Periodization of Training For Volleyball by Tudor Bompa

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The importance of strength training for volleyball is not to build big muscles, since they are rarely equated with improvements in power. On the contrary, strength training should be viewed as an important ingredient for developing the physiological needs for volleyball in order to improve a player’s performance. As such, strength training does not have to be developed independently from other abilities (i.e. reactive, power-endurance), or in disregard of the planned training phases leading to championships or league games.

In order to make strength a valuable physiological ingredient, it has to be trained in such a way that gains in strength lead to the highest levels of jumping power and be effectively applied during the game. In order to achieve this, strength training has to be structured into training phases leading into the competitive phase. If during games strength gains are not effectively used to produce peak performance, the whole exercise is useless regardless of the size of the muscles.

Types of Strength Required for Volleyball

In order to maximize players’ potential, gains in strength must lead to game specific adaptations. A volleyball player requires the development of four main abilities.

  • Power refers to the state of applying force. When quickness (speed) is integrated with maximum strength, power is the outcome. Power is a determinant quality that is required in any type of jumping or quick changes of direction.

  • Take-off power is a crucial element in volleyball in which the player attempts to project the body to the highest point to either spike or block. The greater the force applied against the ground, the higher the jump. The height of the jump is directly proportional to leg power.

  • Reactive power refers to the ability to generate force of jumping immediately following landing such as in spike-land-block. This kind of power is also necessary to quickly change the direction of motion during a game. The force necessary to adequately perform a reactive jump depends on the height of the jump, the athlete’s body weight and leg power.

  • Power-endurance is defined as the ability to develop power consistently throughout a game. The development of power, as expressed by a high vertical jump to spike over the block is essential for any serious volleyball player. However, if one is not capable of duplicating this task some 200 times per game (the average number of spikes and blocks performed by a college player), a player’s jumping effectiveness decreases in the latter part of the game.

Periodization of Strength for Volleyball

Periodization has the scope of structuring training in such a way that peak performance will be reached at the time of the main competitions. As illustrated in figure 1, the periodization of strength has certain phases each having specific training objectives (see Periodization of Strength 5 part article series in this site):

PREPARATORY

COMPETITIVE

TRANSITION

AA

MxS

CONVERSION TO: P/P-E

MAINTENANCE OF: P/P-E

COMPENSATION TRAINING

           

Figure 1: The main strength training phases for the periodization of strength for volleyball

Anatomical Adaptation (AA) represents the first phase of the strength training program, and is organized immediately following the “Transition” (off-season) phase. The name of this phase has been specifically selected to illustrate the fact that the main objective of strength training is not immediate overloading but rather a progressive adaptation of the athlete’s muscle tissue, ligaments and tendons for the more challenging phases which follow. During a 3 to 6 week program the coach should attempt to develop the core area of the body and promote muscle balance. Most muscle groups should be trained without stress or discomfort.

Maximum Strength (MxS) is referred to as the highest weight one can lift in one attempt, one repetition maximum (1RM). The main objective of this phase is to develop the highest level of force. An increase in the level of power is dependent on a constant increase in maximum strength. The duration of this phase is 6 to 9 weeks since the load in training is increased in steps. It is important to note that only physically mature athletes should attempt to test for 1RM. Less physically mature athletes can be tested with sub-maximal loads and conversion charts can be used to extrapolate a 1RM value.

Conversion Phase- The main purpose of this phase is to convert, or to transform gains in MxS into competitive volleyball-specific combinations of strength: power (P) and power endurance (P-E). By applying adequate training methods for the type of strength sought, and through the application of specific training methods, MxS is gradually converted into P and P-E.

Maintenance Phase – Many coaches still follow the tradition that as the league games start, strength training is eliminated from the athlete’s overall program. If strength training is not maintained during the league games, the players will be exposed to a state of detraining. In other words, athletes will feel a decrease in strength and power, or the ability to generate force. Simply strength training once per week can do wonders for maintaining an adequate level of strength and power.

