Best Exercises For Volleyball + Workout Routine

If you are wanting to tailor your workout routine for volleyball, it is important you are training, agility, power, strength, stability in the core and shoulder, and keeping yourself conditioned.

The best exercises for volleyball players are:

  • T Drill
  • Square Drill
  • ½ Kneeling Ball Chop
  • Overhead Rotational Med Ball Slam
  • CM Jump
  • Trap Bar Jump Squat
  • Deadlift
  • SL Deadlift
  • Squat
  • SL Squat
  • Pull Up
  • ½ Kneeling Row
  • Push Up
  • Incline Bench Press
  • YTW
  • Row Overhead Reach

Below I’ll cover each of these areas to train in more depth, describe these exercises, and put it together in a sample workout routine for volleyball.

How To Structure A Volleyball Strength & Conditioning Workout

how to structure a volleyball strength and conditioning workout

Warm Up Exercises

The first section of any workout should be a warm up. Warming up the body prepares the body to perform and enhances performance while simultaneously reducing chances of injury.

After warming up, the rest of the workout is organized based on the depends of each section on your nervous system and musculoskeletal system

Each section will fatigue these systems however as your nervous system fatigues, it will be harder to focus and execute movements with high intensity. For this reason typically over a workout the progression of sections is from those that require high focus and nervous system demand to those that demand more of the muscles.

Agility Exercises

Following a warm up the next kind of exercise you will want to do are those for agility. The transition from warm up to agility is sometimes quite smooth as the last thing to warm up is the nervous system and then agility drills will utilize this system while it is fresh and primed. 

Agility drills will help with change of direction on the court as well as improving reaction time.

Power Exercises

Once agility exercises are done, but while the nervous system is still fresh, you will want to do power exercises. Like agility exercises, moving weights with speed and the ballistic nature of power exercises also drain the nervous system so they are best done near the beginning of a workout.

By doing ballistic resistance training you can improve your power which translates to jumping higher and hitting harder. Increased muscular power will also help you accelerate and change direction on the court faster.

Strength Exercises

Although strength exercises can be very taxing on the nervous system, this is only the case when doing a few max effort repetitions. In most situations muscle fatigue is the main limiting factor and so  of this it makes sense to put them later in the workout after the agility and power.

Strength exercises have many functions for volleyball players. For people new to strength training for volleyball in general, they create a foundation for someone to become more powerful, jumping higher and hitting harder.

By choosing the right movements to strengthen the chances of injury can be reduced as well, especially if through strength training someone is improving their shoulder and core stability.

Conditioning Exercises

Volleyball players on average will jump 100 or more times in a game and play for an hour or more. It is important that they are conditioned to do that many jumps, recover between points and maintain focus for an extended period of time.

Conditioning will be developed through game play, practices and workouts. However, depending on the time of year, pre season for example, adding conditioning exercises to the end of a workout or setting aside whole sessions just for conditioning may be appropriate. 

Warm-Up Exercises For Volleyball

There are 3 main systems that are important to warm up: the musculoskeletal, the cardiovascular and the nervous system

This is usually done through mobility exercises, dynamic stretching, muscle activation, movement preparation, balance and coordination exercises.

Movement preparation exercises are ones that prepare someone for the movements they will do in their workout. With enough knowledge about movement, this can be combined into the dynamic stretching, coordination and balance exercises to save time. 

However, a simple way to do movement preparation is a warm up set. For example, prior to squatting with weight, do 1 set of squats with little to no weight, focusing on technique and posture.

1. T-Spine Mobility

T-Spine rotations help keep mobility through your thoracic spine, or upper back. The defensive ready posture as well as the way most people sit, encourages the T-Spine to round forward and lose mobility. When you lose mobility in your thoracic, this affects your hitting, and can lead to problems in the shoulder, back and hips.

How To

  • Start on all fours with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders
  • Put one hand on the back of your head
  • Breath in, and open up and pointing your shoulder and elbow for the sky
  • Let your breath flow out as you close, rotating your torso so the shoulder and elbow point towards the ground
  • Keep your hips still as your rotate with your breathing cycle

Pro Tip

If you are having trouble keeping the hips still, try placing a roller upright beside your legs, making sure you stay in contact with it, but also don’t push it over.

2. World’s Greatest Stretch

This is a dynamic stretching exercise that moves through multiple postures, allowing you to move through more and more range of motion as you do each rep. It is a great exercise to start with for dynamic stretching as it can be done slowly, allowing someone to feel where they are tight and may need to do some additional mobility/ stretching. 

