When it comes to spiking practice in volleyball, the net often seems like a necessary tool to practice with. However, there are many useful and easily adaptable drills that you can practice at home without a net.
So, how do you practice spiking without a net? You can practice spiking without a net by isolating the different parts of the spike and working on them through visualization, strength and conditioning, and footwork drills, or by using several simple ball drills. Spiking can be practiced with a wall, partner, or alone – without the need for a net.
Today, I’m breaking down the specifics of how we train spiking without a net and where you can do it. By the end of this article, you should be able to:
- Understand what you need to practice spiking
- What some drills are and how they develop your skills
- Know how to implement your skills off the net into team practice
Can You Practice Volleyball Spiking Without A Net?
Yes, you can practice spiking pretty much anywhere.
Despite the usefulness of the net, practice at home or alone is most easily done without one.
Even if you have access to a volleyball court with a net, you’d need someone to help set it for you (or other similar equipment to mimic that).
Chances are, even if you book a volleyball court to practice on by yourself, the fact that it has a net won’t add much to your practice.
That doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck though. An empty court is the best place to practice, whenever possible, and provides the same surface that you would play on normally.
Add in a friend, and you’ve got the makings of a great practice.
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Limitations of Practicing Without a Net
Obviously, there are some limitations when it comes to practicing spiking without a net.
First of all, you don’t get the practical element of jumping to height and spiking with the net.
When you play with a net, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s there: it commands the space and marks the zones that you can hit, and you cannot. There’s no cheating and hitting short, nor is there any quick and easy trick to getting above it. It simply exists, and is part of the game.
The net is a central part of the game, and playing with it helps you develop spatial awareness on the court. The more you play with it, the easier it gets to feel what you can and cannot do. Knowing these beyond a surface level will help during matches when you don’t have time to think – only react – and will benefit you in the long run.
Benefits of Practicing Spiking Without A Net
With all that said, there are plenty of benefits to practicing without a net too.
Most usefully – you don’t need to have a whole team; it can just be you.
While practice sessions without a net – usually on the beach or in a park, when the team is traveling – are incredibly fun, and help develop team bonding and real teamwork. But you can practice spiking anywhere: in your garage, in your yard, at the beach, in a park…the list is endless.
All you need is a ball, yourself, and some space. Throw in a wall or a partner, and you’re good to go!
As well, practicing by yourself can eliminate the fear of failure, which holds us back as athletes from trying new things, moving new ways, or doing anything that might make us look silly.
Learning new things can feel awkward, so if you are self-conscious about that, practicing without a net and with a wall may be the best step to improving. There, your biggest (and only) opponent is yourself.
The important thing to remember, no matter what you train, is how the skills will improve your performance in a team. Volleyball is a team sport, where no one person can succeed without the others. Remember this, and if you’re feeling stuck, ask one of your teammates for help.
10 Spiking Drills Without A Net
Here are ten drills to help work on spiking without a net:
- Footwork/Approach Drill
- Jump Training
- Directional Hit
- Down Spike
- Wall Spike
- Box Spike
- Spike Approach Swings
An excellent warm up drill, visualization can be done anywhere, anytime, and is especially useful for kinesthetic type learners (those who learn by moving their body).
Visualize the motions of spiking in your head – allowing your arms and/or body to flow through the motions if you have room. Slow down the parts, recognize how things work, and visualize the action of spiking.
Although this may be hard for anyone without a 3-dimensional imagination, it is a fantastic drill that can help train your body to work better and more efficiently together as a whole.
Here’s Bill Stobie, Head Coach for NUVOC Volleyball club, on the importance of visualization in volleyball:
Visualization for hitting is about seeing the contact point that you can achieve and striving to reach that contact point every time you hit.
There is a large element of predicting the set flight path, based on the first few feet, and then visualizing accurately where your high contact point will be. This allows you to jump into the space and in the way you need to swing at the ball through that point. You simply can’t wait for the ball to be there, you need to know where it will be and jump to hit it from that point. If you visualize the flight path wrongly, you’re screwed!
A lot of this visualization or prediction becomes sub-conscious as you repeat and repeat in training drills
2. Footwork/Approach Drill
Footwork is one of the key components of a good spike, and the footwork can easily be practiced anywhere.
Start with your normal three-step approach (or Cuban approach for any player that uses it). Notice how your body moves, tighten your core, and develop the essential torque that both springs us into the air and gives our spike its power. Notice how your arms move, and practice swinging them backwards-to-forwards to add momentum to your approach.
To review, your three-step approach should begin with a medium step, followed by a large (quick) step – this is the accelerating step that gives your jump its power – and finished by a short (stopping) step which converts your forward momentum into upward action.
During this process, imagine your body as a pendulum, swinging from low to high. Bend your knees and lean into your approach to mimic this, and finish high by launching yourself into the air.
Determine that you have good form, then repeat your approaches in sets of ten. Using a mirror will make this drill even more useful to practicing your spiking footwork – such as in a dance studio or gym.
Check out my complete guide on Spiking Footwork For Volleyball.
3. Jump Training
Volleyball is a struggle against gravity, but strength training has been shown to increase vertical jump, thus making your spikes more powerful and opening more angles for you to hit.
