Whether you're a seasoned vet, a complete newb or a coaching looking for important things to focus on, we think this article is going to provide a ton of knowledge that explains how to spike a volleyball with detail and clarity. We looked and it just is not easy to find a top to bottom explanation with demonstrations of good hitting technique for volleyball players.
If you want to learn how to hit a volleyball, you've come to the right place. Let's dive in.
When we are trying to learn how to spike a volleyball, we commonly forget about the first two contacts. Whenever you're trying to get better at spiking a volleyball, whether in practice or studying, make sure that you still have the mindset that you need to pass every ball perfectly and you need to set every ball perfectly because those two touches are going to lead to what we hope is the best attack of your life.
If you are unable to pass or set the ball well then you are going to put yourself or your partner in a position where they are unable to work on the attacking skills they are trying to improve. So before you get going, make sure that you are focusing on your passing and your setting so that we can focus on all these different styles of attacks.
If you're looking for some more advice on passing or setting, make sure that you refer to our passing or setting blogs. Those will give you some helpful hints on how to perform those skills to the highest level.
If you want to take our online beach volleyball course and have direct access to live Q and A sessions with our awesome coaches, check out our attacking course here and learn how to spike a volleyball step by step.
The first thing that we need to discuss is what an arm swing should look and feel like. As I have been coaching, I have realized that people who have a background in baseball tend to pick up an arm swing very quickly and I don't believe this is a coincidence. Learning how to throw correctly is going to pay off big when thinking about swinging. Taking the time to learn how to throw is going to help you gain power as well as keep your shoulder healthy for a longer period of time.
When we are mimicking our throwing style and turning it into our attack, it's important to focus on getting your non hitting hand and your hitting elbow as high as you can after you pull your attacking arm back. We commonly hear this motion referred to as a bow and arrow motion. Remember to keep your non attacking hand, the one holding your bow, is as high as possible, and your hitting arm elbow, pulling the string, stays as high as possible throughout the process of your swing.
You can check out this beach volleyball training video to learn some easy drills you can do at home to improve your spiking and ball control.
So now that we understand what our arm swing should look like, let's talk about putting ourselves into a position that allows us to use this swing. Your approach is probably the most important part of your attack. We're going to teach you a four step approach.
If you are a right handed player your approach will be right, left, right/left. The reason that the last two steps (right/left) have been put together is because they should happen almost at the same time. If you are a left handed attacker, you will do the opposite, left, right, left/right. I suggest that everybody uses a four step approach because it is what's going to give you enough time, patience, and power to perform the swing you're trying to make.
With that four step approach, you are going to want to create as much distance between you and the net as you can. One common theme that we see as volleyball coaches is that after somebody passes, they tend to run up to the net to start their approach very, very close to the net. By doing this you are eliminating your momentum which is something we want to avoid. By keeping your distance from the net, you will not only allow your momentum to aid your swing, but you will also allow the ball to be in front of you at all times.
The next thing that we need to think about is the timing of our footwork. As you go through your approach from your first step to your fourth step, it should go from slow to fast.
An issue that we see is that people have a consistent speed from their first step to their last step and if you have that then your ability to adjust is not as good as we would like it to be. So make sure you are starting off slow and you are finishing very fast or explosive. That's going to allow you to get up in the air as high as possible, allowing you to make whatever shot you were trying to do the most effective. So just like we would go slow to fast. Now we're going to be thinking about our distance of our steps, which is going to go small, bigger, and then biggest.
Those biggest steps are going to be our last two steps right before we jump. After we pass this ball, we should gather ourselves. Do not rush to the net! Once the setter touches the ball, that is when our first step of our approach is initiated. We're going to slowly put our right foot down on the ground.
The first step should feel like you're walking down the street with one of your friends after you got a coffee and you're just enjoying the day. This will be the case for our first two steps making you feel very calm. These calm steps will allow you to adjust the direction of your approach, which will allow your last two steps to get you to the ball and making your attack point as high as possible.
After I have completed my last two steps and I jump in the air, I'm ready to perform the bow and arrow motion. Once I have set myself up into this position, I am going to be able to swing through using the throwing style that was explained above. After you have performed this throwing motion, it's important to finish with your hand by snapping your wrist giving you the ability to add velocity and accuracy to your shot. A common error we see happens when people try to hit the ball hard instead of hitting quick.