How To

  • Start by stepping on foot forward and dropping into a lunge position
  • Straighten the leg the is back and take that same side hand and place it on the floor across from your front foot
  • With the free arm, (same side as your front foot) reach your elbow for the floor
  • The press your hand on the ground into the floor and reach the free hand for the sky
  • Bring that free hand back down towards the floor but on the outside of the front foot (your front foot is now between your two hands)
  • Rock back reaching your hips up, straightening the front leg, while keeping the back leg also as straight as possible
  • Step your legs together and repeat on the other side

Pro Tip

Your two feet and one hand make a triangle for your base of support. Placing your hand farther to the side, away from the foot helps with stability.

3. Lateral Lunge

While this can be done as a strength training exercises lateral lunges can also be a dynamic stretch for the groin. When using it as a groin stretch, move slowly in and out of the lateral step paying attention to how shifting the hips stretches areas that feel tight.

How To

  • Step to the side, loading one leg and slowly pull yourself into a squat
  • Step back to the middle and repeat on the other side

Pro Tip

The direction the toes point can mkae a difference as to which part of the groin is stretched. Point the toes of the trailing leg more in or out to feel the stretch in different places in the groin.

4. Monster Walk

Monster walks are an activation exercise for the glute medius muscle. This is an important stability muscle for the hips. Because of our typical lifestyle, many people don’t use this muscle properly. An activation exercise to help rebuild the brain muscle connection can help it engage properly while working out.

How To

  • Place a band around the knees
  • Sit into a defensive ready position
  • Slowly walk forward rolling through the foot and keeping tension on the band

 Pro Tip

Using a thicker band will make the exercises more difficult. Alternatively moving the band from around the knees, to around ankles, to around the feet also makes the exercise more difficult.

5. Mountain Climber

Mountain climbers are another activation exercise for stabilizing muscles. The intent of this is to improve brain muscle connection for the core and shoulder stabilizers. Again, because of posture and lack of use, it is a good idea to activate them as a part of warm up. 

How To

  • On all fours, place your hands under shoulders and straighten your legs so you are in the top of a push up position
  • Get long from the ankles through the top of your head by imagining you are gently squeezing a foam pad between your legs.
  • 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
  • Move slowly and in control

 Pro Tip

To make sure you are in control and keeping the hips still, try balancing a water bottle or foam roller on your back

6. Fast Feet

Moving with speed and precision requires coordination, and balance and the body to be primed for movement. By doing exercises like fast feet, you can signal to your nervous system you need to be in a fight, flight mode, alert, engaged and primed for activity rather than calming down for rest and digesting. 

How To

  • Stand behind a line
  • To start step over the line and back as fast as you can
  • Continue for 5-10s then rest
  • Repeat this cycle for 3 sets.

 Pro Tip

Keep the upper body relaxed. It is common to want to tense up the faster you move, try to stay relaxed.

Agility Exercises For Volleyball

Agility exercises will help with change of direction and reaction time. These qualities are important as volleyball is a very quick game mostly made up of short movements and lots of change of direction.

Change of direction exercises will help you learn the movement skills of deceleration turning and accelerating.

Agility exercises ask you to use the skills learned in  change of direction exercise in response to some external stimulus, like reacting to a ball or last second instructions on where to run.

1. Race to the Floor

This is a reaction time drill that includes some arm torso and leg movements. It will help connect the visual system with quick eye hand coordination movements. 

How To

  • Stand across from a partner who has a ball in each hand (tennis ball sized or smaller)
  • Your partner will hold the ball arms out at shoulder height 
  • The partner will drop either left right or both balls
  • Catch the balls or ball before they hit the floor

 Pro Tip

Anticipate pulling yourself into a squat to give yourself more time to catch the ball.

2. T Drill

This a change of direction exercise that teaches movement in multiple directions. Sprinting, shuffling, and backpedal are all useful skills in volleyball that are practiced. Additionally going through those movements in a sequence allows for deceleration and acceleration to be practiced.

 How To

  • Set up 4 cones in a T with 10m from the base to the cross in the T and 5m from the middle of the T to each side at the top. 
  • Start at at the base and sprint to the middle cone of the T
  • Shuffle to one side
  • Then shuffle all the was across the top of the T to the other side
  • Then shuffle back to the middle cone
  • Then backpedal back to the base of the T
  • Take a rest and next time repeat going the other direction first
  • One set is 4-6 sprints
  • Rest 2-4 min between sets and do 1 – 3 sets
  • This can be turned into an agility drill by having a coach or training partner call which way to shuffle as you sprint up to the middle cone of the T

 Pro Tip

Take short quick steps as you look to change direction and stay low when shuffling.

