How to Set a Volleyball For Beginners: Our Best Tips!

how to set a volleyball

Volleyball is a dynamic sport that requires a combination of skill, timing, and teamwork. One of the most fundamental volleyball skills is setting. A well-executed set can lead to a powerful spike, giving your team an edge over the opponents. Therefore, apart from the serve the most crucial contact in volleyball is a set!

So if you’re a beginner looking to refine your skills, understanding the art of setting is crucial.

What is a Set in Volleyball?

The “set” is the second of the three basic volleyball contacts, typically following the pass or reception and preceding the attack or hit (aka spike).

It’s executed using an overhand motion where a player contacts the ball with their fingertips, pushing it upward and outward to a teammate (usually a hitter) to attack. The set is akin to an assist in many other sports. So it’s designed to present the ball in such a way that a teammate can effectively attack the opposing team’s court.

The player who primarily handles the setting responsibilities is known as the “setter.” The setter’s role is pivotal, as they must make quick decisions about which type of set to use and which teammate to set to. And this is all based on the quality of the incoming pass and the positioning of the opposing blockers.

FYI – Another usage of the word “set” also refers to a segment of the match. A volleyball match consists of multiple sets, usually played best out of five. The team that wins three sets first wins the match.

Overhead vs Bump Set

Overhead Set

The overhead set, often simply referred to as a “set,” is an overhand technique where the player contacts the ball with open hands, using the fingertips. Typically the second touch in a volleyball rally, this skill requires precision and is used to strategically position the ball for an attacker to spike.

Bump Set

The bump set, commonly associated with the “pass” or “forearm pass,” uses the player’s forearms to direct the ball. Players join their hands and use the flat, fleshy part of their forearms to make contact. While the bump set is often used for the first touch to control a serve or spike, it can also be employed as a setting technique, especially in situations where an overhead set is challenging or in beach volleyball where wind and other factors make overhead setting more difficult.

For this article, we will be talking more about the overhead set.

How To Set A Volleyball: Step-by-Step

1. Prepare Your Stance and Position

  • Body Position: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other for balance.
  • Weight Distribution: Your weight should be on the balls of your feet, so you’re ready to move in any direction.
  • Knees: Slightly bent, ready for action.

2. Focus on the Ball

  • Track the Ball: Always keep your eyes on the ball from the moment it’s served or passed.
  • Anticipate: Predict where the ball will come and position yourself accordingly.

3. Hand Placement

  • Shape: Imagine you’re holding a big jug and pouring it onto your head. This shape will allow for a cushioned touch on the ball.
  • Spread Fingers: Keep fingers wide but relaxed, creating a cradle for the ball.
  • Flex wrists back: You don’t want to set with your wrists straight
  • Hands Together: Your thumbs and forefingers should form a triangle. And your thumbs should be facing each other about 2 inches apart (depending on size of hand).
  • Elbows Bent: This is what gives you power to push and set the ball when your elbows are bent and you extend out.

4. Setting Technique

  • Use Your Legs: The power of the set comes from your legs, not just your arms or wrists. As the ball approaches, bend your knees and prepare to push up.
  • Contact Point: The ball should contact your fingertips.
  • Extend Arms: As you contact the ball, push up with your legs and extend your arms fully, using your wrists to direct the ball.
  • Follow Through: Your fingers should point in the direction you want the ball to go, forming a square.

5. Directional Setting

  • Front Set: Push the ball forward, aiming for your outside hitter.
  • Back Set: Use more wrist action to direct the ball behind you for the opposite hitter or back row attack.
  • Bump Set: If the ball is coming too low or too fast, use a forearm pass (or bump) to set.
  • You want LITTLE TO NO SPIN on the ball
  • Follow Through: You want your hands to follow through in the same direction as your pass.
  • Don’t flick your wrists

6. Communicate

  • Call for the ball! Let your teammates know you’re ready to set. A simple “Here!” or “Mine!” can suffice.
  • Let your hitters know where you’re sending the ball, especially if you change the play.

7. Positioning Your Feet

  • Feet Shoulder Width Apart: You should be underneath the ball before you set. Keep your hands down until you move under the ball.
  • Legs Slightly Bent: When you approach the ball you should have your legs slightly bent
  • Right Foot Slightly in Front: Make a square with the heel of your left foot )lower left corner) and the toe of your right foot (upper right corner).
  • Push with legs and arms: Together at the same time

What Are Illegal Sets?

In volleyball, illegal sets are violations related to improper handling or contact of the ball during a set. Here are some types of illegal sets:

Double Contact (Double Hit)

This occurs when a player contacts the ball twice in succession or the ball contacts various parts of the player’s body in one action. In some situations, like the first contact after a serve or an attack, a double contact might be allowed if it’s part of a single play on the ball. Excessive spin (especially side-spin) might indicate that the ball was mishandled or double-hit

Lift (Carry)

A lifting violation happens when the ball comes to a brief rest in the player’s hands or arms during the act of setting. Instead of a quick, clean contact, the ball is “lifted” or “carried” with prolonged contact.

Foot Fault during a Set

This occurs when a player steps on or over the service line while setting the ball over the net as an overhand serve. Can you kick a volleyball?

Volleyball Drills To Improve Your Setting


Setting in volleyball is both an art and a science. With proper technique and consistent practice, you can master the skill and elevate your game. Remember, a good setter not only has technical skills but also understands the game, communicates with teammates, and makes strategic decisions in real-time. So, put on your volleyball shoes and get setting!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.