The 7 Best Volleyball Defense Drills [Individual and Team]

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When the other team has the ball you are automatically put in defensive mode. No matter if you are backrow or frontrow, there are a few different ways that everyone on the court can contribute to putting up a good defense.

Top Volleyball Defense Drills

​Before learning how to drill defensively for volleyball, it’s important to understand what goes on defending. Once you understand the goal of a solid defense, it will help you in the drills you do. During practice, ask your players to be in proper volleyball training attire for their moveability in game.

When you are on defense for volleyball, you are working together as a team. You want to either block off the ball coming over the net, or you are ready to dig up a spike and keep the ball in play. That way you can attempt to score of your own with a:

  • bump
  • set
  • spike
Volleyball player hitting a ball near the net

Frontrow Blocking Drill

​If you can stop the ball from coming over the net with a block, you can effectively gain a point if the other team is not ready for a block. This also puts another three hits on the other team to get the ball under control and send it over the net.

Blocking also cuts down on how hard a spike comes to your back row. If you manage to even just get a small block on a ball, it will slow it down and make it easier for your teammates to bump it up.

Backrow Digging Drill

​The backrow players are the last in the line of defense when it comes keeping the ball in play. While the front row players are up on the net for a block, a setter and two back row players are left to cover the rest of the floor. They can work for a dig, to keep the ball in play.

The setter will help cover the back. Most likely, that person will gravitate towards the middle area behind the blockers to help with any dink hits. For backrow players, they need to be able to perform quick and well controlled passes up to the setter.

Placement Volleyball Defense Drills

​The best way to be successful on the court is to know where you should be when the other team is spiking. These placement drills will help your team learn where they should be, depending on where the spike is coming from.

Spiking Placement

You will want to place three chairs or platforms on the opposite side of the net from where your players are lined up in a basic position. The coach or a helper will stand in each of these chairs and send a spike over during the drill.

  1. To begin, have your players get into their rotation and into the position of net defense.
  2. The person with the ball on the opposite side of the net will go to a chair and stand in it.
  3. Once the “spiking chair” is chosen, the players should get into the specific defense positions to combat a spike from that area.
  4. The person holding the ball will then toss or send a spike over the net to test the defense.

While this is a basic slower moving drill, it is meant to be used for the players to learn where they are supposed to be during a spike from the other team. You can use this drill to find your weak areas. It will also show the back row players how much they have to move to the ball and how hard it can come down if a block is missed.

Freeball Placement

​When it comes to a freeball, there is a different placement your players need to adhere to. You can build this drill into the spiking placement drill by randomly calling free ball and tossing the ball over while they are in defense position.

For a freeball, players need to immediately back up off of the net. The front row blockers will take three big steps straight back to get ready for receiving the bump and getting set for a spike.

The setter needs to run from the ten foot line into the setter’s position close to the net. They need to be ready to make a set to the outside hitters.

Since a freeball is a bump or set over, it will come higher and not as aggressively as a spike. In this instance being a blocker won’t be as effective as backing up off of the net and being ready to bump it into a play.

Net Volleyball Defense Drills

​For learning defense at the net, you will want to work on learning how to block the volleyball. The three hitters on the front row will go to the net while the other side has the ball.

Joint Blocking Drill

​The middle hitter will alternate helping block the two sides while the outside hitters will come in to help with a middle hit block. It is important to make sure your joint blockers are working together, jumping together, and closing off any holes by remaining close.

It’s easier to run this drill by working your middle hitters and having them move to the sides and jump. Have two helpers stand on a chair on the opposite side of the outside hitter positions.You will also need someone standing below the helpers to hand them balls.

  1. To begin, have your players line up. Backrow players can also join in the drill. They may be needed up front.
  2. Have two stationary hitters stand in position on both outside blocking points of the net, across from the helpers on chairs.
  3. One at a time the players in line will move forward to the net and you will direct them to either go left or right.
  4. The players will use their blocking footwork to quickly move to the side and jump with their paired partner.
  5. When they jump, each player will reach up and grab a ball out of the helper’s hand. These balls will be held close so that the players learn to jump close together without coming down on each others toes.

This drill also helps reinforce the blocking footwork. Players will need to travel from side to side and be able to jump as soon as they arrive to the other player.

For these type of exercises, always make sure your players are well geared with top volleyball shoes with ​traction to ensure they can do this part well.

How the Joint Blocking Drill is executed for volleyball defense practice

Dink Defense Drill

​Sometimes, instead of a spike, you can be on the receiving end of a dink. This can be almost as paralyzing as a hard spike. This is because players are set up and pushed away from the net ready for a hard and fast hit. They may not be prepared for a ball that is barely tapped over the net.

Set your players up in the spiking placement and alternate spiking and dinking the ball over. Have a setter on your side so you can perform full spikes. This will help your players learn how to read the hitter’s body language.