3. Triangle or Square Agility

This is a multi direction agility drill that takes the change or direction skills learned above and requires them to be used in response to external instructions. This drill does require a partner or coach to call out directions.

How To

  • Set up cones in a triangle and assign them cues (1, 2, 3 for example)
  • Stand in the middle of the triangle and touch the cone that is called out
  • Return to the middle between each cone touch
  • After 5-10 cones are called take a rest
  • Rest 2-4 min and do 3-10 sets
  • If training with a partner the rest break can be alternating who is calling and who is in the triangle
  • To make the drille more difficult add a 4th cone and make a box or diamond.

Pro Tip

This drill can also be done with two people in triangles/ boxes facing each other, with one mirroring the other. 

Power Exercises For Volleyball

Power exercises are resistant or strength exercises done with speed. The aim is to learn how to produce force faster. This means rather than how much weight or how many reps can be done, focus on how high you jump, far you throw or fast you can move. 

These kinds of exercises will translate to how high someone jumps and how hard they hit. 

1. Overhead Rotational Ball Slam

This is an upper body power exercise. The rotational slam develops the rational power through the core as well as in the arms. As a result this should translate into the rotation of hitting and the power needed in the arm. 

 How To

  • Stand tall with the feet shoulder width apart holding a medicine ball overhead
  • Slam it into the floor beside one foot
  • Catch the ball or pick it up and return to the over head position
  • Repeat on the other side.

Pro Tip

Use a light medicine ball 2-8lbs, so that the movement is still done with maximum speed, like hitting.

2. ½ Kneeling Med Ball Chop Toss

The ½ kneeling chop develops stability in the lower body, improving power in the upper body for hitting. While similar to the overhead rotational toss, by being on 1 knee there are less joints that can move, making it less complex for the brain, while also isolating the upper body, separating it from hip movement. 

How To

  • One knee down, the other foot flat on the floor in front of you may (a cushion or foam pad for under your one knee, may help for comfort and to level the hips)
  • 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

Pro Tip

You want enough resistance to challenge your core, but little enough that it does not slow you down how quickly you move. A 2-8lb ball is ideal for this. 

3. Counter Movement Jumps

This exercise can help ingrained good jumping and landing technique while also developing the stretch shortening cycle, a key part of helping you jump higher. As it is relatively safe to perform it would be a good power exercise for people newer to training as well as those who are advanced.

How To

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and arms raised above your head
  • Drive your arms down pulling yourself into a squat 
  • Immediately explode up by driving your feet into the floor and getting as tall as you can
  • Land the jump quietly as you can
  • Immediately explode off the floor again

 Pro Tip

If the knees are collapsing in as someone squats, it may be helpful to place a mini band around the knees as a reminder to use the glutes.

4. Trap Bar Jumping Squats

This would be an advanced power exercise as it requires jumping while holding a load. Having great jumping technique and the ability to do continuous counter movement squats would be good pre requisite to adding a trap bar.

If done correctly, it can lead to improvements in jumping similar to olympic lifting, but requires much less technical learning

 How To

  • Load a trap bar with no more than 20% of your max trap bar squat
  • Hold the handles and perform a jump for a squatting position
  • Land as quietly as possible and repeat the jump for the number of reps suggested.

Pro Tip

Let the weight come down to the floor between reps. This will unload the spine and reduce the load you need to bring to stop and change of direction.

Strength Exercises For Volleyball

Volleyball is an explosive sport, so maximal strength and lifting heavy loads is not the aim of strength exercises for volleyball players. However resistance exercises provide a foundation of strength for power exercises.

Doing resistance exercises at moderate to heavy loads can build the foundation to become more powerful as well as the shoulder and core stability needed to reduce the chance of injury.

1. Deadlift

Deadlifting develops strength in your hip hinge, which is the most important way of developing power for jumping. Deadlifting 2x per week has been shown to increase vertical jump by 7%.

How To

  • Hold a bar or dumbbells in your hands while standing tall
  • Squeeze the air out of your armpits or if you are using a bar, try to bend it around your legs
  • Push your hips for the wall behind you
  • Push the ground away to stand tall

Pro Tip

If your back starts to round, you start to bend more at the knees, or you can’t push your full foot into the ground to stand up, you have tried to push the hips too far back.

If you are having difficulty with technique, try deadlifting with a wall or pole behind you. Set your hips up so the wall keeps you in proper form and from pushing the hips to far back. Over time you will learn what proper form feels like and move away from the wall.

2. Single Leg Deadlift

It is important to be strong and stable on two legs as well as one. Single leg deadlifts are more advanced as they require much more core and hip stability than double leg. Before incorporating single leg deadlifts into a workout, master the hinging motion of the deadlift with 2 legs. 

