Does Olympic weightlifting belong in a volleyball training regimen?

As the sport of volleyball continues to grow across the nation, the bar for excellence is constantly on the rise. There is more to “making it” than the skills learned in practice, watching videos, and completing drills. Top programs at all levels do much more than practice. The addition of weight lifting, specifically Olympic-style weightlifting, is proving to elevate individual performance by increasing strength and speed of movements, boost athleticism, and lessen injuries.

There are countless articles and information about the type of weight training that could be used for sports. However, the need for validated research is something that we have been gathering over the last two years. The data collection has been unofficial in nature being completed through observation and communication, while validated through athletic testing and game stats. However, it has proven to have a place. And the results solidified in our training approach cannot be refuted.

With the goal and mission of clubs as a whole in mind, directors and coaches are working toward improving the athletic qualities highly valued by collegiate volleyball coaches. This is being accomplished through the use of a specific style of weight training, Olympic-style weightlifting.

According to the Science of Sports, Olympic weightlifting “is a registered sport which incorporates the use of two independent lifts which require the athlete to lift a loaded barbell from the floor to an overhead position in an explosive manner” (para.1). The use of this method in our clubs is a new ideology and therefore research and data are limited. Nonetheless, its foundation and structure are important for two reasons, power development, which is speed and strength improvement and biomechanical similarities to sporting movements, which includes movement fluidity and speed improvement.

Here are three Olympic Lifting movements that have been identified as being the best for making the attacking faster, more powerful, and more explosive.

1. Hang cleans

This movement requires the athlete to be more explosive in the drive of the weight upward compared to the “big brother movement”, the Power Clean. The movement makes the athlete move quicker through the range of motion so momentum is taken away. Performing this movement is beneficial for volleyball players because it mimics the movement of hitting where the athlete has to jump quickly and with velocity. Hang cleans can also help a volleyball player recruit more type II muscle (fast twitch) fibers, which are needed to move with velocity and creating explosive force.

2. Snatch

This movement requires the athlete to move weight from the floor to the overhead position, mimicking the natural jumping motion performed by the volleyball athlete. This will improve the dynamic force generated as the athlete leaves the floor to jump to maximum height. With the shoulders so involved the movement also assists the athlete with opening their chest and there by gives them more torque upon hitting the ball.

3. Barbell squat jumps

Volleyball athletes need to move weight at a rapid pace. Often this weight is in the form of their own body moving through the air. With attacking, the athlete’s arms sweep from the ground up. This movement simulates a similar movement of going from a static squat to a leaping jump. Volleyball movements are quick and explosive and this lift improves the overall explosiveness of the athlete while jumping, thus increasing vertical.

Like most new ideas and methods, it can be easy just to ignore until there’s more data. However, the current data does not lie, nor mislead. If coaches and clubs are looking to elevate their game and take their potential to a new level, it is time to give Olympic-style weightlifting a mindful look and ask is this the key to producing extraordinary volleyball players.

About the Author

Dr. Adriane Wheat has played collegiate volleyball and has coached multiple teams for 20 years at all age levels in New York, Maryland, and Alabama.  She serves as the master coach for Alabama Performance Volleyball’s Youth Academy in Hoover, Alabama.


The Science of Sports. Retrieved from on January 16, 2018.

Coach Jeff Hannah is a certified strength and conditioning coach with the ISSA, and USWA and a former Division I football player, who went on to play professional arena football. He is the owner of 10-41, a gym in Morris, Alabama.