Serve A Volleyball Overhand Better

Better overhand volleyball serves
with these three tips. 

When you learn to serve a volleyball overhand remember that serving is the one skill which gives you your first chance to score a point against the opposing team.

The volleyball serve is the only basic fundamental skill that a

player has 100% completely under her control.

With this being the case, its necessary for you to check your form so you

consistently make the most effective and toughest  volleyball serve


Below I’ve explained three tips for when you serve a volleyball overhand

for you to remember so you can consistently serve  a ball for points!

Keep Your Elbow High When You Serve a Volleyball Overhand

You always need to keep your elbow high during the entire arm swing

motion of your serve.

During your armswing, keeping your elbow high reduces the chances

of you serving a ball into the net, in other words, it increases your

chances of getting the ball over  the net.

So, how do you know if your elbow is high enough when you serve a

volleyball overhand?

Your elbow, should always be above the level of your ear. 

From the moment you set up in your serving position, until you actually

contact the ball, you should hold your arm up high enough so that your

elbow is above ear level.  

In practice, during your team or individual volleyball serve

drills, when you pull your elbow back immediately after your toss, take

the time to stop and turn your head towards the direction of your

serving arm.

Yes, this means that after you toss the ball in the air, you are going to

let it fall to the ground as you turn your head to see if you've pulled

your elbow back and high enough.

For this type of test, you will not complete the serve.

This is just a way to give yourself a quick serving arm elbow check.  

If you are able to look underneath your elbow, once you’ve pulled

your serving arm back from the ball, then your elbow is high


Ideally, when pulling your serving arm back, you want to keep your bent

elbow high enough so it should be pulled back over and above the

level of your ear.

If your elbow passes over the level of your ear once you’ve pulled it

back, then you should be able to look underneath it.

Let's review this volleyball serving exercise.

When you do this little exercise you will go through the motion of

tossing the ball in the air.

Before tossing the ball with your non serving hand your serving arm

should already be at a 45 degree angle up and in the air with your

serving your elbow high enough so its above ear level. 

Serving Toss Drill To Check Overhand Serving Form

To check this, toss the ball as if you are about to serve.

While the ball is in the air, turn your head to see if you can look

underneath your elbow, then let the tossed ball fall to the ground without

serving it.

Repeat. Pick up the ball. Get in your ready serving position. Then repeat

the directions given for this exercise.

This is a simple drill that you can do repeatedly without actually

serving the ball.

But it will help you become familiar with where your elbow is

during the entire arm swing  motion when you serve a volleyball


So if you were to look at Meghan, the player wearing #26 in the picture

above who has just tossed the ball for her serve.

Put yourself in Meghan's place for a moment and imagine that in this

instance, just after you tossed the ball, if you were to take a moment to

look back your .... serving arm, just after you pulled it back,

like it is in the picture, you can tell that you would have pulled your

elbow back high enough so that your elbow is above the level of your


You would also be able to look underneath it if you were to turn

your head. 

Yes, at first it will feel funny and it will look like you are trying to sniff

your arm pit but if you do this a couple of times you can see for yourself

where your elbow is and check on what it should be doing.

After you've done this a few times and you've corrected your elbow

placement then go ahead and actually serve a volleyball


This is one way to monitor what your arm is doing during your armswing


Remember, your elbow is too low, if you drop it down by your side

when you pull it back, making it well below the level of your ear,

which means you are unable to look underneath your elbow.

Keeping your elbow low, especially when you're a beginner or you are

just learning how to serve  a volleyball overhand does two things.

It can put a tremendous amount of stress on your shoulder joint.

Yes its the wrong kind of stress which can irritate your shoulder and

force it to do more work than it has to.

But most importantly, it also increases the chances of you serving a

ball into the net.

These are two reasons why you don't want to get into the habit of

pulling your elbow back too low during your serving armswing.

Make yourself aware of where your elbow is and what it is

doing during the entire arm swing motion when serving a


Once you’ve done that, start all over again and make sure that when

you pull your elbow back before you toss... its higher than your

ear...before you follow through with your swing.

The Toss Is The Key When You're Learning
How To Serve A Volleyball Overhand

You want to follow a routine, every time you serve a volleyball.

Your goal during the entire process of performing the overhand serve is

to do the same thing EVERY single time you go to the service line.

So however that routine looks like it needs to be repeated every time you 

prepare to serve.

From how you set up, to what you think about before serving, to how you 

toss the ball.... 

Your toss absolutely needs to be done the same way every time!

When players can't consistently serve a ball over the net, the toss

is one of the main reasons why.

How To Fix Your Wimpy Volleyball Serves

Sure, your serving toss seems like such a small thing but get it

wrong and you will find it difficult to get the ball over the net.

