How To Set A Volleyball

How To Set A Volleyball – For Beginners

Setting a.k.a volleying is a crucial skill to master for volleyball. After all its is what the sport is named after. Setting a volleyball well involves multiple steps including positioning, movement, planning where to set the ball and the actual playing of the ball with the hands. We are going to break this answer up into two parts.

How To Set A Volleyball For Beginners

How To Set A Volleyball – Quick Step By Step Guide

In this short answer we are going to focus on the actual action of setting or volleying a ball and then extend the answer into how to do it well.

  1. Raise your arms up above your head.
  2. Position the hands so that your thumbs and forefingers form a triangle about four to six inches above your forehead through which you can see the ball.
  3. Position your feet about shoulder width apart, with the foot closest to the net slightly forward.
  4. Bend your knees, placing your weight onto the balls of your feet.
  5. Decide where you will set the ball. E.g. Which attacker are you going to set the ball for/to.
  6. Make contact
    • Contact with the ball should happen just above the center of your forehead.
    • Try to contact the ball with all of your fingers touching the ball. – The more contact you make with the ball, the more control you will have.
    • Do not let the ball touch your palms. ( Contacting the ball with your palms may be considered a catch – which is against the rules )
  7. Push upwards – As soon as your fingers touch the ball, straighten your arms and legs and push the ball upward in the direction of your decided on attacker.
  8. Follow through. – At the end of your set your arms should be fully extended and you should follow through with your hands by straightening your wrists.

Now that you know the basics of a set it is time to work on setting well.

How To Set A Volleyball – Detailed Guide

Setting a ball well with control depends on a lot more than just how you contact the ball and release your volley. Movement, positioning and having a plan are crucial in setting a volleyball well.


Be ready to move. While waiting for the ball to be passed, stand ready with the weight on your right foot, ready to take a step with the left. Setters usually find it easiest to wait in the back-right corner of the court and move toward the ball from there. Start from where you feel comfortable. This technique lets you face the optimal direction to set the ball to your side’s attackers.

Once you know the ball is coming to you, get there quickly so you have time to prepare for the set. Get under the ball in time to receive it in the best position possible. Remember to move to the ball, don’t wait for it to come to you. It is most efficient to run with your arms down and raise then when you are in position.

Get In Position

Once at the ball line up your feet, hips and shoulders so that they face in the direction that the ball is coming down. NB. Don’t face the direction from which the ball is coming from. Remember not to telegraph where you are going to set the ball as this makes it easy for the other teams defence to get ready. One way to do this is to orient yourself towards the left antennae while setting. This makes it difficult for your opposition to sense where you are going to set the ball by which way you may be facing.

Get Ready To Play The Ball

  • Raise your arms above your forehead with your elbows pointing to the sides.
  • Position your hands 4 – 6 inches above your forehead and make a triangular shape with your thumbs and fore fingers so you can see the ball through the triangle.
  • Relax your fingers before you make contact with the ball.
  • Spread your feet shoulder width apart with the foot closest to the net slightly forward. This will cause your hips and shoulders to rotate slightly into the court which reduces the chances of setting the ball over the net by mistake.
  • Bend your knees. Stay light on your feet so you can make subtle changes.

Set The Ball

Decide where you are going to set the ball. Which attackers are you going to aim for. Have a plan. It can be an advantage if you hide your intentions from your opponents, as this will make it harder to defend the attack.

  • Make contact – Play the ball just above the center of your forehead.
  • Make contact with all your fingers if possible. You will have more control the more contact you make with the ball.
  • Don’t let the ball touch your palms. This may be considered a catch.
  • Push upwards. As soon as you feel the ball touch your fingers, straighten your arms and legs to push the ball upward and in the direction of your attacker. Your whole body should be part of the push.
  • Try to contact the ball for as little time as possible.
  • Follow through – You should have your arms fully extended and continue to follow through with your wrists after releasing the ball. This helps with your aim and control.

After setting turn and look at the spot where you intended to set the ball in order to signal your teammates.

How To Spike In Volleyball - Improve Volleyball Spiking Skill

How To Spike The Ball Better In Volleyball – With Training Ideas

Spiking is one of the most dynamic and exciting parts of volleyball and we all want to be better at it. Spiking well requires agility, strength and timing. In this post we will start off by breaking down a basic spike, then adding some drills which can help you improve your spikes and finally finishing off with some exercises that will help you strengthen your jump and mention some great tools you can use to practice and perfect your volleyball spikes.

How To Spike A Volleyball

In indoor volleyball you need to a front row player in order to strike the over the net, but in beach volleyball either player can spike the volleyball so we will try to keep this basic “how to” as relevant to both as possible.

1. Position

Positioning is critical for a great spike. When getting in position make sure you are a few feet away from the net and in line with where the ball is going to be set.

