Designing Strength & Conditioning Programs


Strength and conditioning mean many different things to many different people. However, conditioning refers to an athlete’s development of strength, speed, power, and agility.  Each sport varies in the drawing demands of each of these key qualities, which makes it all the more reason for an elite athlete to follow an exercise program that is specific to the sport that they participate in, such as hockey is different from football, and golf is different than baseball. In this paper, we will explore the sport of Volleyball, a game where 6 players on each team battle in different scenarios for 60 minutes, each which specializes in explosive power, cat-like quickness, and the agility that allows you to turn on a dime. Because of this, a volleyball athlete will have to train specifically to a program that tailors to the needs of the sport, and to her/his own neuromuscular abilities.  A game of volleyball is extremely physically taxing, making it important to the development of your abilities by using acute variables such as program periodization, specific exercises, times, and much more. Many things equate to the critical and long-term development of an athlete’s abilities, which will be explained in greater detail further on in this paper.

Sports Specific Task Analysis:

Physiological Testing, and Priorities:

Power & Strength

  • Vertical Jump
  • 1RM and Maximal strength tests for upper and lower body
  • Core stability and endurance

For a volleyball player, being able to exude explosive lower body power is critical in creating optimal movements around the court and certain movements such as jumping, have a higher rate of use than other movements.  Maximal strength and power tests are also important as the volume they can be a great baseline determining factor when creating a program, but mostly are indicators of talent identification. Lastly, it is important for players to hold fantastic core stability.  While volleyball is considered a fine movement sport, an athlete must be able to show that they have the ability to balance themselves while performing high agility and quick movements on the court.

Speed and Agility

  • Sprint tests
  • Agility tests such as the 505 drill, which is a simple test that demonstrates an athlete’s ability to turn from front to backward
  • Short range foot speed drills

Volleyball is a short distance sport, meaning that no tests should be done with the athlete traveling anywhere past 10-20 square feet in dimension.  Forward acceleration is important to test, which is why short distance sprints are commonly used to assess this. Secondly, agility tests such as the 505 drill are sport specific to volleyball, as these athletes don’t really have massive directional changes, but do have to show how balanced that they can be while making small adjustments to movement. This would also be the same for any short range foot speed drills, where speed and feet agility are extremely important to make fast adjustments.

Body Size

  • Height
  • Wingspan
  • Skinfold measurements

Height is obviously of utmost importance in volleyball athletes.  Analysis of data from the 2012 Olympic Summer games suggests that the average height for male indoor court volleyball players was nearly 6 foot 6 inches tall, and the average height for male beach volleyball players were on average 6 feet and 4 inches.

It could also be argued that extra body fat could hinder a players ability to move as quick and as agile as possible around the court, creating faster fatigue, making skinfold testing important to testing.


Aerobic Fitness

  • The beep test (shuttle runs)

The cardiovascular output is not of utmost importance for volleyball players, since the court is only 30 feet wide, and each player only plays within a 15-20 square foot area.  There are times where long games or tournaments can be aerobically taxing but generally isn’t the case. A professional game of volleyball lasts 60 minutes with intermittent breaks. In fact, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning performed a study on the physical fitness qualities of professional volleyball players (4) and didn’t even bother testing for aerobic or cardiovascular output in the entire study.

WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES? This should heavily play into how you build this program!Individual Analysis:

Training Priorities:

Based on the specific clients that I have worked with, here are the 3 most important training priorities:

  • Increase explosive power (Vertical Jump Ability):

The main focus will be performing exercises and movements in which the rate of force development is maximal or at least near maximum output potential, such as maximal squats, drop jumps and other exercises that will help her as a blocker. I see a large importance on focusing a great deal of training on increasing leg power through the use of the maximal half squat exercise as well.  Data shows that anyone looking to emphasize a better vertical jump should be applying maximal squat movements into one’s training routine, with a focus on the concentric loading phase of the movement, which has the potential to improve the vertical jump height. (6)

  • Increase speed (Movement Time):

The second priority will be performing speed drills in order to increase specifically your movement time, defined as the time it takes for the human body to perform a movement such as sprinting to a spot to reach a volleyball in time. Very simply put, we need to increase and develop more force in the same amount of time.

  • Decrease Fat:

A study published back in 2013 showed that when in tournament play, the stronger, faster, and leaner collegiate teams were the most successful. Analysis of the data helped to identify that one of the most important induvial variables was fat weight and that it could be the differentiating factor between players of the most and least successful teams (7). This, however, most likely won’t be completely done on the trainer’s part, as this will have to take place in her own dietary habits, and creating a mild and progressive caloric deficit.

Program Design:

Explosive Power:

Training for explosive maximal power will have to be taken in stages. The degree of power that an athlete can develop is solely dependent on the ratio of muscle fibers and the percentage that can actually perform the task, the intra and inter-muscular coordination, our ability to sequence proper stimulation of the motor unit to contract and the sequencing of contractions of systems of muscles in order to perform a movement optimally. If our muscles are not developed early on with a basic strength base, training for maximal explosive power will not be optimal (7).

