How to Build your Upper Body Strength for Volleyball?

how to develop upper body strenght for volleyball

Upper body muscles are extremely important for volleyball players. Indeed, most modern training techniques for volleyball are meant to help improve this part of the body as it provides a significant edge for the players …

In this article, I breakdown the most important training techniques you should focus on to help develop your upper body strength for volleyball as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What upper body muscles should you strengthen for volleyball?

upper body muscles

In volleyball, the upper body is where a lot of the essential action occurs …

Biceps and forearms engage to move the arms during any ball-hitting action like serving, receiving, passing, and spiking.

The chest is engaged during forceful forward and upwards movements, while the shoulder muscles are in constant motion, including working with back muscles to keep the arms from moving back when blocking a ball.

The back muscles also need to be strengthened – such as the scapular stabilizers, which are located around the shoulder blades because they help with arm movement and stability, while the latissimus dorsi muscles, which extend down the back from just under the shoulder blades to the waist, are helping when it comes to maintaining balance, as well as moving the upper body.

Strengthening these muscles is important because the incidence of injuries in these areas, especially among elite level players, is quite high …

For example: Because of the repetitive and excessive loading of the spine, back injuries occur frequently, And due to the frequency with which overhead movements are practiced, rotator cuff muscles and tendons in the posterior shoulder area can become overstretched and sore, and even lead to muscular tears.

Tight chest muscles can also contribute to a variety of shoulder injuries.

How to strengthen your upper body for volleyball?

resistance band

There are a number of ways to strengthen back muscles. For example, using a resistance band (Check this example Here at Amazon) and just pulling it apart is a good way to start.

Begin with several repetitions and build up to ten. Stand with the arms extended, holding the resistance band in front with both hands so that the band is parallel to the ground.

Then keeping the arms straight, pull the arms to the chest, moving the arms out to the sides. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and the spine straight, before returning to the starting position.

training ball

Another back muscle strengthening drill involves the use of an exercise ball (Check this example Here at Amazon), and is designed to help improve the core and the spine.

Lie down, face first on an exercise ball with the abdomen in the center of the ball, Press the balls of the feet into the floor behind in order to maintain stability and balance.

Extend the arms forward, bending at the waist first, then slowly raising the upper body. Pause at the top of the movement, and then slowly lower down again.

shoulder abduction exercice

In terms of shoulders, begin with a shoulder abduction exercise which involves standing in front of a mirror and holding the arm out to the side, while keeping the scapula pressed down.

Then move on to scapular protraction which involves lying on the back while holding a small dumbbell in front. The shoulder should be pushed forward while keeping the arm as stiff as possible.

beceps training for volleyball

For the biceps, a basic exercise involves standing with the elbows at the side of the body, bent to a 90 degree angle with the palm up.

Push up against the other hand, tightening the biceps. Hold for several seconds and then repeat several times.

A more advanced exercise is the bicep curl. This involves placing a resistance band under the feet and around the hands. The back and the elbows should be straight.

Slowly bend the elbows against the resistance band, tightening the bicep in the process. Again, this should be done several times.

A variation on this is to hold the resistance band slightly behind the body, with the arms and elbows outstretched. Keeping the back straight and the upper arms still, slowly bend the elbows against the band, tightening the bicep muscles.

How much weight should you lift for upper body strengthening?

It is recommended that the weight lifted should not be so great that a person can only do between seven and ten repetitions of an exercise. That is because the weight lifted is unique to each individual person, their body shape and fitness goals.

It is also recommended that lighter weights are used to begin with; this can gradually be increased over time.

For beginners, however, an empty barbell, weighing 45 pounds is considering an ideal starting place, and will be enough to build muscle and upper body strength.

Generally, experts consider any weight lifted above 200 lbs is considered heavy when it comes to upper body strength.

More weight should be added slowly, meaning no more than 5 to 10 pounds on the barbell at any one time …

Even if the temptation is there to add more weight, this should be resisted, as the objective is to gradually build strength, not run the risk of injury. Muscles and joints needed to get accustomed to the strain involved.