For indoor volleyball position yourself behind the 10 foot line ( attack line ). The most effective spikes come from the right or left side of the court at a sharp downward angle. If you have longer legs and take bigger steps, then stand a bit further back to compensate.

Position yourself on the 10 ft line to prepare for your jump approach. These are the most powerful angles to spike the ball from.
Beach volleyball is a bit more fluid than indoor volleyball. But you should position yourself off the net, about 3 to 4 steps ready for your jump approach. You want to position yourself behind the ball, but be able to shift slightly if the set is off.

2. Watch The Setter

Watch the setter to get a clue as to where they are going to set the ball. They will set the ball high on your side of the court, ideally about 3 foot off the net. Start your approach after the ball is set. When practicing your spikes as a team make sure the setter is giving you good sets so you can improve your skills rather than trying to hit bad sets. Later in this post we will cover how to practice spiking on your own.

3. The Approach

Start facing the ball with your knees slightly bent so that you are ready to move. If right handed, then your left foot should be slightly back and vice verse if you are left handed.

  1. Take a strong first step with your left foot in the direction of the ball.
  2. Follow this with your right foot. Start to build speed. Swing your arms back as you are taking your second step. The distance of the 2nd step depends on how close or far the ball is. Smaller step if the ball is close to you, larger step if further away.
  3. Take your final step to square your feet. Your feet should be shoulder width apart and your knees should be bent, ready to jump. Your arms should be stretched out behind you.
  4. As your last step lands your body should turn 30 degrees to the net with your hitting shoulder furthest from the net. JUMP! As you jump explosively upward, swing your arms forward and up to help you build momentum in your jump.
  5. As you reach the top of your jump pull the elbow of your hitting arm back and bend it at a 90 degree angle. Your other hand should be level with your head pointing at the ball.
How To Spike In Volleyball. Video by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels.

4. The Hit

Hit the ball with the center of your open hand. Rotate your hitting arm at the shoulder and whip your forearm forward to gain power. Snap your wrist downward to add top spin to the ball. Aim the ball down into your opponents court.

Some Tips:

  • Try to hit the ball at the top of your jump for max power.
  • Bring your arm down through the ball and next to your body. This ensures your momentum is pushed through the ball into your hit.
  • Make sure not to “carry” or “hold” the ball as this is against the rules of volleyball.

5. The Landing

Bend your knees as you hit the ground to soften your landing and retain your balance.

Remember to look up, keep playing and get back in position. Don’t watch your spike to see how great it was.

Now that you know how to spike a volleyball, let’s work on how to improve your volleyball spiking.

How To Get Better At Volleyball Spiking

There are a few elements that we can break the volleyball spike into and improve individually so that when you put it all together you will have a more powerful and accurate hit.

Element 1: Footwork

The footwork of a spike is critical as it sets up the timing for the rest of the manoeuvre. If you are not comfortable with the footwork you will not be able to get into position in the air to hit the ball well. A great way to improve your footwork is to work on it without the ball, so you can focus on how you are moving your feet without worrying about the ball.

A great way to practice your hitting and footwork is to practice spiking without a jump and then slowly add more.

  1. Practice spiking without a jump. Just swing the arms to hit the ball over head.
  2. Add the swinging arms into the practice. Swing your arms back, then forward and up before striking the ball.
  3. Add a small jump to practice your timing and motion.
  4. Add only a one step jump into the motion.
  5. Try the full approach with two steps before the 2 footed jump.

Element 2: The Jump

One way to seriously increase your spiking power is by improving your jump height. This depends largely on your approach, not just the final step. So make sure you are comfortable with your approach before you move to this step.

Swinging your arms is a great way to increase your momentum, increase the height of your jump and perfect your timing to hit the ball. Practice swinging your arms in the approach to master the timing of this.

Focus on jumping up rather than forward. Your jump should be high, rather than long.

Practice jumping as high as you can. The strength of your legs along with your timing determine your jump height. There are some great tools that can help you improve your jumps for your volleyball spike.

Vertical Jump Trainers

The INNSTAR Vertical Jump Trainer improves your leg strength by adding resistance while you practice your jumps. This jump trainer comes with a waist belt, 2 X resistance bands, 2 X foot straps and a handy carry bag.

They say you can improve your jump height by 8 inches in 15 weeks. This high quality product is a great option to improve your jumps, especially when combined with a box while at the gym.

Practice makes perfect but it can be time consuming waiting for the setter each time to practice your jump. A great option is to use a spike trainer, so your coach can hold the ball at the perfect height for you to practice jumping over and over again.

Volleyball Training Aid Original Spike Trainer
  • Fun Innovative Tool to Gain Confidence to Attack the Ball!
  • Extension NOT included! You are purchasing Foam Head ONLY!
  • Extension w/Acme Threads needed. Painters' extension, broom handles, etc. See examples pictured. Most likely have one laying...
The Spike Trainer with the Bownet Sports Volleyball Practice Station

The volleyball spike trainer only comes with the foam ball holder, not the ball or the extension. Your coach, parent or friend can hold the ball at the ideal height to practice spiking. If you want to learn how to jump higher, it is a great help to raise the ball a bit so that you have a higher goal to aim for.

