Softball, Volleyball and tennis Strength Program

Building strength in the female athlete: Phase 1

High school female athletes are weak. There is just no beating around the bush with that one, but let me rephrase it anyway: high school female athletes are in desperate need of a good strength program. I do evaluation/assessments on athletes all the time and the results are pretty consistent, with slight variations between athletes. Here’s what it looks like:

1.) Start with a LONG dynamic warm-up

     -Frankensteins, inch worms, spidermans, crawling…

2.) Move into a more active warm-up/movement prep

     -skipping, run/back pedal, shuffling…

3.) Continue into some VERY light strength work that looks something like this

     -10 squats (tweaking form, assessing weaknesses)

     -5 forward lunges per leg

     -5 side lunges per leg

     -10 single leg squats or RDL’s – if the athlete’s legs aren’t too shaky by this  point…

4.) Finally get to a few performance tests

     -broad jump


     -sprint speed

     -endurance test

5.) Finish with a few upper body and core exercises



     -wall slides

     -and maybe a few band pull-aparts…

6.) Tell the parent and athlete where their strengths and weaknesses are

     -this usually means telling them their athlete needs some major help in the strength category

7.) Get asked what they can do at home

All athletes are different and need to have variations in their program, but this program will provide a foundation for future programs to come. Ideally, all of my athletes would do this program at home 3x per week so that when they see me, we get to work on the fun stuff (more strength, power, and change of direction drills). The goal is to provide some basic strength so that any good strength coach could take this athlete and work on power development and more advanced strength exercises.

The first part of the program is devoted to lower body mobility/strength. When I say mobility, I mean the amount of movement around the joint. That’s why each lower body exercise should be done to full range of motion. And a lot of the exercises are designed to be done on a single leg because most of your time is spent on one leg during your sport (running, cutting, or jumping) so we need to train like that as well.

The second part of the program focuses on upper body/core strength. I see a lot of dysfunctional shoulders in my softball, volleyball and tennis girls because they perform internal rotation all the time. Throwing a softball, serving a tennis ball, and spiking a volleyball are all forms of internal rotation. Now think about all the repetitions you do each day of these and think about the imbalance this is creating. The upper body exercises focus on strengthening the muscles involved in decelerating those motions so that we can prevent against shoulder injuries.

Lower body Mobility/Strength Circuit

 Goals  : To build single leg strength, emphasizing quads, hamstrings and glutes

           : Increase flexibility/mobility

           : Prevent injury!

1.) Squat


     -Feet shoulder width (or slightly wider) apart, toes slightly turned out

     -Weight in heels, get as low as you can (don’t let heels come up)

     -Cue: boobs out, butt out

2.) Forward Lunge

     -10x per leg

     -Big step, don’t let your forward knee come past your toes and don’t lean forward

     -Back knee should slightly touch ground

3.) Lateral (side) lunge

     -10x per leg

     - Step towards your side, keeping toes forward the whole time

     - Weight in your heel (heel shouldn’t come off ground), sink back into hip

4.) Transverse lunge

     -10x leg

     -Stepping diagonally backwards

5.) Single leg RDL

     -10x per leg

     -Leg straight (don’t lock the leg though), back straight

6.) Single leg squat

     -10x per leg

     -Bend at the knee (not the waist)

Upper Body Mobility/Strength Circuit

Goals   : Injury Prevention – strengthening posterior shoulder

           : Improve scapular stability

           : Increase strength

1.) Wall slides (scarecrows)


     - Check out this link: Wall Slide

     -Make sure you keep elbows, hands and back flat against the wall

     -This most likely will not be easy

8.) Protraction/retraction


     - Check out this link: Protraction/retraction

     -Think about squeezing your sports bra in between your shoulder blades

9.) Pushups


10.) Plank

     -30 seconds +

     -Make sure you use this position: Proper Plank with palms up though (not shown in video)    

There are TONS of exercises that could be added to this program. The goal isn’t to make this the end-all be-all for workouts. It is simply to provide a base for female athletes, specifically overhead athletes like tennis players, volleyballers and softballers. As a former 2-sport collegiate athlete, I know how time-crunched a lot of athletes are. This program shouldn’t take long so it is a great addition to in-season competition.  I can’t emphasize this enough - this isn’t a program you do for months and years… it is a preliminary program to help increase strength. Your body will adapt to this program quickly if you are consistent, so check back for Phase 2 of the program.