How to Master the Volleyball Block

The Keys for a Good Block Are Footwork and Positioning

Mariusz Prudel (L) of Poland blocks an attack of Viacheslav Krasilnikov of Russia
Oleg Nikishin/Stringer/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

The volleyball block is a skill that looks simple. You just jump straight up with arms outstretched in front of the hitter, right? In reality, there is a lot more to good blocking than just throwing your hands up.

Becoming a good blocker requires an understanding of simple physics. The hitter is going to hit the ball as hard as possible at or near your forearms and hands. If you touch the ball, will it end up back in your opponent’s court or will she be able to “tool” you, that is, hit the ball off of your hands or arms so that it is unrecoverable by your team?

Your job is to position yourself so that you block it back onto the hitter’s side or take the heat off the attack creating an easy play for your team.

Starting Position

Stand with your hips and shoulders square to the net. Your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly so you can move quickly in either direction.

Hold your arms up, elbows out, palms facing the net at about eye level. Keep your hands here whenever the ball is on the other side because it can cross the net at any time. You need to be ready whether it crosses accidentally, if their setter dumps the ball onto your side or if a hitter attacks it.


Before you can block the ball, you need to get your body in front of the hitter as efficiently as possible. You need to travel along the net in position to jump quickly and block. To accomplish this, there are two footwork patterns to choose from – the side step and the crossover step.

Side Step

  • ​If the hitter is within 3-5 feet of you, use a side step to put yourself in position directly in front of her hitting shoulder.
  • Take one step with the foot closest to the hitter and then bring your other foot over so they are once again about shoulder-width apart.
  • As you move, keep your hips and shoulders square to the net.
  • It may take you more than one side step to get yourself in front of the hitter, but if it takes more than two, think about using a crossover step instead.

Crossover Step

  • To cover more ground, use a crossover step. Think of it as a “Step – Cross – Step."
  • Take one big side step with the leg closest to the hitter.
  • Cross your other leg in front of your body while still keeping your shoulders as square to the net as possible. Your hips will momentarily be angled toward the hitter.
  • Take one more step with the first leg, squaring your hips with the net once again.
  • Plant your feet in front of the hitter and jump straight up (no drifting.)

Shoulder, Arm and Hand Position

Strong Hands – When you jump, spread your fingers, push your arms up over your head about shoulder-width apart and push with your shoulders. Think about trying to bring your shoulders to your ears. Drop your head to reach further over, but keep your eyes up on the hitter.

Penetrate – Shoot your arms as far over onto the opponent’s side of the net as possible – this is called penetrating the net. Leave as little space between your arms and the top of the tape as possible without touching the net. Do not allow the ball to get between you and your side of the net.

Turn Outside Arm In – If you are blocking on the outsides of the court, keep your inside arm and hand flat, but angle your outside hand and forearm into the court. This way, if the ball hits that arm it will bounce off of you and back into the court, not outside the lines.