First off, you’ll need a base of strength and cardiovascular endurance, without which it will be difficult to train for a sport. If you don’t have this base of fitness, I would recommend starting with a circuit, switching off between cardio machines and free weights for a few weeks. Most Nautilus-type machines are inferior to free-weights (dumbbells and barbells) for athletes so should be avoided because of their unnatural, preset motions. For the free-weight exercises, I would include some staple exercises including squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench press, pull-ups, bent over rows, and core exercises. Accurate exercise descriptions, images, and videos can be found online if you are unsure of these movements or you can ask a qualified fitness professional to assist you. These exercises will develop the base of strength, endurance, and the mind-muscle connection necessary to perform the quicker and more complicated lifts later.
Once you have established a solid fitness base, you can continue the previously mentioned exercises as maintenance but it will not be your primary focus anymore. Now you need to start training like an athlete, focusing on speed and coordination. You need to warm-up for your workouts in a dynamic fashion with quick movements and stretches instead of slow holds. This will prepare your muscles for the quicker type of exercise that will be encountered later in the workout. The next focus should be on movements that require high power production, which allows for a weight to be moved in a short period of time. Excellent examples of these types of ballistic exercises include the Olympic lifts (power clean, hang clean, snatches), plyometrics (box jumps, jump rope, agility drills), and various medicine ball tosses (chest passes, overhead passes, rotating passes, throwdowns). Nearly any exercise can be made faster by lightening the weight somewhat and performing the exercise motion explosively such as the upward phase of a squat or bench press.
What about conditioning you may ask? You don’t have to go out and jog 5 miles if your sport consists of mostly quick sprints. Interval training would best accomplish the endurance portion of your training. This involves short bouts of high intensity cardio followed by lower or moderate intensity, then repeat for however long desired. This method takes less time and it emulates the sport more accurately. If your sport doesn’t require much endurance, such as volleyball, then conditioning can mostly take a back seat to sprints, agility work, and plyometrics.
Now you have the power, speed, and coordination that translates into rocketing a dodgeball at your cowering target or blowing past a winded defender to get that winning goal. If you follow some of these training tips you’ll be one step closer to wearing one of those elusive intramural championship t-shirts and all the bragging rights that come with it.