Change and Strengthen.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a certified trainer! Make sure you consult experts before taking any of my advice (as good as it is ;))!

This is going to be my eighth year on the beach, and I’m happy with how things have gone thus far, but am I satisfied to the point of complacency?? NO way!

Every year is a new opportunity to get better, work smarter, and add to your game. I go into each new preseason with an open mind. I am constantly on the lookout for a better way to do things, or a crazy idea that might just work. I probably annoy Jen and Jeff with all of it, but I’m always applying a tweak here or there to see if it improves something in my game.  The game is changing so quickly and becoming so much more competitive each year I can’t afford to just do the same thing over and over, even if it has been successful in the past.  I know some people don’t agree with that thinking, hence the age old saying, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”  But, in the world of competitive sports, if you don’t adapt and change to stay ahead of the curve you run the risk of being passed by, by someone who IS willing to innovate and be a risk-taker.

I’m not going into detail, but I believe this year Jen and I have improved on something that has been done a certain way for a really long time.  I’m also giving myself another option on offense- it’s still rough around the edges, but you have to give new ideas time to take hold.  We’ve played for a long time and mastered a lot of skills so sometimes it’s hard to be patient with new ones.  I know I’m being super vague, but hopefully it encourages some young players or coaches to get innovative with the game.  People might tell you you’re crazy, but if you believe in your ideas, I say, go for it.

One change I AM going to share with you here relates to my strength training routine.  I’ve touched on how to train in the gym for beach volleyball in some of my other blogs, but I want to spend a little more time on it because I want everyone to realize how important it is for a player’s game.  For the past four years I’ve subscribed to a weight circuit workout focused on moderate weight and lots of reps plus some sprint cardio in-between the circuits. So, for example, one circuit might look like this:

  • 10 squats @ 115 lbs
  • 10 burpies with pushups
  • 15 rows @ 75 lbs
  • 20 sit ups on a bosu ball
  • repeat 3 times
  • 2 minute sprint on elliptical machine or sprints on an inclined treadmill

That’s one circuit and we usually do four to five circuits in a workout.

I still love this kind of training and think it is much more sport (SAND volley) specific than Olympic lifts on their own.  In the past I would do this workout three times a week, but this year I wanted to increase my strength.  I can’t tell you why I chose to tinker with my strength, it was just an idea.  Then I thought more deeply about it, looking at the men’s game and how generally they are more powerful than the women. I have to assume this is because naturally they’re just stronger…. so I decided to learn from the disparity between men’s and women’s strength and adapt accordingly.  (I think the men can learn a lot from the women’s game as well, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog!)

I did that by committing one of my weekend days to lifting heavy for the duration of preseason.  I give myself more rest between sets to recover so that I can handle the extra weight.  I’m loving the results, I feel much stronger, AND what I didn’t see coming is that my endurance has gone through the roof!  It’s something I didn’t expect from weight lifting, but now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense.  If I’m stronger, it’s easier for my body to do everything it’s called to do in volleyball and therefore it can handle playing longer.  I’ve always looked to cardio to improve my endurance, but I am so happy to have found this added benefit of increasing my strength through weight lifting! This revelation may seem obvious, but it wasn’t until I took control over my own training (when I started on the beach) that I really started paying attention to how things benefited or detracted from my performance.

I still believe, with longer rallies in the women’s game, that cardio endurance is very important, as well, which is why I’ve only dedicated one of my three days to lifting heavy, the other two I still do circuit training.

I’ve lifted since I was 14 (as a freshmen in high school).  We did Olympics lifts about 3 times a week in preseason and twice during season, though I did not continue to lift during club season.  Based on my own experience, and after speaking with my trainer, I think creating a strong base through lifting when you’re in high school and carrying it on through college is smart move for athletes.  Everyone is different and ready to begin lifting at different ages and you always have to listen to your body, but 14/15 years old is  usually a good starting point.  Playing indoor I always lifted heavy with less reps, maxing out every now and again.  It wasn’t until I started on the beach that I eventually switched to circuit training because, like I said, I think it’s more conducive to the demands of beach volleyball.

There are so many benefits to weight lifting, I could go on forever, but the last thing I will say is that it’s great for injury prevention.  With the demands these days on club athletes the amount of overuse injuries is through the roof.  Juniors need to be strengthening their rotator cuff muscles, back muscles, and hamstring muscles, among others, to prevent injury to shoulders, backs, and knees, which in my experience are the most common in volleyball players.

If you are in sports and take it seriously, you need to include weight lifting in your training plan.  Definitely consult professionals before you begin a lifting program, it is NOT something you can learn on youtube or from your friend! There are many places that train high school athletes (and adults looking to improve their game as well!), we work out at CDM Fitness (if you’re looking for one :)), but if you are just starting out make sure you learn from an expert, bad lifting technique is way worse than not lifting at all.

Happy lifting!

3 thoughts on “Change and Strengthen.

  1. Great post April. I am not a competitive athlete any more (I am a rabid sand volleyball fan, though), but I do circuit weight training all winter in order to ride my bike strong all summer. I lift 3 days a week, but I’ve hit a plateau. I’m going to switch one of my days to a heavy lifting day and see where that gets me. Thanks for the advice. And good luck this season.

  2. Great Blog April,you are always looking for ways to improve your game and conditioning is definitely a big part of it! When you get involved in long rallies or 3rd set marathons you will have a huge advantage over your opponents! Anxious for your season to start!!!! Go April & Jen:)

  3. Hi April 🙂 This fall, I will be playing the outside hitter position. Is there a specific circuit or any training steps that specifically helped you with your hitting skills? Thanks!

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