I have had the opportunity to strength train my two daughters for the last few years. Savannah is sixteen years old, 5’10”, a junior in high school, and a volleyball athlete. Madison is fourteen years old, 5’4”, 92lbs, a freshman in high school, and a volleyball and basketball athlete. Savannah now strength trains on her own while Madison still does her training sessions with me.
We have been able to spend some quality time together and have had some pretty good conversations about whatever was going on in their lives at the time. Some sessions were strictly about strength while others were about the girls bumping the volleyball back and forth and then getting in a few sessions of swings.
Training My Daughter for High School Volleyball
I recently followed up an earlier discussion with Pavel, which ended with advice on how I should incorporate strength training into Madison’s practice, with a specific goal of improving her overhand serve.
I had first contacted Pavel in May 2012 seeking advice on how to get Madison strong enough over the next few months so she could overhand serve. Pavel recommended she focus primarily on pull-ups.
She did, and reached the point where she could do multiple sets of two to five with a max of eight. She did pull-ups and practiced her overhand serve. By the beginning of her seventh grade volleyball season, she was around 4’8” and maybe 75lbs. She was little, but quick and strong and had an effective overhand serve. Since that time, she has strength trained consistently. She worked with Senior SFG Jason Marshall a couple of times and added in swings, get-ups, goblet squats, deadlifts, and hard style planks.
Be Ready for Conversation and Questions
Strength training with my daughters has been rewarding but at times frustrating. There have been a few times when my daughters have questioned why they are doing a certain exercise versus another one. They also are not shy about voicing any and all doubts and complaints. That’s okay, and to be expected (there haven’t been many complaints). but it makes it somewhat challenging.
I think it’s good for them to ask questions so they can form their own opinions. If you’re training your own kids, just try to make sure you have an answer. Saying “because I told you to” has not worked well for me.
Teach Them To Exercise Their Show-Up Muscle
Also, if you as a parent elect to go down the path of strength training your kids, you need to realize there may come a time when they want to do something else or do it differently. My oldest daughter, Savannah, trained with me and her younger sister last summer. She decided she wanted to strength train on her own this year. She is primarily doing multiple sets of goblet squats and overhead presses. She picked two good exercises to focus on. She is also doing a variety of lunges and some push-ups. The important thing is that she recognizes the importance of strength training, has a few good exercises in her arsenal, and as Dan John says: “is showing up.”
One of our goals as parents should be to instill self-reliance in our children. Her showing up on her own is a big deal. While I admit I miss our training or practice sessions together, I’m proud of her. If your kids enjoy training with you it can be a good experience for both of you. If not, I would urge you to find something else to do together.
With my daughters I’ve learned I have to simplify and keep the entire workout short. The primary focus is on strength. I suggest you take an Easy Strength approach. Have a limited number of high return exercises, keep the reps low, let the weights go up naturally, and stop the session if they are having a bad day.
Both my girls had sand volleyball three afternoons a week and indoor volleyball two or three mornings a week for most of the summer. The training sessions that Madison started with this past summer included a handful of different warm-up and stretching exercises that took about ten minutes to complete. The actual practice included swings, deadlifts, presses, power cleans, and loaded carries. That took another twenty to thirty minutes. By the midway point of the break, we had figured out there were a few exercises that Madison wasn’t receiving benefit from so we simplified again and tried to get rid of any and all fluff.
The first part of the summer Madison was doing half-get-ups for 8-12 reps each side with a light kettlebell. SFG Al Ciampa suggested that we change that to full get-ups, 2-3 reps per side, at a weight right at the edge of her ability. She has seen a good return on that.
We ditched the Spiderman crawls, the stretching is being taken care of in her volleyball warm-up, no more presses at this time because she’s getting enough overhead work at practice, and we dropped the deadlift and power clean for a couple of months. We have recently added the full contact twist and one-arm bench press. We are going to try the full contact twist for three to four weeks to see if there is an increase in power on her serves.
Example Sessions for In-Season and Off-Season Volleyball
Summer Workout — 2-4 times per week
- Rocks, Nods, Spider-Man Crawl, Standing Cross Crawl Overhead Squats w/PVC 2X8
- Hip Flexor Stretch 1X5 each side
- Goblet Squats 1X8
- Half-Get-Ups 8-12 each side w/light kettlebell
- Jumprope 25-50 reps forward and backward
- Single leg box squat 1X5 each leg
- Deadlift: around 10 reps 2X5, 3X3, 6X1
- Single or Double Kettlebell Overhead Press: around 10 reps
- Swings: 30-50 reps 16kg kettlebell (sets of 10)
- Loaded Carry
- Lateral walk w/band
- Power Wheel 1X5
- Hard Style Plank: 1
Note: We alternated between deadlift and power clean every other workout. Same reps.
In-Season Workout — 2-3 times per week
- Rocks, Nods 1X10
- Overhead Squat w/pvc 1-2X8
- Goblet Squat 1X8
- Get-ups 2-3 each side with a challenging weight
- Full Contact Twists 2X5
- 1-arm bench press: around 10 reps each side
- Various Style Swings with 16kg bell: 4X10 Hard Style, Ballistic, 1 Hand
- Farmers Walk: 200+/- yards with 16 kg bells. We vary the total distance and number of stops every workout. We are about to increase the weight.
- Lateral walk w/band
- Power Wheel 1-3 sets of 7
Every third workout or so, we add every loaded carry we can think of. She does a few reps of pull-ups throughout the week. If we are short on time, she only does the rocks, nods, and farmers walk.
We just replaced the goblet squat with double kettlebell front squats, 3X8. Madison wants to add a little size to her legs. She is going rock bottom and using a challenging weight.
The Proof Is in the Performance
Madison is one of two freshmen who’ve been asked to play both junior varsity and varsity this season at her high school. She is by far the smallest girl on the varsity team. At the first game of the season, the coach told the girls that Madison was the only player he wanted to jump serve. Between three junior varsity games and four varsity games that night, Madison made thirty-plus jump serves without missing a single one. On the court, her strength and quickness were very visible.
Intensity and an adequate amount of time spent practicing your sport are two important parts of success on the field of play. Being stronger than your competition is a very important third.
New to some of these drills? There’s a DVD for that.