After following the NASM OPT model of progression towards power training, we will then begin to develop optimal maximal explosive power. Here are some rules that we will follow to ensure my athlete is getting the most benefit out of a training session:

  • In order to prevent an unnecessary buildup of waste products such as lactic acid, the athlete should be taking rest periods between 3-5 minutes between sets (8).
  • Exercises should be performed at the effort relative to the sport specific movement patterns
  • Due to the fact that early in the day the athlete hasn’t become fatigued from activity yet, it would be best to schedule maximum explosive power training sessions early in the day (7).
  • Optimal adaptation with explosive power training is best accomplished when the athlete has a completely recovered and rested central nervous system (7).

Acute Variables for Power Adaptations (Once strength development has been achieved):

Repetitions and Intensity:  Training intensity is simply the athlete’s level of effort compared to her maximal effort, and a rep is one complete movement of the exercise. In order to adapt to power, it is required to perform between 1 and 10 repetitions at a training intensity of 30-45% of 1RM, or 10% of body weight (8).  For our specific sport, players jump intermittently and aren’t jumping constantly over and over again, meaning that we should still keep the repetitions low, but at a full out maximal.

Sets:  In order to power training, it is required that we perform 3-6 sets (8) of the required repetitions listed above.  Given that a game of volleyball takes 60 minutes to play, I want to stretch out the reps and do a full 6 sets. Although athletes are jumping intermittently, she will be required to continue to for a long period of time, meaning that we should do a higher set scheme.


Repetition Tempo:  Volleyball is extremely sporadic, and you never know when you will be called upon to have to make a sudden jump for a ball in your area of the court.  Repetition tempo for creating explosive power is achieved with fast and explosive movements but can be safely controlled (8).

Rest Time:  Too little rest and the athlete can begin to fatigue faster, and therefore is open to potential injury. Likewise, however, too much rest and the athlete may begin to decrease neuromuscular control and decrease body heat. Power training requires between 3-5 minutes of rest time depending on the conditioning of the athlete, but keep in mind that a full 3 minute rest is enough to completely restore ATP and Creatine stores within a given muscle (8).  I lean towards 3 minutes at MAX. We want to avoid unnecessary buildup of lactic acid!

Speed (Movement time)

Training to increase quickness, specifically acceleration time to a ball which is defined as movement time, is going to be critical to your success. This is why the 10m sprint, a measure purely of an athlete’s ability to accelerate and time to cover a short distance (such as a volleyball court) is usually the test used to assess this.  An athlete’s acceleration time is HIGHLY related to reaction time, which is the athlete’s ability to react to stimulus (9).  In Volleyball players case, the stimulus would be the recognition of the opposing player that is about to shoot a ball over the net. You must quickly react, and accelerate towards the spot where you must jump, and block the shot. Choose drills that primarily focus on short bursts of acceleration and stopping, which may include some agility drills as well. The key is increasing your ability to react and change body position with a maximal rate of force production while being able to assess visual, auditory or kinesthetic stimuli to provide the quickest response possible (8).

Acute Variables for Speed Adaptations:

Exercise Selection: Since we are choosing exercises that specifically relate to volleyball, and the court that it is played on, we want to have short distance exercises within a 10-20 square foot working area, and huge elements of explosive movements, some multidirectional movements, and take a maximum of 10-15 seconds to complete based on the activity in this sport.

Volume and Intensity: Volume is generally defined as the total number of sets and reps completed per session. As intensity increases of the season increases, the volume will decrease and vice versa. Early in the program when we are farther out from tryouts and competition, it would be ideal to keep volume is high while intensity is moderate (50 to 80 percent), but not fully maximal. But, as you begin to near closer to tryouts we will begin to progressively increase the intensity to fully maximal, while also progressively lowering the volume at which we perform the sets (9)

Example Training Plan:

POWER & SPEED      (Total: 60 minutes)

(Monday and Thursdays)

SAQ FATLOSS CIRCUIT    (Total: 45 minutes)

(Tuesday and Fridays)

Warmup: 4 minutes on a treadmill, increasing speed each minute

Warmup: 4 minutes on a treadmill, increasing speed each minute

Half Squats + 3 vertical jumps

5 reps, 5 sets (3 min rest).       Total = 18 mins

Hang Clean + 2 jumping lunges

5 reps, 4 sets (3 min rest).       Total = 18 mins

Falling Start Sprints, 15M

5 sets              (3 min rest)        Total = 15 mins

Skip Rope                      30 Seconds/20 Rest

T – Drill                          30 Seconds/20 Rest

Box Drill                         30 Seconds/20 Rest

6 sets                Total: 15mins + 1min rest

5-10-5 Drill                     30seconds/20 Rest

Ali Shuffle                       30 seconds/20 Rest

In-In-Out-Out                 30 seconds/ 20 Rest

6 sets                Total: 15mins

Cooldown:  5 minutes of full body stretching

Cooldown: 4 minutes slow pace on the treadmill

                    6 minutes of full body stretching

For Custom Programs, E-books, or Online training, please visit my website. For more information on training plans for your sport, please feel free to email me (

– Denon Maximchuk

Natural Path Personal Training

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