7 Best Arm Workouts For Volleyball Players

If you are looking to develop more strength in your arms for volleyball, it is important to pick exercises that build the ability to move the arms with speed, and have them work in conjunction with the shoulder to stay stable. 

 The 7 best arm exercises for volleyball players are:

  • Med Ball Single Arm Chest Pass
  • Med Ball Overhead Slam
  • Overhead Press
  • Push Ups
  • Straight Arm Pulldown
  • Bow and Arrow

Below I’ll cover each of these exercises in detail and provide sample programs to help integrate them into your strength training routine.

Why Is Your Arm Important for Volleyball?
Types of Serves In Volleyball
Types of Serves In Volleyball

Why is your arm important for volleyball

Arms are what help you perform the main technical skills of volleyball. If there is not a strong athletic foundation of mobility, strength, power and coordination it will be harder to learn the skills or perform them as a game goes on.

The focus of this article is on the (1) strength to repeatedly move the arm, and (2) power to move it with speed.  Let’s cover each of those aspects now. 

For specific hand eye coordination exercises can be found in How To Improve Coordination & Balance in Volleyball.

Strength

Strength endurance is the ability to repeatedly lift a load. In this case that would be repeatedly lifting the arms for digging, jumping, setting, serving and spiking.

As the game goes on your arms will fatigue. This means it will feel more effortful to lift the arms, you will possibly start to move them slower, and with less coordination.

The result of this is possibly, not getting in position on defense fast enough for digging and blocking, or losing power and aim in your serving and hitting.

By building strength endurance in the arms, you can lessen the effects of fatigue in a game.

Power

The muscular aspect of power is about producing force quickly so that you can move your arm with speed.

Through strength training and exercise the ability to do this can be improved.

For producing power in the arms, it is also important to have full use of your range of motion and stability in the shoulder. 

The greater your range of motion, the longer the distance your muscles have to accelerate and decelerate the arm.

The movement of your rib cage and shoulder blade play a large role in the mobility you have of the arm at the shoulder. The muscles attached to them in your upper back are responsible for the stability you will have in the shoulder.

To learn more about improving this mobility and stability specifically, read my article 5 Shoulder Exercises for Volleyball Players.

What Makes A Good Arm Exercise For Volleyball Players?

When training for any sport, the first consideration is what muscles or movements does the sport use

In the case of volleyball there is lots of movements of the arm in positions below and above the head

A specific range of motion often used is bringing the arm down repeatedly and with speed for hitting and serving.

Exercises that teach you to move your arm with speed and explosiveness like the overhead med ball slam and ½ kneeling single arm med ball chest pass can improve your ability to produce power for this movement.

Another example of an exercise that can build strength through the range of motion of hitting is the straight arm pulldown. 

Heavy strength exercises like a max bench press would not be the best exercises to include in a program. When moving maximum weights you are moving slowly and only once. This is not the best way to build the adaptations of moving quickly or moving repeatedly as you need to in game.

Something else to consider in arm exercise selection for volleyball is the arm is stabilized at the shoulder. And, most movements in volleyball move both the shoulder and elbow joint at the same time.

The muscles that move the arm have to be coordinated and work together with the muscles stabilizing the shoulder joint if you want maximum use of the arm.

Machine exercises often don’t require much use of stabilizers and so using free weights and bodyweight exercises would be a better selection.

When an exercise only uses one joint it will build some stability around the surrounding joints, but only in the position they are being held in.

For example free weight bicep curls or tricep extensions are an improvement over machines, but still only have movement at the elbow. 

Exercises like, pull ups, push ups, overhead press, and bow and arrow have movement in the shoulder and at the elbow. This will develop strength in the arms while stabilizing the shoulder through a range of motion.

7 Best Arm Exercises for Volleyball Players 

1. Med Ball Overhead Slam

This exercise builds explosiveness in the arms, especially for serving and hitting.

How To

  • Stand feet shoulder width apart with a med ball in your hands and overhead 
  • Throw the ball down as hard as you can, like you were spiking the ball

Pro Tip

You may want to put a mat or cushion on the floor to protect the floor or reduce the bounce of the ball. If the ball used is too hard it could damage the floor and if it is too bouncy it rebounds and hits you before you can catch it. 

2. ½ Kneeling Single Arm Chest Pass

This is an explosive exercise to develop power in the arms and chest.

