It’s really important for us to stay in our best conditioned shape – especially when we’re expected to play all-day tournaments of a 5-game match! Check out some of our favorite and useful conditioning drills!
1. Butterfly drill. The butterfly drill is a good drill to improve conditioning because it keeps everyone moving pretty much the whole drill while also letting the team practice their passing and controlled serving skills. Each player goes from passer – to target – to server (or tosser if serves aren’t controlled enough) – to passer again on the other side of the net. If you have about 8 – 12 athletes on each court then this drill should work effectively because you’ll have enough people to keep the drill moving without people standing around. Plus, when the drill is running smoothly and the passes are “perfect” it makes the whole team feel in sync and it raises team moral.
2. Serve and chase your ball. This is a simple drill that doesn’t require too much direction or supervision so it’s one of our favorites. Simply have your athletes serve and chase their ball – wherever it goes. Hopefully the serves will be controlled so they won’t have to chase the ball too far – but if they do happen to have wild serve, then they’ll just be chasing it a bit farther that time. Coaches can set a certain number of serves for each player to do – 10, 15, 20 – and each player can do them at their own pace until they’ve completed – but they have to hustle! As an incentive, the athletes can compete to see who can make the most serves over or they can try a more challenging jump serve once they’ve finished.
3. Peppering. This is always a fun drill that people typically enjoy but is also an undercover conditioning drill. It works as a conditioning drill by requiring a lot of movement. When you’re peppering, you’re touching every other ball, so you have to always be ready to move to where the ball is heading. Once  you’ve warmed up a bit, start peppering a little bit faster to make your partner and yourself hustle a bit more. Stay controlled though, we don’t want anyone getting hurt!
4. Blocks along the net. I’m not going to lie, this is probably my least favorite drill, but it does get the job done as a conditioning drill. All you have to do is start by blocking on one end of the net, take one side-step and block again, and continue this process until you’ve made it to the other end of the net. Then, repeat the drill by doing two shuffle steps between blocks or the three-step transition between blocks. This drill is tiring because you’ll be rapidly jumping but it’ll be worth it when you’re expected to block in the 5th game of a tiring match!
5. Hustle to touch 10 balls. Contrary to the drill before, this is one of my favorite drills! Use one side of the court with one player on the court while the rest are around the perimeter. The coach tosses or rolls volleyballs in the vicinity of the court and the athlete has to touch each ball before it leaves the court boundary. This drill is very rapid and simulates what it’s like playing defense during a fast-paced, frantic rally. For an extra challenge, the coach should toss the balls and the player should try to actually pass them (not just touch them) to the target. This extra challenge will require the athlete to focus on passing the ball as well instead of just touching them.
6. Race to be captain. My dad loved using this drill in his practices to trick his athletes into conditioning without even knowing it. Have all your players line up with their feet behind the line (no cheating!) and race to one end of the court or to the other side of the gym or whatever distance you want to stipulate. The two first people to finish the “race” get to be captains to choose the teams for the next competitive drill like a scrimmage or serving challenge. This creates a real incentive for the athletes to sprint as fast as they can while disguising this conditioning this drill as a fun competition.
7. Jumprope. I remember when jumproping used to be fun in elementary school but in college during practices I suddenly didn’t like jumproping as much! It’s a very tiring conditioning drill but it is really good for increasing your stamina. Plus , jumproping helps work on your calf muscles, which you need for jumping in volleyball when approaching or blocking. It’s also a good conditioning drill to mention because you can do it on your own in almost any location without needing instruction.
8. ANY CORE EXERCISE. Having a strong core is really important for volleyball because you use those muscles when you’re hitting the ball and blocking. Luckily, there are several ways to incorporate some core exercises into volleyball practices. One example is doing a “plank-off” competition where each athlete does a plank for as long as possible. You can also create a circuit where each station has a different core exercise like crunches, planks, leg lifts, scissor kicks, bicycles, etc. Be sure to really work on your core!
9. Approach lines. One of the best ways to ensure your approach is efficient is to commit it to muscle memory by practicing it over, and over, and over. Also, it’s a good conditioning drill to do that will also benefit your technical skills. Start by doing an approach for an outside hit, transition with a 3-step draw back to the middle position, do an approach for a middle hit, transition with a 3-step draw back to the backside position, and do an approach for a backside hit. Make sure to repeat this process a few times. This should be done quickly so you get your heart rate up!
10. Hitting lines. Another fun conditioning drill is to simply do some hitting lines. A lot of people typically enjoy doing hitting lines so it’s a good conditioning drill to employ. If you keep the sets or tosses going quickly, then the line will move quickly and the players will get some conditioning in as well. For extra conditioning, make sure the players are shagging their own balls quickly and hustling back to get in line. You can have 3 hitting lines at one time as well – outside, middle, and backside – with three setters or tossers to make the lines go through quicker.
11. Defend the hitting lines. As a defensive player in college, this is one of my favorite conditioning drills! If you’re typically a defensive player and going through the hitting lines isn’t the most beneficial for you, maybe defending the hitting lines is a better approach. Especially if people are hitting from all different positions, you’ll have to move and adjust your defensive position. Plus, if you’re the only one defending then you’ll have to do A LOT of quick movements to defend the whole court. And it works as a fun conditioning drill because it’ll force you to stay low and be explosive while getting some pretty nice digs at the same time!
12. SCRIMMAGE. Probably one of the best conditioning drills is to scrimmage! Doing an extended practice game is going to help you be conditioned exactly how you need to be for an actual game. Plus it’s a fun conditioning drill because it adds a competitive tone as well. There are also lots of other 6-on-6 drills – U.S.A., Atonement, etc. – that are sometimes a bit quicker-paced than a traditional scrimmage. Try googling 6-on-6 drills if you need some new ideas!