Sudden Speed for Volleyball - Indianapolis Fitness And Sports Training
Athletic Development

Sudden Speed for Volleyball

written by Ty Terrell

Volleyball players need to be like sports cars: 0 to 60 in 3.6 seconds.

In fact, it’s an absolute must if you want to be elite.

The game happens so fast, and only on occasion do you have to move more than 10 feet on a play.

But here’s the thing:

Reacting to a play like a flash of lightning separates average volleyball players from great ones.

Think about the game: An outside hitter uses an approach of 10 feet or less.

At most, a middle will have to slide outside for a kill or help block.

That’s only 15 feet, AT MOST.

The back row has one quick step or one move to react to a ball and get a dig. There just isn’t enough time to make the play if you don’t get to it immediately.

Volleyball, perhaps more than any other sport, demands a need for SUDDEN SPEED.

Speed that gets you from A to B like you are being fired out of a cannon.

Speed that makes coaches, players and fans say “How’d she get there?!”.

Sudden speed makes people say “WOW,” and arms you with a necessary weapon to be a great volleyball player.

So what is sudden speed?

The ability to create bursts of speed and accelerate rapidly.

How do I get sudden speed?

Speed is simply a combination of mechanics, force applied and the speed of that application.

  • Mechanics need to be optimal in order for an athlete to take full advantage of their force production potential.
  • The speed of force application, or RFD (rate of force development), is vitally important in sports where the time available to make a play is limited. The smaller the window to make a play, the more important RFD becomes.

Now that these variables for sudden speed are identified, creating training situations that force the athlete to develop force production and the ability to do quickly is the next step.

Force Production

When you push into the ground to jump or accelerate or cut, it is the amount of force you apply into the ground that ultimately determines the result of your movement.

If I can apply a lot of force into the ground then I will jump higher or run faster, two qualities every volleyball player needs and wants.

Volleyball players don’t need to be powerlifters but they do need to lift weights if they want to increase force production. The key is to choose how heavy the load is.

When lifting weights, volleyball players need to use a load that is heavy enough that forces them to produce more force but light enough that they can still move it relatively fast.

This picture represents all of the strength zones in training.

  • Absolute strength is where your 1 rep max will typically fall.
  • Starting strength is typically performed as fast as you can without weight (e.g. a sprint or bodyweight jump).
  • In between those 2 strength zones are zones where there is some level of weight being lifted or moved.

Because volleyball players need to be able to produce high levels of force and be explosive, accelerative strength to speed strength are optimal zones to train in. These zones range from about 20% of your 1 rep max in speed-strength to 85% of your 1 rep max in accelerative strength.

The heavier loading in accelerative strength increases force production, but still allows the volleyball to maintain their explosiveness.

In contrast, the lighter loading in strength-speed and speed-strength train RFD and power without sacrificing force production.

These qualities can be trained with traditional weight room exercise like squats and deadlifts.

But to put these qualities into action and train the athlete on how to use the increased force production and RFD, drills need to be designed to force them to accelerate faster, jump higher and cut quicker.

Here are a few examples. Notice how each exercise or drill forces the athlete to act quickly over a short range. This promotes faster RFD and helps build that “sudden speed.”


Sudden speed is an absolute must for all volleyball players.

The ability to create sudden bursts of power will raise your ceiling as a volleyball player and leave your competition and coaches saying “WOW”.

Ty Terrell

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