Volleyball Stretches and Flexibility Exercises
Volleyball stretching exercises to improve your performance and do away with volleyball injuries for good.
by Brad Walker | First Published October 31, 2008 | Updated August 10, 2017
Volleyball originated in the United States in 1895. William G. Morgan, an instructor at YMCA, blended basketball, baseball, tennis and handball and called it Mintonette. Borrowing the net from tennis, he put it just over the head of an average man at 6 feet, 6 inches off ground.
The first game of "Volleyball" was played on July 7, 1896 at Springfield College. The game spread the world over and in 1913, a volleyball competition was held in the Far Eastern Games.
In 1922, the YMCA sponsored the first national championship in Brooklyn, NY. The first U.S. Open was played in 1928.
The first World Championship was played in 1949. Volleyball was first played at the Olympic games in 1964.
The Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) was started in 1983. Beach volleyball was also soon accepted as an Olympic sport.
Today, there are an estimated 800 million volleyball players worldwide, who play the game at least once a week.
Volleyball requires a lot of jumping and quick, explosive movements to react to the ball. Good spatial and body awareness is required, as well. While continuous movement is not a part of the game, good overall conditioning and endurance is needed to continue to jump and move throughout the game.
A strong base, legs and hips, as well as explosive lower leg strength is needed to jump and move for the ball. Strong shoulders are needed for the various overhead shots. Good strength in the core muscles helps with balance and control. A strong back will also protect from twisting or hyperextension injuries.
Volleyball calls the following major muscles into play:
- The muscles of the upper legs and hips; the gluteals, the hamstrings, and the quadriceps
- The muscles of the lower leg; the calf muscles- gastrocnemius and soleus, and the anterior tibialis muscle in the shin area.
- The muscles of the shoulder; the deltoids.
- The muscles of the forearm and upper arm; the wrist flexors and extensors, the biceps, and the triceps.
- The core muscles; the rectus abdominus, obliques, and the spinal erectors.
Strong, explosive muscles will help the volleyball player move to the ball and jump for spikes and blocks. A good overall conditioning program will help the player avoid injuries and play above the net.
Most Common Volleyball Injuries
The large amount of jumping and sudden movement can lead to some traumatic injuries. The repetitive nature of the game can also lead to chronic injuries in the shoulders and legs. Volleyball’s popularity worldwide has increased the incidence of injury from volleyball, but many injuries are due in part to lack of, or improper, training.
Volleyball has a pretty even incidence of injuries to the upper and lower body. The overhead movements and jumping required put stress on both parts equally. Volleyball injuries include rotator cuff injuries, suprascapular neuropathy, wrist sprains, thumb sprains, and patella tendonitis (Jumper’s Knee).
- Rotator Cuff Injuries: The rotator cuff muscles, which include the infraspinatus, teres minor, and supraspinatus, are placed under a good deal of strain when the arms are raised above the head. The strain increases when a load is placed on the shoulder, such as blocking a shot, spiking a ball, or serving the ball. The injury to the rotator cuff may be acute, due to a traumatic force impacting the shoulder and causing a tear in the muscles. It may also be chronic in nature, due to continued overuse and stress causing a build up of inflammation. Both injuries require rest, ice, and NSAIDs to help speed recovery. A complete rupture of the rotator cuff complex might require surgical intervention.
- Suprascapular Neuropathy: This chronic injury is also caused by the prolonged, and repetitive, overhead position in the game of volleyball. This position is believed to put pressure on the nerve that runs over the top of the shoulder blade. This pressure leads to inflammation and additional pressure, which reduces the ability of the nerve to transmit signals. Rest, massage and flexibility training to relax the muscles of the upper back will help reverse this condition.
- Wrist Sprain: The wrist is a small structure and the force of a ball being struck downward can cause the ligaments to stretch and tear. Falling onto an outstretched hand can also cause damage to the ligaments of the wrist. When the wrist is hyper extended or hyper flexed the ligaments become stretched and torn. This leads to pain, swelling, tenderness, and a reduced range of motion. Ice, rest, and immobilization will help with this injury. Minor sprains may take 2 to 3 weeks for recovery, while a major injury could take as much as 8 weeks.
- Thumb Sprain: The metacarpophalangeal joint of the thumb is the area of injury most common in volleyball. As the ball contacts the hand it can force the thumb backward causing a stretching or tearing of the ligament over this joint. An awkward striking of the ball can also cause this injury. The extent of stretching or tearing in the ligament will determine the amount of recovery time needed. Ice, rest, NSAIDs, and thumb and wrist immobilization are the most common treatments.
- Patella Tendonitis (Jumper’s Knee): The repetitive jumping motion in volleyball causes a lot of stress to the tendon that runs from the patella to the tibia. A complete rupture can occur if a chronic injury is allowed to linger, or if excessive stress is placed on the tendon while jumping or landing. Chronic injury to the tendon includes repetitive inflammation in the tendon that continues to build up. Pain under the knee cap when pressure is applied, pain when contracting the quadriceps muscle, and aching and stiffness after training or playing are all symptoms of this injury. Rest, Ice, and NSAIDs may speed recovery. Rehab of the muscles may also reduce the chances or re-injuring the tendon.
Injury Prevention Strategies
Proper training, good overall conditioning, and playing on well maintained surfaces will help reduce the overall incidence of injury.
- A good conditioning program with equal components of strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, and stretching exercises will ensure the player is ready for the rigors of competitive volleyball play.
- Wearing proper footwear with good support and cushioning will also help keep the joints healthy for continued play.
- A strong core and good base will reduce the chances that the player will develop lower body injuries.
- A good stretching program will ensure the muscles are flexible enough to meet the demands of competitive play. It will also help keep the muscles from becoming tight and stiff, reducing chronic injuries.
The Top 3 Volleyball Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for volleyball; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions below each stretch.
Arm-up Rotator Stretch: Stand with your arm out and your forearm pointing upwards at 90 degrees. Place a broom stick in your hand and behind your elbow. With your other hand pull the bottom of the broom stick forward.
Rotating Wrist Stretch: Place one arm straight out in front and parallel to the ground. Rotate your wrist down and outwards and then use your other hand to further rotate your hand upwards.
Kneeling Quad Stretch: Kneel on one foot and the other knee. If needed, hold on to something to keep your balance and then push your hips forward.
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About the Author: Brad is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 100's of testimonials. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.