Top Five Yoga Moves for Volleyball Players

By Jill Wosmek, former head athletic trainer for the U.S. Women's National Team | April 22, 2016, 3:58 p.m. (ET)

Originally published in the Winter 2014-15 issue of VolleyballUSA

Yoga has all kinds of benefits for volleyball athletes, which is why so many players who have reached the highest level of the game work it into their routine, whether it’s in the morning after they wake up, before or after practice or as a part of meditation in the evening.

Yoga Benefits

Increase flexibility
Athletes tends to be flexible in some areas and not in others. Look at our positioning when we’re playing back-row defense. Quite often, our posterior chain (hamstrings, low back) is lengthened and our anterior musculature (hip flexors, abs, chest) is shortened. So let’s counteract this with yoga moves.

Increase strength
As athletes, we’re always trying to find our body alignment, which leads to a solid foundation and allows our muscles to perform at an optimal level. Yoga can help.

Improve balance
Volleyball offers a lot of challenges when it comes to single-leg and single-arm movements. It’s essential for an athlete to have excellent balance and overall body awareness, and those are two areas that yoga focuses on.

Injury prevention
We can all agree that strength, flexibility and balance are key to injury prevention. So when you add yoga to your routine, you’re helping yourself stay healthy.

Complement mental training
Greatly overlooked are an athlete’s ability to breathe, refocus and find clarity both on and off the court. I challenge you to spend five minutes a day just working on your breathing and clearing your mind. Yoga can provide a great platform for this.

So let’s get to the moves. Here are the top five yoga poses for volleyball, modeled by 2016 Olympian Kayla Banwarth:

1. Dancer – Helps with hip mobility and single leg balance. Volleyball and other life activities leave us with tight hip flexors and rounded shoulders. Time to stretch out!

Muscles targeted: Deep stretch for hip flexors, chest and opposite hamstring
Reps: Once you feel comfortable in the stance, deepen your breath and complete 3 to 5 breaths, then change sides. Be careful not to hyper-extend your knee or arch your lower back

Yoga2. Threading-the-needle-twist – Great for torso mobility and shoulder flexibility. In volleyball, we rotate one way a lot. With that said, our torso rotation can be limited in the opposite direction, which can lead to injury along with kinetic chain.

Muscles targeted: Opens your shoulders, chest and upper back, reduces tension within the spine and increases hip flexibility
Reps: Hold for 10-30 seconds per side depending on your comfort level and stability. Complete 2 to 3 per side. 


3. Wide-legged squatter – Promotes balance and flexibility. All volleyball players can relate to this one. 

Muscles targeted: Works the back, calves and Achilles, adductors and hamstrings
Reps: Deepen into the pose to a point where you’re comfortable and balanced. Press your hands together to engage your core and lats (latissimus dorsi). Hold pose for 20-30 seconds.


4. Reverse plank – Ideal for core strength and posterior chain activation (glutes, hamstrings, low back). This may be my favorite move! YogaIt’s a great challenge for our posterior chain (which helps us be powerful in our play) and it helps stretch the front of our body.

Muscles targeted: Great stretch for the anterior side of your body while activating your posterior side
Reps: Hold the pose for 20-30 seconds while breathing normally. Complete 2-3 sets. 


5. Pigeon forward fold – Good for flexibility of the hip, back and lats. In the USA gym, we incorporate this moving into our post-practice cool-down and the athletes love it!

Muscles targeted: Stretch for the hip, low back and lats. Yoga
Reps: Deepen into the post and hold for five deep breaths. Reaching to the right and to the left is recommended if you can comfortably hold the pelvis in position.