This product doesn’t come with the extension arm but a broom or painting pole works well. The Mr. LongArm Pro-Pole Extension is the perfect option with its extendable arm.

You can also add the Bownet Sports Volleyball Practice Station to stop you having to chase after the ball each time.

The Perfect Spike Training System

Want more ideas? Have a look at our best spike trainers post.

How To Spike The Ball Harder

Element 3: The Hit

Most attackers ask, “how can I spike the volleyball harder”? Once you have got a great approach and jump its time to improve your volleyball striking. Striking is a pivotal part of the spike, but requires a good set up for your hit to be effective.

The key to hitting the ball harder is simply to swing your arm faster. The faster you swing your arm the harder you will hit the volleyball. The problem with this is as you start swinging your arm faster, you lose accuracy.

When learning to spike harder forgo some accuracy in order to practice generating power with your swing.

Focus on arm speed, then worry about accuracy.

It is important for young players to learn how to spike hard and then they can focus on getting it in later. Andre Agassi said, “I hit the ball as hard as I could, I found the court later.” Tiger Woods when talking about his younger days, “I hit the ball as hard as I could and found the fairway later.”*

Some Skills To Work On Your Swing Speed:

  1. Hit the ball against a wall.

Anywhere from the floor to the roof is fine for accuracy. Really see how fast you can swing your arm and how much power you can generate. The idea is to get comfortable with swinging your arm as fast as possible, so you can carry this technique into your spiking.

  1. Slam the door. ( Figuratively )

Power comes from torque, which is generated by the twisting motion of your torso as you hit the ball. Similar to the way you throw a baseball. Open your body ( “open the door” ) after your take off ( jump ) by pulling your hitting arm back at the elbow and opening up your shoulders. It should look like you are pulling/drawing an imaginary bow and arrow.

As you jump and draw back your hitting arm. You should look like you are getting ready to shoot a bow and arrow.

Then SLAM the door! Do this by swinging your hitting arm as fast as possible and hitting through the ball.

Element 4: Timing

Timing and ball awareness is a critical piece of volleyball.

When timing your jump aim to line up the ball with your hitting shoulder. This will allow you to hit either down the line, cross court or cut. If the ball is to the left or right of your shoulder it will reduce your options as you will be forced to hit in a certain direction.

In order to spike the ball with power the ball needs to be in front of your shoulder. If you jump and the ball is too far in front of you, then your hit will have power, but you will struggle to get the ball over the net. If the ball is too far behind you it will be easier to get the ball over the net, but you will struggle to generate power in your spike.

The trick is too time your jump for the ideal moment to strike the ball. Time your jump so you hit the ball when you are in the neutral phase of the jump – neither rising or falling.

How To Improve Your Volleyball Spiking

Element 5: The Follow Through

The follow through is incredibly important in generating power in a volleyball spike. Make sure you whip your arm through the ball for maximum power, only slowing down naturally by your waist. However make sure you do not hit the net with your hand or arm as this is not allowed.

Some More Tips To Improve Your Spiking

Hit Real Sets

In order to get your timing right and to be able to execute hard spikes in a game, you need to practice spiking real sets so you can learn to read the setter and the ball. The best drill for this is to hit off of a “dig, set, hit” drill rather than a toss or a machine. This works well if you have a team mate to practice with but if you are alone, then practice by setting for yourself and then spike the ball over the net. We learn things more effectively in a game like environment.

High Sets vs Low Sets

High sets are the some of the hardest to time and learn from. High sets give beginners more time to read the ball and get in position, but the ball comes down rapidly making it difficult to hit in the sweet spot.

Low sets have less falling speed which makes them easier to time, but players have less time to get in position.

Different people have different preferences, but it depends on how much higher or lower the set is compared to what you are used to.

Hitting Against The Wall

Hitting against a wall can be a great way to practice at home, but it can also develop a bad habit of hitting the ball into the net. i.e too low.

It is important to always practice hitting the ball over the net. Better yet, over a block. When hitting against a wall create a 7’4″ or a 8′ mark that you can practice hitting over. Remember to snap your wrist.

Whipping The Block

One way to do this is with your coach. Your coach will stand on a table or chair with a flat wooden board a couple of inches above the volleyball net. Practice jumping and hitting that board as if it were a ball. Practice hitting the “ball” down the line.

Another way to do this is to draw a square on a wall with chalk. It should be about 3 to 4 feet above your forehead. Without jumping, practice hitting a ball into this square.

Practice A Jump Serve.

