Vern Gambetta is an extremely well-respected coach, particularly when it comes to the strength & conditioning side of things. I quoted him previously here, here, here, and here. He did a 4-post sequence on Facebook in which he provided his definition of strength training. Because that’s something that comes up quite frequently in coaching discussion, I want to share it here.

Part One
Strength is often trained is an independent motor quality, I certainly have made that mistake. Strength is a highly interdependent motor quality. I think some of the problem and confusion lies in the definition of strength training. In order to clarify what strength training is it is important to have a good operational definition of strength training. For the definition to be operational it needs to be applicable to all training environments. The definition I use for Strength Training is: Coordination training with appropriate resistance to handle bodyweight, project an implement, move or resist movement of another body, resist gravity and optimize ground reaction forces.

Part Two
Coordination training is that aspect of strength training that Incorporates both intramuscular and intermuscular coordination. The key to efficient movement and effective force application ultimately is intermuscular coordination. It is training muscles synergies to apply force at the correct time, in the correct plane and the correct direction.

Part Three
Appropriate resistance is determined for each of the following demands:

  • Handle bodyweight – If the sport demands handling bodyweight then the emphasis is on relative strength working in various percentages of bodyweight resistances.
  • Project an implement – The weight of the implement will determine the necessary resistance to develop strength to move that implement at the required speed.
  • Move or resist movement of another body – This will determine the type of resistance and duration and direction of force application.
  • Resist gravity – Sports that demand work against gravity necessitate more eccentric and isometric emphasis to express the necessary force.
  • Optimize ground reaction forces – Sports with high ground reaction forces demands reactive strength.

Part Four
This definition better directs the training and incorporates a spectrum of training methods to address the varying strength/power needs of different sports. Remember the goal is develop strength that the athlete can use. Some is measurable and some is not. Hopefully this will stimulate discussion and feedback.

With regards to Part Three, in volleyball we definitely have to handle body weight, resist gravity, and optimize ground reaction forces. We don’t really resist another body directly, but you can make the case that digging/passing and blocking all have elements of this with regards to the ball. And while the actions we take to apply force to the ball (serve, spike, set) aren’t on the same level as throwing a javelin or swinging a bat, the principle applies.

Overall, I think Vern presents an important way for us to conceptualize our strength training work. Definitely worth keeping in mind when working with your Strength Coach or looking at putting a plan together yourself.

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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.

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