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Volleyball Spike Techniques

Updated on March 14, 2017

Key Techniques for Learning to Spike a Volleyball

The following strategies will help you be more successful at spiking.

The key to a successful volleyball spike is the contact.

You can train for hours and hours on your volleyball approach. Your approach is going to be useless if you don't develop a good ball contact.

The following piking techniques will help you develop a good solid ball contact.

1. Contacting the ball with a vertical arm

2. Contacting the ball using an elbow to wrist arm action

3. Contacting the ball in a way that creates topspin

Vertical Arm

When contacting the ball, you want the arm to be vertical. You've probably heard a coach tell a player, "get your elbow up." This is what they are talking about. Your arm should be vertical from shoulder to wrist when making contact with the ball.

A vertical arm is important in many ways...

1. You'll reach higher with a vertical arm. Many players spend hours trying to increase their vertical a couple inches. Often players would actually get a couple inches higher just by getting their arm vertical when making contact.

2. You can spike with more power. If your arm is vertical, you'll actually spike the ball with more power. When the arm is vertical, you'll use the right muscles to spike. Often when the elbow is bent, the wrong muscles are used. For example, often when the arm isn't straight, there is more of an internal rotation of the shoulder joint. This can lead to rotator cuff problems.

3. You'll have more ball control. When your arm is vertical, you'll be reaching higher and have more options for where to hit the ball into the court. It's easier to adjust the hit when you have a vertical arm.

See how the elbow is out and arm isn't vertical?

It's hard to spike down and with power without a vertical arm.
It's hard to spike down and with power without a vertical arm.

Key Drills for a Vertical Arm

The coach needs to watch each spiker to see if the arm is vertical. If the arm isn't vertical, then perform drills that focus on having a vertical arm when contacting the ball.

A lot of times the player won't feel the arm not being vertical. This is where video tape can be important. Film the spiker and show them their arm isn't vertical. You can also show them a video of what a vertical arm looks like so they know what we're trying to do.

The best drill for learning to have a vertical arm is the platform spiking drill. Have your players stand on a platform at the net. Each player can self toss and spike the ball down into the court. Gradually work up to where you can set the player on the platform. Remember, the focus here is just on getting the arm vertical.

See how the arm "shoulder to elbow" is vertical?

See how this spiker is in the hammer position ready to go "elbow to wrist" hammering the ball?
See how this spiker is in the hammer position ready to go "elbow to wrist" hammering the ball?

Elbow to Wrist

The elbow to wrist action is an important concept.

From the first time a volleyball player sets foot onto the court, the focus for spiking the ball should be elbow to wrist.

The elbow to wrist action is basically like hammering a nail. When training elbow to wrist, focus on the movement from elbow to wrist. The shoulder to elbow shouldn't move much during this armswing. The movement is all elbow to wrist. Imagine hammering in a nail up overhead. This movement is all elbow to wrist.

Also, you want to whip at the ball. Think of the snap of a whip. A whip makes a snapping action. You've likely heard a coach say, "snap your wrist." Think of putting force into the ball and whip it.

Reasons elbow to wrist is important...

1. You'll be able to spike the ball down into the court. The spikers that are the best at elbow to wrist are the ones that are the best at spiking overpasses. Spiking an overpass straight down into the court can often look real easy by someone that does the elbow to wrist action really well. If you're good at spiking an overpass, the spike will look effortless and the movement is just elbow to wrist.

2. You'll spike with more power. There's basically two ways to spike a volleyball. One way is to pull the ball. The other way is to go elbow to wrist. Elbow to wrist you can put more force and power into the ball, thus spiking harder. The best spikers will do both, pull the ball and go elbow to wrist.

3. Arm is more likely to stay vertical if you go elbow to wrist. If you learn the technique of elbow to wrist, you'll likely be spiking with a vertical arm every time.

Key Volleyball Drills for Elbow to Wrist

Elbow to wrist should be a focus early on in your playing career. Develop this technique early and you'll avoid changing bad habits later.

1. A wall can be used to develop elbow to wrist. Have each player stand in front of a wall and spike the ball down using an elbow to wrist action. The goal is to spike the ball in a way that it rebounds back up so the player can spike continuously. Remember, the focus is just on elbow to wrist. The players shouldn't be following through on the spikes. Just keep the elbow up the entire time and focus on the elbow to wrist arm action.

2. Partner elbow to wrist drills should be part of practice warm up.

3. Elbow to wrist should be done on a platform. Platform spike drills are very important learning how to contact the ball.

Topspin Jump Serve

Learning to topspin jump serve is a great way to learn good ball contact, creating massive topspin.
Learning to topspin jump serve is a great way to learn good ball contact, creating massive topspin.

Spike with Topspin

The most important part of the spike is making the ball spin.Topspin is probably the most important spiking technique not being taught.

Topspin is very important for two main reasons...

1. Accuracy. Watch any high level volleyball and you'll notice that the best spikers will create topspin on the ball every time they spike. This is because there's a correlation between spin and how well the ball is contacted. In lower level volleyball, you'll have players miss hit the ball. The miss hits are because of the poor contacts. 

2. Ball control. Generally, the better you are at making the ball do what you want it to (topspin when spiking), then the more ball control you'll have spiking. Don't be a spiker that just jumps up and focuses on hitting the ball hard. You've got to develop consistent topspin in order to be a great spiker.

Key Volleyball Drills for Spiking with Topspin

Spin is a very important concept in spiking. If you understand spin, you'll likely a very good spiker. Players should focus on creating spin every time they spike the ball.

Spin = Control

If the ball isn't spinning the way you want it to, then you don't have good ball control for spiking.

1. Topspin serving. Serving with topspin can be a very effective way to serve. Also, you have more control when serving with topspin. Learning to serve with topspin can really help you understand how to put spin on the ball.

2. Platform spiking. You can work on all 3 spiking skills. Vertical arm, elbow to wrist, and spiking with topspin can all be focused on when platform spiking. Every time you spike on a platform, be sure to be putting spin on the ball. Very often just by focusing on spin you'll contact the ball correctly.


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      Caroline 2 years ago

      Thank you so much! For years, my coaches would tell me to get my elbow up and I thought I was, but I was never told to have a vertical arm. This really helped me. Now that I understand, I can finally fix it. :)