Make sure the non blocking outside hitter and setter who are closer to the blockers are ready to move to the ball. They also need to be calling it so the others can be ready to assist.

Blockers can also come down and perform a bump if the ball is close enough to them. The difficulty for the blocker to bump is that they need to turn their body parallel to the net so that they can perform a successful bump.

The main problem with a dink, is that they are unexpected and aren’t always going to be played out the same way. This drill will work with your players on learning how to anticipate the ball being tapped over the net. It also helps teach the players how to communicate with one another to get the ball bumped up for a set — a good practice drill for intermediate level highschool ​players.

Steps to perform the Dink Defense Drill to improve volleyball defense skills

Back Row Volleyball Defense Drills

Devil’s PepperImproves digging
Spiking DigsImproves ball control
Three-Man BumpImproves mobility and ball control

​The back row needs to always be low and ready to move to dig up a spike. These drills will help keep your players on their toes and ready to get to the ball.

Devil’s Pepper Drill

​This drill is a more amped up version of queen of the court to really get your players working on their back row defense. I’ve mentioned this practice drill in our previous article ​on some volleyball drills for middle schoolers​​​.

  1. Place a team of three players on one side of the court with 6 players on the opposite side.
  2. The setter for the larger side will stay in place while the other players switch out quickly between plays.
  3. Set a timer for 90 seconds and begin the drill with a serve from behind the defenders.
  4. The three players defending will earn one point for digging and winning the rally. They will lose points for any ball mishaps, and will forfeit all of their points if no one goes for the ball.
  5. At the end of the time, tally up their score and then rotate another team of 3 on the court.

This drill is great for getting your players to move to dig the ball. Especially the forfeiting of points if no one moves to the ball since this can be a common problem on the back row.

How to teach the Devils Pepper Volleyball defense drill

Spiking Digs Drill

It is sometimes good to combine drills so your players aren’t standing still too long during slower drills such as spiking.

​This drill demands ball control from the two players who are on the defense. If a ball hits the floor and neither player goes for it then they should be given a task such as an exercise or running a lap.

  1. While you have your players lined up for spikes, have two players come to the other side of the net for back row defense.
  2. They need to wait on the spikes and them dig them up.
  3. Have the duo in the back dig and then the other player sets the ball to the original spiking drill tosser.
  4. The tosser will catch the ball and then send the ball over the net to the labero who will begin the next spike by hitting the ball to the setter.
  5. The player who performed the dig gets to run back to the spiking lines while the player who spiked the ball gets to go and play defense.
How to practice the Spiking Digs Drill to polish volleyball defense skills

Three-Man Bump Drill

​This defense building drill works to get players moving while implementing the need for control to bump the ball back to a setter.

  1. The drill begins with a setter sending the ball to a line of players outside of the court.
  2. The first person will bump the ball back to the setter and run into the court.
  3. The setter will then bump or set the ball back to the next player in line.
  4. This will repeat for a second and third player from the line.
  5. After three players are on the court a continuous drill will play out on the court.
  6. The setter will control the ball and hit it to each actively moving player by either setting, sending a down ball or lightly dinking the ball.
  7. Each player will hustle for the ball, communicate, and bump the ball back to the setter.
  8. The drill ends when the ball hits the floor. The three players will get back in line and the setter will begin again with three more players.
How the Three Man Bump Drill is performed for volleyball defense practice

This is an extremely active drill that will get your players moving fast. Once the setter sends the first ball to a player in line, the drill doesn’t stop until the ball is on the floor.

The setter will set the tone for the drill. They are in charge of pushing players and making them work hard to secure a controlled bump back to the setter. This basic fundamental increases teamwork in the game and is great ​for beginners.

During the active play, the setter can also call for a rotation. This means all three players will need to rotate their circle while the setter remains stationed at the top of the circle. This helps to keep the players moving and on their toes.

The setter can call for help if a wild ball occurs. The point of the drill is to create that second hit back to the setter. If the current three players on the court are unable to get a hit to the setter after multiple rounds, the setter can end the drill due to lack of control and send them back in line.

Related Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about defense drills

What Is the Most Effective Defensive Play in Volleyball?

When it comes to defense, the most effective play you can do is a dive. This is a very quick action that might come off as unexpected to the opponents. Therefore, if you manage to keep the ball alive by diving, you have a good chance to score.

How Can You Practice Pancakes?

To practice pancakes, you can just do a diving drill and replace the dive with a pancake. To do this, you will need to throw yourself to the floor many times and try to keep the ball alive. So you may want to start doing it on a soft surface.

How Can You Practice Defense by Yourself?

Since you need someone to attack in order to defend, you cannot effectively practice it by yourself. However, you can practice the timing and the footwork; this will allow you to have a better technique when it comes to blocking.


Knowing and implementing these volleyball defense drills can help your players learn the art of a solid defense. They learn how to keep up a volley with the other team and get the ball under control. In turn, this helps for their own spiking advantage.

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.