Pre-Season Fitness Test – Volleyball Training

What kind of fitness test should I take early in the season? This is a question I see regularly every year as volleyball coaches prepare for the start of the new school year. It’s the query that asks follow-up questions.

First, do the test results have any directly The effect on who makes the team, or on playing time?

I emphasized “live” for a specific reason. Sure, we can all agree that guys who come into camp in poor condition are at a disadvantage. They might get cut off or miss out on playtime simply because they can’t keep up with anyone else. This is different from saying, “Anyone who doesn’t do 50 pushups won’t make the team,” or “You won’t play until you can do 50 pushups.”

I would be very hesitant about using the results of fitness tests to determine who makes the team and/or who plays. For example, what if everyone—or at least a large number—failed? Or the wrong player? Second, are you testing really important things? I’ll focus on that second more in a minute. For now, though, I’ll just say I think making hard and fast rules is risky. They tend to draw you in the corner. Imagine if your best player(s) failed the test? Nightmare scenario!

Next question – assuming you answer “no” to the first question – do you have some type of weight training or related program that you run during the season?

If you do, it makes perfect sense to do some sort of preliminary assessment of the players. This helps calibrate your exercise program, either broadly or individually. I should point out that testing on day one is probably not the best idea in this case. see my Training conversation with David Gill and Natosha Gottlieb To hear when strength coaches think it’s the best time to evaluate.

If you do not have a training program and therefore will focus on volleyball, what is the purpose of the test? It seems to me that you are wasting potential training time.

What are you testing?

I think the old time mile test is mostly over, fortunately. It is completely useless for volleyball purposes. Most of the reasons I see have nothing to do with sports and can be better dealt with in other ways. Our sport is not a sport that requires constant effort, unlike running a mile. Instead, it consists of short bursts of activity with rest periods in between. The work-to-rest ratio is about 1 to 3 on average.

So we want our players to be able to perform short-term explosive moves, and then recover repeatedly without degrading performance. For example, to be able to jump at the end of a group as much as at the beginning or at the end of the match as at the beginning. This can be hard to measure, unless you have access to a technology like VERT. It is also difficult to train specifically outside playing volleyball (see conditioning by practice).

Of course, there is also the actual physical performance of the movements involved. Think about the height of the jump and the speed of the ground movement. Also arm speed to hit/render. These things are easier to measure directly. The next step is to assess how players in the weight room perform things like squats that are supposed to fuel the actual performance moves. You’ll want to share a strength coach with that.

I encourage you to check out Training conversation I had with David Gill and Lauren Steinbrecher on player performance metrics. It can give you a nice sense of things to evaluate.

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At the end of the day, I think it’s really helpful to have a pre-season fitness test or physical assessment if it’s part of an ongoing programme. If you’re only going to test things once and that’s it, you’re probably just wasting time and effort. Put that to use in court instead.


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