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GO muscles vs. SHOW muscles

PSPVB Final Blog PhotoHere is a picture of two tennis players.AbdominalsI invite you to guess a few things:

  1. Who is the better tennis player?
  2. Who is stronger?
  3. Who has less injuries?

(Please post answers in comments)



There has been a plethora of high-intensity training strategies that have gained a lot of popularity lately. They sell the idea that hard work equals an increase in fitness. These training strategies may help develop socially desirable muscles. Most of these muscles are very superficial and will not always translate to success on the court. It’s a shame that people think they need to look good in a bathing suit to be a successful athlete. Look at some of the best people in sports: (Misty May-Treanor, Logan Tom, LeBron James, Muhammed Ali, and Kobe Bryant)imgres-2 url-1

urlurl-2 imgres-3They all look good in a bathing suit, but they don’t look like they belong selling Hydroxycut next to Ronnie from the Jersey Shore.

All of these athletes have been the best player in their sport at one time or another. I would like to point out a few things; none of them have huge bulky superficial muscles, they do not have any huge muscle imbalances, and they don’t have a huge protruding “six-pack,” but rather a very full stomach. This goes to show that you don’t need to look like this…imgres-4

to preform like this…(Matt Anderson of the USA on the left)


Unfortunately for some time now, the barometer of fitness has been someone’s “six-pack” or, rectus abdominus. Having this huge muscular imbalance in your core does not help you stabilize your torso as you move your extremities. Instead of this one muscle doing all the work, the work should be distributed throughout all your core muscles. These include, rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominus, quadtratus lumborum, diaphragm, and pelvic floor. Those are the muscles that make up your core, not just your “six-pack” muscles. They help stabilize your center of mass so your extremities can move you efficiently. After reading this, have your answers to my three questions changed?


Here are the faces of the two tennis players…Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 8.41.27 PM

Did anyone guess correctly? For anyone who doesn’t know who these two are, it’s Rodger Federer (L) and Rafael Nadal (R)


Current ESPN rankings have Federer at #2 and Nadal at #5 in the world. Yes, Nadal is still very highly ranked, but he is also currently injured and thinking about pulling out of the next two tournaments?because of this injury. All that muscle imbalance is keeping him him from moving optimally. No matter how talented of a tennis player he may be, if he can’t stay healthy he won’t ever be able to play. Our bodies will do whatever we want them to do as long as we do it correctly. No one sport or activity is inherently bad, but if athletes?repeatedly?move and train incorrectly, injury is in their future.


Recently I was talking with a friend about Robert Griffin III’s knee injury after seeing this photo…528024_495215163857898_2032052309_n

Now, it doesn’t take an expert to see that something has is not right in this picture. I told my friend that RG3’s second ACL tear was due to his improper movement mechanics, and lack of hip stability. He rebutted with, “but I saw him squat like, 600 lbs on YouTube.” All that squat strength means nothing if he can’t move his own body correctly.

Train Smarter to Play Harder

Please post any comments or questions!

Austin Einhorn, CSCS

-Volleyball skills & conditioning specialist.

Contact for an appointment:


Back setting and your muscles!


As a middle, I depend on where, and how the setter jumps during a set more than any other player on the court. A few times throughout my years of playing, the setter has flown forward and taken out my legs underneath me. It is quite terrifying and painful. Ever since those incidents I would always have more caution with setters that would throw their hips forward when they neglected to set me and back set (always set your middles :-)).

Has this ever happened to you as a setter or middle? Have you seen it happen? Most of the time this happens because peoples abdominals are overpowered by their lack of shoulder mobility. How do you know if you are lacking abdominal strength or shoulder mobility?

Here’s a quick test:

  1. Sit or stand with good posture and your arms straight out in front of you.
  2. Have your palms facing up.
  3. Now, keeping your palms facing the same direction bring your hands as high overhead as possible.
Did your back arch? Did you ribs come up? If so then either your Latissimus Dorsi is too stiff/short, and/or you’re lacking abdominal stability.


This back extension happens due to lack of shoulder mobility. One of the many muscles that plays a role in this lack of mobility is the Latissimus Dorsi (Lat). Your Lat originates in your low spine and attaches on the inside of your upper arm. This muscle is stretched when your arm is at a high degree of overhead flexion and slightly externally rotated. If you increase this stretch without adequate length and mobility of the muscle, it will pull your spine along for the ride. This is one of many factors of the shoulder that create this arched back position.



