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How to Master Volleyball Hitting

Learn the Proper Approach, Arm Swing and Timing

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FUZHOU, CHINA - APRIL 25: Emilia Nystrom of Finland plays the ball during a women's main draw match on Day 4 of the 2014 FIVB Beach Volleyball Fuzhou Open on April 25, 2014 in Fuzhou, China.
Hong Wu/Getty Images

Volleyball hitting ideally takes place on a team's third contact of the volleyball. The hit (or spike) comes after the pass and the set and is also known as an attack or a spike. Hitting is the most exciting skill in the sport of volleyball not only for the player who does it well, but also for the onlookers watching.

It takes good coordination and is one of the more difficult skills to learn. The best way to go about learning how to hit is to split it up into separate parts.

Four-Step Approach
  • Line up just behind the 10-foot line with your left foot slightly in front of your right, arms at your sides.
  • Take a step forward with your right leg, followed by a step forward with your left leg.
  • Hop or plant your feet quickly with your right and left foot in quick succession. Your left foot should still be slightly in front of the right and your hips and shoulders should be facing the setter. Think of it as “right – left – hop,” or “right – left – then a quicker right-left.” Try this in slow motion and then speed up until it is a jog and eventually a run.
  • Bend at the knees and jump. Use the forward momentum from your approach and as you hop, transfer that energy straight upward (do not drift too far forward) so you won’t end up in the net. Swing both arms behind you as you plant your feet.
  • Swing both arms in a sweeping motion from behind you to in front of you and straight up over your head. Use this quick arm motion to lift yourself higher in the air when you jump.
  • Middle Blockers and some Outside Hitters use a shorter three-step approach to get to the ball more quickly. To try this, just eliminate the first step with your right leg.
Positioning
Keep Ball in Front – The ball should always be in front of your hitting shoulder when you attack. With experience you will begin to be able to judge where the ball will end up even as it leaves the setter’s hands. Approach and place yourself just behind that spot to give yourself the option to hit it anywhere you like.

If the ball is too far out in front of you, you will only be able to tip, or lightly play it over to the other side. If the ball is too far behind you or out to the side, you can only contort in the air in an attempt to loop it over.

Arm Swing
  • Once you’re in the air, pull your left arm down quickly, pull in your abdominals and in one fluid motion, pull your hips and shoulders around as you strike the ball. It is important to put your whole body into your attack, not just your arm and shoulder.
  • Strike the upper back section of the ball hard and in a downward motion. The goal is to make contact with the ball at the top of your leap, with a straight hitting arm, an open hand and spread fingers.
Timing
The most difficult part of hitting is timing – getting to the ball so that you can hit it at the top of your reach and your jump. Some say you should start your approach when the ball is at the peak of its arc and starts coming down. That is a good rule of thumb when you are just starting out, but there are many variables that this tactic doesn’t take into consideration, such as the speed of your approach and the height of your vertical jump.

The best thing to do is practice repeatedly. Try approaching at different points in the set arc and at different speeds. Get a feel for when you need to begin your approach in order to contact the ball with perfect timing.

Tip: If you are coming down when you contact the ball, you’re jumping too early. If you are hitting the ball next to your head instead of with a straight arm, you’re too late.

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