 How To

  • Hold a bar or dumbbells in your hands while standing tall
  • Squeeze the air out of your armpits or if you are using a bar, try to bend it around your legs
  • Reach one foot for the wall behind you
  • Push the ground away to stand tall

Pro Tip

Like the double leg deadlift, if your back starts to round, you start to bend more at the knees, or you can’t push your full foot into the ground to stand up, you have tried to push the hips too far back.

3. Squat

Squatting improves leg strength through a similar motion to jumping and requires good core and postural stability. As all of these are important physical needs of volleyball, squatting is a central part of a good workout program for volleyball.

Good technique is more important than weight and depth and is worth taking the time to develop. However when squatting for jumping there is a difference between squatting with the hips below the knees vs above. 

Once someone has the technique and strength to squat with their hips going below the knees, this is worthwhile as it has been shown to increase jump height up to 7% more than squatting without going that low.

 How To

  • Grab the bar just wider than shoulder width apart
  • Drive your elbows under the bar and up to create a shelf across your shoulders and chest
  • Feet shoulder width a part, pull yourself into the squat like you are sitting on a chair
  • Push the ground away to stand back up tall

Pro Tip

If you have trouble with the front rack position, stretching your lat muscles can help. If it is still difficult to hold the bar, holding a weight in front of your chest are a possible alternative.

4. Single Leg Squat

Developing strength in one leg will translate into double leg squats as well, helping someone jump off 1 foot or 2. This is a more advanced exercise than front squats and requires significant strength to come out of a deep squat position. Before attempting a single leg, master the technique and build some strength in a 2 legged squat.

How To

  • Stand tall with one foot on the edge of a box the other hanging off
  • Pull yourself into the squat like you were sitting on a chair
  • Keep your standing leg knee over the box
  • Push the ground away to return to a standing tall position

Pro Tip

Holding a light weight in your hands and pushing it away from you as you squat, acts as improves squat posture for people still needing to improve core strength. As the core gets stronger, you can keep the weight closer to your chest to act as added resistance.

5. ½ Kneeling Row

Rowing in this position builds back strength, the ability to rotate the shoulders without the hips and stability in the shoulder. These will help with your hitting, posture and general stability of the arms during play.

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 loading through back knee
  • Holding a cable or band, in the opposite hand to the front leg
  • If your hip bones are headlights, they should shine straight forward as you complete the row
  • Drive your elbow past your side rotating your shoulders as the elbow drives back
  • Control extending the arm back in front of you, allowing your shoulders to rotate to face the front leg

 Pro Tip

Attaching the cable at shoulder height or slightly higher will encourage you to keep the shoulder in a stable position.

5. Pull Ups

Pull ups will improve the function and stability of the shoulder while building lat strength for serves and spikes. To do a pull up requires more upper body strength than many people have. There are lots or alternatives like the one in the pro tip to help people build up to doing full pull ups.

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 head up
  • Control down
  • Exhale on the way up, inhale on the way down

 Pro Tip

If you need assistance to do more reps, place a barbell in the rack at chest height and use your feet for a little extra push.

6. Push Up

Push ups train multiple muscles used for volleyball at once. Your core has to hold your spine stable, like in a block, and the shoulder stabilizers, pecs and triceps build strength for hitting, getting off the floor and other arm movements. 

 How To

  • Start in a high plank position with your feet hip width apart and hands slightly wider than your shoulders
  • Keep yourself long from your heels to your ears, by imagining your are squeezing a pillow between your legs
  • 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

If someone is unable to, push out of the bottom position moving your body as one unit, start with your hands on a bench, or box and lower the height as you get stronger.

7. Incline Bench Press

Dumbbell bench pressing works on chest strength, used in hitting and pressing yourself off the ground after a dive. By using free weights instead of a barbell, shoulder stability can also be worked on.

How To

  • Lie on an incline bench with dumbbells in your hands
  • Punch for the roof with the dumbbells
  • Control back down
  • Keep your spine long and tall as you perform each rep

 Pro Tip

For optimal shoulder stability, there will be a ~45 degree angle between your arms and torso when your elbows are at chest height or lower.

8. YTW

This is an exercise to work on the stabilizing muscles in the shoulder blade. Shoulder stability is extremely important for slowing down the arm after hitting. Building strength in these muscles can reduce the chances of injury.