If somebody finds that, with the new weight, they are struggling to complete the recommended repetitions, then it is a sign that they have added too much weight.

However, if they have completed them with ease, then this may be the time to go to the next level.

How to strengthen your upper body for volleyball at home?

There are a number of exercises which can be done at home to strengthen upper body strength, for those who do not have an easy access to a gym.

Here are some suggestions (BTW, some of these suggestions are a good way to help relieve soreness after intense volleyball games) …


Push-ups have the benefit of being a compound exercise, which means that they work  a number of muscle groups at the same time, including the arms, the core, and the chest.

The best way to do a push-up is to lie parallel to the floor, then, bending the elbows, lower the body to the ground, and then push back up again.

The core should be engaged to keep the body In a straight line throughout.


This is another compound exercise that works the arms, cores, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

To begin, from a standing position bend over until the hands touch the floor, and then jump  the feet back into a crouching position,  Hold this for a  few moments, or do a push-up, and then jump the feet back to the hands again and stand-up.

Triceps dip

This exercise works the muscles on the back of the upper arms as well as the pectorals. To undertake this exercise, one should stand with their back to a low, flat surface like a chair or table.

Place the hands on either side of the object with the fingers pointed forward, and without leaning the body against it, bend the arms and lower the body to the ground, making sure to keep the back straight, and the knees at a 90 degree angle. Having reached the floor, holding the position for a few seconds and then push back up again, keeping the elbows locked tight to the side.

Bicep curl

This is designed to strengthen the wrists, flexors, biceps, and deltoids, and requires the use of a  dumbbell or kettlebell.

Hold the dumbbell in one hand, keeping the elbow tucked tight to the side, and then raise the weight to the shoulder., before slowly lowering.

After several repetitions using one hand, switch to the other, and as the strength builds up, try using two dumbbells.


Planks help strengthen the arms, shoulder, back and lutes.

To perform this exercise, lie on the floor face down, with the feet behind. Place the elbows under the shoulders and push upwards against the arms and the feet, lifting the body off the floor in the process. The back should be kept straight and the position held for a few seconds before relaxing.

What adjustment should you do for beach volleyball?

In many ways the requirements for beach volleyball are similar to the indoor version of the game, with perhaps the only difference being that even more emphasis is placed on physical fitness. That is because with only 2 players a side, the need to be in peak physical fitness is even greater.

Upper body exercises should comprise push-ups, curls, extensions, and burpees, combined with general fitness training, not neglecting to practice speed around the court.

One recommendation is to consider the use of resistance bands. Made of rubber, they are a low-cost, high impact piece of gear for building muscle strength, increasing flexibility, and staying fit.

Bands coming in varying lengths, thickness, and durability, and has a variety of uses, either on their own, or as part of another exercise to increase resistance.

For example, incorporating their use in a triceps or bicep curl increases the difficulty of the drill, but, in terms of benefits, provides an even better work-out.

One of the prime advantages of a resistance band is that they take up very little space so they can be used at home and then packed away again, ready for the next time.

And they are much cheaper than weights as well.

A study published  in the Journal of Human Kinetics which analyzed muscle activation during upper body strength training comparing resistance bands with free weights. The research indicated that the results were roughly the same, but, if anything the bands caused muscle fibers to fire up even more during drills.

Final Thoughts …

Keep in mind that muscle balance is also important when it comes to beach volleyball training. One way to incorporate this into the training program is to perform the exercises one after another, with no rest in between, alternating steps until all have been completed.

This works by engaging agonist in direct competition with antagonist muscle groups.

Finally, keep in mind that other than the upper part, there are other body parts involved in volleyball that you may want to learn about!

Carissa Harmer

Carissa Harmer has over 6 years of volleyball experience between playing the sport at a semi-professional level, following the biggest volleyball teams & leagues out there as well as helping beginners to get started on the right path.

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