Like everything else in volleyball, practicing the little things will make a

big impact on the outcome of how you do the big things.

So guess what?

When you plan to practice your volleyball serves, you should make

time to practice....just your toss.

The toss is so important that you need to dedicate time to practicing

it by itself before doing any other part of the serve.

Remember this tip!

When you're learning how to serve a volleyball overhand, its

probably easier for you to break down the components of the serve

into smaller parts and practice those smaller things individually  until you

can put all the pieces together.

How High Should Your Toss Be When You
Serve A Volleyball Overhand?

You should just practice your toss, when you learn how to serve a

volleyball overhand.

 Just let the ball rest in the palm of your tossing hand.

For right handed players the tossing hand is usually the left hand and

for left handed servers the tossing hand is the right one.

Your toss for your overhand serve should be a maximum of two feet in

the air.

Get in the habit of keeping your tossing arm straight, parallel to the

ground and fully extended in front of you when you toss the ball at this


Serve The Volleyball Overhand:
Tossing arm should be straight and parallel to the ground with ball in hand during pre-serve prep.Tossing arm should be straight and parallel to the ground with ball in hand during pre-serve prep.

Keeping the ball at this height allows you time to do a

full serving swing, without rushing, bringing your arm from behind you to

in front of you to contact the middle of the ball, with the middle of your

hand, as if you are "high fiving" the ball at highest height of your toss. 

Serve The Volleyball Overhand:Rice Player Tossing The Ball For Her Serve
Photo by Michael E. JohnstonRice Player Tossing The Ball For Her Serve Photo by Michael E. Johnston

The height of your toss should allow you time to 

contact the ball at what would be the 12 o'clock position on a

clock, in front of your serving shoulder. 

Where Should You Toss The Ball
When You Serve A Volleyball Overhand?

Okay so you've tossed the ball two feet in the air, now what?

Now, let the ball fall.

Yes, you actually want to let the ball in front of you to see exactly

where the ball lands after you've tossed it.

When you get into position to serve a volleyball, you should have

your weight on your back foot, usually the right leg for right


Your left foot, in this case, is in front of the back foot pointed in the

direction of where you want to serve the ball.

So, if you are planning to serve cross court, the front left foot should be

pointed cross court, and if you are serving down the line then that front

left foot should be pointed down the line.

The same goes if you are serving a ball to a particular player on

the opposing team, you want to point your left foot in her direction.

Now that you've decided where you are going to serve, and

you now have your front foot pointing in that direction,

when you toss the ball you want the ball to fall one foot, yes

that's the same as twelve inches... in front of your front foot.

While you are practicing just tossing the ball for your overhead serve

and you let it fall, the ball should fall every time 10-12 inches, in front of

your front foot.

Your ideal toss when you serve a volleyball overhand for the floater

should be two feet up in the air and one foot in front of your front foot.

Let's review.

  • Your front foot is perpendicular to your back foot and pointed in the direction of where you have decided to serve the ball.
  • You  set up with your weight on your back foot until you are ready to start your arm swing.
  • Then you toss the ball in the air, right handers toss with their left hand and left handers toss with their right hand, letting the ball fall to the ground without serving it, so that you can see if it lands twelve inches in front of your front foot.

Keep these measurements in mind, so you increase your chances of

making an ideal toss that will keep in a balanced body position as you


Make sure that your body is in a balanced position because

tossing the ball too far  to the right of that front foot or too far to the

left of that front foot will force you off balance.

When you serve a volleyball overhand, if you are off balance, then you

are forced to chase your toss. 

This means you contact the ball below the level of the net which

further decreases your chances of making an effective serve.

Be sure to use your front foot as your guide for your ideal toss

placement when you serve a volleyball overhand.

Face Your Target When You Serve A Volleyball Overhand

Serve The Volleyball Overhand:Michigan Server
Photo by Sarah WorshamMichigan Server Photo by Sarah Worsham

Be sure that your entire body is facing in the direction you want to

serve the ball once you contact the ball.

I mentioned this briefly in the previous section, but its such an important

part of serving a volleyball that I need to dedicate a section to


If you want to serve down the line, then you need to face your body,

square your shoulders and hips, place your toe and your straightened

tossing arm - down the line.

You will not be able to consistently serve a volleyball overhand

anywhere if you try to outsmart the opposing team when you are going

to serve.

If you want to serve cross court then your front toe, then

your hips and finally your shoulders, yes your entire lower body should

be facing cross court once you've made contact with the ball. 

The same goes for serving the ball down the line.

There's no need to try and fake out the opposition, you want to let

everybody know where you plan on serving the ball.

With consistent practice your ability to serve a volleyball should

improve quickly!

Meet Tatoo the Tiger, Serving Specialist on VolleyBragSwag's All Beast Team

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