What is a lift in Volleyball? Essential Insights for Players

what is a lift in volleyball

Imagine you are in an intense volleyball game, and every player on your team fully focuses on the ball.

Suddenly, some player in your team makes a questionable move, and the referee blows the whistle.

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The opposing team is awarded the point due to the lift violation.

Isn’t it frustrating?

As a volleyball coach, I have encountered such a scenario multiple times.

Most newbies need to be made aware of this violation and clarified about how to avoid it.

If you are playing professionally, understanding the lift concept will help you prevent it and better understand the game.

Key Takeaway: A volleyball lift means a player doesn’t hit, pass, or set the ball cleanly, and it stays on his hands for too long.

It’s like holding or carrying the ball instead of swiftly hitting or passing it. To avoid lifting, ensure the ball doesn’t pause or stop in your hands.

Let me briefly discuss the types of lifts, their consequences, and the best practices so that you can avoid them in the future.

What is a Lift in Volleyball?

Lift is a slang term from section 9.2.2 of the FIVB official rulebook. This rule states that a player must not catch the ball or throw rather than rebounding it.

Rule 9.2.3 also states that the ball can touch any part of the body only if the contacts take place simultaneously.

The official rulebook clearly states that a player is only allowed to hold, touch, or carry the ball for a short time without changing direction or rebounding.

Otherwise, it is illegal because it disrupts the fair game of volleyball.

Experienced players make this mistake less often, so coaches play a vital role in teaching young or amateur setters the volleyball rules.

The referee’s job is to closely watch the player’s contact with the ball and look for any possible sign of the ball pausing or lingering.

Whenever he calls a player for a lift violation, it means that their contact with the ball was illegal. 

If the referee thinks the player has violated the rules, he blows the whistle and awards the point to the opposing team.

If the referees are unsure whether a player has committed a lift, they can review it later and let the game continue.

Types of Lift Calls

Let’s discuss the possibility of lift violations by each player on the court.

1) Attacking Lift Call

An attacking lift call occurs when a person lifts or carries the ball during an attack.

It is the least common type of lift, and it usually happens when a player hits the ball but does not make clean contact, and the ball gets trapped or pauses on their hands.

As a coach, I always train the players to make a substantial hit, using controlled contact with the ball.

Attackers should strike with their hands instead of fingers to avoid such violations.

The best strategy is to strike the ball top-down, which saves them from attack lift calls and helps them generate more power and control over their hits.

According to the FIVB rulebook, section 13.1.2, players can tip the ball during an attack but must not hold the ball.

So, I recommend that players tip the ball using their knuckles or strong fingers so that the ball moves toward the other side abruptly because any swipe that guides the call can result in a lift.

2) Setting Lift Call

It is the most common type of lift violation, and it occurs when a person attempts to hold or redirect the ball while setting it. 

Setters usually receive the ball gently and have the challenge of quickly setting it for the attacker.

They have limited time to release the ball after making contact, so this lift type is most likely to occur.

I recommend the setters focus on proper technique and timing to avoid this violation.

Whenever they receive the ball, they should push it toward the target without prolonged contact. 

Avoid gripping the ball tightly, and keep your hand loose and relaxed.

The better strategy is to use the fingertips to set the ball instead of the palm.

Secondly, they should avoid letting the ball come to their chest and lowering their elbows because this is where the chance of committing a lift occurs.

Most importantly, don’t argue with the referee if you committed this violation. Just accept the decision and move on.

3) Passing Lift Call

The passing lift call occurs when the player holds the ball or redirects it in his hands before releasing it.

Passing refers to using the different parts of the body to receive and direct the ball to the setter.

So, such a violation usually occurs if the player gets the serve with open palms.

The players should practice the clean pass, no matter which platform they use to pass the ball.

The goal is to make controlled passes that don’t stop the volleyball game’s normal flow.

Usually, players use a closed fist to receive serves, and the ball’s contact is minimal, making it unlikely to result in such a violation.

Still, the newbies should do drills to avoid the ball resting in their elbows and avoid this lift call.

Two volleyball players trying to avoid the lift

Instances Where Lift Does Not Occur

Some exceptions mentioned in the FIVB rulebook are not considered a lift in volleyball.

Let me elaborate on those points in detail:

According to Rule, consecutive contacts are allowed during blocking by one(or more) players as long as the contacts occur during one action.

If multiple players attempt to block the ball, they can make various contacts with it without it being called a lift.

During the team’s first hit, the ball can contact multiple body parts simultaneously as long as the contact occurs during one action, according to Rule

It means that when a team receives the ball for the first time, the players can use different body parts to interact with it, and it will not be a lift.

Lift Consequences for the Offending Team

When a lift occurs, the offending team faces certain consequences, which I will discuss below.

  • When a violation like this occurs, it is considered a fault, and as a result, the opposing team gets the point.
  • The offending team loses the rally, and the opposing team achieves the sideout.
  • It can disturb the game’s flow and prevent effective ball control of the offending team.
  • It increases the pressure on the setters if they commit the violation.
Lift on a servePoint awarded to the receiving team
Lift during playPoint awarded to the opposing team
Multiple lift violations by a teamPoint awarded to the opposing team
Persistent lift violationsPossible ejection of the offending player through a red card

How to Avoid Lifting in Volleyball?

As a coach, I teach the players tips and techniques to help them avoid lifting violations.

Indeed, it’s a matter of practice which can overcome this issue.

Let me discuss some of the methods with you based on my experience.

1) Play with Closed Fists

Make sure to keep your hands closed into fists when you are receiving the ball.

It helps to minimize the chances of the ball stopping or pausing in your hand.

2) Hit with the Heels of your Hand

Another technique is to hit the ball with the heels of your hand because it allows for more controlled contact than using your fingertips.

3) Momentary Contact

Avoid more prolonged contact with the ball because it is the main reason for the lift violation.

Your contact with the ball should be momentary and ensure that the ball is never held or carried.

4) Practice More

The experienced players are less likely to commit the lifting violation, and the newbies often commit it.

So, practicing passing and setting techniques will help you control the ball better, eliminating the chances of committing this foul.

5) Develop Forearm Strength

Your passing and hitting will automatically be clean if you have muscular forearms.

Always engage yourself with exercises that help to develop forearm strength, such as a wrist rotation.

It will engage your ability to control the ball in the long run.

A demonstration of the lift in volleyball

Can you Lift a Player in Volleyball?

No, it is not allowed to lift or carry a player in volleyball as it provides an unfair advantage and disturbs the normal flow of the game.

The FIVB rule book mentions that the player can’t have prolonged contact with the ball, and lifting a player violates that rule.


To avoid losing points, players must thoroughly understand the rules of volleyball, including the concept of lifting.

Make sure that your contact with the ball is momentary.

You shouldn’t guide the ball while setting it.

Instead, use the heels of your hand while hitting it.

Lastly, to prevent similar violations, stay ahead of the game by studying the official FIVB Volleyball Rulebook.

Knowing the rules inside and out will help you play smarter!

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