength and conditioning world, the joint-by-joint approach takes into account the somewhat alternating nature of joints which require either mobility or stability. If these joints lack the characteristic that they need for proper functioning, performance suffers and injury risk increases.
At the end of the day, all athletes must take all the precautions they can to avoid getting injured so that they can stay on the court to help their team. One of the biggest things they can do in this regard is to invest time in proper off-court strength and conditioning. Not only will this enable them to increase strength and power in the off-season, but maintain these levels throughout the course of a season. Furthermore, properly designed fitness programs which emphasize proper movement patterns, increase mobility and flexibility where needed, and increase stability where needed are essential to further reducing their likelihood of injury. If you are not investing this time already, beware of how much more time you may have to invest in rehabilitation if you do end up with an injury. If you have any questions or you need a strength and conditioning program designed to maximize your durability, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
About The Author
Johann’s keen coaching eye has been a valuable asset to Coastal Fitness’ strength and conditioning program. He is the head strength and conditioning coach for CBC Bearcats Athletics as well as a strength coach for Volleyball Canada’s Centre of Excellence in Abbotsford B.C. He has his Bachelors of Human Kinetics from TWU as well as his CSCS through the NSCA, he is also Precision Nutrition certified. During his undergraduate studies Johann mentored under head strength and conditioning coach Andrew Hemming of the national title winning volleyball program at TWU.