 How To

  • Lie on your stomach with your hands out to the side. You can rest your head on a towel for comfort.
  • Y – With thumbs pointing to the sky, lift the hands up and out at 45 degrees so your body and arms make a Y shape. Lower the hands back to the floor with control.
  • T – Hands straight out to the sides, lift the hands as high as you can squeezing the shoulder blades together. Control back to the floor.
  • W – Bend your elbows, your hands are beside your shoulders and thumbs still point to the sky. Lift the arms as high as you can. Control back to the floor.
  • Continue to cycle through each position.

 Pro Tip

Once body weight reps are easy. Perform the same movements standing pulling a band or cable for resistance or with very light weights in each hand.

9. Row Overhead Reach

Row to overhead reach is another shoulder stability exercise. This is more complicated than YTWs and so may make sense to add in only if YTWs can be done feeling like symmetrical and strength on both sides.

How To

  • Hold a band or cable in each hand and lift hands in front of you to shoulder
  • Drive the elbows behind you and bring them to shoulder height
  • Keeping the elbows in the same position, rotate the arm so the hands inline with the top of the head
  • Reach as high as you can overhead
  • Bring the elbows back to shoulder height and hands stacked above the elbows
  • Rotate the arm keeping the 90 degree angle at the elbow and bringing the elbows and hands to shoulder height
  • Stand in control as you return to the start position

 Pro Tip

When reaching overhead, especially if you are doing both arms at the same time, make sure not to poke your head forward but to keep your spine tall.

Conditioning Exercises For Volleyball

conditioning exercises for volleyball

Volleyball games can be an hour or more. However when conditioning for volleyball it’s important to look at the demands of the game, not just the length. 

As volleyball is short bursts of high intensity movement with rests breaks in between. So although this is done over a long time span, it is better to do conditioning exercises that mirror game play, as in short sprints or agility drills.

Not only do short intervals condition the cardiovascular system, it will create muscle adaptations that are similar to the ones needed for jumping high and explosive movements on court. 

It is important to note that slow lower intensity exercises can create muscle adaptations that condition someone for endurance exercise and can decrease the muscles ability to produce rapid force decreasing jump height. 

WIth this in mind, conditioning for volleyball would be best done by short sprints at the end of practice or a workout. Or, could be done by doing multiple sets of drills that combine sprinting, shuffling, and backpedaling like the T drill and triangle agility drill mentioned previously. 

For more options for drills that can be used for conditioning read Sprint Workouts for Volleyball.

If you are intending to do a lot of sets to improve conditioning it may make sense to split this workout from strength and make it a separate day’s workout. 

Putting It Together: Workout Routine For Volleyball

½ Kneeling chop toss
Trap bar jump
Squat
Pull Ups
½ Kneeling Row
YTWs
Row overhead reach
DB bench

Day #1

RepsSetsRest
Warm Up
1. T-Spine Mobility10x/side
2. World’s Greatest Stretch5-10/ side
3. Lateral Lunge5-10/ side2-330s
4. Monster Walk10m
5. Mountain Climbers10x/side
6. Fast Feet5-10s
Agility Drills
Race to the Floor T-Drill5 drops430s
Power Exercises
½ Kneeling Chop Toss3-5x/side3-41-2min
Countermovement Jumps3-4x/ side3-41-2min
Strength Exercises
1a. Deadlift
1b. Push Up
8-10
8-10
3-4
2a. Single Leg Squat
2b. ½ Kneeling Row
8-10
8-10
3-430s
3. YTWs10-153

Day #2

RepsSetsRest
Warm Up
1. T-Spine Mobility10x/side
2. World’s Greatest Stretch5-10/ side
3. Lateral Lunge5-10/ side2-330s
4. Monster Walk10m
5. Mountain Climbers10x/side
6. Fast Feet5-10s
Agility Drills
Race to the Floor
Triangle/Square Drill
5 drops430s
Power Exercises
Overhead Rotational Ball Slam3-5x/side3-41-2min
Trap Bar Squat Jumps3-4x/ side3-41-2min
Strength Exercises
1a. Single Leg Deadlift
1b. Incline Bench Press
8-10
8-10
3-4
2a. Squat
2b. Pull Ups
8-10
8-10
3-430s
3. Row Overhead Reach10-153

Day #3

RepsSetsRest
Triangle Agility3-620s rest between reps

1-2min rest between sets
T-Drill43-620s rest between reps

1-2min rest between sets
Half Court Sprints (9m)63-620s rest between reps

1-2min rest between sets

Other Strength & Conditioning Resources

Final Thoughts

When picking the best exercises for volleyball there are many things to consider in building a workout. Developing agility, power, core and shoulder stability are some of the most important outcomes of a good program. 

In order to do this it is also important to warm up, strength train and stay conditioned.

The program laid out will build a solid foundation for athleticism and improve those key outcomes of agility, power, core and shoulder stability.


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.