How to dig a beach volleyball

How to Dig a Volleyball

Last Updated: April 8, 2024By

 The dig, or bump as it is sometimes called, is a fundamental skill in both volleyball and beach volleyball. The basic techniques are the same for both sports.

The basic dig forms the foundation for more advanced underarm skills, such as serve receive, hard attack defence and bump setting. Taking the time to learn how to dig correctly is a great investment because it will help you avoid problems as your skills become more advanced.

The key areas to digging a volleyball

The develop a good technique for digging a volleyball, there are four key areas that you need to understand and practice:

  • Forming your platform
  • Platform height and body posture
  • Changing the direction of the ball with angles
  • Moving to the ball and creating a stable base

Forming a good platform for a dig

The platform is crucial to making a good dig. Ideally, your elbows should be locked, and your arms should be touching from your wrists to your elbow. This is impossible for many players, because of the bone structure of their arms. The important thing is to try to get as close to the ideal position as possible. 

How you hold your hands together is also very important. There are a range of techniques, and most of them work, but there are a few “rules” that you need to be aware of.

  • The hands should be held together firmly. It is important that the hands stay together through the entire digging motion, and will not break apart when the ball makes contact.
  • The thumbs should be even. If your thumbs are sitting at different heights, then you will likely have an uneven surface and have trouble controlling the ball.

Here is a simple exercise to help you to find a good platform:

  1. Stand up straight with your arms stretched out to the sides at shoulder height. 
  2. Face your palms up
  3. Bring your arms together in front of your body so that they are stretched out in front at eye level
  4. Pushing them away from your body by allowing your shoulders to slide forward
  5. Place the fingers of one hand, over the fingers of the other hand, then bring your thumbs together, so that they are evenly placed, side by side
  6. Lastly, point your thumbs down, and push your elbows up to make your arms as straight as possible, then squeeze your shoulders together and try to make your arms touch.

Platform height and body posture

Once you have a perfect platform, the next step is to understand where the platform should be in relation to the rest of your body.

A common error I see with many beginners and juniors is to start with the platform too close to their body. 

To find a good starting position, bring your platform up so that it is 90 degrees from your body and parallel to the floor. Then tilt your body forward, and move your feet so that they are outside shoulder width, with one foot 20 – 30cm in front of the other.

This position should leave your arms out in front of your body so that your upper arms are not in contact with your chest. This will make it easier to manoeuvre your platform as you learn more advanced digging and passing techniques.

At this stage, you should start practising with simple drills. The simplest being a throw, dig, catch drill. Where one player throws a ball to a second player, and the second player simply digs the ball back.

You can find more drills in our beginner’s beach volleyball drill section.

Platform angles for changing the direction of the ball

At this stage, you should have a good platform and correct body posture. By keeping your arms out in front and away from your body you can change the angle of your platform to pass the ball in different directions.

Learning to change the angle of your platform is a lot about abdominal control. You need to make these adjustments by flexing your torso, not by “shrugging” your shoulders or twisting your wrists.

Don’t move your shoulders by moving your shoulders

Think about your platform as a flat triangular board. The three corners of the board are your thumbs, your left shoulder and your right shoulder. When you change the angle of your platform, the entire board needs to move as one. You must avoid “twisting” or “warping” the board. This would happen if you rotate your hands, or lift just one shoulder.

Controlling the ball with a good dig is done bak angling your platform to face your target. This position requires your entire body.

Moving to the ball

To dig a volleyball well, it’s important to move quickly and efficiently to the best position possible. In many cases, this can be achieved with a classic, three-step movement. The three-step movement starts with the foot closest to the ball. This first step can be quite a large step and gets you as close as possible to the end position. The other foot then makes a more accurate step to align your body correctly and set up your base. With the final step, you complete the base, and leave yourself in a balanced position, ready to dig the ball.

The platform should be formed (perfectly) before or as the final step is completed.

This three-step technique is perfect for serve receive, where the ball comes fast, but you still have time for quick foot movements.

If you are chasing a slower ball that is further away, like a high free ball, or a cut shot, then you might take more than three steps. But the last two steps are still the same. They should be smaller steps to accurately place your body in the best possible position.

Now it’s time to practice putting all of this together. Go back to your simple two-player drill. (Throw, dig and catch). Start throwing the ball left and right so that the players need to move to position.

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