To ensure the greatest positional specificity, the sets used for tests 4 and 5 must vary according to player position. As an example (zones shown in Figure 6), middle blockers will attack fast spikes in the middle of the net (zone 3). Opposites will attack a ball set at 2 to 3 m on the right side of the net (zones 2 and 1). Outside hitters will attack a ball set at 2 to 3 m on the left side of the net (zone 4). These tests evaluate the ability to use strength/power used in spiking in relation to the direction of the spike.
In test 6 (Figure 7), the serve players serve the ball with a self-toss and use their normal serve technique. This test evaluates the ability to apply one's strength/power to the ball while serving in a specific or game situation.
The testing protocol should be done after a general (10-20 minutes of jogging and movements with active stretches specific to the spike) and specific warm-up (e.g., 10-15 minutes of “pepper” and spiking at the net). Before the tests, players will do 3 warm-up practice trials. A minimum of 30-second rest between trials should be taken (9). In the standing spike tests, players cannot move their feet. In the spike tests with jumping, players should not touch the net or invade the opponent's court. Players should use their normal spike approach. The maximum speed of the ball after being spiked will be registered out of 3 trials. If none of the 3 trials are correctly executed, a maximum of 5 trials should be allowed per test.
Two methods can be used to assess spike speed: (a) radar (direct measure) and (b) video analysis (indirect measure). Technological improvement has permitted the radar to be used in sport research and training to monitor spike speed instead of using photogrammetry (6,7,11). The radar registers an object's speed through the emission and reception of radio waves.
Another possibility for assessing the ball speed is using video analysis. Coaches can use video analysis software such as Dartfish (Dartfish, Fribourg, Switzerland) or Quintic (Quintic, Birmingham, United Kingdom). These software programs allow one to measure the distance the ball travels and the time the ball is in the air from a video recording (1). Therefore, speed is calculated indirectly, but the measurement is not as reliable as using the radar; however, it does provide coaches with objective values and allow coaches to monitor contact height. To get reliable data, adequate cameras, biomechanics software, and strict protocols of measure must be used (1).
For the spike tests, the target zone (1.5 × 1.5 m) should be placed 5 m from the players. This distance allows players to spike the ball with maximal power toward the target zone (17). If the players were positioned closer, the spike angle would not be realistic. It would be too vertical and would change the kinetic chain of the spike. If the players were positioned farther, the precision would not allow players to apply all their strength. The target zone should be set at a height of 0.5 to 1 m. The ball has to go directly toward the target zone to ensure proper measurement. The tests will not be valid if players cannot control their spikes and do not send the ball into the target zone (17).
If radar is used as the measurement system, it should be protected by a metallic box, net, goal, or similar equipment and it should be orientated toward the zone where the ball is contacted. For the serve tests, if a radar is used, it should be positioned behind the players (2-3 m). However, with the radar directly behind them, the players' body can affect the measurement. Therefore, the radar should be at a height of 2 to 3 m and orientated toward the zone where ball is contacted. Another option would be to position the radar at the other end of the court (approximately 25 m away), under similar conditions as in match serve control.
The spike and serve test protocol attempts to evaluate and provide information about the ability of the players to apply strength/power in game-like situations. The values obtained with these tests will give coaches a point of reference and help them in strength/power work and in monitoring training. For example, these tests will help detect whether or not a player adequately applies strength/power to game conditions through the differences in the various tests of the battery. They will also allow coaches to individualize their players' training according to specific needs, such as general strength work (deficit in test 1) or game-related strength/power work (deficit in test 4 or test 5). Some of the tests can also be included in practices when players work on spiking and serving. This will allow coaches to periodically monitor the players in practices. It will also allow coaches to monitor the load and intensity of the work done by the players in training situations (e.g., players spike in different zones, and the spikes done in one specific zone and/or direction are monitored). Also, the use of the radar with a display screen as well as the use of individual goals will help to motivate players and will give them objective values for practices.
The tests can be done consecutively or individually to fulfill the coach's objectives. For example, the coach may only be interested in measuring the spike in game-like conditions, so he or she would select only test 4 or test 5. With professional players, coaches can also include perceptive and/or decision-making aspects in tests 4 and 5, creating variations such as blockers and/or diggers to avoid verbal information about direction to spike, and so on. This modification is only applicable with more advanced athletes.
Follow-up testing during the season will allow coaches to monitor variations in spike speed. The information regarding changes in spike speed will help to evaluate the effect of the strength/power work for the upper body in game-like conditions through the speed of the ball (indirect measure of the ability to use strength/power). This will give information about whether conditioning and practices are having a positive effect on performance or whether there is a decrease in performance during the season. Protocol application will allow coaches to detect deficiencies in technique, in the ability to use strength/power, and/or in upper-body or core strength/power using the arm swing. Tests 1 and 2 are similar and show the ability to apply strength using the arm swing. Test 1 is easier to organize and carry out, and test 2 is done in more specific conditions (net limitation and spiking angle). Test 3 is the basic spike and shows the ability to apply strength/power when using the entire spike action (jump and arm swing). Tests 4 and 5 are done in specific conditions. Test 4 is similar to test 3 except for the approach and zone. Test 5 involves a modification of the normal chain of the spike that could affect the ability to use strength/power. Basal values should be measured with each team for every specific level of competition. Therefore, from the tests' results, if differences are found between tests 4 and 5, the coach can determine if his/her players have problems with their ability to use their strength/power when spiking in-line compared with spiking diagonally.
This protocol can be used with teams at different levels (high school, college, and professional teams). If players cannot place the ball where they need to when applying all their strength/power, the tests will not be reliable for showing improvement in strength/power. In this case, the test will show the strength that the technique of the player allows him/her to apply in the game.
The protocol of tests to monitor spike and serve speed can allow strength and conditioning coaches and volleyball coaches to monitor the effect of upper-body strength/power training and the use of this strength in applied and game-like situations and changes in the execution. The protocols can be used as a whole or be adapted to the characteristics and the team necessities (level, time for testing, player positions, etc). The fact that the spike tests progressively evaluate execution of the spike (basic and general to specific and applied) means that coaches are able to detect possible deficits in upper-body strength/power and/or their application in game-like situations from the differences between the various tests. The tests can provide information to orientate upper-body strength/power workouts off and on the court.
The tests give coaches the possibility to monitor the progression and level of their players with regard to strength/power in the spike and the serve by monitoring players' performance during the season. This article presents a specific strength testing protocol for monitoring the strength applied in the spike and the serve. This protocol, combined with the monitoring of jump ability, will allow coaches to measure the ability to use strength in the technical actions of spike and serve.
This testing protocol was developed as part of a research grant (05/UPR10/06) by the Spanish High Council for Sport and the Education and Science Ministry. We acknowledge Juan Carlos Morante from Desarrollo Software, Deportivo. S.L., for allowing us to adapt the drawings used in this article.
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Keywords:© 2009 National Strength and Conditioning Association
monitoring; tests; strength; spike; serve; volleyball