The Strength Institute of Western Australia found that:
When combining a plyometric with a traditional strength training program, the athletes experienced a significant improvement in squat jump, countermovement jump and 40-consecutive jump tests (6.1%, 3.8% and 6.8%). Considering these were well trained athletes, who were already in-season, these numbers are very impressive.
Additionally, a 2016 study found that eccentric training – focusing on a slow “lowering phase” of each movement – can help develop your strength significantly, leading to a better vertical.
Resistance training with eccentrically dominated movement patterns can be an effective method to acutely increase maximal strength and power expression in trained college age men […] such as the vertical jump.
While you can train jumping at home with body weight exercises like frog squats or box jumps, my personal recommendation is to develop your strength in the gym. Aim to train twice a week, focusing on seperate routines. Begin with low weight and add more once confident in your technique.
- On Day 1: Focus on hang cleans, back squats, and box jumps.
- On Day 2: focus on deadlifts, Bulgarian split squats, and the Nordic hamstring curl.
I recommend adding some upper body exercises as well to get a well-rounded workout. Dumbbell bench press (incline or flat), push presses, and a challenging core routine are some of my favorites. Record your numbers and increase over time.
4. Directional Hit
The directional hit drill focuses heavily on spiking technique, and as it uses no jumping has no need for a net.
To perform this, stand in an area with either a partner or a target (such as a cone) to one side – this can be in front of you. Toss the ball and spike, aiming for the target, turning with your upper body and shoulder instead of your whole frame.
The goal here is to establish upper body-lower body separation, and be able to hit anywhere, regardless of where we’re facing.
5. Down Spike
The down spike drill is intended to learn technique and power. To perform this, toss the ball in the air in front of you and spike it directly downward, attempting to bounce the ball straight up and return to you. Start with a low, easy toss, and work your way up to spiking from above your head as you improve.
The goal of this drill is to establish wrist snap, which gives us greater control over the ball. This is also an essential drill to learn how to hit straight down while in the air and over the net, so is good for any prospective highlight hitters to pick up.
6. Wall Spike
The wall spike drill is a classic, and is my personal favorite for working on spiking solo.
First, find a wall with a good, flat surface before it. Next, spike the ball towards the wall, aiming deep towards the wall to start, not directly in front of you. This will train the same awareness and muscles as hitting over a net does.
As you improve, move and hit more sharply downward – towards the floor – to help learn wrist snap and core contraction. If possible, link your spikes together, spiking the ball that the wall returns to you. This will help develop good spiking footwork and moving to the ball.
7. Box Spike
More advanced than the wall spike, a box spike has the same basic premise.
To perform this, use a rebound board or a homemade substitute. This can easily be done simply by tilting a board or box about 30-45 degrees. Pepper with yourself and aim for the center.This will bounce the ball back to you with a high arc, perfect for either spiking again or catching.
I recommend catching the ball at first, and as it becomes easy, work so that the ball is constantly in play. Volley or pass the ball to yourself, and move your feet to set up spikes. Moving around will help your special awareness and improve how you hit at angles.
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Perhaps a surprising addition to a list of spiking drills, “spikeball” is very similar to volleyball, and is a great game for friends or family. If you have this or are looking for a game to get your non-volleyball friends involved, I’d recommend this.
Similar to the box hit, the spikeball net is a target off of which the ball needs to bounce. Like volleyball, if the ball touches the ground, the point is over. For spiking drills, compete against a friend, focusing on arm extension and wrist snap to get power and angles on the ball. Because the ball is smaller, your control of it will greatly improve your control for volleyball.
This is a fun way to train hitting muscles and will definitely be a mainstay during beach trips, picnics, or family barbeques.
The pass-and-catch drill is a simple drill that requires a friend.
To perform this, have a friend hit or toss a ball to you. Pass it back to them, and use your spiking approach footwork as though to hit it. Have your partner set the ball while you jump, catching the ball ideally at the highest point of arm extension. Remember to jump slightly forwards, through the ball.
This drill helps train timing, among other things. Change up the height of tosses and work on reading the set until you can perform it perfectly each time, every time. Switch the setter and catcher so your friend can practice too!
10. Spike Approach Swings
Lastly, we have the spike approach swings drill. This is the most connected drill to having a net, and will help you a lot when returning to practice on a court.
First, mark the three meter line to know the distance relative to the “net”. This drill also requires a partner, with one person standing on a chair or table to toss the ball while the other partner can spike freely. Approach and jump as high as you can, hitting the ball from your partner’s hands or from the short toss they give you. Aim to contact the ball at the highest point of your jump.
This drill is excellent for beginners because it doesn’t require any setting skill, and it helps train balanced hitting form and moving through the ball, just like you would if hitting on a net.
Other Spiking Resources
Strength & Conditioning Article
Ailan Samuel is a writer and athlete who has played volleyball at the university, club, and national level since 2012. He has competed successfully in both beach and indoor competitions, resulting in four silver and two gold medals, and was awarded the Half-Blue while playing in Scotland. He received his MA in English and Medieval History from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and is currently studying for his MA in Publishing and Creative Writing at Bournemouth University.