When choosing core exercises for volleyball it’s important to pick exercises that will improve the ability to block, dig, set, and hit.
The athleticism of volleyball requires accelerating and decelerating in many directions. The best ab exercises for volleyball players will train both abdominal muscles and back muscles for improved posture and ability to produce power.
The 5 best ab exercises for volleyball players are:
- Single-Leg Bridge
- Mountain Climber
- Side Plank
- ½ Kneeling Medicine Ball Chop
- Overhead Medicine Ball Throw
Below I’ll cover each of these exercises in detail and provide a program to help you integrate them into your volleyball strength and conditioning workouts.
Why Is Core Strength Important For Volleyball?
Your core impacts how high you can jump, how quickly you change direction, and how accurately you can direct the ball. This is why it’s important to be well developed in the two functions of your core: posture control and producing power.
1. Posture Control
The muscles that control posture include your transverse core, pelvic floor, diaphragm, and multifidusmultifidi in your back. These muscles are considered your “inner core”.
The inner core is related to your reflexes and posture control, helping to stabilize your body. This is important when you change direction, e.g landing from a jump safely, getting back in position after a dig.
Types of Posture Control Exercises
The best posture control exercises are ones where you are staying tall, or long through the spine, controlling your posture. They can be static, holding one position, or dynamic, meaning you hold good posture as you move your arms and legs.
For posture control exercises you want to be breathing in and out slowly staying relaxed and calm. If you are tense or holding your breath, find a variation that allows you to breathe easily.
For example, if you are doing a dynamic exercise like the ones below, you can make it easier by doing a static variation (i.e.. instead of moving through the motions, holding the exercise in 1 position, and breathing).
When moving, the speed of your movement should match the speed of your breath.
2 Power Production
The outer core is related to creating and transferring force through your torso. The muscles that do this include your, rectus abdominus, low back extensors, obliques, and glutes.
The outer core helps to transfer the power you produce in your legs into your torso, helping you to jump higher. As well, twisting and flexing your core with speed produces harder hits.
To unlock the full potential of your power production it is important to have good postural control. In other words, it is important you develop your inner core, sometimes before and definitely alongside developing your outer core.
Types of Power Production Exercises
Power production exercises are where you explode through the movement. They are to be done with speed. These exercises should mimic movements that are part of your sport, like slamming the ball down with rotation or exploding up.
What Makes A Good Ab Exercise For Volleyball Players?
Aesthetics are always nice and may result from any ab exercise, but the main focus for volleyball players is to improve their athletic abilities on the court. This is done through exercises that help to create power and stability.
To make your training more applicable to when you are on the court and maximize time, you want exercises that use multiple muscles at once. This means the core program you want to be implemented will be to improve postural control, power production, or both.
For this reason, exercises that isolate one muscle, like a slow crunch would not be considered the best, which is why you won’t see it on our list below.
Additionally, it’s important to recognize that your core is used throughout your entire workout, to stabilize, support, and produce power. But most volleyball players I coach still need to incorporate some additional ab movements to supplement their core training.
5 Best Ab Exercises for Volleyball Players
1. Single Leg Bridge
Single leg bridge trains the reflexive part of your inner core and glutes. This improves stability through your hips and torso, important for jumping, lunging and diving. It is also a great exercise for releasing the hip flexors, which if too tight, can stop the core and glutes from working properly.
- Lie down face up
- Place your feet flat on the floor, and if possible have your shins perpendicular to the floor
- Straighten one leg driving the heel towards the roof
- Keeping your one leg straight up and down, inhale as you drive your belt buckle towards the roof.
- Exhale as you lower with control
A common mistake is to drive the belly button up, arching the back and avoiding using the core and glutes. You can avoid this by gently pressing your fingers down on your hip bones and driving your hips back up into your fingers.
2. Side Plank
Side plank helps to stabilize the back and control your posture when moving sideways, to dig, block, and in rotation. The set up is key to maximizing the exercise and using the right muscles.
- Lie on your side, stacking your hips and shoulders on top of each other and in a straight line from your ear to your ankle.
- Place your elbow under your shoulder.
- Drive your hips towards the roof and hold yourself long from your feet to the top of your head.
- Make sure you stay stacked hips and shoulders one over the other as you hold this position.
- Slowly inhale and exhale for a set time or until your breathing starts to speed up.