A jump serve is a very similar motion to a spike. This will help you learn an over the net arm swing with a lot of power. You can learn to control the height of the set and the distance from you. Then you can take back that knowledge and muscle memory to your net spikes.

Play Doubles

Playing beach volleyball or just doubles in the gym is a great way to improve your volleyball game and your spikes. It is fun and you will get lots of playing and hitting time.

Practice Spiking In Different Directions

Practice hitting your spikes in multiple directions. Practice cuts, cross-court spikes and line spikes. Add roll shots into the mix. This won’t necessarily increase your power, but it will make you a better hitter and improve your ball skills which will translate back into better timing and positioning.

If you are looking for some more tools to help you with your spiking, check out our best spike trainers or read this post on the best volleyball drills to practice on your own.

*Paraphrased from

Can The Ball Spin Off A Set In Beach Volleyball - Double Contact Sets

Can The Ball Spin Off A Set In Beach Volleyball? Double Contact Sets.

Spin off a volley is a common symptom of a double contact, but it is not a guarantee.

Quite a controversial and contested topic in beach volleyball is when a double or lift/catch is called during a volley or set. The rules being infringed in these two possible ball faults are:

9.3.3 CATCH: the ball is caught and/or thrown; it does not rebound from the hit. (Exceptions,

9.3.4 DOUBLE CONTACT: a player hits the ball twice in succession or the ball contacts various parts of his/her body in succession.

In plain English this means that you cannot catch or hold onto a ball for too long, and you cannot touch a ball twice in succession. Due to the nature of a two handed set or volley it is very easy to either be blown up for catching the ball or for touching the ball twice during the volley, also known as a double.

Many people use a spinning ball as the result of a volley as an indicator of a double touch. Their reasoning says that the only way to create spin on the ball with two hands is to touch it for two different durations during the release which results in the spin.

Referee John King breaks down why this isn’t not necessarily the case and what beach volleyball referees look for during volleys or sets. He also covers whether it is allowed to receive a hard driven ball with two separated open palm hands during play.

Fault for double contact: As explained in the video spin is a common symptom of double contacts, but not a guarantee. You can be faulted for double contact while setting as you receive the ball, yet still release a clean no-spin perfect ball. This is still considered a double contact fault. Tt’s not just the release but also the initial first contact with each hand that counts. (a lot of people refer to this as a “catch”). *

The exception to these rules is during a hard driven ball. Then the ball contact can be extended momentarily even if an overhand finger action is used. Referee John King refers to this as well.

This can be found in the official FIVB rules – Point


*This video and explanation was found in this reddit thread:

What is the hardest skill in volleyball - blocking

What is the hardest skill in volleyball?

Blocking or volleying.

We are going to split this answer into two sections as we think there are two different answers depending on whether you are playing indoor volleyball or beach volleyball.

What is the hardest skill in indoor volleyball?

Blocking is one of the volleyball skills that takes the longest too perfect and has one of the steepest learning curves. Therefore it can be said to be the hardest or most difficult skill in indoor volleyball.

There are a lot of variables when it comes to blocking and how they interact with your blocking technique. These variables include:

  • Footwork
  • Timing
  • Hand position
  • Communication
  • Are you blocking with someone else?
  • Are you blocking alone?
  • Are you swing blocking?

An effective blocker is able to identify the technique required for a certain situation and then executing that technique effectively. It is also important to be able to read what the opposition setter and hitter are going to do in order to perform the right kind of block for the situation. This is why blocking is both a mental and physical challenge.

The other reason that blocking is difficult to learn is that it is the least taught skill in volleyball, especially in high school and at clubs.

Why don’t high school and club volleyball concentrate on teaching blocking skills?

In high school attackers tend to be shorter as they haven’t fully grown into their height yet. Blockers are also smaller and jumping high enough to block effectively can be a challenge. Due to this it is more effective to concentrate on the other basic volleyball skills rather than focusing on blocking.

Blocking isn’t always critical to have a good game of volleyball or to win a game of volleyball, so it is often a neglected skill.

The main reason blocking is such a difficult skill.


Timing is everything in blocking. You need to understand when the setter will set the ball for the hitter, when and where the attacker will strike the ball and in what direction they may hit it. You need to time your jump and your arm/hand placement to intercept that strike. You need to know when to start moving your feet, when to jump and when to stretch out your hands. If you are too early or too late your block will not be effective and may leave a hole in you defence.

Timing is not an easy skill to learn, it requires knowledge, hand-eye coordination, balance, agility, reading of the game and talent.

Blocking is also one of the most difficult skills to practice on your own. One way to practice on your own is if your school or club has a volleyball attack machine that will let you simulate spikes in order to block.

If you want to be a great blocker devote time and energy to master it.

What is the hardest skill in beach volleyball?

We believe that volleying is the hardest skill to learn in beach volleyball. This is as the rules of beach volleyball are a lot stricter when it comes to ball faults and volleying in beach volleyball than for indoor volleyball.

