September 13, 2022
When we think of fall ball, the first sport that comes to mind is football, right? Football is one of the greatly loved and favorited games of the season. However, volleyball is rapidly rising as one of the most popular sports, not only in the country, but in the world! It is enjoyed by men and women alike and attracts a wide variety of fans. For us volleyball players, we may start learning basic skills of the game as early as seven years old. Some hone in on those skills, perfect them, and play competitively all year round. Others may just play seasonally and focus on various recreational activities in the off-season. No matter which category you fall under, it is necessary to take care of the muscles and joints in your body to avoid a volleyball injury.
Warm-ups and cool-downs are an important part of an athlete’s workout. They help prep the tissues for a higher level of activity and allow for those same tissues to relax and recover afterwards. Without taking proper care of your body before practice or competition, you leave yourself at a much higher risk of injury. Any injury, whether it be minor or serious, leaves the body damaged. Damaged tissue or muscle takes time to heal, which athletes can’t always afford. You may be working towards a “W” on a Thursday night in your high school gym, a trophy to add to your college’s display case, or a medal around your neck on the world stage. No matter what level you participate in, you must take good care of your body in order to perform at your peak.
Volleyball is a specific sport that requires specific movements in order to play the game correctly and competitively. As with any sport, it is important to prep the specific muscles and joints you know you’ll be using most during your competition. There are a few keys stretches and exercises you should always keep in mind when preparing to play.
- Pectoral stretch (A):
A pectoral stretch is as simple as placing your hands and forearms on the walls that form a corner, placing one foot forward, and leaning into the corner. This particular stretch opens up the chest cavity and stretches the pectoralis muscle which helps bring your arm forward into a serve or spike motion. We use this muscle quite a bit during a match, so naturally it will sit a little tight during our down-time. Keeping this muscle stretched out will help prevent any excess soreness following competition.
- Arm circles (B):
Arm circles are easy to complete, as shown above, and are a great warm-up for not only the shoulder joint, but the muscles surrounding the joint. Creating a broad movement, such as circles, at the joint, will draw blood and warmth to the tissues, improve the elasticity or flexibility, and decrease your risk of strains or tears with fast, abrupt motions such as blocking or hitting.
- Sumo Squats (C):
A Sumo squat is a great exercise to warm up the hips, knees, and ankles. If you think about your position on the court, you are sitting in a half-squat position for a majority of the match. This position allows us to either quickly pass or hurry to our hitting spot. By completing squats before-hand, you will loosen the muscle tissue and again, decrease your risk or straining or tearing.
The cool-down following your game is just as important as your warm-up. By failing to properly relax those muscles after a couple hours of high-level activity, your body will experience excess soreness, tightness, and discomfort. The tighter the muscles are in a resting state, the less likely they are to extend and stretch in an active state. This could lead to injury and make it difficult to continue playing. Exercises any volleyball player can use to cool down are as follows:
- World’s Greatest Stretch (D):
This stretch is a great way to calm down all muscles used throughout your volleyball match. It allows for a stretch throughout the entire body and the joints to open up and move into full range. You will be able to gain mobility and decrease your risk of soreness afterwards.
- Cat/Cow Stretch (E):
You may have seen this completed in a yoga class before. The cat/cow stretch allows for full range of motion of the spine-all the way from the neck to the tailbone. When we are playing volleyball, we engage our core and use all of our postural muscles to complete key techniques such as passing, serving, hitting, and setting. If we neglect to stretch our spine and postural muscles, we will lose mobility. Once mobility is lost, our technique will be limited and less efficient.
As with any cool-down, walking is going to be a great way to decrease heart rate, improve oxygen intake, and promote function within the tissues, muscles, and joints. We like to say in therapy “Motion is lotion”. As long as you keep the body moving, you will decrease your risk of pain and discomfort following competition. A moderately-paced walk for 10-15 minutes is recommended for a proper cool-down.