Body Types: What Do We Know?

Pic: MightyFastPig

We all know that setters are clearly the smartest and best-looking players in a Volleyball team, and generally the most talented. But what else do we know?

Let’s do a little bit of background work to start. Somatotype refers to the kind of body shape you have, what your body is inclined to look like, what your physique is. You heard in the interview with Phill DeSalvo, that he referred to himself as an Ecto. What he meant was an Ectomorph, here is a small explanation of each type.

• Endomorphic body type is characterized by an increased amount of fat storage. There is a higher number of fat cells, and a larger proportion of digestive tissue. Endomorphs generally have a wide waist and a large bone structure.
• Ectomorphic body type is characterized by long limbs, narrow shoulders, and supposedly more nervous tissue. Their muscles are long and thin, they have very low fat storage and are usually skinny.
• Mesomorphic body type is characterized by a large amount of muscle growth, and more muscle tissue. They have a large bone structure, but very little fat storage. They often have wide shoulders and a narrow waist.

What has this got to do with anything?

Not much really, but its kind of interesting. Different positions in Volleyball call for different athletic abilities, and therefore you would think, different body types are more suited to certain positions.

In 2001 a study was conducted called ‘Somatotype, role and performance in elite volleyball players’. The work done in this study was with senior Italian players and was investigating the different body types amongst different positions in Volleyball. They found that setters tended to have the highest endomorphic and mesomorphic characteristics (fat and muscly), whilst middles have the lowest endomorphic and the highest ectomorphic characteristics (skinny…just really skinny). And funnily enough, outside hitters and opposites were somewhere between the two. You could have guessed all that right? Well me too, but there was more interesting stuff in another recent study.

An English study done in 2006 called ‘Anthropometric and Physiological characteristicsof junior elite volleyball players’ looked at the same thing, but in some younger kids. The results differed. Here it showed that setters were classed as endomorphic ectomorphs (fattish but kind of skinny), hitters and opposites were balanced ectomorphs (skinny) and middles were ectomorphic mesomorphs (skinny but muscly).


Theres not that much to take from these studies. It’s fairly obvious when you watch a match of Volleyball that each position carries different responsibilities, which means there is a need for different kinds of athletes. You aren’t going to see a short and chunky dude running the middle anywhere at a high level. Therefore the kind of body type you have will affect your ability to play Volleyball, at least determine which position is best for you. When doing talent ID, that’s got to be kept in mind, and that’s the main reason someone decided this would be a good idea to investigate.

It seems hitters and middles have the same characteristics from junior level through to senior. Interestingly though the setters differed somewhat. Perhaps in England they like their setters a little fatter?

Recovery: Don’t Ignore It

Stretching is great for your recovery… Pic: Tom@HK

You finish your game, you lost, the coach is mad, you are mad, some idiot tells you to stretch and have something to eat…you get even angrier, grab your bag and storm off to your car and get home as quick as possible. Sound familiar? It’s happened to me numerous times and I always regret it. Recovery is something many Volleyballers, and athletes in general neglect. What they don’t realise is that recovery techniques have many more benefits for athletes than simply rehabilitation and recuperation. This article is a bit of an overview on recovery and not so much specific to Volleyball, but we’ll start with it and do some more detailed posts later.

What is it and why do I need to do it?

Good question eh. The main idea behind recovery is to help athletes adapt faster to training by reducing their fatigue. This means they can be back earlier and stronger for the next session, allowing you to train harder, and thus get more out of it. Both the training and recovery are important parts a training programme. Check out this graph…(yes I made it and it’s a bit rough but you get the picture!)


So, you do the work, which is the training or game stimulus. Your body gets fatigued, performance and physical capabilities drop. As you recover you body gets back to its normal state (there are many different kinds of fatigue, these will be covered in a separate post) and with recovery you will get an adaptation. Which means you are getting gains from training. If you recover well, these gains will come earlier, and you will be ready to train earlier. Recovery can allow you to actually get more gains from that single training stimulus and also train harder and get more gains by simply having done more work.

It also should be noted that by not recovering, and having a reasonably high training load, you don’t even get back to your previous state and never get the gains. If this happens repeatedly, overtraining can occur. Basically you do not get your gain from training, because you did not give your body enough time to recover and regenerate. Again, this will be covered in a later post but is just another factor emphasising the importance of recovery.

Recovery Techniques

Here I’m going to give you an overview of techniques. Each one will be discussed in much more detail in later posts. Recovery is not just immediately after the game, it occurs for days after. This is simply just a list of techniques; timelines and more detail will be discussed later.


Eating is simple, but your body needs to replace what it lost and to refuel the muscles. It is recommended that you consume some food, preferably high carbohydrate food with a high glycemic index within 30 minutes after a session or game. This is the optimal time for the body to uptake the fuel and will promote better recovery. By not giving your body immediate fuel, you will slow the rate and quality of recovery. In the hours after the session or game food consumed should also be high carbohydrate. Care needs to be taken to rehydrate. Replacing fluid and electrolyte losses will speed up your recovery and needs to be immediately addressed.


Stretching, the simplest form of recovery…yet many of us fail to achieve it. Just do it! After a game, after training, have a stretch. It relaxes your muscles, lengthens them and helps get them back to where they were before you killed them.

Hot/Cold Shower

Can be done right after trainings or games. The theory around it was to cause vasodilation and vasoconstriction (opening and closing your blood vessels) hoping to flush out the crap from your muscles. Also to stimulate your nervous system, reduce post exercise swelling and basically increase blood flow to the muscles. There is still debate on the mechanism, but it is a popular technique and does leave you feeling refreshed.