Transition Phase – In addition to removing the physical and mental fatigue that was accumulated throughout the season an athlete should attempt to maintain an adequate amount of physical activity. On average most coaches recommend the maintenance of 40-50% of the volume of training of the competitive phase, including strength training. If during these 4 to 5 weeks of lower intensity training one does not perform any strength training, reductions in muscle size and the loss of power can occur. Compensation work involving mostly the antagonistic and stabilizer muscles is a vital necessity during this stress free phase of the annual plan. A good number of athletes cross train during this phase of training. Actively involving athletes in various sports and recreational activities will help maintain their fitness level and keep their interests and spirits refreshed.

Strength Training During the Competitive Phase

The benefits of strength to a volleyball player are felt for as long as the neuro-muscular system maintains the cellular adaptations induced by strength training. When strength training ends, the contractile properties of muscle diminish as the athlete begins to enter a detraining state. A visible decrease in the contribution of strength to athletic performance is noted. In order to avoid detraining and systematically maintain a firm physiological base during the competitive phase, one has to plan a volleyball-specific strength program. The maintenance of strength during the competitive phase is a crucial element in volleyball. The coach must design a maintenance program that is once again in sync with the dominant abilities required in volleyball. The coach should not eliminate any of the main elements from the program. For instance, since volleyball requires some elements of MxS, P and P-E, the most important decision for designing the program is not to decide which of the three elements should be maintained, but rather in what proportion and how to best integrate them in training.

In volleyball, where P is the dominant ability, both MxS and P should be maintained. As far as P-E is concerned, the specific training of repetitive spiking and blocking, plus the P training in the gym would suffice to meet the particular ability required in volleyball. Therefore, a maintenance program should consider MxS and P only. As far as the proportion between the two, Bompa, 1993 proposes 20% for MxS and 80% for P. Equally important is to acknowledge that the maintenance program between different types of strength also depends on the duration of the competitive phase. The longer the competitive phase, the more important it is to maintain some elements of MxS. A detraining of MxS will negatively impact P and P-E.

During the maintenance phase one should apply the same training methods as previously suggested. The training methodology does not change during the maintenance phase, what is altered is the volume of strength training as compared to the technical and tactical training. The maintenance of strength is performed in addition to the above types of training, which ought to be dominant during the competitive phase. The number of exercises performed must be minimal and address the specific prime movers and skills that are used in volleyball.

The number of strength training sessions per week should be two to three and as short as possible. Often, an effective maintenance program can be accomplished in 20 to 30 minutes of a very specific workout. Obviously, the frequency of strength training sessions depends on the competition schedule. If no games are scheduled on the weekend, one may perform 2 or possibly three strength training sessions in a week. If a game is planned on the weekend then one (maximum two) short strength training sessions can be planned, normally in the early part of the week.

The number of sets performed fall usually between 1 to 4 depending on whether P or P-E is trained. For P and MxS, 2-4 sets are possible due to the low number of required repetitions.

The rest interval should be longer than normally suggested, mostly because the athlete should recover almost entirely during the break. The intent of the maintenance phase is stabilization of performance and not the aggravation of the state of fatigue. Therefore, a longer rest interval is required for full recover.

Strength Training During the Transition Phase

The transition phase, which is often inappropriately called the “off-season”, represents a linkage between two annual cycles. Its major objectives are to facilitate psychological rest, relaxation and biological regeneration as well as to maintain an acceptable level of general physical preparation. Therefore, the duration of this phase cannot be longer than 4 to 6 weeks because the players will inevitably enter a state of detraining.

During the transition phase the athletes should train two to three times per week. Maintaining an adequate level of fitness will make the start of training camp that more efficient and the athletes can resume normal training patterns.

From a strength-training point of view, during the transition, the athlete should perform compensation work to actively involve the muscle groups that are usually not in action throughout the preparatory and competitive phase. As such, attention should be paid to the antagonistic muscles and stabilizers.

It is not necessary for the program to be stressful, but rather relaxed. Stress is undesirable during the transition phase. Therefore, a formal program with specific loads, number of repetitions and sets is not necessary.

Conclusion

Strength training for volleyball requires a systematic methodology that is planned around the preparatory and competitive phases. The relevant biomotor abilities of volleyball were discussed along with the specific phases of training. Part II of this article series will examine various periodization models for volleyball along with introducing a number of exercises that can be applied during the specific phases of training.


Submitted by DMorgan on Sat, 07/21/2007 - 9:45pm.

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