The speed of the serve in volleyball for both the jump float and the top spin jump serve has increased to the point that players have between 0.6 – 1.1 second to react from contact from serve to contact when passing on serve receive.
Given this speed the need to improve player reaction on serve receive has increased. The split step stretch shortening cycle is a term popularized and used in the sport of tennis where service reaction times from serve to serve-receive are significantly faster than that of volleyball. Using the same tennis movement principals, volleyball players too can very quickly improve serve receive with good coaching.
So a few important terms and definitions:
Split Step – The split step is a maneuver performed when you jump up or step forward landing on your toes, feet shoulder width apart as your opponent is about to hit the volleyball from a spike or from serve receive.
Purpose of the Split Step – Being as balanced and prepared as possible to move to the ball at precisely the right time.
Stretch Shortening Cycle (SSC) – A stretched muscle builds tension in two primary ways: through the elastic properties of soft tissue and through activation of the muscle spindle, which causes involuntary contraction of muscle fibers that may otherwise be dormant. This, in a nutshell, is the SSC. Known as a “supercharged rubber-band effect,” enabling us to produce more force once the muscle has been stretched than from a standstill.
After a split-step stretch shortening cycle, a volleyball player’s knees will flex then extend quickly to store and recover elastic energy. This maximizes lower leg drive when accelerating toward the ball.
Slit Step Shortening Cycle Training Technique Tips
Players should begin to initiate the split step as the ball is contacted on serve and once the player know the general area the ball is going.
Players should move up and be balanced and in a neutral position in the air going into the split step.
Player’s feet should be at least shoulder width apart or wider. (Note you should not be too wide or to narrow so that you cannot move easily.)
Players should land with bent knees and in an athletic stance. (This stores the energy in your muscles so you are prepared as possible to move as needed.)
Players should move to the balls of their feet and with heals off the ground for indoor and slightly off the sand for beach. (Never be flat footed.)
Players should initiate the split step once they know the general direction the ball is going. The point is that you are most balanced once you know where the ball is going and you need to react.
Mistake we often see is that people are doing the split step on contact or before contact, often in this situation the player does not have a good read on the ball direction and this is where problems can happen.
Tennis vs. Volleyball and using the Split Step on Serve Receive
Top volleyball players tend to start the split step on serve receive with a step forward in volleyball, while with tennis it’s allot more of a vertical neutral jump up that then leads into the split step.
With volleyball the athletic stance is maintained through much of the serve receive motion while in tennis, athletes are far more vertical before the moving into the split step.
Drop sprints where a player drops from a low box and immediately accelerates in different directions is a very effective training method for this move. This exercise can be done in many different ways with a coach initially point in one direction or another with the athlete moving in that direction. Progression can include the coach holding two tennis balls and player moving in one direction or the other and the player going and catching the ball.
Video with Andor Gyulai (Volleyball1on1 Owner’s) Comments:
Takeaways from these videos”
– She starts with her outside foot forward.
– She takes a step into her split step.
– On contact with the serve, she has a good read and moves into her split step. Notice she does not initiate the split step till the ball is contacted.
– In split step she is balanced, her knees are bent.
– She is ready and in the best possible position to move.
– She moves out of the split step and into her passing position.
– notice her outside foot is forward and she is in a perfect athletic stance and passing position.
Additional points she does correctly after the split step:
– She absorbs the power off the serve by releasing her arms down.
– She holds her passing platform for just a bit after she finishes the pass
– She moves outside and gets in the best position to hit.
– She is bent over in an athletic stance when she starts her approach.
Additional Examples and Views:
More example videos are being added.
I coached my setters (in 6 man) to split step. The setter would move in to position on the serve, then split step as her teammates passed the ball. This would let the setter be ready to move in all directions for the set. The lower the level of volleyball the more valuable this was for the setter and the team, since the setter had to cover more ground.
Thanks for the share and good one! I am going to start teaching this in my camps/videos! It’s obvious but I missed it till now! Thanks Again – Andor Gyulai
Can the split step be used on Defense as well?
Hi Paul, yes it can and should be used on defense and indoor blocking!