Ice Bath

A good idea. Get in one. They hurt, they are uncomfortable, but you will feel better. Same principles as above. We’ll discuss the theory around it in a later post. It can also be done alternating with a hot shower.

Active Recovery

Ride a bike, go for a walk, go for a swim (pool recovery), have a stretch. Active recovery is doing stuff. Simple. If you do stuff, you are moving your muscles, helping blood circulate and push through all the crap that’s built up in your muscles. Regain mobility and movement, increase blood flow to your muscles, promote recovery…and feel better. Can be done in the days after the session.


Wearing Skins or something similar is a popular recovery technique these days. The theory is similar to the above means, aids blood flow through the muscles, hence recovery.


Getting a massage helps to relax your muscles, and flush out all the toxins. Its basically a deep stretch and is a very good recovery means in the days after your session.


Very underrated as a recovery means. Lack of sleep messes with your hormones big time. Sleep promotes recovery, as it promotes normal body functions. Growth hormone is released during sleep. Growth Hormone, promotes muscle growth, bone formation and much more stuff you need to recover. Growth Hormone release is diminished when you don’t sleep. A lack of sleep will hinder your recovery. This is one of the easiest things to do right…so go to bed.

Phill DeSalvo: Conditioning, Nutrition, Rehab & Volleyball

Dave and I spent Christmas over in Prague with Phill. In between relaxing, eating and watching way too many episodes of Entourage, we managed to get this out of him.

For those that don’t know, Phill plays in Prague with CZU Praha, and is the libero for the Mens National Team. He’s dedicated to his sport and getting himself in the shape he needs to be, and we thought he would be a good start for our all star interview list.

It gives you an insight on what is done for the sport at this level. We will discuss aspects of the video in later posts, but if you would like anything expanded on, leave us a comment.

Yeah, we know, you can’t see his beautiful face very well…we are learning, you can still hear him.

Sports Drinks: Do We Need Them?

Pic: lanier67

Gatorade, Powerade, Isoport…do we need them for volleyball? Sports drinks such as these were made so athletes could basically inject some energy straight into their body ready for uptake by the muscles. They also provide and easy way to get carbohydrate and electrolytes into the body directly after a session for recovery. The question is, with a power sport such as Volleyball, are they necessary? This article will focus on the need for sports drinks DURING a match. For recovery reasons, sports drinks are very efficient but this will be delved into during a later post.

Science of Sports Drinks

Sports drink should generally be composed of 6-8% carbohydrate, containing sodium and potassium to aid rapid delivery of fluid and fuel. Replacement of electrolytes, in particular sodium, is useful for maintaining thirst and will help the uptake of fluid into the body. It is more efficient than water. Sports drinks are rapidly emptied from the stomach, and are absorbed in the small intestine. 6-8% carbohydrate means they do not interfere with hydration goals because the body can still uptake fluid with this percentage.

• Promote better fluid intake than water (more appealing and tastier)
• Increase retention of fluid post exercise (sodium)
• Provide additional source of fuel

• Over consumption, high-energy drinks may create energy balance problems, leading to weight gain.
• Teeth erosion

Do we need to use Sports Drinks?

Research suggests that this kind of carbohydrate replacement during exercise may be beneficial to performance during events of high intensity and of about 1 hour in duration.

The AIS fact sheet suggests that water is a suitable fluid for Volleyball, however a sports drink may promote better performance by giving the athlete fuel stores for both the muscles and the brain. Dehydration and low blood glucose lead to poor concentration and decision-making. Two things every Volleyballer needs in abundance during training and games. They also report that a sports drink may encourage the athlete to drink more. They conducted a study and found that even though many athletes reported preferring water to sports drinks, when offered a sports drink, both men and women drank more fluid.

It is very common to think you are properly hydrated when in reality; you are nowhere near it. The presence of sodium in sports drinks is vital in that it keeps your body thirsty for more. Although we think we may be taking in enough fluid, water tends to shut off your thirst mechanism before you are actually rehydrated. Sodium is also very important to aid the uptake of fluid into the body, and replacing lost electrolytes through sweat.


A common theme I hear when asking Volleyballers about sports drink usage is that it’s not necessary. I disagree. Although I think sports drinks aren’t as necessary in Volleyball as some ultra endurance sports, at a high level, Volleyball is quite intense and you will lose more fluid and electrolytes than you think, and burn quite a bit of energy.

Good nutrition throughout the day will generally set you in good stead to have enough energy stores to make it through the game. In a longer game, blood glucose may be dropping low and a sports drink is simply the easy way to get that into your muscles ASAP. Hydration is a different issue. Water is great, but it’s very easy to head to a timeout and not drink enough water. The lack of sodium in water means that your thirst mechanism is being shut off before you are fully hydrated and it’s not being taken up into the body as efficiently. As mentioned above, dehydration will affect your performance on the Volleyball court.

The best way to check out if you are drinking enough is to simply measure before and after. If you have a large drop in weight, then you are probably not sufficiently hydrated. Experiment a little during training, drinking sports drinks and water and see if this number gets lower.

Personally, I will drink a bottle of sports drink during the warm up of the match, and have one on hand to sip through out the game whilst still drinking water. I’m a terrible drinker during matches and to have something tasty to guzzle down definitely does promote fluid intake.

Everyone is different, however during games, you have nothing to lose by drinking some sports drink with your water.

Anyway, we are certain its a better strategy than this one….(click here if you still use IE and it doesn’t work)