I’ve written on this topic previously and at the urging of SportsEDTV CEO Victor Bergonzolli, I’m returning to the subject again with a modification.
I’ve been providing strength and conditioning coaching for female volleyball players since 1992. I’ve worked with hundreds of them, almost entirely high school/club players. As an indication of the quality of athlete, 18 of them have gone on to earn Division 1 scholarships. That statistic in which I take the most pride, however, is the fact that over this 28 year period, none of my athletes has experienced an ACL injury. I realized that this is anecdotal, but I do believe that it is significant. Each year in the US 20,000 to 80,000 female athletes suffer non-contact ACL injuries mainly in the sports of basketball, volleyball and soccer. The fact that my athletes never suffer these injuries must be at least partly attributable to the strength and conditioning regimen that I provide.
When I first started working with female high school volleyball players I read a great deal about the ACL injury rate and decided that the first and easiest solution would be to strengthen the knee. Being a weightlifting coach, I knew that full squats with weights were the best remedy. So my athletes have been squatting in each workout on a 3x/week basis. Initially there was some resistance as many Americans believed that full squats were detrimental to knee development. This is because many of them do not like to work very hard and full squats are hard work. To justify their lack of effort they created the myth that full squats are bad for knees. This mythology exists in no other country.
After working with female volleyball players for a few years I realized that many of them had been selected because they were tall which meant they had long femurs. Many of them were slow to develop strength in the thigh musculature and would prefer instead to use hip extension and almost no knee extension. This was especially true when they were landing after a jump (very slight knee flexion). So getting them to bend the knees upon landing became a priority.
What I further began to understand was that performing of power jerks, power cleans and power snatches as well as the lowering of weights to the shoulders after performing a power jerk or push press was teaching them how to brake under load or how to bend the knees when catching the weight—the same motion as that involved in landing after a jump.
Not all landing takes place with the feet directly under the hips. Quite often it takes place with one foot ahead of the other. To mimic this I had my athletes perform split snatches and split cleans from blocks or the hang. This also placed a premium on foot speed. I had programmed split lifts from day 1 but didn’t immediately realize their value in the knee injury prevention issue.
Jumping down from a block (about 60 cm) and immediately upon landing jumping back up on to a block of equal height (plyometric jumping) teaches the athlete to keep pressure on the balls of the feet and then employ the elastic energy developed to initiate the thrust of the vertical component. Landing in this fashion with minimal touch time reinforces proper jumping mechanics and minimizes the danger of excessive impact from a flat footed landing.
While most of my training is designed to improve speed of movement, increase strength to bodyweight ratios, and improve the durability of the physical structure, I am glad to have influenced the development of my athletes in such a way that they’ve been able to avoid catastrophic knee injuries.
Videos of my athletes performing the movements I employ can be viewed at the following links:
· Hang Power Snatch https://youtu.be/fKtWewCJE4g
· Hang Power Clean https://youtu.be/ufyjtpwsygc
· Hang Split Snatch https://youtu.be/YskMJBliIoA
· Hang Split Clean https://youtu.be/XiE3KeIj9RM
· Power Jerk https://youtu.be/YT0XKTxPaKs
· Push Press https://youtu.be/-eJ69sLVa2Y
· Back Squat https://youtu.be/_4WA_keJodA
· Front Squat https://youtu.be/YQTWJ4kCou8
· Front Lunge https://youtu.be/lidkqjR9oLI
· Overhead Lunge https://youtu.be/3CzchGOQkYM
· Good Morning https://youtu.be/MOAUUq-qYYw
· Press https://youtu.be/o38sffEMPa0