AVP Athletes: Lifting and Conditioning

The AVP is dripping in athleticism and sexiness (we’re also typically dripping in sweat). Just check out our athletes—hot, toned, tan, and grinding for every point in every match.

Some of you may think it comes naturally that AVP athletes are physically superior to the standard population and are prone to athletic prowess. And while part of that is true, they’re also competing against other naturally-gifted athletes. They have to be at the top of their game to be at the top of the game. Trust me—these players are putting in an insane amount of work to perform and look the way they do.

I spoke with a few athletes about their training regimen. They all affirmed my belief—we train like American Ninja Warriors. It’s common for AVP athletes to spend up to six hours daily playing, rehabbing, mobilizing, and lifting. Overall, I’d say three hours is the minimum.

While everyone’s routine varies (some athletes jump right onto the court, some arrive 45 minutes early and start warming up), here’s a typical day in the life of an AVP pro.

Practice includes a 10-minute warm-up, two hours of play, and a subsequent 10-minute stretch/cool-down. Practice is both similar yet vastly different from team to team. But we’ll have to dive into that another day. For now, I want to talk about lifting and conditioning outside of practice.

After your two hours and twenty minutes on the beach (not including driving, parking, and setting up lines/antennas) it’s home to shower, eat, and regroup. Then comes the workout. And this is where we get another example of “pretty much the same, but different.”

As I’ve said before, there are four tiers of beach volleyball players. In respect to the tiers, I reached out to three other athletes—Chaim Schalk (Tier 1-2), Kelly Reeves (Tier 2), and Jake Rosener (Tier 3-4)—for their workout regimen. While their protocols differ from each other, and from mine, you can see similarities in all.

Chaim Schalk – Tiers 1-2 (soon to be just Tier 1)

Chaim is one of the most motivated and exciting athletes on the AVP. Born and raised in Alberta, Canada, Chaim represented Canada in the 2016 Rio Olympics where he and partner Ben Saxton earned a 9th place finish. Chaim’s father is Canadian and his mother is American, which grants him dual citizenship. So in late 2017, after marrying AVP standout Lane Carico and moving to Southern California full-time, Chaim switched the federation he intended to compete for.

It took two full years for Chaim to be an eligible USA athlete, as he’d previously represented Canada. But in November 2019, Chaim and Jeremy Casebeer played their first international event together for the USA, and they won Gold.

Though Chaim doesn’t technically fall into the first tier, he will soon. Chaim has a proven Olympic track record and is talented on both sides of the ball. Just check out this play in his win over Olympic hopefuls Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb in the Seattle 2019 Open.

Chaim is now a bona fide USA Volleyball athlete. Among other things, that means access to USAV’s Torrance-based gym, complete with personalized workout plans and a trainer, sauna, massage therapist, ice baths, and more. While Chaim didn’t become a USA athlete in time to make a run for Tokyo, he’s a Paris 2024 hopeful and is prepared to wreak havoc on the AVP this year with partner Chase Budinger (who casually played as an NBA forward before returning to the South Bay for a promising and potentially decorated beach career). Here’s how Chaim is preparing for the season:

CSI’m working closely with Christian Hartford [the USA Volleyball trainer]. My workout phases change quite a bit, but generally, they involve a mixture of mobility, speed training, dynamic lifts, and cardio. Generally, I spend five days a week training in the sand and three-four lifts with cardio after (either on sand or in the gym). Some specific lifts I enjoy are hang-cleans, squats, box jumps, 90/90 mobility work, and Turkish getups. Everything I do is tailored to how my body feels, so tweaks are often important to keep me feeling good.

Kelly Reeves (Tier 2)

Kelly is literally the person I thought of when writing about the second tier. She has some impressive FIVB finishes and more than impressive AVP finishes. Only athletes that compete on the World Tour (FIVB) have access to the USA gym. This means personalized workouts, rehab facilities, and top-tier equipment. Kelly and Chaim have both earned spots there, and on most days, you can find either or both of them there utilizing the privilege. Kelly works her tail off to earn those finishes (have you seen her abs?).

