A General Weight Training Program for Handball

Improve Your Strength and Power

A handball match during the 2012 London Olympics.

Jeff Gross / Getty Images

Indoor handball is a ball sport that involves jumping and speed and requires agility. Handball is a popular sport in Europe and some Asian countries. It is less prevalent in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, although it has increased in popularity.

Indoor handball is played on a court a little larger than a basketball court. Like ice hockey, a goal net is the target at each end. Scoring occurs when the ball, about the size of a large cantaloupe, is thrown past the goalkeeper into the net. Men and women play in separate competitions. Although other forms of handball exist, the version described above is an Olympic sport.

The training requirements are not too different from a basketball training program. Below is an overview of handball training programs.

Periodized Programs

Comprehensive training programs for individual sports are periodized, which means they are divided into phases or periods. Broken into three or four phases in the year, each phase of handball concentrates on a particular area of fitness development. Periodized programs in weight training provide a progressive buildup to peak fitness and performance.

For professional sports that use weights in their training, each phase has different objectives and each successive phase builds on the previous one.

Although handball does not have basketball or volleyball jumping demands, aerobic fitness plays an essential role in all-around fitness. Early preseason cardio and then a build-up including anaerobic training with wind sprints, shuttles, sprints, and intervals will prepare players for the season start and those intense matches to come. Handball places high demands on cardio-respiratory fitness.

Weight Training

Weight training is an essential component of preparing for the demands of handball. A year-long handball weight training program could look similar to the program outlined below.

Early Preseason

During the early preseason, players are preparing for the season and building up after the offseason. Training emphasis is on building aerobic fitness, functional strength, and hypertrophy.

The focus is on improving performance by increasing cardiovascular abilities and working on fundamental movement patterns while building muscle. Interval training workouts build speed and endurance.

Late Preseason

In the late preseason, players are working up to the start of the season and preseason trials are imminent. Training emphasis is on building anaerobic fitness and maximum strength and power. Anaerobic training includes sprints and all-out effort training to build cardiovascular capacity and top-end effort for quick bursts of energy.

Building maximum strength and power includes quick movements under load. Some examples include lifting heavy weights and using plyometric movements to build power such as plyometric jumps.

In season

In season, competition is underway, and players are expected to be fully functional for competition. Training involves maintaining speed, aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and emphasizing strength and power.

During this time, competition takes precedence over other training, so gym sessions are decreased but are still important. A blend of speed training with sprints and strength training are performed.

Off season

When the season is over, it is time to relax for a while, but handballers still need to remain active. The emphasis now is on rest and recovery with the maintenance of light activity—cross-training, light gym work. Several week-breaks from serious fitness and strength training are helpful. As the preseason approaches, more regular work can resume with an emphasis on building aerobic fitness once again for the preseason training.

Consider the program presented here to be a comprehensive program, best suited to beginners or casual weight trainers without a history of weight training for handball. The best programs are always specific to an individual's specific current fitness, role on the team, access to resources, and, the team coaches' essential philosophies. You will be best served by completing a training program with a trainer or coach.

Safety and Training Tips

Use the weight training program for basketball as the requirements are very similar. Specialized programs are available to develop your vertical jump if this is an area of focus.

If you are new to weight training, brush up on principles and practices with beginner resources. Always warm-up and cool down before and after a training session. A medical clearance for exercise is always a good idea at the start of the season.

A Word From Verywell

Tailoring programming to the specific period during the year will help you increase in all areas of fitness while allowing time for recovery and competition. Coaches program training toward individual sports and the specific athlete's needs. Following a weight training and general fitness program is helpful, but it is still recommended to seek advice from a professional coach.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Unites State Sports Acadamy, The Sport Journal. Tools and benefits of periodization: Developing an annual training plan and promoting performance improvements in athletes.

  2. Lorenz D, Morrison S. Current concepts in periodization of strength and conditioning for the sports physical therapist. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2015;10(6):734-747. PMID:26618056

  3. Ohio University. Why off-season athletic training is important.

  4. Cherni Y, Jlid MC, Mehrez H, et al. Eight weeks of plyometric training improves ability to change direction and dynamic postural control in female basketball playersFront Physiol. 2019;10:726. doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.00726

By Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers is a personal trainer with experience in a wide range of sports, including track, triathlon, marathon, hockey, tennis, and baseball.