What is a Lift in Volleyball

What is a Lift in Volleyball?

In the simplest terms, a ‘lift’ in volleyball is a type of violation. It happens when a player holds the ball or allows it to rest in their hands or arms momentarily during the game. This disrupts the fast, fluid movement characteristic of volleyball, leading to a fault called a ‘lift’. Although it can be a bit tricky to grasp initially, understanding what constitutes a ‘lift’ is a crucial step in mastering the game and improving your volleyball skills.

The Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) has clearly defined rules about what constitutes a ‘lift’ in volleyball. However, the term ‘lift’ isn’t explicitly used in the FIVB rulebook. Instead, the rules outline actions that would be typically considered a ‘lift’ in casual play.

According to the FIVB Official Volleyball Rules 2021-2024, the concept of a ‘lift’ primarily falls under the violation of a ‘catch’ as described in Rule 9.1.1:

9.1.13: A player may not hit the ball two times consecutively (except Rules 9.2.4, 9.2.3, 14.2 and 14.4.2)

9.2.4: The ball may touch various parts of the body, provided that the contact take place simultaneously.”

Source: FIVB

In the context of a ‘lift’, the key point here is that the ball should not come to rest at any point on the player’s body. Prolonged contact between the ball and the player’s body may be considered a ‘catch’ which is a violation.

Additionally, how the ball is hit is crucial. According to Rule 9.2.2:

9.2.2: The ball must not be caught and/or thrown. It can rebound in any direction.”

A ‘throw’ or ‘catch’ could be considered similar to a ‘lift’ in casual terms, especially if the ball visibly comes to rest in the player’s hands or arms during the action.

Finally, the handling of the ball during a service, attack hit, or overhand pass where the fingers are used (often called a ‘set’ in casual play) is particularly scrutinized. The Chapter 9.2 i.e. “CHARACTERISTICS OF THE HIT” and its Rules 9.2.1, which covers characteristics of the hit:

9.2.1: The ball may touch any part of the body.

These rules highlight that any action where the ball appears to be ‘caught’, ‘thrown’, or comes to rest, even momentarily, can be considered a fault. In the informal language of volleyball, these might be referred to as a ‘lift’. To play by the rules, the ball should be cleanly hit and not caught or thrown.

What Is A Lift In Volleyball?

In the thrilling world of volleyball, a plethora of rules govern the smooth conduct of the game, one of which is the prohibition of the “lift”. A lift, or “carrying”, is a type of fault committed by a player when the ball visibly comes to a rest in their hands or arms during an attempt to play it. It also refers to instances when a player uses an open-handed underhand technique where the palm is facing upward, and the ball scoops out or rolls off the fingers. These instances disrupt the fluidity of the game and result in the violation known as a lift.

How Do I Know If It Was A Lift?

Detecting a lift can be tricky due to the fast-paced nature of the game, but there are clear indicators to look out for. The ball visibly comes to a rest or pauses in the player’s hands or arms, or when the ball rolls up the player’s arm or body instead of being cleanly hit, it’s considered a lift. The whistle blown by the referee, followed by a hand signal where the palm faces upwards and pushes upwards, often signifies a lift violation. Remember, the determination of a lift often hinges upon the referee’s judgment.

What is a Lift in Volleyball
What is a Lift in Volleyball?

When Is A Lift Called?

The call for a lift is made by the referee, typically when they perceive an infraction in the way the ball is being played by a player, be it during passing, setting, or hitting. The lift call generally depends on the referee’s judgment of whether the ball momentarily came to rest or whether it was played with an open hand facing upwards.

Attacking Lift Call

The attacking lift call refers to the violation that occurs during an offensive move or ‘attack’. In a perfectly executed attack, the player swiftly and firmly hits the ball with a closed hand. However, a lift is called if the player hits the ball with an open hand facing upwards or if the ball rolls off the player’s fingers or rests momentarily in the palm during the hit. This disrupts the speed and flow of the game, making it a violation. Understanding this rule and practicing proper attack technique can significantly improve your performance in the game.

Passing Lift Call

The passing lift call comes into play during a passing or bumping action, a fundamental move in volleyball. In an ideal pass, the ball should cleanly rebound off the player’s forearms, maintaining the game’s momentum. However, a lift is called if the player’s arms or hands cradle the ball or let it come to a rest, even momentarily, during the pass. The ball should never pause before being played; it should be a fluid and continuous motion. This means that passing technique is crucial in volleyball, and avoiding a lift call in this action requires practice and precision.

Setting Lift Call

Setting is another key move in volleyball, often leading to an attacking shot. However, it can also be a common area where a lift is called. In a proper setting action, the player pushes the ball up into the air quickly with the fingertips, ready for another player to make the attacking move. A lift is called if the ball rolls off the player’s fingers or rests in their hands during the set.

It’s important to remember that in a clean set, the ball should never linger in the hands; it’s a quick motion involving the fingertips. To avoid a setting lift call, players must focus on their setting techniques and ensure the ball is cleanly pushed upwards without rolling off the fingers or coming to rest.

How Do I Avoid Making A Lift?

Avoiding a lift primarily hinges on perfecting your technique. For passing, make sure your hands are firmly together, and the ball cleanly rebounds off your forearms. When setting, ensure the ball is quickly pushed upwards by your fingertips without allowing it to roll or come to rest. For hitting, strike the ball with a firm, closed hand, and avoid letting it roll off your fingers or come to rest in your palm. Regular practice and observing good technique are key to avoiding lifts.

Different Aspects of Taking ‘Lift” In Volleyball

Positive Aspects:

  1. Control: When you ‘lift’ the ball, you can control its direction with more precision. You have a moment to adjust your hands and arms for the desired trajectory. This control might assist in setting up strategic plays and creating opportunities for scoring.
  2. Tempo: ‘Lifting’ can disrupt the tempo of the game, sometimes to your team’s advantage. By holding the ball briefly, you can delay or alter the speed of the play, which might catch the opposing team off guard.
  3. Ease: For beginner players, ‘lifting’ can make the game easier to learn. Handling the ball allows new players to get comfortable with ball control without the pressure of instant, clean contacts.

Negative Aspects

  1. Rule Violation: In traditional volleyball rules, ‘lifting’ is considered a fault. It’s seen as a form of double contact or carry, both of which are illegal. Performing a ‘lift’ will result in the loss of the point and giving the serve to the opposing team.
  2. Predictability: While ‘lifting’ allows for better control, it also makes your play more predictable. Holding the ball gives the other team more time to react and position themselves defensively.
  3. Skill Development: If you rely on ‘lifting’ as a crutch while learning, it could hinder your ability to develop proper volleyball techniques. Skills like bumping, setting, and spiking require quick, clean contacts with the ball.

‘Lift’ Is Against the Rules

So, while ‘lifting’ may have some initial advantages, it’s important to remember that it’s typically against the rules in official play, and it might impede the development of more complex skills. Developing these skills ensures that you can play in a way that aligns with official rules and more advanced strategies.


In conclusion, understanding the rule of lift in volleyball is essential to enhance your gameplay and ensure fair play. It may seem challenging to discern at first, but with practice and a clear understanding of techniques, you can successfully avoid committing a lift. Remember, volleyball is a game of speed and precision, so it’s crucial that every touch on the ball is clean, quick, and within the rules. In essence, ‘lift’ is more than just a rule—it is an embodiment of the fluidity that defines the sport of volleyball.

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