One of the most noted issues for young female athletes is ACL injuries. Several recent studies demonstrate that the rate of ACL injury among women can be significantly reduced by following a proper conditioning program. Volleyball training should include injury-prevention exercises such as vertical-jump development, foot-quickness exercises, and lateral movement. Here are a few tips we found from Volleyball Magazine’s August 2014 article to help preserve your ACL during training and game time.
Vertical Jump Development
Kettlebell Squat Swings:
These have the ability to strengthen the hips, legs, and back. The swing motion reinforces a quick drop into the bottom position of a jump, followed by a firing of the muscles used to jump when you return to standing. During the swing you get both force-production and absorption-training benefits. The path the kettlebell travels reinforces knee separation, corrects valgus knee response, and takes lateral pressure off the knee joint.
— Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a kettlebell in front of your waist with both hands.
— Lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground, while allowing the kettlebell to swing back between your thighs, keeping your arms straight.
— Drive through your heels and explode up with your hips to bring the kettlebell to chin level in front.
— Return to squat position with control and repeat rhythmically.
— Perform 3-5 sets of 15-25 reps. Rest 60 seconds between sets.
Single-Leg Lateral Line Hop:
This is a high-neural plyometric, meaning it decreases foot-ground contact time and increases step-turnover ratio. On the ACL side, it teaches force absorption and trains the athlete to keep knee over ankle and ankle over the center of the foot. High neural plyometrics also develop tonic leg strength (an increase of muscle tone in the lower extremities), making the knee more stable even when the leg muscles are not flexed.
— Stand on your right foot next to a line on the floor (or a broomstick). Lift your left leg in front of your body with your left knee at a 90-degree angle and your foot flexed.
— Keeping your core tight, stand on the ball of your right foot and jump over the line and back without letting your left foot touch the ground.
— Perform as many reps as you can in 30 seconds, then switch feet and repeat.
— Perform 5 sets of 30 seconds on each leg. Rest for 30 seconds between sets.
— Other variations of this drill include forward to backward movement, a two-footed lateral hop, and a front to back switch step (one leg in front of the line and one behind, switching back and forth).
Lateral Step Separation:
Lateral drills develop proper side-to-side movement patterns, strengthen the glutes and outer hips, stabilizing the knee from the hip down while developing proper lines of force and protecting the ACL. The lateral step separation exercise teaches lateral push, knee separation, and recovery back to a proper platform.
— Place a light band around both legs just below the knees. Set your core before going into motion; this facilitates a stronger transfer of energy. Maintain an athletic platform. Stand on the balls of your feet with your knees soft and separated and your feet parallel.
— Begin the movement with a tightening of the glutes and a push into the ground through the trail foot. Then extend your trail leg and push your body in the desired direction, stepping laterally with your lead leg. The trail leg follows lead leg with a step back into an athletic platform.
— Perform 3-5 sets of 8-15 reps per leg.