Types of Serves in Volleyball

Volleyball jump serve

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There are different types of serves in volleyball, depending on your skill level and the competitive situation. For beginners, the underhand serve is the most common because it is the easiest to learn.

For competitive volleyball, there are three main types of overhand serves: the floater, the topspin, and the jump serve. Try them all to find out which one suits you best, but keep in mind that you will want to be somewhat proficient in all three.  

Underhand Serve

This serve is used mainly in recreational volleyball. It does not require the level of skill or coordination that the other types of serves do. With one foot stepped back, you hold the ball in your opposite hand. Then with your other hand fisted, shift your weight forward and hit the ball just below the center (or equator) of the ball.

Overhand Serves

In high school and college competitive volleyball, the overhand serves are most common, and the two main overhand, or overhead, serves are the topspin and the float.   

For all overhand serves, you start with your dominant-side foot back and the ball held extended in your non-dominant hand. Then you toss the ball up in front of you hitting hand. How you hit it depends on the type of overhand serve you want to create. The biggest difference between the types of overhand serves is the server's body position, where contact is made on the ball, and the follow-through.


A float serve or a floater is a serve that does not spin. It is called a floater because it moves in unpredictable ways, making it difficult to pass. A float serve catches the air and can move unexpectedly to the right or the left or it can drop suddenly.

To hit a floater, you make contact in front of your body with your hand hitting behind the middle of the ball. The arm follows through but only partway. By hitting directly behind the ball, you ensure there's no spin.


A topspin serve does exactly that—spins rapidly forward from the top. This serve has a much more predictable movement than a floater, but can be difficult to handle because of its quick speed and difficult to pass because it drops rapidly.

To serve a topspin, you toss the ball a little higher, step under the toss, and strike the ball underneath, toward the top of the back in a down and outward motion. The arm follows all the way through with a wrist snap.

Jump Serve

The jump serve is more advanced and utilizes an even higher toss that should be several feet in front of the server. You uses more of an attack approach, jumping and striking the ball with the heel of your hand while you're in the air. With this serve, your wrist remains stiff, then you hold (stop) your palm in position facing the target.

The extra motion of jumping allows you to put even more power on the ball, making this serve very difficult to handle. The drawback is that all that extra motion can lead to a higher incidence of serving errors. Most jump serves have topspin on them, but it is possible to jump-serve a floater.