There were a couple of articles posted on the subject of volleyball conditioning. Volleywood had one on developing endurance. Volleyball Magazine had a Q&A with several strength & conditioning coaches who work with top collegiate programs.
It used to be that strength training for volleyball, as with most other sports, involved pretty standard weight lifting exercises such as bench press and squats. Those still have their place. The use of so-called Olympic lifts have come into common practice, however. They use the whole body rather than just one primary muscle group. These include exercises like power cleans and the snatch, clean, and jerk. The Volleyball Magazine article talks about different useful exercises. It brings up the requirement to work on opposing muscles as I discuss in my Volleyball Stretches post.
Beyond strength training is the conditioning which is the core aspect of volleyball fitness. It’s a sport of high intensity bursts with intervals of rest. That takes a certain type of training. It is the type featured in the sample volleyball conditioning program. In it you’ll notice the progression toward shorter, more frequent exercises as the program gets closer to the start of preseason training.
Of course volleyball training and playing in and of themselves are forms of conditioning. If you train and/or play regularly at a high intensity then you’ll likely not need to do further conditioning through the season. If, however, your training is only 1-2 times per week with matches only a couple times a month (especially if they aren’t high intensity affairs) it’s a different story. You’ll want to add a conditioning element to your work. That will make sure you to achieve maximum preparedness for those highly competitive matches. More importantly, it increases your training capacity.
You may need to think about in how you structure your training with respect to your season configuration.
In the US system (both collegiate and youth) there is often a structure which goes from non-conference play to conference play to post-season. In that sort of situation the team wants to be peaking into the post-season. That will give itself the best chance of success. Teams in many professional leagues can think the same way. So can one facing a relegation/promotion play-off at season’s end.
For those playing in a structure where league play is the primary focus there isn’t the same sort of desire to build toward optimal end of season performance. In this case it is about reaching a certain level and sustaining it. This can be a real challenge. Having said that, though, there can be points during a season where you want to be running on all cylinders. A key rivalry match is an example, or a tournament.
The UK university season can combine elements of both the post-season and league consistency focus approaches. There is the need to do as well as possible during BUCS league play to get maximum points, earn promotion (or avoid relegation) and/or qualify for championships. That’s more of the consistent effort focus. On top of that, though, there are cup competitions. A team may want an early-season peak for the Student Cup qualifiers and another for the finals, should they advance. And for the top teams there’s Final 8s at season’s end. Even teams below that level have play-off matches for competitions like league cup and championship/trophy knock-out rounds.
In other words, the structure of your volleyball season will have a lot to say about what sort of strength and conditioning work you do and when you do it.