The way I see it, the most effective volleyball drills are often the simplest ones.
When players are less focused on getting the sequence of movements correct, they can put all their focus into perfecting the techniques they’re trying to develop.
Today I’ve put together a list of the top 4 middle blocker training drills that I believe are the only 4 drills necessary to become an elite middle blocker.
These drills can all be done with minimal people and are designed to simulate real-world middle blocking scenarios.
They’re all highly customizable and can be tweaked for efficiency or to cater for the number of players you’re looking to involve.
In order to get the most out of these drills, the middle blocker should focus on both reaction speed and timing which are two of the most important aspects of being a middle blocker.
1. Empty Net Footwork Drilling
This is the most rudimentary middle blocker drill you can do, but this might be the most effective of them all.
In this drill it’s just you and the net – the middle blocker’s natural habitat.
- Start in the MB base position (1) in the ready position.
- Visualize a setter across the net from you setting out to the wing.
- React swiftly, taking one large step out with your outside leg, followed by a crossover step, and then the jump.
- Perform the block roughly where you’d block a wing attacker (2).
If you use enough focus, this drill alone can be sufficient for turning you into a highly effective blocking machine.
But it only works with extreme focus.
Focus On Initial Reaction Speed
Whenever you decide to begin the sequence, the key is to spring into action with extreme speed.
In a game situation, you’re almost always going to be slow/late getting out to the sticks, because you can only start moving once you know which direction the set is going.
You want to simulate this urgency to catch up to the ball by moving powerfully.
It’s so easy to forget to do this when it’s just you and an empty net, which is why visualizing and simulating that game situation in your mind is the key to getting anything out of this drill.
Avoid Excessive Lateral Drift
When you’re going into the jump phase of the block, try your best to convert as much of that lateral movement into upward force so that you’re not drifting too much in the air.
A small amount is fine and unavoidable, but we’re trying to avoid flying sideways in the air and crashing into our outside hitter’s shoulder.
The vast majority of the lateral movement should be done while we’re still on the ground!
High Frequency Situations Require Lots Of Repetitions
What we’re practicing here is a pass/dig coming into the opposition setter and us as the middle blocker read blocking.
Let’s assume the opposing middle isn’t a factor, we still don’t know if they’re going outside or behind.
We first need to see the set and react as quickly as humanly possible.
Why is this drill so vital? Because this situation happens almost every single time our team serves the ball!
It’s the most common blocking scenario we’ll ever be in, so it’s the one we need to train with the most volume.
If you really want to improve your reaction speed, do this drill with a partner. Have them call out ‘go’ to give you something to react to.
Your partner can also participate in the blocking drill by doing the exact same thing as you on the other side of the net – take in turns saying go.
To summarize, focus on lightning fast reactions, speed, and reducing mid-air sideways drift.
2. Hitting Lines Delayed Blocking
Everyone knows the basic ‘hitting lines’ drill. This is a very simple modification where we’re adding a middle blocker on the opposite side of the net.
- The hitter in 1 tosses a ball to the setter in 2 who hits a downball back to 1 who digs it back to the setter who sets the ball outside.
- The hitter transitions out to spike an outside attack.
- The middle blocker starts opposite the setter (2) in the ready position and waits for them to set the ball outside before moving.
- The MB then quickly performs the same block sequence from the first drill. Their objective is to get out in time to block the outside hitter.
This drill is effectively a ‘real life’ version of the first drill.
Focus On Seeing The Set And Then Reacting Quickly
The key is not to cheat.
As the MB you need to wait for the setter to set the ball, at least until it’s obvious which direction they’d have set in a game situation.
The longer you leave it, the better.
Once you see the set go outside, spring into action and complete the swing block.
All of the same focus points from the first drill apply except now you have an actual target to get out to and a real time constraint.
Remember the goal is to simulate that high frequency serve receive scenario where you’re read blocking the setter who sets to the pins and you’re having to react quickly with efficient footwork to make it in time.
Remember not to let yourself drift too far in the air!
3. Basic Quick Hitting Line
This is another extremely simple drill.
Again it’s just the ‘hitting lines’ drill, except we’re running quick attacks only.
- The MB starts in 1 and sets the ball to the setter in 2 before transitioning in to hit the ball.
- The setter in 2 sets the quick attack for the MB to hit.
It’s virtually impossible to get more simple than this, but focus will determine how much you get out of this drill.
Work On A Variety Of Offenses
Communicate with your setter beforehand which attack you’re going to run.
Run As, Cs, and B-quicks.
Focus on hitting the ball to the left and right back corners of the court only.
Doing this will get you in the habit of hitting long as opposed to sharp which will massively improve your hitting efficiency.
Repetition Is The Name Of The Game
Partner up with a setter who also wants to improve their game and go and do hundreds of these quicks.
If you want to become a better middle hitter, you have to practice hitting the ball more than your opposition.
Focus on hitting B-quicks as they’re usually the hardest. Maybe 70% Bs and the rest As and Cs.
If you can do this drill over and over for an hour before and/or after training, your hitting will improve out of sight!
4. Assisted Random Quick Hitting Line
This is the ultimate middle blocker offense drill and it’s dead simple.
It’s the exact same thing as the previous drill, except instead of the MB tossing the ball from 1, there’s a dedicated tosser.
Their job is to toss the ball to the setter (2), but at random heights and distances from the net.
The idea is to simulate a variety of different passes that will happen in-game.
The tosser should occasionally throw very flat balls to the setter and occasionally extremely high ones.
This forces the middle blocker to practice timing and arriving at the exact moment to hit the first tempo attack.
Tosses should occasionally be too tight and too far off the net and the middle blocker must adjust and still perfect the timing to hit the quick into one of the back corners.
This drill, if done properly perfectly simulates 90%+ of middle blocker offense.
The MB should also change their starting position to reflect the various serve reception starting positions they’ll be in during a game.
You can do this drill with just 3 people and it can be made significantly easier or more difficult based on the toss.
This is perhaps the most efficient way to train offense if you have 2 middles (who switch between hitter and tosser) and a setter.
Be sure to check out my list of 16 expert middle blocker tips for more training ideas.