Updated: Jul 18, 2018
The idea that you can only get better at volleyball during training hours is a myth. Volleyball is a skill sport that requires three main components for individual success: (1) technique and ball control (2) physicality and (3) decision making. Luckily for you, all of these can be trained at home, both with and without a ball.
If you have a ball with you...
1. Ball Control Drills
Just you and the ball – this is a great way to improve your “touch” and your ability to keep the ball alive with control. Practice forearm passing to yourself, either straight up or while moving across your yard or a driveway. Try keeping the ball alive with one hand only (you’ll probably be better with one hand than the other, so this is a good way to improve your non-dominant hand!), as well as alternating one hand and then the other.
For setting, you can set to yourself overhead or lay on your back and set to yourself while focusing on your hand positioning – both of these are also great for shoulder endurance, as you’ll start to tire out after a certain amount of reps. You can also alternate passing to yourself and then setting to yourself to work on getting your hands up early to set.
2. Against a Wall
If you have a wall, indoor or outdoor, the possibilities are endless. Setters can train their hand positioning by setting against a wall from a seated or standing position. If you have a partner or a willing parent, have them toss balls close to the wall for you to jump set to mimic setting along the net.
Attackers can self-toss and hit against a wall. See how consistently you can hit a certain spot. For passing, try passing 20 balls consecutively against the wall on your midline, then on your left, then on your right, dropping your shoulder to create the correct angle and resetting your feet each time. Once you get comfortable with this, try alternating left and right passes on each rep.
For attacking , you can self-toss high and hit against a wall (same goes for your float serve or jump float). See how consistently you can hit a certain spot (see example here). You can also work on cross body or wrist away attacks by changing the direction you’re facing.
If you don’t have a ball with you...
1. Video, Video, and more Video.
Video is one of the best ways to get better without touching a ball. Watch college or professional matches or highlight videos (check out our Watch Volleyball page for links) and pick a player in your position who has a similar style or physical profile as you. Or if you want to work on a specific skill (serve receive passing, for example), pick the player who is the BEST at that skill and watch them over the course of a set or match. How does that player move on the court? What type of footwork does she use before her pass? What do her arms look like during that pass? You can then try to mimic her positioning and technique, and that visual information from the video will help you during your training.
Watching video of yourself is also hugely helpful. Look at your positioning, how you move on the court, and what your passing or setting technique looks like in a live situation. If you’re a setter or attacker, video is also a great way to analyze your decision-making: Why did you set that ball and do you think it was the right choice? Why did you hit that shot in that situation? Seeing yourself on video might also help you see that the changes you're making in practice are really working!
If you do both of these (watching high level volleyball and video of yourself), you can then compare your play to those players and notice the similarities or differences – whether it’s your arm swing, your service receive angles, or your jump setting technique.
Attackers, you can work on your basic 4-step approach to jump and hit at home (R, L, R, L for right-handed attackers). Think about going slow to fast during your footwork and transferring your forward momentum into your explosive jump. Once you’ve got that down, you can practice your blocking transition to approach footwork (4 steps off the net after your block and 4-step approach) or outside hitter serve receive footwork (pass, 3 or 5-step shuffle, then 4-step approach to jump and hit).
For blocking, practice your blocking footwork and arm work against the wall. Make sure you start with your feet about 18 inches from the wall to allow your arms to press and shrug over and across the “net” and into the wall – not straight up overhead!
3. Strength and Speed Work
Especially at the higher levels, physicality is a huge factor in volleyball. Players are getting stronger in the weight room, jumping higher, and moving faster on the court thanks to their agility and speed work. You can do all of this at a gym, but here are a few exercises here that require no equipment and can be done at home.
Tricep Push-ups (technique here) or Negative Push-ups (starting at the top of your push-up and slowly going down to the ground) – 3 sets of 8
Planks (regular planks, side planks, one-leg) – 3 rounds, holding for 30-60 seconds
Hill Sprints – 1 set of 8-10 sprints of 15-25 seconds each (walk back down to recover and start again as soon as you reach your starting point)
Split Squat Jumps (technique here) – 3 sets of 20 total
Ankle Hops (technique here) – 3 sets of 12
There are thousands of resources online for other at-home exercises to increase speed, strength, power, and mobility. Just be sure to talk to your coach or trainer about your goals and needs to get the most out of your workouts at home!