Playing goalie in water polo is all about reactive speed and quickness. Defending the goal requires a solid foundation so athletes are ready to block the ball, regain balance to react to multiple shots on cage, and be in good position to make an accurate outlet pass. Dryland training is crucial to not only setting a good leg base to stay high in the water the entire game, but also for balance, flexibility, and injury prevention. Check out this article about building a dominant water polo dryland program.
The following 5 dryland exercises can help athletes improve range of motion, reaction time, quickness, and balance in the cage. These drills and movements will also help with hip strength, explosive legs, and upper-body stability. Lower body strength and stability, combined with quick hands, allows goalies to put themselves in the best position to defend the cage. Additionally, improving reaction time through reaction drills gives a goalie the ability to gain composure quickly and react to sequential stimuli, like follow-up shots on the cage.
1. TBD – Double Outside
Equipment: 2 tennis balls, partner
Coaches Tip: The goal is to catch both tennis balls before they hit the ground. Focus on not anticipating the drop of the tennis balls, but reacting to the drop. This drill will help develop anticipation and quick hands.
2. Banded Back Bridge - March
Equipment: Theraband (increase resistance as you improve)
Coaches Tip: This exercise is key to activation and can be used both for pre-workout and pre-game. It helps with hip stability and hip strength because hip work is of utmost importance for goalies so they can put themselves in the right position and stay there.
3. Band Y Squat
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Equipment: Resistance Bands
Coaches Tip: The Band Y Squat is an excellent progressive exercise to work on overhead shoulder stability during a lower-extremity movement. Really focus on keeping shoulder blades and shoulders locked to keep hands and bands in the same position overhead while squating.
4. Walking Spiderman
Coaches Tip: Hip mobility is crucial to a goalie’s movement in the cage. The Walking Spiderman is an exercise to improve range of motion in a typically tight area for water polo athletes. Greater mobility allows a keeper to maintain a wider base position and push more water before a powerful lunge.
5. Front Bridge Arm Raise
Coaches Tip: The Front Bridge Arm Raise is a variation of the regular Front Bridge. It emphasizes dynamic stability, posture, core, hip and shoulder stability.
The goalie is the quarterback of the defense and must be able to direct defenders while playing their own position. Thus, improving the physical traits needed to be an elite goalie through dryland training will give goalies confidence to lead their team in the pool. Check out this article about 5 dryland exercises to improve your water polo shot.