The Pancake In Volleyball

The Pancake In Volleyball

The pancake in volleyball is one of the most difficult moves to pull off, but it can also be one of the most exciting plays to witness. To learn how to perform the pancake takes hours of training and bruises, and to master it takes many years. But if you play volleyball, learning it is a right of passage.

In this article we will look at this spectacular volleyball move, how to perform it, and the drills that you can use to help you add it to your game. While we can give you all the information, it will take practice, practice, and more practice.

What Is A Pancake In Volleyball?

A pancake in volleyball is a defensive dig that is a one-handed dive to the floor with an extended arm and palm flat on the floor. The goal is for the ball to hit the top of the hand and bounce up for another player to pass. A player should master diving and sliding before using this technique. Using the pancake should be a last-ditch effort to keep the ball in play. This play is often used by the Libero.

Volleyball players should avoid using the pancake technique as much as possible. It is a very difficult maneuver to master. One reason it is difficult to master is because it is not practiced enough. Another reason is it could cause injury. Players shouldn’t practice it often because they could get hurt and not be able to participate at all. It should only be used when nothing else is an option, such as digging with a pass. 

With that said, the pancake is a valuable tool for a player to know how to use in those hard-to-get situations. This move requires a lot of confidence to use, so the best thing to do is practice it a lot before using it in a match. This play should only be used on rare occasions when the ball is fated to hit the ground without a last-ditch effort try. 

How To Pancake In Volleyball

How To Pancake In Volleyball

Being able to pancake effectively takes a great deal of practice. There are certain steps that are needed to be successful at this technique. If these steps are performed correctly, it is more likely the pancake will be successful and less likely a player will sustain an injury.

Steps For A Pancake

Step 1: Start in your defensive stance ready to receive the volleyball.

Step 2: Step forward with your non-dominant foot and create your platform to pass.

Step 3: Drop down like you would for a pass.

Step 4: When you see that you are not going to be able to pass/dig the ball, extend your dominant arm with your palm on the floor.

Step 5: Slide your hand under the ball to execute the pancake.

Step 6: Once the ball bounces off your hand, yell “up”, so your teammates know the ball is still in play. (Tip: even if the ball touches the floor, yell “up”, the referees may not see that it hit the floor.)

Step 7: Get up off the floor quickly as the ball will still be in play and you don’t want to be in the way. If it was the first hit, you may have to set or attack the ball.

Drills For Learning How To Pancake

Girl Practicing Volleyball Pancake

Learning how to pancake in volleyball takes quite a bit of practice. There are some drills that can help players become better at this technique and gain the confidence to use it. Get The Pancake is a great website that teaches how to pancake.

Here are few drills that we recommend using when learning how to pancake. There is no shame in wearing some extra padding when practicing your dives to the floor. Keep safety in mind when practicing these drills.

Sliding From Knees Partner Drill

This is a good introductory drill when learning how to pancake.  It focuses on the slide and the positioning of the arm and hand appropriately. It helps the players become more confident in the slide without fully sliding from a standing position.   

In this drill partner 1 and partner 2 stand about 15 feet apart facing each other. Partner 1 gets on their knees while partner 2 tosses the volleyball in front of them. Partner 1 slides into the pancake position trying to pancake the ball. 

Sliding From Standing Drill

In this drill all players stand on the baseline or spread out around the court.  Each player starts from the standing defensive position. Each player practices coming down from the standing position by sliding and extending their arms with their palm to the floor. No volleyball is needed. 

Pancake And Pass Partner Drill

In this drill the partners stand about 15 feet apart with partner 1 standing up at the net. Partner 1 gives partner 2 a short toss so they need to use the pancake. Partner 2 then pancakes the ball and partner 1 then tries to pass it up from the pancake. While partner 1 is passing the ball, partner 2 gets up quickly and hits it over the net. This is a more advanced drill after the basic techniques have been learned.

Full Court Pancake Drill

In this drill the defensive player starts from the middle back position on the court. A coach/player tosses or bounces the ball once from the middle front position. The defensive player runs to where the ball is going and uses the pancake to recover the ball.

Pancake FAQ

Is a pancake a dig?

The pancake is a dig in volleyball. It is often referred to as the pancake dig. It is a one-handed dive dig to keep the ball in play.

Are pancakes legal hits?

Pancakes are legal hits in volleyball. If the ball touches the floor at all, it then becomes an illegal hit. 

Does a pancake count as a hit?

A pancake does count as a hit. It is counted as one of the three hits that a team can have before hitting it back over to the other team.


There have been a lot of plays in volleyball games that have been saved because of the pancake dig. Before using this dig, a player must first practice it several times and have confidence in using it. A good way to gain confidence using this dig is by practicing some of the drills listed above. 

If you are a defensive player, knowing and using the pancake can help you get to some of those hard-to-reach balls. Liberos often use this defensive technique more than the other positions on the court. To learn more about the Libero position check out our article Libero Position In Volleyball where we cover just about everything you would need to know.

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