Author: Alexander Bell-Moratto
Volleyball Key Performance Indicators:
Amalgamated from 27 Studies and Over 800 Players.
Whether you are trying to make your high school team, or you are a professional looking to gain that slight competitive edge, no volleyball training plan can be effective without goals. Generally, volleyball is an easier sport to train for: the higher you jump, the better… and that’s just about it. But how do you know your training is improving your vertical (vert)? What is strong enough?
Many of the world’s best strength coaches use the idea of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to guide their training. You improve your KPI’s, and in theory, you improve your sport. This is pretty straightforward when you are talking about something like track and field, but it gets muddy with team sports since there are so many variables. Lucky for volleyball players, their physical demands are pretty simple:
Be very agile for a few steps in each direction/React fast.
Be able to do this for a whole game/tournament.
There is a lot of fancy tools out there to track all sorts of cool aspects of KPI’s. But after combing through over 30 studies looking at physical properties of male indoor volleyball players, there are some simple KPI’s that can be used to:
Track gainz without any special equipment.
Audit your training to make sure your numbers in the gym are going to get you better on the court.
Convince stubborn oldschool coaches why to use updated training methods.
Why Should You Listen To ME?!
This is a very fair question; the internet is rife with training plans to ‘double your vert in ___ weeks”. Firstly, I’m not a salesman promising huge gainz in vert when you use my special method. There are many ways to improve athletically, and anyone saying their method is the only way is looking for customers.I simply see a need for improvement (or update of information) in the training of the sport I love. I’ve worked as a strength coach with volleyball players from youth talent teams all the way up to professional teams (including taking myself from a mediocre youth ‘career’ to eventually playing professionally in Europe).
I am one of the few undersized opposite players (6’3” or 193cm) you will ever meet who went from squeaking his way onto a university team in Canada to finished his career playing several seasons professionally in Europe. I am not a genetic freak who could dunk out of the womb (like many of my teammates). A big reason I have kept up with bigger, faster guys my whole career is through hard/smart training off the court.
Lastly, this article is based on 27 studies that looked at over 800 volleyball players. These were all relatively new studies (I didn’t use anything from the 80’s and steered away from the 90s as much as I could). These studies looked at players in the highest levels around the world including many highly ranked national teams (senior and development), Italian League, Belgian League, NCAA, CIS, etc.
Without further ado… Let’s take a look:
What these diagrams are not:
They are not a training plan: Don’t take this information and go ‘okay, if I train these 7 things, then I will be a great player’. Don’t train the tests, test the tests. Especially young players – the younger you are, the less specific the training needs to be.
They are also not a meta-analysis: Yes, they are a compilation of many scientific studies, but they have not gone through the rigor of scientific inquiry. I can speculate what these numbers mean, but it’s just my biased interpretation. So don’t get married to the numbers as if Moses is holding them etched in stone, while standing on a mountain-top. They are simply a starting point.
They are not an excuse for gifted athletes: If you can naturally jump higher or lift bigger than these numbers, great! But these are all based on averages, not the outliers that are starting and winning in the highest levels. Always try to improve your jumping, but this can be a good eye opener for big deficits.
Commonalities Amongst the Studies:
Lots of the studies were comparing levels or ages (developmental national team to senior, 2nd division to 1st, etc) and the vert is always higher with the older players. They are bigger stronger faster (duh). But one of the more subtle findings is that older, higher level athletes have a bigger difference in their standing jump to their spike jump. Very small difference in kids, small difference in liberos, bigger in setters/mids, biggest in outsides. Some potential explanations:
Players become more sport specific (since they jump with an approach for pretty much everything).
Higher level athletes can translate an approach efficiently into jumping (more elastic).
Maybe they lack power. If they do lots of volleyball (jumping with an approach) and little physical training to improve force development, they might just lack that construct.
These are simply musings, I have no idea which is true. I included that 3rd point just because I’ve seen some high level teams with off court training that leaves much to be desired. But it is very hard to make big gainz off the court when you don’t have an offseason because of pro team and national team obligations. Also this is assuming that volleyball players need more power, but that’s a discussion for another time… For now, let us focus on the KPI’s that the studies show us.
Another curious finding is the liberos had good relative strength in the squat (highest of any position with 1.56), but the lowest vertical jumps. Since they have a smaller difference between approach and non, maybe they are explosive athletes and less elastic. Which makes sense – they have to react very fast a couple steps in any direction. Regardless what causes it, this is a good reminder to not get married to any one number: such as your 1RM squat.
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