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Volleyball Spike Drills and System for Learning How to Spike

Updated on February 1, 2011

Step by Step Instruction for Learning How to Spike a Volleyball

If you're new to volleyball, one of the first things you should learn is the right way to spike. The following volleyball spike drills are presented in the correct sequence for learning how to spike.

1. Elbow to Wrist (contact)

2. Platform Spiking

3. Over the River (footwork and approach)

4. Spiking Overpasses

5. Spike Trainer

6. Spiking off a Set (Bringing it all together)

Backwards Shaping for Spiking a Volleyball

The best method of learning to spike involves a philosophy called backwards shaping. Backwards shaping also known as reverse shaping is basically a method of learning by breaking a skill down into chunks. Each part of the skill is broken down and the focus is on mastering a specific part one at a time. The following article is going to explain how to break down the volleyball spike into a sequence of steps.

The method is called backwards shaping because you're learning how to perform the skill from the end.

For example, the first thing to learn is positioning for contacting the ball. Many players and coaches make the mistake of trying to learn how to spike without developing the skill of getting in position. For example, focusing on footwork and the approach before learning how to contact the ball can waste valuable time.

Elbow to Wrist is like Hammering a Nail
Elbow to Wrist is like Hammering a Nail

Elbow to Wrist

The first skill to learn is the contact (elbow to wrist)

Elbow to wrist is the first step in learning how to spike a volleyball.

Again, this is backwards shaping. You focus on the contact of the ball because the contact is the last part of the volleyball spike.

The contact is very important. How well you contact the ball will determine how accurately you spike the ball. There's many parts to the volleyball spike.

To break it down, you have....

1. The approach (technique for getting in position)

2. The contact position (the position you want to be in when you spike the ball)

3. Anticipating the play to get in position (the skill of reacting and reading the play that helps you get in position to spike)

If you were to focus on your approach and anticipating a set before you develop the skill of contacting the ball, you would likely get very frustrated. The approach and spike is the most difficult skill in volleyball to learn. This is why I prefer to teach how to spike using backwards shaping.


Elbow to wrist should be the first skill that's taught to a volleyball player. The reason it should be the first skill is because...

1. Anyone can learn this when they first start playing. Even if you are just starting to play and only 8 years old, this is the skill that you should learn first.

2. The contact is the last part of the volleyball spike. You could say that contacting the ball correctly is the main goal of the volleyball spike approach. This is what you're trying to do and it's easier to learn how to spike if you know where you're headed. The goal is to get in position and make contact with the ball using an elbow to wrist action.

Drills for Elbow to Wrist

The following are 5 drills for learning elbow to wrist

What is elbow to wrist?

Analogies for the elbow to wrist armswing...

1. It's as if you were reaching up high and hammering a nail. When you hammer a nail, most of the movement is from the elbow to hand. There isn't much movement by the upper arm from elbow to shoulder. When you hammer a nail, you put force into the nail. Spiking the volleyball should be like bouncing the hammer off the nail. The volleyball bounces off a spikers hand much like the hammer bounces off a nail.

2. It's like whipping a whip. You want to whip at the ball. Or like snapping a towel. Think about how the towel makes that snapping sound when you whip it.

If you're still not sure what elbow to wrist is, watch what a spiker does when spiking an overpass. A spiker that is really good at elbow to wrist is a spiker that is very confident in spiking the ball straight down. Elbow to wrist allows you to "hammer" the ball down with authority which often results in the crowd going wild.


1. Wall Elbow to Wrist

Start with your players learning how to spike the ball against the wall using an elbow to wrist action. This isn't the full armswing. At first, just focus on the elbow to wrist action. The goal is to consistently spike the ball in a way that makes the ball rebound back up so you can spike continuously. This drill is especially good for young kids because kids love to spike against the wall. Remember, the focus is on the elbow to wrist action.

2. Partner Elbow to Wrist

The next progression is partner elbow to wrist. Each player gets a partner and self tosses. The focus again is on elbow to wrist. Contact the ball high and hit the ball on top creating topspin.

3. Platform Elbow to Wrist

Platform spiking is a very important drill for learning how to spike a volleyball. Have your players stand on a platform at the net. You basically want a platform that's 15 to 25 inches high. Each player self tosses and performs the elbow to wrist action. This drill can be done every practice. Spikers will get in a lot of contacts in a short amount of time especially if you have a lot of volleyballs.

A very important part of spiking is having a vertical arm when contacting the ball. This basically means the upper arm (elbow to shoulder) should be vertical when making contact with the ball. Many players can add inches to their contact simply by learning to make their arm vertical instead of elbow pointing out to the side.

Platform spiking can also be progressed to spiking to targets and spiking from different areas of the court. For example, put targets down on the court and have your spikers focus on hitting them. It can be as simple as just focusing on zones.

4. Spike Trainer Elbow to Wrist

A spike trainer is basically a device that holds a volleyball for a spiker. The spiker then approaches to the ball and focuses on the elbow to wrist action. If you haven't yet perfected your volleyball approach footwork, then save this drill for later.

