“Wait and explode”

This is something coaches can be heard saying to players as they help them improve their approach timing. I found myself thinking about the second part of that one day. A question went through my mind. Can we quantify “explode” when it comes to an attack approach in volleyball?

I think we can probably watch a player do an approach and say whether it’s explosive or not, generally speaking. My thought process was from the training perspective – giving players something objective as a way to measure their progress. It occurs to me that maybe measuring the relative length of the second to last step, which is where the real power of the approach comes in, could be that objective indicator. I’m wondering, though, if there’s any research on the subject.

Have you seen any?

Follow-up: About 4 years after this post originally went up I asked someone about it during a GMS clinic. He didn’t have a specific answer, but talked about the second-to-last step (the big one) being in front of the body. So if we imagine we are leaning forward through the first part of the approach, that big step would land in front of our head. It’s not exactly what I was thinking about when I started pondering the question of this post. It’s a move in the right direction, though

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

    14 replies to "Can we measure approach explosiveness?"

    • George

      Arie Selinger’s – “Power Volleyball” beginning at pp 88, probably comes as close to a study as I’ve seen. I know the book is in your library as you are one of the reviewers at Amazon,

      • John Forman

        Alas, that book is not currently in my library. Somewhere along the way it ended up in other hands. Can you provide the salient points?

        • Guy Lum

          I just searched Amazon & a used paperback copy in very good condition can be bought for $0.01 + $3.99 shipping from seller hippo_books in OH.

    • Onno Bos

      I’m using “Chronojump-Boscosystem” to for my Jump tests. It is a jumping mat, that measures Jump height, Contact/Flight times ,Power and Initial speed. For more information check https://chronojump.org/.

      • John Forman

        That’s not quite what I’m getting at here. Jump height is outcome. Obviously, that’s important in terms of it being what we’re after as an end product, but I’m thinking in terms of process.

    • Filipe Soares

      Good point there. Not an easy situation to quantify. Still, maybe the term explosive, in the approach, isn’t the most adequate. In the approach we have to be quick so that we accumulate enough energy at the moment of the jump and, thus, jump higher. A slow approach will ultimately end in a smaller jump.

      So instead of telling a player to be explosive, I usually tell them to quicker in their approach, keeping in mind that the player also has to adjust to the set.

      • John Forman

        Hey Filipe – I think we’re basically thinking along the same lines. Speed in the approach = height in the jump. “Wait and explode” could be just as easily be “Wait and go quick”, though it doesn’t sound quite as good. 🙂

        The thing that’s going through my mind is there is probably a relationship between the speed of the approach and the relative length of that second-to-last step. Obviously, players will vary in how fast the approach, but what I can’t help but wonder is if biomechanically there’s an optimal height-to-stride length ratio for that step, or something along those lines. On a related note, is there an optimal knee bend angle to most efficiently transfer that horizontal momentum to vertical? Maybe there isn’t. Just something that has been going through my head in terms of trying to improve the mechanics of a player’s approach.

    • Jared

      I coach a 15 and under girls team and most of them lack any shade of explosiveness. I have found that emphasizing a fast and full double arm lift helps all aspects of their “explosion”. When they get the feel for swinging their arms back vigorously and raising them up in the same manner, their jump seems to be quicker and higher. Some of the girls say they can feel the blood in their hands rushing up to their fingertips when they do it quick enough. That’s good kinesthetic feedback.

      • John Forman

        Hi Jared – My thought process for this question was more in the speed of the approach, as Filipe brought up in his comment. Arm swing is important as well, though.

    • Mark

      Hi, John! I’ve been coaching volleyball for about 19 years at the Junior National level and I have a particular interest in the attack approach. I use the same terminology as you do…”explode” to the ball, and the trick is both timing and individuality. I’m a big proponent of generating energy into the attack, transitioning the energy of the approach into vertical lift, pushing the energy into the arm swing utilizing core body/muscle strength. I’ve worked with extremely good hitters that wanted to hit “better”. We look at driving energy into the ball starting with the approach, then lift, then arm swing, shoulder rotation, core strength using stomach muscles etc. I haven’t seen any specific studies of what you are looking for but I also would be extremely interested in finding anything specific that could further define an “optimum” acceleration or approach mechanics to deliver the best attack.

    • MP

      any news in the last 3 years

      • John Forman

        None that I’ve seen, unfortunately.

    • cbickley98

      By second to last step are you referring to step 3 of a 4 step approach? What I call “the drive step”? Or is it the load to the break step? Thanks.

      • John Forman

        Yes, step 3 of a 4-step, or step 2 of a 3-step.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.