How to Quickly Hit Harder in Volleyball
The simplest, fastest way to hit harder is by Turning the Hips, Fast!
- Increase Core Strength & Stability – increase the power and stability of your core, spine and rib cage
- Engage the Power Muscles – turn your shoulders to the right
- Maintain Stability – turn the upper body over stable legs and pelvis
- Correctly Sequence the Body Turn – turn your hips before the shoulders and arms
- Create and Maintain Lag – make the arms and hands wait on the turn of the body before contacting the ball
Increase Core Strength & Stability
“Core” defined – for our purposes the core is the middle section of the body starting at the hips and pelvis, and moving up through the spine and rib cage. When we say we want to increase core strength, we are generally saying that we want to strengthen all of the muscles from the buttocks up through the abdomen, lower back, spine and rib cage. While there are many muscles in the core, in relation to volleyball, we are concerned about the core muscles which create rotation or control rotation.
Strength To generate more power to hit a volleyball harder requires increased strength in specific muscles of the core, hips, spine and shoulders.It’s important to understand that many exercises will make muscles generally stronger.
For example, you might routinely perform squat exercises which certainly can strengthen one of the most important and strongest muscles of the hips and core, the “glutes”. While squats can make your glutes generally stronger, from a volleyball swing performance perspective, the squats may not improve rotational power of the hips and pelvis (which is critical in improving rotational power to hit a volleyball harder).
In the volleyball swing, the glutes (and the hip joints) need to be exercised in the same way they need to work while you are turning your hips and body very fast while hitting a volleyball, ideally in-the-air. In other words, they need to be trained while you turn both slow and fast (with your feet off the ground)!
Stability Not only do we want to strengthen the core muscles that turn the hips and spine, but we also want to train many core muscles that work to help hold or stabilize the joints in their proper position as the core and body turn. Training the stabilizers helps to protect the joints from injury.
In the volleyball swing we are especially concerned about stabilizing the many joints of the spine and shoulders to protect the low-back, spine and shoulders from injury related to the twisting of the spine, upper body and shoulders to hit the ball.
Engage the Power Muscles
When hitting with power in volleyball, for the most powerful, dynamic players, the majority of the power to crush balls comes generally from the core (hips, abs, back muscles, spine, rib cage and shoulder girdle). This allows today’s up and coming stars to generate great rotational power in their swings because they are simply using bigger muscles and more muscles.
This is different from many younger volleyball players who use predominantly the smaller, weaker and more injury prone muscles of their hitting shoulder and arm to hit the ball.
Keeping it simple, in a powerful volleyball swing, as the hitter completes their approach and leaves the ground, they turn the shoulders and spine to their right, which stretches many of the core’s power rotational muscles. This action stretches these muscles like rubber bands, preparing them to release their elastic energy as the hips start their rapid turn back to the hitter’s left, as the body starts to turn back to the left.
In a mechanically sound volleyball swing, the legs play a critical role in creating a stable base for the pelvis, spine and upper body to turn over. Basically to increase rotational power, a hitter needs to keep their legs and pelvis relatively stable, (in the air) so the shoulders and upper body can turn very rapidly and efficiently essentially around their spine.
Similar to the old-time top, when a top spun fast, it was because the top turned fast around it’s vertical axis. Similarly, in the volleyball swing, the faster the upper body, shoulders, arms and club turn, [around the body's vertical axis (the spine)], the greater is the arm-speed and the harder the ball can be hit. If a top wobbles, because it’s not turning efficiently around it’s vertical axis, its rotational speed will be slower.
In the volleyball swing, if the legs and pelvis are not held stable, the hitter’s swing will slow (because their vertical axis is moving) – all the result of lack of poor stability in the legs and pelvis. In the volleyball swing, when the body turns slows, arm-speed drops and ball “pop” and velocity decrease accordingly.
Correctly Sequence The Body Turn
The body needs to turn in a specific sequence to maximize rotational power.
Loading or Coil Movement As the hitter completes the approach and jumps into the air, their shoulders and spine turn to the right. In the volleyball swing, the pelvis should remain relatively stable as the shoulders and spine turn to the hitter’s right.
Forward Swing Probably the most critical sequence of the volleyball swing to be concerned with, is the forward swing. The forward swing starts at the end of the loading or coil (where the hitter has turned his or her shoulders and spine to their right). With today’s most powerful and dynamic whole-body rotational volleyball swings, these hitters start their forward swing with the movement of their hips and pelvis. The hips and pelvis move slightly to the hitter’s left and then rapidly start to turn. When performed correctly, a fast turn of the hips and pelvis to the hitter’s left, will pull on the rib cage, turning the rib cage, spine and shoulders through, after the turn of the hips.
Simply stated, the correct forward swing sequence to hit a ball with increased power is 1) hips first, 2) shoulders second, and 3) finally the hitting arm and hand turn through last.
Create and Maintain Lag
Since the hitting arm is connected to the shoulders, in the forward swing, (when the shoulders turn to the hitter’s left), the hitting arm and hand are pulled or turned through last in the sequence, creating a slight but extremely important lag of the hitting arm and hand.
(Many young hitters swing predominantly with their hitting shoulder and arm, swinging the hitting shoulder and arm at the ball first, before the correct sequential turn of the hips and shoulders can more powerfully pull or turn the hitting shoulder and arm through the ball. Swinging the hitting shoulder and arm through first, robs the swing of arm lag, power and velocity.)
In general, the faster the body turns, the greater is the resulting arm-speed. Increase arm-speed and you’ll hit balls harder! Turn the hips and pelvis faster (and if you have sequenced your body turn and swing correctly), the result will be increased arm-speed and ball velocity.