What Is A Lift In Volleyball

What Is a Lift in Volleyball?

There are specific rules in volleyball that are not commonly known to people who are casual players. If you’re ever considering playing volleyball professionally or enjoy watching the game, understanding a lift can help you better understand the game.

A lift in volleyball happens when a player has prolonged contact with the ball and does not use a pass, hit, or set move. This usually happens when the ball is caught, picked up, or thrown. To avoid a lift, don’t let the ball pause momentarily in your hand.

Since the lift happens in such a short moment, it’s important to understand the specifics of how the lift occurs in various plays. Read on to learn more about the volleyball lift as well as how to avoid it.

What Is A Lift In Volleyball?

What Is a Lift in Volleyball

A lift typically occurs when the player contacts the ball with an underhand hit and holds it too long. A lift can also occur If they catch, pick up, or throw the ball and do not make an immediate pass, hit, or set move with their hand. Lifts are usually accidental contacts with the ball, but will be called illegal and a point given to the opposite team.

When the lift happens, it’s often just an instant contact with the ball and then continuing on without using any other moves. The player should make sure to continue playing volleyball by passing or setting the ball as soon as possible. By continuing the play, the referee may not see that there was lift.

This error is common amongst those who are playing volleyball recreationally. The longer one plays the game, the more automatic their movements will become.

How Do I Know If It Was A Lift?

Lifting the ball in volleyball is illegal when playing the game. If you are using the proper techniques when passing, setting, and hitting then lifting the ball will not be a problem in your play. Once in awhile you may find yourself making a lift when your technique is off, so knowing why it is a lift can be helpful.

If you’re not sure whether or not a lift has been made during play, it’s best to check in with your coach for clarification.

Passing Lift Call

During a passing lift call, the player holds the ball too long while in their platform formation. The ball should be passed rather quickly as to not be called for a lift. If a lift is called it usually means the ball rested too long on the passers arms. Players arms should be out straight as to not form a space at the elbows for a ball to rest.

Setting Lift Call

When a lift is called for a set it means the player that was setting held the ball too long or brought it down too low toward their face or chest. A lift may also be called if the ball touches the palms of the hands rather than the fingertips. When setting, players need to set the ball in a smooth fluid motion with their fingertips and above their head to avoid a lift.

Hitting Lift Call (Attacking)

When attacking a volleyball, getting called for a lift doesn’t happen very often. When it does happen, it usually means the hitter was guiding the ball with their fingertips rather than the palm of their hand. If a player tips the ball over the net, they need to be sure it’s a quick and sudden motion toward the target.

It is easy to make a mistake by lifting the ball during game play. If you notice that you are being called for lifts often, be sure to ask your coach for some strategies and techniques on how to correct it.

Check out our article on the Legal Hits In Volleyball to learn more on the hits that are allowed.

When Is A Lift Called?

When Is a Lift Called in Volleyball

Being called for a lift is all dependent on the referees officiating the volleyball match. A lift call can be subjective in some instances. The referees may call the lift, but the player or coach may disagree. Often times, there are two referees on the court, so they can discuss what the call should be.

If a player is called for a lift, it is best to move on and not argue too much about the call as that can lead to more violations. If there is discussion about the call, the two captains of the teams are the only players that can talk with the referees. After talking with the referees, the captains can then bring the information back to their coaches.

When a lift call is called on a team, the opposing team gets the ball and receives a point. The best thing players can do is to move on and practice getting better. If they dwell on a call that they think wasn’t fair, it can affect the rest of the play for the match.

How Do I Avoid Making A Lift?

Lifts are often unintentional, so it’s important to be aware of the rules in volleyball and make sure not to hold the ball too long when passing, setting, and hitting. The longer you hold on to a ball before making another move with your hands, the more likely a lift will be called.

The player can avoid the lift penalty by following these tips:

  • Don’t let the ball rest in their hands for more than three seconds without continuing on with another move.
  • Use an overhand pass with a closed fist and proper platform
  • Make sure to set, block, or hit the ball before three seconds pass.
  • Passing the ball to a teammate within three seconds
  • Use proper defensive posture when passing, setting, and hitting

In order to avoid making an unintentional yet crucial error, be sure to check with your coach about how long you should hold onto a ball before continuing on. The longer you wait or over-hit, the more likely it is that you’ll be called out for a lift.


It’s easy to make a mistake when playing volleyball. The rules are complicated, and there is no margin for error so it’s important to be aware of the various ways you can get penalized during play. 

Be clear on the lift rules by reviewing the FIVB volleyball rulebook or any other rulebook your coach recommends. Once you are clear about the rules, your reflexes will improve with time, patience and practice.

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