The FIVB Beach Volleyball Rules For Volleying State:

9.3.3 CATCH: the ball is caught and/or thrown; it does not rebound from the hit. (Exceptions,

9.3.4 DOUBLE CONTACT: a player hits the ball twice in succession or the ball contacts various parts of his/her body in succession

Both of these rules can cause a player to be called for a ball fault when volleying in beach volleyball.

  1. A catch – If a player is determined to hold on to the ball for too long during a volley it is ruled a catch and the point is lost.
  2. If the player touches the ball twice during the volley it is ruled as a “double”. This is very easy to do as during a volley, the player uses two separated hands making it extremely easy to result in two separate touches.

Beach volleyball referees are much stricter when it comes to double contacts during a volley. Lots of people refer to the ball spinning as the cause of a double, however this is not true. Spin is an indicator of a double touch, but not a certainty.

Because of this many beginner and intermediate volleyball players are taught to dig set in order to avoid ball faults during setting.

This video of AVP Referee John King answers the question extremely clearly.

Fault for double contact: As explained in the video spin is a common symptom of double contacts, but not a guarantee. You can be faulted for double contact while setting as you receive the ball, yet still release a clean no-spin perfect ball. This is still considered a double contact fault. Tt’s not just the release but also the initial first contact with each hand that counts. (a lot of people refer to this as a “catch”). *

The exception to these rules is during a hard driven ball. Then the ball contact can be extended momentarily even if an overhand finger action is used. Referee John King refers to this as well.

This can be found in the official FIVB rules – Point


*This video and explanation was found in this reddit thread:

What is the most important skill in volleyball passing

What is the most important skill in volleyball?


Passing is the most important skill in volleyball as it is the foundation from which all volleyball flows. If you cannot play a well controlled pass to your teammates then it is not possible to build an effective structured attack in order to win points.

If you cannot pass the serve then you will not be able to play or win a point.

A good pass leads to a good set which flows to a good attacking shot/spike. Without a good pass it is difficult to build on the next shots.

Some people say serving is the most important skill. This is as serving is the first chance that can generate an immediate point and it begins the game. Serving is the only time in the game that you start with full control of the ball.

What do you think? Passing or serving? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Want to learn about the other 6 basic skills of volleyball? Click here.

What are the 6 basic skills of volleyball

What are the 6 basic skills of volleyball?

If you want to have a strong base in volleyball and be able to join any game or group, whether it be indoors, at your school or university, your local gym or on the beach you need to have a high level of the 6 basic skills of volleyball. These skills are also known as the fundamental skills of volleyball. The stronger your fundamental skills are the better volleyball player you can become.

The 6 basic skills of volleyball are:

  1. passing
  2. setting
  3. spiking
  4. blocking
  5. digging
  6. serving

That is why the volleyball phrase “Bump, Set, Spike!” is often said to sum up volleyball. Even though this is the basic flow of volleyball there are a number of options and strategies beyond the simple, pass, set, spike combination.

What are the 7 basic volleyball skills?

Sometimes people refer to the 7 basic volleyball skills instead of just 6 skills. This is because they split setting and volleying into two separate skills. They are very similar movements, but with slightly different intentions. If you separate volleying from setting then the 7 basic volleyball skills are:

1. passing
2. setting
3. volleying
4. spiking
5. blocking
6. digging
7. serving

We are going to work with the 6 basic skills of volleyball.

1. Forearm Passing or Bumping

The forearm pass or bump is the most basic skill in volleyball but also the most important as it forms the core action of the game. It is very important that a player has a bullet proof forearm pass from a solid platform. The idea of a pass is to use ones forearms to play the ball to one of your team mates.

What is the most important skill in volleyball?

Passing is often said to be the most important skill of volleyball. This is as every play or movement flows from the first pass. If the first pass is bad then it is difficult to execute the following skills no matter how well you play volleyball.

If you could only master one volleyball skill then that skill should be passing.

Passing – Ready Position
Passing – Bump Position

Step 1: Get in position. ( Don’t wait for the ball )

A good player in any sport doesn’t wait for the ball to come to them, but rather moves into the ideal position to play the ball the way they want to. Before the ball is even coming towards you it is important to be in a good ready position, watching the ball and trying to anticipate where it will go.

Make sure you are facing and focused on the ball. As soon as you know the ball is coming to you and that you are going to play it, you should move your arms and hands into the correct position in front of you. Do not wait until the ball is “on top of you” to move your hands. Be ready.

Match your thumbnails to keep both arms even.

The idea is to create the perfect platform to rebound the ball off of your forearms, so that you can play the ball in a controlled manner. A good way to do this is to match up your thumbnails, if your thumbnails and wrists are together the rest of your platform will be even. Then twist your elbows exposing the soft under elbow to the sky. Keep your arms straight.

Your legs should be a little further than shoulder width apart, feet parallel and knees slightly bent.