Whenever you hit hard or you try to hit hard, you end up using a full body motion and we have this crunching position that we don't want to be in. I suggest trying to hit the ball quick, instead of hard. Think about trying to surprise the ball and hit it earlier than its expecting. If you are able to do this correctly, you should find an increase in power without compromising height and accuracy.
Now that we understand what our approach spacing, timing, and arm swing should look like, it's time to think about an advanced idea that will bring everything together. Whenever you're done passing, the next thing that you need to think about is putting yourself into a position that is going to allow you to make the most attacks possible.
What I mean by that is that you should put yourself into a position, before your approach, that will allow you to hit or shoot cross and line without your body looking different.
One of the biggest issues that we see as coaches is that instead of putting yourself into a position to attack the ball, we wait in a position and we let the set happen and then we try to chase that set. Whenever that happens, that ball is the thing that is attacking you. You want to make sure that you're always in a position to attack the ball.
The solution to putting yourself into this position is by finding the attack corridor. The way that you can put yourself into an attack corridor is by creating space or taking away space that allows your hitting arm to be set the easiest. If you are on the left side and you are a right handed player, then after you pass, you should create space from your pass allowing for somewhat of a funnel.
The reason that this funnel is important is because if you have created this distance from you and your setter, then you are not making your setter be perfect, which is a good thing. If your attack corridor is in front of you, then that means that I'm going to have a very good opportunity of getting myself to any ball and keeping this ball on my right shoulder. This same idea applies for left handed players playing on the right side of the court. If you are a left handed attacker on the left side, then you would do the opposite, creating less distance between you and the setter making it easier for the setter to set your left shoulder. The same goes for right handed players playing on the right side of the court.
This is why we commonly see right handed players on the left and left handed players on the right because its a natural movement to put themselves into their attack corridor, but its very important to understand that regardless of the side you are playing, it is your job to find the attack corridor for you.
One of the biggest errors that we see when somebody is attacking from the right side, being a right handed attacker is after they pass, they shuffle to the side line which creates a large distance between their attacking arm and the setter. When you make this distance bigger rather than smaller you are relying on your setter to be perfect. As attackers we want to make our setters job easier. The most important thing is for you to get the ball on your hitting shoulder as quickly as possible. In order to help your setter out, after you pass on the right side as a right handed attacker, you should create your corridor so that the court is in front of you. It should almost feel like the setter is right in front of you. This will allow the setter to make an easier set, while also allowing me to use my approach to get the ball on my hitting shoulder with ease allowing you to perform all of the attacks you need, whether it's a hard cross, a high line, or a cut shot.
If I do not allow this to happen and I get out to this sideline, then my attacks are going to start to look like I'm reaching for a ball inside. If you've ever found yourself in trouble on the right side of the court, this is probably the reason. You're not setting yourself up for success. When we drift to this sideline, we end up having to reach for volleyballs inside of us because it's hard for setters to push the ball to our hitting shoulder. If you are reaching inside, then it is almost impossible for you to hit the ball hard line.
So whenever we're thinking about attacking and finding our attack corridor, the most important thing is thinking about which shoulder you need that set to end up on. If you are a right handed player and you are on the right side, then you want to shuffle in allowing your attack corridor to be in front of you. And if you were on the left side, after you pass this ball, you want to shuffle to the sideline allowing the setter to keep the ball up and down on your right shoulder as well. If you're left handed make sure that you are mirroring this idea. If you're on the left side, you should shuffle in keeping that attack corridor in front of you. And if you were on the right side, then you should be shuffling away from your set, allowing that set to stay on your left shoulder.
Some players have a hard time adjusting to bad sets when they are spiking. It's never easy having a setter who can't locate the ball but luckily we have a drill to improve the last two steps of your spike approach.
The exercise in the video below will help you make more aggressive attacks on bad or tight sets.
The drill focuses on feet to ball. For the most part, at our classes and private lessons at VolleyCamp Hermosa in Los Angeles, California, we like to practice full skills. Before this drill and afterwards, you should pass, set, hit over the volleyball net and then look to see where you took off from and where you landed.
