The Ideal Hand Grip to Spike a Volleyball

The Ideal Hand Grip to Spike a Volleyball
Published: 2021-05-27
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In modern volleyball many scholars are designing rubrics of evaluation to improve motivating and increase participation in both men’s and women’s modalities. When developing an expert volleyball player, a coach must plan to teach every little detail.  For instance, how to tight the shoes, how to each and how to think while playing a tough match. However, it was when I did my dissertation on the Expertise Development in volleyball that I found the number of details in which volleyball players dedicate to their craft (Da Matta, 2004). One of this critical information represents what is the ideal hand grip (shape, position, muscular tonus, and degree of relaxation) necessary to a volleyball player to become an expert hitter.

The Hand Grip and Snapped Wrist - The finesse of a volleyball strike requires players to acquire a hand position that maximizes the ball control, the direction and the intensity of power applied on the ball.  This is only possible is expert players learn the already snapped wrist with the indicator placed on the center of the ball. The ideal Hand Grip and Already Snapped Wrist (HGASW) consists in relaxing the hands to its natural scooped position, so it fits perfectly on the shape of the ball. The striking for spike requires players to be relaxed and being able to finalize their movements with the wrist snap.  There are some coaches who teach their players to hit the ball hard with their hands and arms very stiff. Every person is entitled to their own opinion.  Nevertheless, the expert coaches know that the volleyball spiking skill resembles the muscular tonus of piano players and the muscular contractions happen only at the exact moment in which the player is contacting the ball. The objective reality of these findings can be verified through a frame-by-frame video analysis of expert players.

 

MAIN GOAL: To acquire the ideal hand grip (position, shape and muscular relaxation tonus) to be able to perform cut shots and advanced spiking techniques like the experts do.

WHY/PURPOSE:  The specificity of the hand position determines the quality and the accuracy of a manipulative skills.  In volleyball the fine motor skills displayed by expert players are directly associated with the anatomical and neuro functional disposition of wrist, hands, and fingers before and during the ball contact.

As a result of expert training and in order to acquire advanced techniques, elite players need to match their anatomical controls with the best dispositions to perform advanced shots in volleyball spike.  In a very principled way most experts reported: 1. Their hands had the same shape of the ball; 2.  At the moment of contact their wrists were already in the position of being flexed forward, never in dorsi-flexion; 3. Performing the spike was based on a very relaxed approach from slow to fast; 4. Their bodies were also fully relaxed and they could “feel” their pointing toes, hips extension, trunk and shoulder rotation, arm reaching out and fluid wrist snap using the triangle shaped hands and already snapped wrist.

HOW: 

  1. With arms very relaxed, practice slapping the ball placing indicators at the midline of the ball.
  2. Also, slapping the ball while holding it with the non-dominant hand, practice the forward wrist snap over the ball, as if you would be generating a top spin motion.
  3. From the top-down snap motion, slice the ball to the right and to the left, as if you would be performing the cut shot in and the cut shot out.
  4. Practice all tasks described previously from the ground and then after a self-toss to spike.

HOW TO APPLY THIS TECHNIQUE:

When spike the volleyball you should hear a noise that resembles a slap with a splash sound.  

The best way to apply this technique is on the ground by doing the wall drills. The

“triangle” shaped hand is present in the setting form, passing form and attacking grip. The video below presents a great illustration of how to apply this technique. In the “Wall Drills” video, I am showing an important way to create a variation of practice, so the arm does not get “stiff” or “stressed”.  In the wall drill it is important to switch from spiking, to setting and to passing as a way to maintain the relaxation of the arm for practicing the expert spiking grip.

 

Other important Motor Learning Information

Each person is different and perhaps, each player tends to develop their own grip to spike.  However, if a player wants to perform at the elite level the acquisition of this grip is the key to success. The innervation of the hands demands millions of neurons from the frontal lob and the cortex of the brain.  In addition, to the nerve endings and proprioceptors the motor control and kinesthetic attributes of the hands create thousands of movement possibilities. Such variability requires from coaches the understanding that each person is different and the way each person chooses to set or to spike a volleyball depend directly on that person’s kinesthetic memory, history, and identity.  And yet, the volleyball literature does not address how should the hand position be if we want to learn the ideal position, shape, and muscular tonus necessary generate to highly efficient volleyball strikes.  From an elite volleyball perspective, the indicators give direction for throwing implement actions.  Therefore, volleyball experts reported that when they are spiking, they place their indicators on the center of the ball.  The middle finger, ring finger and pinky spread sideways covering the side 1/3 of the contact area and the thumb (widespread to the other side) covers another side third of the palm area that controls the ball in a spike swing.

Based on the voices of 36 experts, the pattern was related to design a hand position (grip) that would be fit the shape of the ball (concavity). But most importantly, when asked about what your hand position is when you contact the ball, the main principle was: “_ I keep my wrist in an already snapped position!”   My interviews lasted from 4 – 6 hours, but most players like Carol Gataz, Walewska Oliveira and Virna Dias, but also Gilson, Murilo e Jacqueline, would get back to me to say: “_ Your questions made me think!  And I have asked my peers to closely observe my hands so I could know myself better on this fine movement!”   Then, they would show me their hands and describe what I called the already scooped wrist like the picture below. Their final comments related to how relaxed they were prior to and during the contact moment.  They were very relaxed, and their wrist action was reported as their critical element to be successful in a volleyball spike.

Below are the Stroboscopic Analysis of the volleyball grip and the already snapped wrist described in the study. In women's volleyball this has been a critical element for the development of the precision, finesse and accuracy in the spike. 

Example of the already snapped wrist.

2014 Ngape's wrist snap and spiking grip. Stromotion Analysis.

Conclusion

Today, I teach the same grip as I did at the 2014 World Championships of Men’s and Women’s in Poland and Italy, respectively, where I was able to observe that the best players in the world adopted the same hand positions described by their counterparts.  In Motor Learning, the volleyball skills are compatible with the fine motor skills of pianists and violinists.  Perhaps, the finesse required by volleyball players to perform powerful spikes (135 km/h or 82 miles/hour) is directly related with the relaxation and coordination of all body parts involved from the approach, to take off, back swing, flight phase and the final strike. 

In his book Science of Volleyball Carl McGown addresses the importance of the wrist snap in volleyball spike and it is also confirmed by Jim Coleman as being a critical element in the spike in order to increase the velocity of the arm swing. (McGown, 1994; Coleman & ColemaNesset, 1994).  Indeed, Dr. Rhoads shares the same findings that in order to learn how to spike volleyball players must also learn how to control the whole arm and special the wrist snap (Rhoads, 2012).       

Well, I hope you will enjoy spiking like an expert!        

References  

McGown, C. (1994) Biomechanical Considerations for Spiking. In Science of Volleyball. Human Kinetcs Publishers:  Champaign, IL.      

Rhoads, M. C. (2012) Learning to Spike in Volleyball with Verbal and Visually Enhanced Feedback.  Dissertation.  University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO.--

Da Matta, G. B. (2004). The influence of deliberate practice and social support systems on the development of expert and intermediate women volleyball players in Brazil. University of South Carolina.
 
Da Matta, G. B. (2015). Deliberate practice concepts. In book: The Volleyball Coaching Bible Vol II, 2nd Edition, Human Kinetics, Editors: Cecile Reynaud