Step 2: Bump the ball.

Keep your arms straight as the ball contacts your forearms. As the ball hits, the knees extend to help raise the arms forward. Note: Your legs move your arms upward, your arms do not swing upward. Straightening the legs completes the pass motion. Try to maintain a positive position ( lean slightly forward ) so you play the ball forward, and not backwards.

Key thoughts when passing:

  • Thumbnails together
  • Wrists together
  • Straight Arms
  • Arms slightly forward away from chest, pointed downward at 45˚
  • Feet parallel
  • Knees slightly bent
  • Straighten legs on contact
  • Follow through to target

Some common errors occurring can point you in the direction of your mistakes.

  1. Ball not getting to the net – Get closer to the ball and use more legs.
  2. Ball to low – Angle arms away from the body, follow through with arms and legs at the same time.
  3. Ball to tight on net – Use minimal arm motion, adjust angle of platform.
  4. Ball pass to one side of the court – Correct platform and follow through to target.

Practicing a lot and hitting the ball with your forearms can be quite painful, especially in the beginning. Consider using paddled arm sleeves for more forearm longevity.

2. Volleying – Overhead Passing – aka Setting

Since the sport is called volleyball you may think that volleying is the most important skill of the game. As mentioned above you would be incorrect. Volleying or setting is the next step in the pass, set, spike flow of volleyball. The set is how you “set” up a great attack.

To set or volley – form a triangle with the fingers and thumbs of both hands above the forehead. Note: the thumbs do not tough.

With the hands above the forehead, feet about shoulder width apart and the right foot slightly forward, knees slightly bent and the body leaning slightly forward. Receive the ball with the hands. The index fingers and thumb will form a triangle around 3 panels of the ball.

Extend the knees and straighten the arms to follow through to the target area.

Hands above forehead. Triangle with forefingers and thumbs. Right foot slightly forward.
Elbows forward not out. Push up by straightening legs.

Key thoughts when setting/volleying:

  • Hands up early
  • Form triangle with forefingers and thumbs
  • Wrists straight ( not laid back )
  • Elbows down and forward ( not out )
  • Hands around the ball
  • Thumbs to cheekbones
  • Follow through

Some common errors occurring can point you in the direction of your mistakes.

  1. Ball set to close to the net – Square the hips. Knees and feet parallel to the net – Keep the set 3 ft off the net
  2. Ball set too far inside – Extend follow through and use your arms and legs together. Keep weight forward
  3. 5 Set to far outside court – Contact with the ball is too low. Follow through too low or your hands are too low.
What is the difference between setting and volleying?

Many people think volleying and setting are the same thing. In truth they are two slightly different terms. A volley is a general term for when a player passes the ball by having their hands over their head. A set can be a type of volley.

However it is also possible to set using a bump style pass. This is also called a bump set. A set is generally a pass between players.

Can a volley be an offensive tool?

A volley is usually used on your own side of the court, however it can be used in an offensive way to send the ball over the net to the oppositions side of the court. There are strict rules in order to use a volley as an offensive play. In order for a volley over the net to count:

1. It must not be a double.
2. The ball must travel perpendicular to the line drawn by your shoulders. It can be played forward or backwards as long as the ball travels in a straight line that is perpendicular to the line between your shoulders.

Is the volley criteria for beach volleyball stricter than indoor volleyball?

Yes. When playing beach volleyball it is much easier to get a ball violation when setting. For this reason many beach volleyball players mostly dig set rather than volleying during competitions and tournaments.

It is easy to get a ball violation when setting with the wrong technique or by beginners. A ball violation during setting is usually called a double, which refers to the player touching it twice rather than just once.


A set is a kind of volley that is usually the second hit and is intended to set up one of your team mates for an attack. Aim and position is important when setting as a good set allows your team mate to hit the ball effectively, while a bad set will make it difficult for your team mate to execute the hit well.

Some important points to consider when setting:

  • Make sure the set is high enough so the hitter has time for their full approach.
  • If a set is too high the hitter has too wait too long and timing becomes tricky. This also gives blockers a lot of time to set up their defence.
  • Quick sets can be difficult but very effective against blockers.
  • The best set is between 1 – 2 ft away from the net.

3. Spiking

This is where the action happens. Spiking both looks and feels fantastic when executed well. This is the most common and glamorous attack, although there are other offensive shots a player can make.

A spike or hit is when a player jumps and hits the ball over the net with a one handed overhead swinging motion. The player contacts the ball with an open hand in what looks like a kind of a downward slap. The idea is to spike the ball with a lot of power making it difficult for the other team when they receive the ball.

Jumping while spiking adds power and momentum to the strike while also giving the player height with which to aim the ball. Highly skilled players will be able to aim the ball at different spots around the court, where they think the defence may be weak at that moment.

Jump with both feet. Swing your arms.
Lead with your elbow. Snap your wrist. Aim your shots.