I also like to use the drill shown down below to help the players understand the importance of the 2nd step in a four step approach (1st step if you teach a 3 step approach). Alex and Julia only started playing a few months ago so its important for them to understand these concepts early.
Don't spend very long doing this because it doesn't incorporate a ball which means it's not game-like and therefore not as valuable as a drill that includes spiking a volleyball but it IS a great way to help the players understand that they can change speed and direction DURING their approaches.
The most common, and fun, swing in beach volleyball is spiking hard cross. This free training video shows you how to master this vital attack move on the beach volleyball court. AVP pros Brandon Joyner and Mark Burik take you through every jump, step and swing so you can spike the volleyball high and hard.
The video that you're about to watch is an example of one of our online beach volleyball lessons from our attacking course. We have a lot of different lessons that are built into this course that will teach you all different types of attacking skills that we think you need in order to become the best attacker possible.
The most common attack in beach volleyball AND the most fun, is our hard cross hit. Whenever we're thinking about hitting hard cross, we're not trying to trick a defender into thinking we're doing something else. However, you're body position should allow you to hit every shot so that you don't get blocked. If the other team decides to run a bait and switch where the blocker dives angle you should be able to see that and easily change your wrist angle. You're body position and your approach should always allow you to spike hard anywhere on the court.
After you've gone through your four-step approach, and you're soaring through the air with your bow and arrow drawn, the next step is to follow through and swing at the ball. It's time to spike! But how do I hit a volleyball so I don't get blocked or dug consistently?
One of the most important things about hitting hard cross is making sure that you are still trying to hit deep. If you notice that you are taping balls or if you're hitting balls into the net, then most likely what you're doing is you are trying to swing too hard at that ball, which we talked about in the arm swing video as well. Make sure that when you are going up to swing, you have your left shoulder pointing to the deep left corner of the court, which will allow you to throw your arm just like you're throwing a baseball to that opposite corner. If you concentrate on hitting this ball quick and fast and deep, then you're going to set yourself up for the best attack possible.
Being able to add vision to your approach and swing is the final piece to the attacking puzzle. This is a great warm-up drill when you're starting to get your arm loose that will help you with vision. It won't get you any game-like reps, but it's really important to be able to control the ball with vision. So, you're going to toss to yourself - make sure that you toss well above the top of the antenna - after you follow where the ball is, then your eyes need to drop or focus on your partner. After the peak of the ball, your partner is going to put one hand anywhere they want. Your job is to reach to the top of your swing and try to snap the ball to their hand on that line. All they need to do is catch the ball and it's their turn. So, they toss above the top of the antenna, find the ball, find the target, find the ball, and snap to that hand that's open. Good luck. Get accurate, Robin Hood style!
We also wanted to give you some ideas for practice and the little things such as these will pay off in the long run. These drills will not only help you focus on finding your perfect approach, timing, and spacing, but will also help you start thinking about advanced ideas like vision and game play tactics.
Now that you have a better understanding of everything is the attacking world from a natural arm swing, to correct spacing and timing, to finding the attack corridor, and finally using vision, it's time to put it to use! This high line challenge will put you to the test, and should be done for all spots on the court that you like to hit in order to build confidence and accuracy with all shots.
For high line shots, make 2 high line boxes. This is basically, a serve receive practice, but we're going to get our competition by going against each other, and we're just going to say it's the first person to get 4 high lines, but we're doing it with a plus or minus scoring.
If we miss the high line, we miss that box at any point - it becomes a minus, if we get it - it becomes a plus.
You can see we've also added a bungee cord across the net. The net level is for Ian's practice because he's the one who's trying to hit flat serves across the net really low because it puts more pressure on the other team. The bungee cord level is for the attackers practice because we need to get that ball up and over a blocker for it to be a legitimate high line.
It's important to remember what you learned above! Another helpful hint is try to make every swing look like you are hitting the ball hard cross every time, regardless of the zone you are trying to hit. For this high line drill, your goal should be to make everyone think you are hitting hard cross before hitting the high line. This will help you work on finding the attack corridor and correct approach speed while also making your shots harder to read for the defender.
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Included are diagrams and written explanations of the most important exercises that EVERY pro player does or has done at one point or another.
The five skill sections covered are:
Serve Receive & Passing
Ball Control And Emergency Technique