Now onto why it is important…


Think about your core as the frame of a bike. When you pedal on a mountain bike with lots of suspension there are many energy leaks and thus a less powerful stroke each revolution. However if you are on a sturdy road bike, each pedal has a much greater transfer of energy to propelling you forward. When your back is arched, your core resembles the mountain bike and is effectively “off.” It now is not in a position where it can work optimally or support your extremities. Thus causing you to lose the stable foundation from which your limbs will generate force. This movement pattern deficiency increases the difficulty of an already difficult backset. Ideally, your core would be strong enough to keep your abdominal muscles properly positioned as your shoulder blades upwardly rotate and shift inferiorly (down).




This dysfunctional movement pattern causes some major issues:


  • Lack of mobility in the Lat and other shoulder muscles overpowers your core, which causes you to lose a ton of potential energy


  • Middles (that are on time) are at risk


  • The offense is much easier to read from the other side of the net


Check out Lloy Ball, possibly one of the best setters to play the sport.

(First picture is before the ball has made contact with his hands. The second picture is immediately after)

Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 8.57.58 PMScreen Shot 2013-01-13 at 8.59.15 PM

We see very little arching of the back. His ribs are still congruent with his abdominal wall, telling me his core is “on.” This gives his arms have a sufficient foundation to generate force from. This foundation is especially important since he is in the air and there is no ground to push back against him.


Take home message: Fix your shoulder mobility/abdominal stability and improve your back set.


Train smarter to play harder

Please comment!

Austin Einhorn, CSCS

-Volleyball skills and conditioning specialist

-Contact for an appointment:

The Recipe to Win (Part 2)

For the past couple of years the FIVB has analyzed nearly every major volleyball competition in the world and created video compilations of each tournament. While browsing this amazing archive of volleyball clips, I noticed the length of the long rallies, especially with the men. The longest rally team USA had in the 2008 Olympics was only 16 seconds! The women averaged around 20 seconds. This realization led me to think about our body’s energy systems.


Here’s a “long rally” video for those who want to watch:

Now, check out this table about energy systems in regards to training.


While I watched more professional and collegiate volleyball I saw that most plays are 5-8 seconds with 20-30 seconds of rest. The rest is even longer for players not involved on the preceding play. Based on looking at the table, what energy systems do we use primarily? (Ignore the color and size bias I threw into the table :-))


We have established that volleyball is a phosphagen sport, while occasionally dabbling with fast glycolysis.


Let’s apply this knowledge to training. Often times people are not training the right energy system for their sport. It is illogical for an olympic weight lifter to train by running 2 miles. While training should vary depending on the proximity to the competition period, the energy demands of volleyball will not change and should always be kept in mind.


Often times when working in the phosphagen energy cycle, like in a volleyball game, the athlete is not experiencing the grueling pain of lactic acid build up that would normally occur in long intense activities. This brings me back to last week’s post – volleyball players don’t have to work so hard that they collapse on the floor after each in-practice punishment or training session. Even if you train with such intensity that you can’t walk the next day, it won’t necessarily translate into success on the court. Training must be methodical and purposeful.

What energy systems are you training in?

Comments and questions are encouraged!

Train smarter to play harder


Austin Einhorn, CSCS

-Volleyball skills & conditioning specialist.

Contact for an

The Recipe To Win (Part 1)

PSPVB Final Blog Photo

I have seen a plethora of motivational videos, but only a couple stand out. It’s always clips of people some how pushing their bodies beyond their limits to achieve success. Recently someone showed me this video. It is one of the best inspirational videos have ever seen. I’ve heard this speech before, but never paired with these clips and music. After watching it I wanted to fight a bear, climb a mountain, hurl a car, workout harder than ever and go play volleyball in Europe again.


The more I thought about the message that’s being sent, the more I realized there was something missing from the video. The missing link was the quality of training. Imagine preforming optimal, scientifically proven training methods with this kind of attitude. The chance at failing becomes minuscule!


Pair this incredible motivation, with sport specific movement pattern training and that’s how you win. There are over 650 muscles in the body, and they are ALL used in conjunction to move you. Training individual muscle groups is like “taking a shoebox full of words and letters, slinging it at a wall and hope a dictionary will appear,” says master strength and conditioning coach, Gray Cook. We must train muscle patterns, and we must train for our sport of volleyball. Do we run in volleyball? Not really. We sprint very short distances using only 1 of 3 energy systems in our body, but that’s a topic for a post in the future.


Hard work is only half of the equation. You must work hard AND work smart. You can study any subject for a science test, but only if you study science will you do well on a science test. Just because you studied, does not guarantee success on the test. Same concept applies with sport.


I’m not saying people shouldn’t work hard, but the hardcore, sleep when your dead, type attitude should be adopted during competition. You need to earn the skill and body control to keep the quality of movement high BEFORE you start increasing work threshold.


Train smarter to play harder


Please comment!

Austin Einhorn, CSCS

-Volleyball skills & conditioning specialist

Contact for an appointment:


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