How to hit in beach volleyball is a complicated question to tackle. It involves quite a few steps, a whole mess of mechanics, timing, various skills, navigating nature’s elements, and jumping out of the sand to hit a ball floating in the air after bouncing off of someone else’s forearms.
All of that, and we haven’t even mentioned that there's a defender to avoid!
So, we’re going to break down how to spike a volleyball, one element at a time. Today’s element is this: Rotation.
Rotation is everything when it comes to generating power in a beach volleyball spike. While beach volleyball players do not actually ever throw a ball in a match, we do perform a throwing motion while we spike a volleyball.
Think of your favorite pitcher – Clayton Kershaw, perhaps, for the Dodgers fans among us? – or quarterback – Tom Brady, anyone? Think of their throwing motion, the mechanics of it. As their throwing arm goes back, their chest opens up wide, rotating with their spine, bringing their elbow back back back – until it all whips through in one synchronized motion.
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That is the movement we’re going for when we’re explaining how to spike in beach volleyball. It is, of course, more complicated to spike a beach volleyball than it is to throw a ball, because of all the aforementioned elements, and a great many we have not yet mentioned. But the point is this: If we are to generate power in our beach volleyball spike, it is critical that we do not simply wave our arm at the ball. It’s a full-body movement, one that requires proper mechanics from the shoulder, spine, chest, arm, and wrist.
Watch the video below, as AVP professional beach volleyball player Mark Burik explains to one of our favorite students, Brittany, the mechanics of a beach volleyball swing.
Do you see how, in the beginning, her chest remains square to her target, with little to no rotation? It’s a swing that is dominated almost entirely by her arms. Now, Brittany is strong, and athletic, so she can get away with this from time to time. However, if she is going to be siding out against the likes of, say, Sarah Sponcil or Kelly Claes, she’s going to need to generate a bit more power. That power is going to come from rotating her shoulders and chest, opening up using her upper back and shoulder muscles, and then synchronizing it all to rotate back towards the ball in one, smooth hitting motion.
Now, on paper, this sounds complicated. I promise you that it’s not. Try something for us really quick. Toss a ball against a wall. Nice and soft. Now throw one against the wall, as hard as you can.
You probably moved quite a bit different, didn’t you? To throw harder, you would have needed to rotate your chest, opening up to generate a higher range of motion and more power.
Take that concept and apply it to hitting a beach volleyball and voila! You just learned the secret to spiking a beach volleyball.
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