What Is a Spike in Volleyball

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Mastering the spike is crucial in volleyball, especially if you’re a striker. Many consider this move cool-looking, and it is also really effective if performed correctly. If you’re new to the game, you might wonder what is a spike in volleyball, and how to correctly perform it.

What Is a Spike in Volleyball?

A spike in volleyball is an attack performed by the striker that powerfully sends the ball towards the ground on the opponent’s side of the court. The goal of a spike is to result in a kill, meaning that the opposing team cannot not return the ball.

Spiking is one of the best resources that the attackers have, after all, this movement can be a game-changer if the striker can perform it correctly. However, to master this technique, you need to learn the different types of spikes, the footwork, and the stance.

Different Types of Spikes and Swings

To differentiate the types of spikes, I need to learn about the arm movements you do during the spike. These are called “the swing”, and it leads you to a position where you can effectively hit the ball in midair.

For example, when you see someone trying to jump higher, they would gain momentum by swinging their arms back and then swinging them upwards while jumping. This is similar to a volleyball swing, only that, in this one, you will also be preparing your arms to hit the ball.

This is the main factor that determines how a spike is performed. Therefore, learning how to position your arms affects the outcome of this movement. Here are the types of swings that determine the kinds of spikes:

Learn the different types of spikes and swings in volleyball

Straight Swing

This type of swing involves both of your arms going as high as possible above your head when jumping. After you get them fully stretched, your dominant elbow should go back, getting you into a good position to strike the ball.

However, try not to go too far when stretching your arms or pulling your elbow back. If you do, your shoulder might get overworked, leading to an injury.

Bow and Arrow High Swing

This type of swing is similar to the straight one, and the only difference is that your dominant elbow should go back sooner. At the end of the movement, your arms should be positioned as if you were holding a bow with your non-dominant hand while drawing an arrow with the other.

Additionally, the final position should have your elbows and wrists above your forehead.

Bow and Arrow Low Swing

This type of swing involves your dominant elbow being at the same height as your shoulder right before hitting the volleyball. Just like the high swing, your elbow should quickly go back, though, in this case, it shouldn’t go above shoulder height.

The final position should have your dominant wrist between shoulder and forehead height, while your elbow remains at the same height as your shoulder.

Snap Swing

This type of swing involves your dominant elbow going back even sooner than the other ones. For this, your attacking elbow should go back as soon as your wrists get to shoulder height. The final position should have your wrist and your elbow at shoulder height.

Volleyball player in black shirt doing a spike

Circular Swing

Your dominant elbow should be going back before your wrist reaches shoulder height for this type of swing. This movement should have your elbow and wrist below or at the same height as your shoulder.

The biggest difference about the circular swing is that, unlike other types, there is no stop during, or at the end of the swing. This means that it is way more fluid than the other swings.

Types of Footwork When Performing a Spike

The way you approach the ball influences the outcome of the spike. Since you need to aim the strike before performing it, your whole body should be in sync with the volleyball. This is where the footwork can assist you.

With the correct footwork, you will be able to get the timing right, position yourself better, and effectively execute the spike. Here are the types of footwork:

Two Steps

For the two-step approach, you need to step with your dominant foot first, then hop with your non-dominant one. While this might be considered too basic, this type of footwork will allow you to start learning the movements and patterns.

Three Steps

For the three-step approach, you need to start with your non-dominant foot, follow with the dominant one, and hop with your non-dominant foot. This type of footwork gives you time to examine where you want to go, allowing you to get there quickly.

Four Steps

To perform the four-step approach, you need to start with your dominant foot. After that, you need to take two short leaps, the first one should be done with your non-dominant foot, and the second with your dominant one.

Finish with a big leap and a jump using your non-dominant foot. This gives you extra time to build more power and get a better aim.

How to Assume the Correct Position to Spike

You need to square up and position yourself even before your team gets the ball. After all, you need to be ready to move and attack the ball at any time quickly. These tips will allow you to get a better position and stance:

Beach volleyball spike
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Flex the hips and slightly tilt your torso forward
  • Keep your dominant foot slightly ahead of the other
  • Examine your opponent’s court, find a good spot to attack (perhaps an area they’re not defending correctly), and position your body so it is facing that spot
  • A key factor in performing a good spike is knowing where your setter is going to send the ball; therefore, you need to build a connection with your teammates to get better at the positioning

Related Questions

Here are some similar questions about spiking in volleyball:

Can You Spike the Volleyball by Punching It?

Due to recent changes in the volleyball rules, you can “punch” the volleyball. However, this might not be ideal as controlling the ball could be incredibly difficult. If you punch it, the volleyball might take an unexpected trajectory, ending up outside of the court.

How Fast Can a Volleyball Spike Go?

The average speed of a volleyball spike can go 50 to 70 miles per hour. However, according to the FIVB (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball, by its French initials), the current record for the fastest spike is held by Matey Kaziyski at 82 miles per hour.


Spiking could be considered one of the most important tactics since it allows you to win games if done correctly. Mastering it, however, requires a lot of effort and practice.

Alfonso Andrade is an avid sportsman, growing up playing soccer and volleyball. He is a coach and sports analyst, studying the game to analyze performance and help create improvement.