5. Overpasses Elbow to Wrist

When spiking overpasses, you don't need to focus on footwork. Stand at the net and be ready to jump up and spike. A coach or player on the opposite side of the net, near the net, tosses the ball up. The ball tossed should be coming down on top of the net or just over on the same side as the spiker. The focus here is to jump and use the elbow to wrist action.

Do you see how the different pieces of the skill are broken down? First start with a wall or partner and focus on the elbow to wrist motion. Once you are very comfortable with the elbow to wrist movement, progress to platform spiking and hammering overpasses.

Volleyball Approaching Technique

Drills for learning how to approach to spike a volleyball

The next progression is to learn the proper footwork for spiking a volleyball.

The order of steps...

For right-handers, the steps are left-right-left.

For left-handers, the steps are right-left-right.

What's important here is the last two steps.

Focus on the last two steps first (again, we are backwards shaping).


When first learning the footwork, have your players approach over a flat rug (the rug is the river) or some other markings on the court. The focus is taking a big right step, left step then plant to jump. This is for right-handed spikers.

Chunk down the volleyball approach.

Important: Perfect the approach by developing the following progressions. Don't move on until you have mastered each progression. If you do move on without performing well, go back a step and work on it some more.

1. Slow motion training

The coach performs the full approach in slow motion. The players mimic the coach. The point of slow motion is for players to feel what it's like to do the movement. Always slow the skill down if players are having trouble figuring it out.

2. Big right then left and plant (don't jump yet)

Again, we are breaking the approach down into chunks. Go slow and take the two steps. Don't have players jump yet. Gradually start to speed it up.

3. Same as previous except this time add in the arms.

As you take a big right, bring your arms and hands down and back behind you. Again, do this in slow motion. Just as you plant the right foot and are about to plant the left, bring the arms forward and then up. As technique develops, gradually start to speed up the movement. The arms should be relaxed when bringing them down, back, then forward and up.

4. Now, add in a jump at the end.

5. Progress to a three step approach.

6. Progress to taking multiple steps while focusing on ending with the right-left over the river.

Spike Trainer

Approaching and spiking a volleyball without making adjustments

The next step is to put the approach and spike together.

Rather than advancing to spiking off a set, it's usually best to approach and spike without having to make adjustments.

For example, if you were to try to spike a volleyball that's coming from your setter, you would have to anticipate the set and adjust your footwork to get in position to hit. If you're new to volleyball, your anticipation skills aren't going to be developed yet.

Rather than having to adjust to get in position, use a device such as a spike trainer.

The advantage of a spike trainer is it allows you to take your approach and contact the ball while it's in a fixed position. The spike trainer basically holds the ball for you and you take your approach and spike the ball.

This training has many advantages...

1. You can focus on elbow to wrist.

2. You can adjust the height of the ball, forcing the spiker to reach high when making contact.

3. You can force the spiker to jump higher.

4. You can force the spiker to contact the ball with a vertical arm.

If you don't have a spike trainer, then you're still ok. Just have a coach toss a ball to the spiker. Basically it should be like hitting a quick set (practically spiking the ball out of the hands).

Approach and Spike

The final progression of learning how to spike a volleyball

Once you have mastered the previous steps for learning to spike, you're ready to spike a volleyball off a setter.

There are many different sets...

1. 1 ball

2. 2 ball

3. high outside

4. back slide

5. 31

6. 32

There are many more different types of sets.

If you play middle, you'll likely first focus on learning how to hit a 2 ball.

If you play outside or right-side, you'll likely focus on spiking higher sets.

Higher sets allow you to adjust your approach and timing is less important. It's good to first learn how to hit a high set because this will teach you how to adjust your approach.


Anticipation is a very important skill in volleyball. The best spikers anticipate the setter and are really good at making adjustments to get in position to spike.

Five Keys to the Volleyball Spike

Summary of how to spike a volleyball

1. Vertical Arm and Elbow to Wrist Action

When making contact, you want a vertical arm. Also, to hammer the ball, use an elbow to wrist action.

2. Topspin

Topspin is very important for ball control, ball placement, and keeping the ball from sailing out of bounds. The best spikers understand the importance of spin. If you aren't putting spin on the ball when you spike, it's safe to say your ball contact isn't very good.

3. Footwork/Approach Technique

The purpose of footwork and the approach is to get yourself in position to spike. It's all about positioning and good technique makes getting in position easier.

4. Anticipating/Adjusting to the Set

Anticipation helps you get in position. The better you are at anticipating what's going on, the better you are at getting in position to make the play. Great spikers anticipate very well and rarely complain about bad sets.

5. Getting in Position

Getting in position is key. Focus from the very beginning of your career on learning about the correct position to be in to spike a volleyball. Just like every other volleyball skill, positioning is everything.

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      5 years ago

      Thanks for your step by step instruction on how to spike a volleyball. I think it will really help me.


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