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.
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.
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.
- Take a strong first step with your left foot in the direction of the ball.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Practice spiking without a jump. Just swing the arms to hit the ball over head.
- Add the swinging arms into the practice. Swing your arms back, then forward and up before striking the ball.
- Add a small jump to practice your timing and motion.
- Add only a one step jump into the motion.
- 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.
- 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 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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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 https://usavolleyball.org/resource/how-can-i-spike-harder/