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Volleyball/I need to increase my arm speed!

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Hi Tom,

Great site!  Thank you and Juan for all your advice!  I have a question of a different twist as I am an 'older' player - 38 year old male - who is trying to transition from B to A levels in various recreational leagues I play with.  I read an answer you gave to someone in 2009 about increasing arm speed, but you didn't offer specific advice there on HOW to do this, which is what I'm after.

I've viewed tons of videos from various pros online about training, and have watched real professional players hitting the ball but it doesn't seem to help me.  I guess what I'm looking for is more about the 'physics' of increasing my arm speed.  I have a relatively built upper body and lots of "strength" with well-developed arms and shoulders and core, and rarely will I meet a defender AT the net, get into a power push and lose that "strength" battle when it's pure muscle involved, but a solid spike from the A players who I sometimes play with appears to be 95% speed and 5% muscle/power and I'm not getting that satisfying "thwack" or subsequent velocity that sends the ball off the floor and up to the rafters except once in a while, and when I do get one, I'm honestly not sure at all what I did differently, and they are few and far between.

I regularly work out; free weights and cardio/plyometrics, but every time I go to smash the ball hard either at a serve or at the net, I don't feel like I'm getting the 'whip' that I see with the higher level players.  I practice until my shoulder's sore and I feel like I'm doing something wrong and setting myself up for injury.

I've even taken some video of myself and tried to analyze what I'm doing wrong and all I can see is that my arm is moving slower than the other guys.  I'm getting a good approach, my core's contracted, hitting arm in the right position, and as my arm comes forward, it just looks like it's slower than it should be, but I can see all my muscles flexed pulling it forward as hard as I can.

So my question(s) for you are:

- Do you have any youtube videos to recommend to see proper technique and/or increase arm speed?

- Are weights the right way to go?  Just to continue bulking up and increasing strength with max weight or go for lighter weight or something else (I've seen videos of people using light weight resistance bands and just going as hard and fast as possible from a 'ready' to 'contact' position for as many reps as possible and I have not tried this yet.

- Is it better overall to just hit the ball thousands of times and keep trying to get that satisfying 'thwack' of power and speed until it's consistent?  I don't even get the speed I want standing on the court and hitting the ball, it's just just on a jump or a serve - I simply lack the speed.

- Any other thoughts you can give to an 'old guy' trying to get to the next level with his hitting speed?

Thank you very much!

Answer
AJ:

It's great to hear from you!  Welcome to www.allexperts.com.

Like your vertical, there's only so much you can do with your arm speed.  

(Before a reader goes off on me haha, I'm not saying, "There's nothing you can do."  But increasing arm speed is not like increasing your bench press.  Yes, I'm right.  Armspeed is like your vertical, your sprinting speed, etc.  There's only so much a person can do about it.)  

Hitting speed was always a concern of mine. I'm not a muscular guy. In fact, I was a nerd in high school, only weighing 145 when I graduated at 6'1".  Yep, skin & bone.  It took a long time for me to build myself up to about the 170 that I used to play at.  Back to arm speed, I remember the day I saw myself wasn't until I saw myself play tennis....that I was like, "Oh, my! No wonder my serve is no big deal.  I have a slow arm!"  I didn't realize it until I saw it.  I remember the day.  I was shocked.  

a) Ok, you sound as if strength isn't your issue.  :) So no need to talk about that.
b) Sometimes to way to get better at something is to do it!  Jumping is an example.  But, in this case, those fast-twitch muscles are hard to train!  (Yes, just like vertical!)
c) This is what I advise people:  Throw something every day that has a little more mass than a vball.  Maybe a football.  Maybe a basketball.   After warming up  , THROW that object HARD!  That will help some.  

How did I compensate for lack of arm speed?
* Pinpoint placement!  You're not going to overwhelm them with your velocity.  
* Excellent tip/roll location & deception.  
* See the blockers.  Unless a 6'8" tricked me (dropping his arms into the seam), I was almost impossible to block.  
* Then, tooling the blockers. My stepd, who played 4 years of college vball at RU, was a master at the tool shot.  And at 5'6", she HAD to be!  She had an interesting skill set:  30 inch vertical, fantastic serve receiver (so she had to play), and great location hitter (so very rarely blocked).  But, she'd tool the 6'1" college women sometimes 3 or 4 times in one match.  People would say, "How does she do that?"  I was like, "She's a freak!"  She was much better at it than I was.  

I hope that this helped some!
Please keep in touch and tell me how it's going.  
And please visit me at www.coachhouser.com.  I think you'll really enjoy all the smiling faces!
Coach Houser

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Tom Houser

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I can answer any type of volleyball question: middle school, high school, college, club, coaching, playing, etc. (I am not, however, a athletic trainer! If you have a knee, ankle, back, etc. question, I'm sorry, but please search for another expert.)

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32 years coaching varsity, JV, club.

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BS degree from Va Tech in Math Education. MS degree from Va Tech in Secondary Administration. In the fall, I'll be starting my 31st year teaching high school math!

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The picture that you see is the 2015 15's team that I'm fortunate to be a part of. We will participate in 10 tournaments: Monument (Richmond) in January, Capitol Hill (Wash DC) in February, Shamrock (Roanoke, Va) in March and both BigSouth (Atlanta) and Northeast Qualifiers (Philadelphia) in April. My teams have qualified for Junior Nationals in '06, '09 and '12. We can't wait for this season to begin!

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