Physically speaking, there's not much difference among the best of the best college volleyball squads. Sometimes, the deciding factor between a win and a loss is the health of a team's players. If you're not on the court, you can't help your team win.
Ankle flexibility is a problem for many volleyball players. With his assistants, Chip Harrison, head strength and conditioning coach for Penn State volleyball, which took home the 2007 NCAA title, works his players' ankles religiously because of how the game is played.
"Flexible ankles are important because of the surface they play on and because of all the lateral movement volleyball entails," Harrison says. "Without flexibility, you run the risk of getting an ankle sprain, strain or lower leg problem, because other muscles have to compensate for the lack of flexibility."
Here are two ankle stretches Harrison prescribes for his Nittany Lions. Performing them year-round helped his players stay on the court to compile a 34-2 overall record.
Ankle Roll Warm Up
· Sit on ground with legs fully extended and toes pointing up, with hands on ground for support
· Bend left leg 90 degrees and cross it over right leg, keeping left foot flat on ground
· Raise right leg slightly off ground and rotate ankle clockwise for 15 reps; repeat counter clockwise for 15 reps
· Switch legs, performing same sets and reps with left ankle
Adaptation: Have a partner manually resist your rotation with her hands. This adds an element of strength to the exercise.
Harrison's hints: Keep your knee straight, but not locked and stiff // Maintain a straight, flat back // Try to get as much range of motion as you can. The more you do this drill, the more improvement you'll see.
Ins and Outs with Band
· Sit with right leg fully extended on bench, so ankle and foot hang off bench and toes are up
· Loop band around arch of foot to create tension
· Place hands on each side of band with palms facing inward
· Slightly pull band with left hand, so ankle stretches to left
· Hold 20 to 30 seconds
· Perform 4 reps; switch legs and use right hand to pull band
Adaptation: Get rid of the band and have a partner manually stretch you. Resist her hands with your ankle; this improves both your flexibility and strength.
Harrison's hints: Keep your knee straight, but not locked and stiff // Keep the hand that isn't pulling relaxed // Maintain a straight flat back.
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