The 5 Step Guide to Improving a Volleyball Player’s Vertical Jump

By Daniel Jahn, CSCS, USAW, NASM-PES
Maximum Sports Conditioning

Step 1. Strengthen your posture and mechanics
Step 2. Develop your body awareness and balance
Step 3. Strengthen your posterior chain
Step 4. Improve your overall power
Step 5. Maximize your power through shock training and plyometric 

l. Phase I- Postural Stability

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Poor athletic posture leads to mechanical errors. Often volleyball players will find themselves struggling as the match goes on and won't realize that its due to the inability to maintain proper mechanics as the body fatigues.

Poor posture is usually a result of structural deviations, along with weakness and imbalances in spinal erectae, teres minor, teres major, latissimus dorsi, and other muscles and connective tissues along the posterior chain.

Contrary to certain belief, athletic posture can be changed by doing a series of exercises that won't take very long at all.

Phase II-   Dynamic Balance and Motor Control

The ability to control one’s body while moving (kinesthetic awareness) is crucial to developing proper jumping mechanics.  Phase II focuses on proprioception, motor control and enhancing the athlete’s recognition of the movements their body makes while jumping, changing direction, and landing.

An athlete can have all the strength in the world, but if they are unable to transfer that strength into movements which will benefit them during competition, it won’t help.

Phase III-  Jump Conditioning

Jump conditioning is great because it can be done just about anywhere. It works to improve jump mechanics and elevation, aids in power endurance (the ability to produce powerful movements for an extended period of time), and helps promote connective tissue and ligament strength.

Athletes who have some experience training will spend a large amount of time in this phase. There are many variations of exercises, and are almost unlimited in what you can do.  The principles of the Phase include- mid-level intensity, all directions, all dimensions, all planes, very low-level plyometric activity (hops, bounds, skips, etc..).

Phase IV-  Resistance Training

Volleyball players MUST engage in highly specific, progressive and structured strength training if they want to maximize their genetic potential. Far too often volleyball players perform strength based activities that do not reflect the nature of the sport, and thus don't benefit their performance.

Squats, snatches, power cleans, and all variations of posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, hips, lumbar spine, thoracic spine) exercises are great for developing power and increasing the vertical jump.

Phase V-  Shock training and Plyometrics

The shock method of training was invented in the 50's and 60's by Russian Track & Field coach and sports scientist, Yuri Verkoshanski.  It’s designed to improve reactionary ability, speed, and increase power production.  It is characterized by the length of amortization phase (change of direction phase) or time on the ground.

The goal is to minimize ground contact time, and increase the height of the jump.  Typically depth jumps/drops are used, and over time the athlete is progressed by increasing the height of the drop.

Plyometrics should not be done prior to developing the first 4 phases of jump training because they are extremely demanding on the central nervous system.