Step 1: The approach

Start by taking a big step with your weaker foot ( often the left foot ) and then a large second step with your strong/right foot. Finally plant your first foot next to your second foot ( usually place your left foot next to your right ) and jump. The best jumps come from a two footed base. When jumping it is about timing, both with your feet and arriving at the right place and height to hit the ball.

Step 2: The Jump

When jumping it is important to swing your arms to generate more height and momentum. Start with your hands on the side of your body. Swing them straight back and then thrust them forward and up. This motion gives your jump extra height and allows your arms to get ready for the hit.

Step 3: The Hit

As you jump the hitting arm is raised with the elbow shoulder high. At the apex of the jump, lead with your elbow and extend the arm to hit the ball with your palm. As you strike the ball your wrist should snap forward so that the heel of your hand strikes the ball. Then follow through.

Step 4: Landing

Finally land softly and in control.

Remember the goal of the jump is height not distance.

When practicing and learning to spike it is easier to learn it in reverse:

  1. Practice spiking without a jump. Just swing the arms to hit the ball over head.
  2. Add the swinging arms into the practice. Swing your arms back, then forward and up before striking the ball.
  3. Add a small jump to practice your timing and motion.
  4. Add only a one step jump into the motion.
  5. Try the full approach with two steps before the 2 footed jump.

Key thoughts when spiking:

  • Elbows up
  • Point at the ball with the non hitting arm
  • Lead with the elbow
  • Extend and reach
  • Snap wrist
  • Hit targeted shots around the court

Some common errors occurring can point you in the direction of your mistakes.

  1. Ball hit in net – Ball is dropping too low before striking. The ball could also be too far in front of the body.
  2. Ball hit out – Usually caused by being too far under the ball or not snapping wrist.
  3. Ball hit too wide – Elbow dropping or no follow through.
  4. No spin on ball – Ball out of position. Either too low, follow through too low or too far on the right or left of the body.
What other type of attacking shots are there?

Although spiking is the most common and well known attacking shot, a number of other shots can be just as effective. Some of these include a tip, a cut and a roll shot.

What is a tip in volleyball?

A tip is similar to a spike, except instead of hitting the ball as hard as possible the player pokes the ball to just tip it over the net. You can use either your finger tips or your knuckles to play this shot. A tip can be very effective when there is a hole in the oppositions defence. It can also be used as a last resort to get the ball over the net when you are slightly out of position to play the ball. Eg when the attacking player has mistimed their approach or the set is too close to the net or too low.

What is a roll shot in volleyball?

This is a great weapon in the attacking players arsenal. It is similar to a hit but instead of powering through the ball with the swing, the player focuses on shot placement over power. Often looping the ball into an empty area of the court. This can be done with or without a jump.

Instead of hitting the ball the player instead rolls their open hand over or underneath the ball as they make contact. This puts spin on the ball and also allows for more control in the shot.

4. Blocking

What are the 6 basic skills of volleyball - blocking

A block is when a player is near the net and jumps up with their hands above their head to block the oppositions attacking shot. A block is a great way to reduce the power of the oppositions attack. It also puts pressure on the opposition during their play as it reduces their options during the final strike. When blocking – focus on the ball and jump vertically to gain maximum height. Keep both arms raised above your head with your hands close together and fingers spread wide. Try to place your hands and arms slightly forward.

When possible, due to a high enough jump, it is ideal to stretch your hands and arms over the net pointing downward in order to rebound the ball down on the oppositions side.

Land facing the net and maintain control. It is important not to touch the net.

Key thoughts when blocking:

  • Start with your hands at shoulder height, elbows forward.
  • Jump and extend arms up
  • Stretch hands and arms forward
  • Keep wrists parallel and straighten arms.

Some common errors occurring can point you in the direction of your mistakes.

  1. Blocked ball rebounds outside of court – Blocking hands are facing outside the court.
  2. Blocked ball drops in front of player – Player is jumping too late. Try to get arms closer to the net.
  3. Ball passes between blockers – Players need to close the hole between arms.
  4. Leaving too much of the court open – Outside blocker is setting the block too far outside.

5. Digging

Digging is a defensive volleyball skill that is very important. A dig is a pass carried out by a player on your team after the ball is played over the net by the opposition team. A dig often has to recover a hard driven shot or spike from the opposition team.

A successful dig keeps your team in the point and prepares your team for the counter attack.

What is a dig in volleyball?

A dig is a defensive bump that keeps the ball from hitting the floor when it is hit to your side of the court from an offensive strike of the other team.

Digs can be carried out by any player on the court but usually falls to the defensive players in the middle and back court. When digging it is important to be ready to handle a hard driven ball.