KRWe all meet with Christian, and everyone’s program is somewhat the same yet very different. He caters to you and what you want to work on. Certain movements are better than others for me. [We focus on] having strength and full extension outside your body. We want to create body awareness, for example, when I’m digging a ball one-arm, I want to know, ‘Is my body strong enough?’ So we’ve been working on strengthening those little muscles. It’s a lot of bodyweight mobility—like hip circles, cat/cow, or arm circles, but really slow. It’s mundane, but it activates all the little muscles around the big muscles, so when I’m in practice or in my lift, I’m already warm.

Kelly spends 3-4 hours in the gym for every workout. Just soak that in for a second.

KRI’m at the gym every day—Monday through Friday. I lift three times a week, then one day is strictly mobility and one is recovery or conditioning. Certain days are longer than others, but my warmup is always about thirty minutes. My lift is about 1.5 hours (11-12 exercises). Some blocks are quick and more like cardio. But some sets, like the Olympic lifts, we take our time and are more explosive. And then cool down and rehab takes another hour-ish.

Jake Rosener (Tier 3-4)

Jake and I have been friends for years. He’s goofy, wicked smart, and unabashedly himself. He’s also a supervising chemist at Innovative Skincare (who makes the best face wash and after-sun solution I’ve ever used), and a low-key Main Draw player. The 2019 AVP season proved his best with two 13th place finishes—including an impressive upset of the fifth-seeded Troy Field and Tim Bomgren in Chicago.

Jake has been playing for the AVP since 2014 and first qualified in NYC in 2015. He’s remained in Tier 4 for most of his career, either qualifying a few times a year or missing the Main Draw by a match. But his status has less to do with potential and more to do with his chosen lifestyle. Jake’s devotion to the game is at another level; it transcends hours spent on the court or in the gym. His commitment lies in the admirable balance of a professional volleyball player’s training regimen and a mentally-exhausting 9 to 5 (or more accurately 6 to 3).

Photo via Jake Rosener’s Instagram

This is his offseason daily schedule:

4:45am – Wake up
5:15am – Leave for work (Hermosa to Burbank = 1 hr. Minimum. Thank God for hybrids.)
6:15-3:30pm – Work
4:30-5:30pm – Gym
6:45pm – Home, eat, sleep

And here’s what he does at the gym:

JRMy daily gym regimen is 45min – 1:30hr, right after my desk job (bad posture) and 1hr commute (bad posture again), concentrates on legs, shoulders, and back to reset my body’s misalignment. I complex each exercise with a revolving secondary one to add a cardio aspect to my workout. My philosophy is a mixture of pushing my body even when it feels tired while also listening to my body when it asks for a recovery day. Working out is a balance of strengthening (shortening) and stretching (elongating) the muscles. Without both elements, your body becomes imbalanced and can lead to pain and injury.

This is just Jake’s offseason regimen. Because of daylight savings and work, he can only fit in one or two days of volleyball in the winter. Once we spring forward and the extra sunlight gives him time to get to the beach after work, Jake amps his volleyball days up to four or five practices a week. He doesn’t sacrifice the gym, though. He just goes earlier. That means, Jake is away from home from 4:45am to 7:30pm. He then eats (Jake is a great cook), goes to bed, wakes up, and does it again. I’ve always been inspired by him.

So while Tiers 1 and 2 Chaim and Kelly spend hours in the sand and USA gym, it doesn’t mean they’re working any harder than the third and fourth-tier athletes like Jake. That’s the beauty of beach volleyball. All of our journeys are different, but we’re all grinding. We’re all giving our all, looking for that “made it to Sunday” feeling.


Stay tuned for exclusive workouts from these athletes and more.

Follow Kim on Instagram @kimesmith21.

Read more from Kim:

Partner Bonding

Strategy Chat with Sarah Pavan

Olympic Race Update