How To

  • Kneeling down on 1 knee. If needed place a pad under the knee, to help with comfort and to level the hips 
  • Lift your front foot off the ground briefly to align yourself over the back knee. The front foot is just for balance, you want to be tall and stable loaded through back knee 
  • Hold a medicine ball in both hands with your elbows up 
  • Rotate so one shoulder points at the wall, one behind you 
  • Rotate your shoulders and push the ball like you are trying to throw it through a wall 
  • If your hip bones are headlights, they should shine straight forward as you stay tall through the whole movement 

Pro Tip

Set up far enough Viagra from the wall the the ball bounces once and comes back to you.

3. Standing Overhead Press

Standing overhead press will develop the strength in extending your arm, like as you snap or whip on a spike as well as shoulder strength and stability.

How To

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and dumbbells in hand at shoulder height 
  • Make sure your posture is stacked, ears over shoulders, over hips, over feet 
  • With your palms facing towards each other, punch for the roof 
  • Control your arms back down to your sides 
  • Your elbows at the start and end position will be by your sides or slightly ahead of you

Pro Tip

Be aware that it is common to want to arc the back so that you can “lift” more weight. Pay attention to the feeling of being stack at the beginning and maintain it through the punch and while you are extended in the arms.

4. Push Ups

Building your pecs and triceps through push ups will help with hitting, getting off the floor and other arm movements.

How To

  • Start with your feet hip width apart and hands on the floor slightly wider than your shoulders 
  • Keeping yourself long from your heels to your ears 
  • Lower your chest to the ground 
  • At the bottom position, there should be a 45 degree angle between your torso and your arm 
  • Push the ground away to return to the start position  

Pro Tip

Start with your hands on a bench, or box if it is difficult to press yourself up, not breaking in the low back/ hips. And then lower the height of your hands as you get stronger.

5. Straight Arm Pulldown

This exercise builds strength in the lats for blocking and hitting.

How To

  • Stand tall and hold a cable or band in both hands with it attached as high as possible 
  • If need be, hinge at your hips, like you are deadlifting so you can start with your arms overhead 
  • Pull the bar/ band apart and drive your arms towards your legs 
  • Slowly allow the bar/ band to pull your arms back overhead

Pro Tip

The more upright you are the more you will need to use your core to hold your posture. Doing this exercise from your knees can allow you to stay upright while still having the band/ cable bar attached high enough.

6. Pull Up

Pull ups will building strength in the biceps and lats for serves and spikes.

How To

  • Grab the bar wider than shoulder width with your palms facing away from you 
  • Imagine you are bending the bar over your head as you drive your elbows for the floor 
  • Control down 
  • Exhale on the way up, inhale on the way down 

Pro Tip

If you are unable to start with full pull ups, start by jumping up to the top hang position and slowly lower yourself.

7. Bow and Arrow

Bow and arrow works static stability in strength in one arm, while dynamically challenging the other. This not only builds strength but also mimics some of the initial movements for a hit. 

How To

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart 
  • Hold a band between your hands with one arm straight out to the side and the other across your body, like you are holding a bow 
  • Keeping your hands at shoulder height, drive your bent elbow backwards, like you are pulling a bow 
  • Return to the start position in control 
  • Your shoulders will rotate through the movement, but the lower body should stay still 

Pro Tip

It is better to use less resistance for more reps and still move through the full range of motion than to use a band that doesn’t allow you to move through the full range of motion.  

Related Article: Reaction Time in Volleyball: 4 Specific Drills To Master

Sample Arm Program for Volleyball Players

sample arm program for volleyball players

Arm Volleyball Workout #1

  • Med Ball Overhead Slam – 3×5-3
  • ½ Kneeling Single Arm Med Ball Single Arm Press – 3×5-3
  • Pull Ups – 3×8-10
  • Standing Overhead Press – 3×8-10
  • Bow and Arrow – 3×10-12

Arm Volleyball Workout #2 

  • Med Ball Overhead Slam – 3×5-3
  • ½ Kneeling Single Arm Med Ball Single Arm Press – 3×5-3
  • Straight Arm Pulldown – 3×8-10
  • Push Ups – 3×8-10 
  • Bow and Arrow – 3×10-12

When training you will always want to start with power or explosive exercises after you warm up. After the explosive exercises do more strength based exercises working the muscles towards fatigue. 

The explosive exercises start with more reps and as you develop better technique reduce the reps and add a little more resistance.

For strength exercises start at a weight you can do for 8 reps. Work up to 3 sets of 10 reps. Then add more weight and start at 8 reps and repeat the cycle.

Other Strength & Conditioning Resources

Final Thoughts

If you want to improve your volleyball game, strength training for the arms can help with this.

The goal of an arm strength training program would be to build resistance to fatigue and the ability to produce power to hit or resist the impact of the ball when blocking.

Implementing the sample programs shared here can help with both of these qualities.


About The Author

Ian Colburn

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 InstagramLinkedin, or Website.