Hey guys! Today I want to cover an essential topic for all levels of volleyball players – speed and agility. This blog will cover some fundamentals for beginners and some things to try for the pros. Read more on how to boost your speed and reflexes in volleyball.
Every good volleyball player can quickly change direction, chase down stray digs, and get their body on the floor efficiently. Every GREAT volleyball player is able to do all of those things… just faster than anyone else.
I won’t negate the importance of using great eye work to be faster, and you can find that topic discussed here:
1. Increase speed in volleyball with flexibility and mobility
Being limber is any athlete’s greatest weapon for long-term success. People who practice being flexible and taking good care of their joints will avoid injury, avoid chronic pains that take them out for long periods of time, and add to the overall body positions they can accomplish on the court.
So what does being limber mean? I take this as someone who has great flexibility, joint mobility, and the ability to not only get yourself into difficult positions… but get yourself out of them as well. I like to call it “strength through range”
Being limber DOES not diminish weight room gains. I am a staunch believer in the fact that strength through range of motion is an asset. If you (appropriately) train the full range of any movement, you are building strength in your muscle as well as your tendons.
Having fast reflexes means your body needs to MOVE. You will employ your entire muscular-skeletal system. This means joints, bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles are involved. You MUST build tensility into your tendons. That means mobility and strength. People who can lower themselves closer to the ground doing back squats, A.K.A “ass to grass” are not only building strength for the entire range of motion but putting their joints under controlled duress.
Being flexible will help your Long-Term goals:
Additionally, tight muscles restrict your body’s ability to move quickly. Think about it this way, if you have tight hip flexors you limit the range your hips can extend through a jumping motion. Full extension of the legs allows your body to be open and hit the ball harder. Being able to fully rotate your torso allows you to generate the whip-like motion I talked about in the Ultimate Hitter’s Guide! Using the FULL potential of your muscles will make you a better volleyball player.
Without flexibility or productive stretching, you make yourself vulnerable. You won’t get faster – and you’re more prone to injury. Take your stretching and training for being limber seriously – you won’t regret it!
2. Footwork to Increase speed in volleyball
I have talked about having good footwork before. There are three benefits to doing it – no matter your level, it’s a great way to warm up. It helps generate some muscle memory AND if you are doing it game-speed or faster than game speed… you’re training the muscles to move faster.
Footwork as a warm-up:
I personally love doing game footwork to warm up. It gets you ready to focus your mind but is also a perfect time to make errors. Errors that you make from going too fast! Try doing blocking footwork, defensive footwork, and some approach jumps at game speed or faster than game speed. If you need your body to move fast – the best way to train it is to practice moving fast.
In college, I had a great strength and conditioning coach who told me while doing ladders, “if you’re not messing up on the ladder – you’re not going fast enough”. Making an error trying to make your feet go faster is a great way to improve not only your speed but your body-mind connection.
Generating muscle memory:
Which leads me back to muscle memory. During a game, you don’t want to have to think about the next steps you’re taking. You just want to be able to do the motion. Muscle memory can take you a long way when you have to make decisions on a split-second basis. The better you know your steps and which ones to take, the more you can focus your attention on reading the game. Having a body-mind connection is everything In volleyball.
My favorite footwork includes a couple of approaches, transitions out of defense to get ready to attack, defense movements, blocking, and even things like diving for a sprawl or pancake. These are the simplest and best ways to train your body to become more agile and responsive.
Make EVERY move fast:
Remember, when trying footwork go faster than you would normally need to. As your level progresses you will need to be faster to keep up. Stay ahead of the game. Take five minutes to warm up with footwork or try the drills below as FAST as you can. Remember making mistakes is how you improve your skills. You don’t always need to be right, but you will always need to be fast. It’s a great way to improve your speed and agility in volleyball.
3. Volleyball agility drills
Disclaimer: Please note that trying new things in the gym is ALWAYS okay. However, DO NOT practice any exercises that are new to you without supervision or guidance. The goal is improvement NOT to get injured. Being limber DOES NOT require pushing your body to extremes. It is a long game that needs to be developed over time.
Put in the work, reap the benefits:
Finally, let’s talk about some off-court training exercises. The best thing about training speed and agility is that it can be done from anywhere. I already mentioned some mobility and strength training will add to your ability to be limber. If you have a strength coach, ask about some safe yet practical things you can do in the gym.
If you don’t have access to a gym, find a set of stairs, a flat surface to run on, or some sidewalk chalk to draw a ladder on the pavement. Stairs are a great way to build power and tensile strength in your tendons.
I should mention the importance of having strong Achilles tendons as well as strong feet. Think of power as a way to push yourself away from the earth. You will be generating quite a bit of force through your feet. Being fast is more than having power – you can train for speed with these drills:
Try doing these drills:
- Up and down on one stair – single foot and both feet (as fast as possible)
- Two up, one down (go the full flight of stairs)
- Lead with the left & the right
- Put yourself perpendicular to the stairs and then switch sides
- Start in a sprinter’s position – go about 10 yards and then stop (the focus here is to be fast going from 0 up to max speed)
- Hill sprints
- Depth jumps (try some landing, and some with a max jump right after)
- Jump over hurdles (I have used just a couple of water bottles before)
- Practice taking an approach, landing and then jumping right away again
- Practice side shuffling
- Cone drills, practice moving in different patterns (move all directions: forwards backward and side to side)
- Draw or use a ladder. Find some patterns you’re unfamiliar with and try new things! (great for your body-mind connection)
- Line hops (side to side, forward and backward, etc.)
- Elevated agility moves (use a small stool and eventually go higher!)
- Donkey kicks
There are great agility drills to be found on Youtube as well!
Remember, you will only get faster by practicing being faster. Push your limits and see how much you improve! Happy training. As always, have fun and work hard and with time you will become better volleyball player! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to do that below!