Ready, Set, Spike!


There was a time when being crowned king of the beach required hours of basking in the sun to obtain just the right shade of pre-carcinogen tan, untold reps of weightlifting for the perfect physique, an uncanny GPS-like sense of finding the right spot in the sand for maximum visibility, and a skimpy Speedo wardrobe designed to maximize all the above. But nowadays, all you need to become beachfront royalty is a killer volleyball spike. Because nothing makes people take notice more than a soul-crushing carom off an opponent’s head — the oohs and aahs after an in-your-face spike alone will make someone a legend by sunset.

But how can you develop an earth-shaking, will-breaking spike? First, don’t bother with arm curls — unless you’re just looking to impress the Betties on the beach with your bulging biceps. According to Aaron Brock, director of sports medicine and performance for the USA Volleyball national men’s team, that type of weight training won’t do much good. Here’s more on what will.

A Killer Twist

“Spiking power doesn’t come from your arm,” Brock says. “Most of your power comes from your torso and from your rotational torque, which you can develop. I like to focus on dynamic core strength — the core or trunk’s ability to rotate and torque at a higher rate . If you [use video to] slow down and watch a volleyball spike, you’d see that the great majority of power comes from a dynamic rotation.”

To get that rotational power, Brock recommends hitting the gym and making good use of an overhead pulley machine. First, assign a healthy amount of resistance to the pulley (an amount of weight that is a challenge but not a strain), then face away from the machine. Grab the overhead pulley with your spiking hand and pull down and across your body, executing 10 to 15 reps. Then pull down and away from your body in an imaginary straight line, executing another 10 to 15 reps. For additional intensity, take a knee. That way, you won’t use your legs and lower back to power through the pull, effectively focusing your effort on your core and torso.

On the Ball

Next, grab a medicine ball for four simple exercises. Exercise No. 1: Stand facing a wall. With your feet firmly planted, twist from the waist, throwing the ball to the wall and catching it on the rebound.

Next, stand perpendicular to the wall. Twist from the waist and throw the ball to the wall, catching it on the return. Third, perform a squat. At the squat’s apex, throw the medicine ball into the air and catch it.

Finally, perform a downward medicine-ball toss. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Raise the ball over your shoulder and throw it down across your body, catching it on the rebound. “It’s about as similar to a spike as you can get,” Brock says.

Do this four-exercise set in rotation, with 10 to 15 reps for each movement using both arms. You’ll be the king of your sand castle in no time. Just do us a favor and bag that Speedo for some more modest board shorts.