What Is a Pancake in Volleyball?

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In volleyball, there are a lot of techniques that allow you to keep the ball in play. If you recently joined this sport, you might wonder what a pancake is in volleyball, and how effective it could be inside of the court.

What Is a Pancake in Volleyball?

A pancake is a defensive move where a player dives into the ground, places their hand flat on the floor, and saves the ball. This is often a difficult move that requires a lot of training and conditioning before trying to perform it.

Man in black shirt dives into the floor to catch the volleyball

This technique allows you to have a greater reach, as well as to bump the ball without lifting it or grabbing it. Therefore, learning allows you to grow as a player and perform incredible saves on the ball. This could, ultimately, prevent your team from losing.

That is why you should dig deep into this technique and master it.

How to Perform a Pancake in Volleyball

Before you even start practicing how to do a pancake, you need to fully understand the mechanics of a bump and a dig. If you don’t fully comprehend these techniques, you won’t be able to correctly perform a pancake; or even worse, you could get injured while trying.

Additionally, you also need to understand how a “lift” works. After all, this is the main reason you need to put your hand flat on the floor while performing a pancake. That is because, if you don’t, you might lift the ball, which is considered an illegal movement.

Even though this technique is a great tool that allows you to keep the ball in play, it is not supposed to be used constantly. Throwing yourself into the ground too many times can physically hurt you. That being said, these steps will allow you to perform it correctly and avoid injuries.

1. Be Prepared

Pancakes are often done by defensive players who are specialized in saving the ball (liberos). Therefore, you need to have your eyes on the volleyball at all times and keep a good stance. This will allow you to quickly react and reach the ball.

2. Reach the Ball and Get Behind It

After noticing the volleyball might go out of reach, you need to step forward with your non-dominant foot and quickly create a platform with your hands. By doing this, you are preparing for a bump or a dig.

As I mentioned before, the pancake should always be your last resort, therefore, you should always be prepared for a bump.

People playing volleyball with one player on the ground

3. Get Into the Ground

If you notice that you cannot bump the ball, you should drop down and stretch your arm as much as possible without hurting yourself. You can extend whichever arm you feel can reach the ball better.

4. Do the Pancake

Calculate where the ball could land, and put your hand flat under it. This way you will keep the ball alive by letting it safely bump your hand. While doing this, remember to not raise your arm; this could be considered a lift, and your team can lose the point.

5. Communicate and Get Back in Place

As soon as you successfully save the ball, you need to let your teammates know the ball is still in play by yelling “Ball!” or “Up!” Lastly, you need to quickly get back to position and continue the game.

After all, volleyball can be pretty intense and you might need to keep saving more balls.

When to Perform a Pancake

Pancake a ball that nobody can reachPancake a ball that can be bumped
Pancake a ball that your teammate failed to hitPancake a ball that your teammate can reach
Communicate with your teammates before doing a pancakePancake a ball that is going out of bounds

A pancake should only be performed under specific situations. If you misjudge a play, you might end up throwing the ball out of the court, which can be bad for your team.

Here you can see the situations where you can perform a pancake.

  • When the volleyball is completely out of reach for a bump. If you can normally bump the ball, you should never try to perform a pancake on it.
  • When you notice the ball can still be playable. You need to consider that preventing the volleyball from hitting the floor doesn’t mean you successfully saved it. You need to quickly discern if your teammates will be able to make a play on it.
  • When you fully understand the risk. A pancake is not an accurate hit, so, most of the time it will go out of bounds. This will make your team lose a point, and it could potentially lower their motivation. Therefore, you need to think before doing it.
Men and women's team playing volleyball

Related Questions

Here are some related questions about pancakes in volleyball.

Does a Pancake Count as a Hit?

Yes, a pancake counts as a hit in volleyball. That is why you need to carefully think about when to perform this movement; if you do it under a bad circumstance, you might leave your team out of hits and you will lose the point.

Is the Pancake a Dig?

Yes, the pancake is considered a type of dig in volleyball. These techniques are often used in defense by roles like the libero or the defensive specialists. After all, they can be complex to perform without getting hurt.

Does Doing a Pancake in Volleyball Hurt?

Yes, doing a pancake during a volleyball match could hurt you. However, if it is done correctly, it will not cause damage to your body. This is why it needs to be practiced a lot before fully committing to it.


Knowing how to save a volleyball can be a game-changer technique that prevents your team from losing points. The pancake allows you to do this, however, you need to be careful while performing it. After all, it can have many downsides if you do it carelessly.

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.