What Is an Underhand Serve in Volleyball?

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Serving is a volleyball technique that can be a game-changer if performed correctly. If you recently discovered this sport, you might wonder what is an underhand serve in volleyball and whether it is effective or not.

What Is an Underhand Serve in Volleyball?

The underhand serve occurs when the player holds the ball in front of him with one hand and strikes it below the waist with the other. Unlike other types of serve, the ball should not be tossed at any time. 

As it is not as offensive as other kinds of serve, this move isn’t used very often in professional volleyball. However, it is easier to perform, which makes it ideal for beginners. Therefore, mastering this technique can establish a strong base for novice players.

Girl volleyball player

What Are the Characteristics of the Underhand Serve?

Easy to performBeginners can do it
Safe to doThe ball won’t go out of bounds
AccurateAllows players to become confident
SlowOpponents can receive it easily

The fact that it is not used in professional volleyball doesn’t mean that this technique is useless.

This serve helps the player to have better control of the ball, which allows him to accurately target specific areas of the court. 

Additionally, it is the safest way to put the ball into play. This move has very low chances of being thrown out of the court, which allows the players to be confident while performing it. It is a great way to improve the player’s confidence.

The only counterpart (and the reason why many professionals don’t use it) is that it is really easy to receive and return. This serve is very slow and it doesn’t represent a challenge to the opponent. In other words, if you use this serve, you might play too passively.

What Are the Steps to Correctly Perform an Underhand Serve in Volleyball?

To correctly perform this movement, you need to be aware of the small details that are often overlooked.

Learning them will allow you to improve your form and will set a good base for you as a player. Here are the steps to perform an underhand serve:

Aim to the Opponent’s Court

Before starting to serve you need to look into the opponent’s court and spot a good area for the ball to land.

This is important if you want to deceive your opponent. To do this, choose a spot their defenders aren’t covering and aim your serve there.

If you are a beginner, you should position your body so it faces the area you want to send the ball. Even though this would reveal your intentions, you need to learn how to correctly aim before trying to deceive your opponents.

Position Yourself

Two men playing outdoor volleyball

You need to square up and get into a comfortable position for you to effectively hit the ball. To do this, you need to keep your non-dominant foot forward while keeping your weight on your dominant one. Your hips and feet should be facing forward too.

To stand stable, slightly bend the knees and keep your dominant foot a little bit diagonal to your non-dominant foot. For your hands, you need to grab the ball with your non-dominant hand, straighten it, and let the volleyball safely rest on it.

Then, you should lower it above your waist and cross it. After that, the last thing you need to do is to make a fist with your dominant hand. The final position should have your non-dominant hand (the one holding the ball)  in front of your dominant hand.

Hit the Volleyball

The last step is to hit the ball and send it to the opposite side of the net. For this, you need to swing your dominant arm back and quickly swing it forward, hitting the bottom of the volleyball. Before contacting the ball, step forward with your non-dominant foot.

This will allow you to propel the volleyball by using your entire body weight. After making contact with the ball. you should follow through and continue with the swing. The final position should have your arm straight and above your head. 

Useful Tips on How to Perform an Underhand Serve

These tips will allow you to improve your underhand serve:

  • To hit the ball, close your fist, turn it upwards, and try to always contact the ball close to your wrists. Avoid hitting it with your knuckles.
  • Pay attention to the ball while serving. Even though you need to check your opponent’s court, you need to look at the ball during the serve.
  • When grabbing the ball, keep your fingers loose yet strong. 
  • Don’t grip the volleyball. If you do, the service will be affected.
Man hitting the ball
  • Keep the ball low, at the height of your mid-thigh.
  • When hitting, you should lean your arms forward and move your hips back.

Related Questions

Here are some related questions about underhand serving in volleyball:

Can I Take a Running Start Before Performing the Underhand Serve?

Yes, you can take a running start before performing the underhand serve. However, you should only take up to three or two steps. If you do more than that, your position might get too unstable, which can only lead to a bad serve.

Is the Underhand Serve Illegal in Professional Volleyball?

No, the underhand serve is not illegal in professional volleyball. However, since it is too easy to receive, elite players choose not to do it. After all, it would only be advantageous for their adversaries.

Is It Normal for My Hand to Hurt After Doing an Underhand Serve?

If you are a beginner your hand might hurt after performing an underhand serve. This is because you are not yet used to this movement, therefore, it might hurt a little.

However, if your hand is hurting too much after doing an underhand serve, you need to check your technique. On top of that, you should get your hand checked by a doctor.


An underhand serve is a technique that most novice players use to learn the basics of serving. Therefore, it is an essential move that helps players develop and improve their skills.

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.