Step 1: Get Ready

Make sure you have a good starting position. It is ideal to be in a stable, well-balanced position. You need to be lower to the ground to give yourself more time to make the play, so your knees should be bent, shoulders square to your knees, your feet shoulder width apart and your weight lightly on your toes. Keep your arms in front of your body, with a slight bend in them. Be ready to move in any direction in order to play the ball.

It is important for defensive players to watch the flow of the game carefully and focus on the other teams setter and then attacker in order to anticipate where they are going to hit the ball.

Step 2: Dig The Ball ( Pass )

It is always advisable to use both hands for a dig. This provides a lot more control than one hand. It is important to get your hands and arms together in front of the ball quickly, so you can set up your passing platform well. That is why it is important to not add any flourishes or arm swings when digging the ball.

The goal of the dig is to create a good pass to your team mates so they can build your next attack.

If the ball is hit to your right, bring your left arm up to meet your right on the right hand side of your body. Vice versa for the left hand side.

Key thoughts when digging:

  • Be ready
  • Stay low with a stable base
  • Use two hands whenever possible
  • Pass the ball up

Some common errors occurring can point you in the direction of your mistakes.

  1. Digged ball shoots off at an angle – work on an even solid platform.
  2. Digged ball goes forward – Get lower and focus on playing the ball up.
  3. Often play the ball with one hand – Be ready earlier and don’t swing arms elaborately.

Sometimes it is not possible to dig the ball with both hands, or the ball is hit hard above the head, so a traditional dig is not an option.

Other kinds of volleyball digs:

We have covered the traditional dig using two arms similar to a normal pass. There are also overhead digs and dives.

The Overhead Dig

When the ball is hit towards you above your shoulders ( and you do not think it is going out ) you can use an overhead dig. The best overhead dig is to use two hands and form a triangle or cross linked by your thumbs. Your one hand should be on top of the other. Then play the ball with your inside palm. Make sure you hit the ball up and towards the net, but keeping it on your side.

The overhand dig is not as easy to control but can become a good tool in your arsenal once practiced. When under pressure it is possible to also use the overhead dig with just one hand.


If the ball is hit too far away from you to perform a traditional dig, then you might need to dive. When diving or sliding stretch your body forward with your knees bent. It is important to get low to the ground and your arms parallel to the floor. Make sure to keep your chin up so not to hit it on the floor.

The goal of the slide is to get the ball up so your team mates can continue to play it.

When done right diving shouldn’t hurt, especially if wearing volleyball knee pads.

6. Serving

We have left serving for last because although some people may describe serving as the most important skill of volleyball as it is the first weapon you can use to score a point, we think the other skills are more critical to your volleyball game.

A good serve is very important in a game, it can score a point, begins the game and can set you up for a good counter offensive. If you have a bad serve you can make it too easy for the opposition to attack. More importantly when a serve is hit into the net or out, it is a lost point, also known as an unforced error. Great serves put the opposition at an immediate disadvantage for the point.

Players can choose to serve overhand or underhand. Usually beginners use underhand serves and it can be easier for the opposition team to play, however there are some very aggressive underhand serves that can be mastered.

A good serve is made up of accurate targeting, and variations of speed and spin.

Speed: The speed of a serve is affected by the speed and timing of your arm swing, whether it be a overhead or underarm serve. Make sure to follow through with your swing for maximum speed, power and accuracy.

Spin: Adding spin to a serve can make playing it much trickier. It can either make it drop quickly or unexpectedly or cause it to rebound off the players arms unpredictably. Spin is a great technique to add to your serving repertoire, but it does take time to learn it.

The official rules of volleyball give players 8 seconds to serve the ball after the referee blows the whistle. However some recreational leagues only allow for 5 seconds.

When serving it is important to take your time, and consider your strategy for the serve. Understand what you are trying to achieve with the serve.

Key thoughts when digging:

Floating Serve:

  • 90º- 90º Tossing vs the hitting arm
  • Contact the ball through the center
  • Follow through – 6 o’clock to 12
  • Toss (in front) – step – hit
  • Aim with your non hitting arm
  • Lift ball over the net

Top Spin Serve:

  • 1/2 turn
  • Underhand toss of the ball with two hands
  • Toss above your head
  • Toss – step – hit
  • Contact the ball below the center
  • Snap wrist as you extend your arm

Some common errors occurring can point you in the direction of your mistakes.

  1. Cannot serve over the net – start close to the net and throw the ball over. Slowly move back while adding an arm swing and perhaps a forward step.
  2. Ball served in the net – Possible errors – Step too long, toss too low, toss too far in front, no step.
  3. Ball served out – Shorten follow through. Toss should be closer to the body. Hit through the ball not under the ball.
  4. Balls spins instead of floats – Contact ball in the middle of ball, no snap of the wrist for float serve.

Remember: Serving is the only time in the game that you start with full control of the ball.

We hope you have found this breakdown of the 6 basic skills of volleyball helpful. If you have any thoughts please leave a comment below. Happy training.


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