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.


  1. Basic Fundamental Skills of Volleyball and 8-Week Training Program – https://www.stpaul.gov/sites/default/files/Media%20Root/Parks%20%26%20Recreation/Muni%208_week_training_-_Volleyball.pdf
  2. 7 Basic Volleyball Skills for Beginners – https://prorecathlete.com/7-basic-volleyball-skills/
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