What you may not know about me is that I played volleyball in high school, competed for and won Georgia state championships, and was slated to go play in college. What actually got me interested in PT is the result of an injury from you guessed it…volleyball! That’s right, I injured my shoulder playing the game I love and it has prevented me from playing competitively since. But that love of the sport didn’t stop my drive to inspire some young girls to enjoy volleyball just as I did. So what do I do now? I coach A5 volleyball and love every minute of it. The part I don’t like to see is when players get injured or are not performing a skill to the best of their ability. One of the common errors I see is blocking incorrectly. It’s quite common amongst young girls to block with no body awareness, hence touching the net. How do you avoid a net call or missing a block? I’m here to tell you how, with some easy exercises that will add shoulder stability and drive so you can block your next ball with power and purpose.
Want to consistently “roof” your opponent? Follow me as I give you a rundown of the top 10 exercises for creating that consistent seal on the net to get that shut down block every time.
What do most blockers fail to do when they go up to block? I’m sure your coach has yelled this at you 1,000,000 times….PRESS. Well, what does this exactly mean? Press? Press up? Press over? This “press” motion is made with our shoulder stabilizers and core strength.
For a strong block, you should feel your arms reaching away from your body, not straight up, but away and out. In picture 1, you can see the shoulder is reaching forward vs. picture 2 where it is straight up. You should also feel your core tightening while you are in the air to provide more stability in your block.
You should not be reaching up for the ball, in order to get the “roof” effect you need to seal the net. Going straight up to reach for the ball is an easy error to avoid with blocking. Instead of bringing your shoulders up to your ears you should be pressing your shoulders forward, almost like you are rounding your shoulders. Here is where strengthening your shoulder comes to keep that press in your block.
Besides the shoulders, I want you to notice your hands. The strength of your hands also plays into blocking and how effective your block is. Keeping your hands in your peripheral vision at all times improves your blocking. That being said, make sure you do not drop your hands before you load to block jump (Unless you are swing blocking)! Keeping the vision of your hands and keeping your hands over the net longer will translate into better accuracy with blocking.
Lastly, the final thing I want to bring awareness to when blocking is your vision. What you are looking at before and during the block are equally important. After you have picked up where the ball is going to be set, forget the ball, pick up your hitter. Once you have your hitter focus your vision to the attacking arm/shoulder of your opponent. You want to be square to their hitting shoulder. Then as you jump your vision should shift to the hand of the hitter with your head not looking up. The faster you can track the hitters the more improvement you will see. If you watch the ball you will be late to the block!
Using your shoulders, core, hands, and vision to improve your blocking efforts will translate into you getting more stuff blocks! I created this list of exercises to help improve the strength in those areas to reach your goals. The following 10 exercises will help strengthen and coordinate your blocking efforts to produce a stuff block every time. With the following exercises, make sure to bring awareness to your core and your vision to imitate what it would feel like when you actually perform a block.
10 exercises for volleyball players to improve your block!
1. Serratus push ups 3x12: (Start in normal push up position, then protract (Push through your hands rounding your back) your shoulder blades, your elbows should stay locked out)
2. ER/IR shoulder with band 3x10 each arm: (Used a rolled up towel under arm to maintain shoulder position)
3. Half kneeling Landmine press 3x12 each arm:
4. Supine punches 3x12:
5. Finger push ups 3x10: (Open hands wide to push through fingertips, start on knees and you can progress to full push up position)
6. Prone shoulder extension with weight 3x10:
7. Prone plank on hands on half bosu ball black side: (hold this position for 1 minute x5, you can add rocking laterally and front to back to challenge shoulders)
8. Russian twist with over head press 2x12
9. Single leg RDL to overhead shoulder press 2x10 each leg: (Try to maintain single leg stance the entire movement, if unable keep toe placed on ground)
10. Dynamic block jump touches on wall 4x10: (If you have a mirror to perform these on it is beneficial to watch your hands and shoulders, if not any wall will do)
Thanks for reading!
Ashleigh Tompa PT, DPT
Ashleigh is a Doctor of Physical Therapy with a specific interest in manual therapy, sports orthopedics, and women's health. She is either working on the volleyball court at A5 or watching a Marvel movie with her boyfriend, Bin, and their two dogs.