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Prepare to Play: Motivation Pt. 2 - Time to Plank

The upcoming 2020 season will be many things - unpredictable and unprecedented are certain to be two words commonly thrown around. As we work through the pandemic caused by Covid-19, we must begin to think about helping players return to competition in a safe and healthy way. Amber Warners (Calvin) is known for her ability to recruit and motivate her athletes year after year. We asked if she would let the AVCA in on some of her secrets, and she responded by showcasing her methodology for making sure her team returns to campus at the end of each summer ready to compete at the highest level.

Part 1: Nutrition - Part 3: Agility

The initial phase of team-building and accountability started with two core ideas; encouraging responsibility via a sensible diet and hydration plan, and getting to know fellow teammates via direct interaction. Having a partner to work through these challenges with is critical to making newcomers to the program feel as if they're being welcomed and learning the ropes so they can hit the ground running when in-person activities begin.

One of the first physical challenges that Warners introduces to her team is the 3-minute Plank. Check out the video below to ensure that you're following the proper form - without it, Warners cautions, there's no chance you'll make it the distance. Keep your upper back straight, draw the belly button back towards the spine.

These initial abdominal workouts can be incredibly demanding - be careful not to stress these core muscles on consecutive days. Rotate the workouts to maximize recovery and bring the whole muscle group along cautiously.

Because proper rest to these various muscles groups is critical, Warners provides a variety of workouts designed to stress different areas of core strength while allowing for maximum reps. Work through these various exercises, including standard sit-ups, and test your plank time weekly to gauge progress. Keep increasing the number of reps you perform in each exercise and work your way up to completing the 3-minute challenge - measuring progress every 2 weeks should provide you with a good idea of how much closer you're getting.

1. Ball pass/V sits: Lie on your back with a physio ball or volleyball between your ankles and arms stretched out overhead. Keeping belly button pulled into spine, left legs and ball to the upright position. Crunch up and grab ball with hands. Bring legs and arms back down toward the ground but do not let them touch the ground. Lift legs and crunch again to put ball back between ankles. Repeat the ball pass/v-sit to exhaustion. Do 2-3 sets.

2. Flyers: Lie on your stomach with hands behind head. Keep your toes in contact with the floor and raise your upper body off the floor as high as you can. Lower in a controlled motion. Do 2-3 sets.

3. Russian Twist: Sit on the floor with knees bent. You should be balanced on your tailbone, in a leaned-back position with your feet off the floor. Holding a 5-lb weight in your hands, rotate your shoulders and torso and touch the weight to the ground on each side of your body. Keep your chin up, chest open, and feet off the ground for the duration of the set. Do 2-3 sets.

4. 5-position crunches: Position 1- Lie on your back with your feet up against the wall so that your body forms a 90-degree angle. Crunch up, keeping belly button pulled in to your spine and lifting chin and shoulders to the ceiling. Position 2- Move your feet down the wall about 2 feet to change the angle. Repeat crunches. Position 3/Position 4- Keep moving your feet down the wall. Position 5- Feet flat on ground, knees bent. Work up to 25+ crunches in each position. Always do crunches in all 5 positions.

5. Bicycle Crunches: Lie on your back with your hips bent about 90 degrees and your hands behind your head. As you curl your body forward, like in a crunch, bring your right knee towards your left elbow and extend your left leg out 45 degrees. While keeping your shoulders lifted off the floor, continue alternating from left to right, bringing your opposite knees and elbows together. Do 4 sets of 25 crunches on each side. Work up to more.

6. Side-lying Crunches: Lie on your side with bottom arm out straight, and legs stacked on top of each—knees bent. Top arm should be bent with hand behind head. Using your obliques, lift your torso and your top leg towards each other, meeting in the middle. Return to starting position. Work up to 2-3 sets.

Training Tips: Keep building up your ability to do more and more reps in these various positions. Test your planking ability weekly, but make a serious run at the 3-minute plank every two weeks. As your body breaks down and recovers from rotating these various exercises, you should notice progress. The more time spent working on the plank itself, the better.

The next challenge will address agility and aerobic conditioning. It requires some creativity, given your own personal circumstances, but it will provide a significant milestone achievement that will pay dividends when players can hit the court. Stay tuned as we continue to Prepare to Play!

The AVCA is proud to partner with Hudl, Sports Imports, Mateflex, and Baden in our ongoing mission to grow and support the volleyball community.