- When your time is up, your breathing speeds up, or your muscles fatigue, control back to the ground and repeat on the other side
If your shoulder is getting tired try bringing your elbow closer to your hips. Rather than doing this exercise for time you can hold for a certain number of breath cycles.
3. Mountain Climber
Mountain climbers are a great exercise for working on holding posture, important for blocking, hitting and stabilizing rotation.
- On all fours, place your hands under shoulders
- Lift your knees off the ground
- Get long from the ankles through the top of your head.
- Keeping the hips still, slowly bring one knee towards the elbows.
- Slowly return to a high plank position and then raise the other knee up.
- Exhale as you bring the leg up, inhale as you extend the leg back to the floor
Balance a water bottle or foam roller on your low back and try to keep it from falling off. This lets you know how still you are keeping your hips.
4. ½ Kneeling Medicine Ball Chop
The ½ Kneeling chop trains stability in the hips and low back needed for moving around the court while learning to produce more power for hitting.
- One knee down, the other foot flat on the floor in front of you
- You may want a cushion or foam pad for under your one knee
- Both knees should be bent at 90 degrees
- Test if you are upright and stacked over the knee by lifting the front foot of the floor briefly.
- Place the front foot back down for balance
- Stay tall as you slash the ball down across you like you are chopping wood
- Spit the air out as you release the ball
A 4-8lb ball is ideal for this. You want enough resistance to challenge your core, but little enough that it does not slow you down how quickly you move.
5. Overhead Medicine Ball Throw
The overhead medicine ball toss combines jumping and landing technique with challenging your core to transfer the power from your legs.
- Stand tall with a medicine ball in your hands and arms like ropes
- Explode away from the floor tossing the ball as high as you can
- Land quietly like a ninja landing from a tree.
6-10 lb med ball is an appropriate weight as you want to move with speed
Related Article: Reaction Time in Volleyball: 4 Specific Drills To Master
Sample Ab Program for Volleyball Players
Ab Workout For Volleyball #1
The Single leg bridge, side plank, and mountain climber can be used either as warm-up exercises or in a circuit at the end of the workout. If you are using them as part of a warm-up, do 1-2 rounds through. If part of a core circuit complete 2-4 rounds.
- Single-Leg Bridge – 5-15x each leg
- Side Plank – 30-90s or hold for 5-10 breath cycles on each side
- Mountain Climbers – 5-15x each leg
Ab Workouts For Volleyball #2
The ½ Kneeling Medicine Ball Chop and Overhead Medicine Ball Toss are best done when you are fresh, at the beginning of the workout. After your warm-up and before strength exercises is the best time to do power exercises.
- ½ Kneeling Medicine Ball Chop – 3 sets of 5 reps, 1-2 min rest between sets
- Overhead Medicine Ball Toss – 3 sets of 5 reps, 1-2 min rest between sets
For explosive exercises, you will want to be in a range of 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps. Start with higher reps and move to lower reps and more sets as you move from mastering technique to maximal effort reps.
If you are on your own, make sure to rest between sets, so you are recovered enough to be explosive in each set. If you are trying with a partner, an easy way to make sure you are getting rest is to share equipment, so one of you rests, while the other is working.
When building a core program for volleyball, it’s important to train the two functions of the core, postural stability, and power production, and in the directions you use it, twisting and down for hitting, and up for jumping. These two core workouts have been selected as the 5 best ab exercises for volleyball players, as they will do that.
- 13 Best Leg Exercises For Volleyball (Sample Program)
- 12 Best Volleyball Upper Body Exercises & Workouts
- 11 Exercises To Improve Your Volleyball Spike
- 5 Shoulder Exercises for Volleyball Players
- 9 Power Exercises For Volleyball Players (Sample Program)
- 7 Best Arm Workouts For Volleyball Players
- Sprint Workouts For Volleyball (6 Examples)
About The Author
Ian started his strength and conditioning career working with elite youth volleyball athletes. Before coaching, he completed a BSc in Biomechanics at the University of Calgary. He has over a decade of experience working as a kinesiologist and strength and conditioning coach, with teens to octogenarians in positions with community gyms to elite sport. Outside of coaching, you can find Ian learning new sports, skiing, river surfing, hiking, and traveling. If you have questions or are interested in opportunities to work with Ian, connect with him via Instagram, Linkedin, or Website.