What is a Lift in Volleyball

What is a Lift in Volleyball

The core concepts of volleyball are easy to learn. However, some of the referee’s calls may need clarification for people who need to get used to the game. One of these controversial calls is the lift. It’s a common technical violation that volleyball players tend to commit. Learning about it will enhance your knowledge of the game. So, what is a lift in volleyball?

During a volleyball game, a lift occurs when a player appears to throw the ball by holding or maintaining prolonged contact rather than hitting it cleanly. Volleyball players are only allowed to contact the ball briskly and cleanly with no room for a prolonged touch. Failure to abide by this rule constitutes an illegal hit that leads to a loss of the rally.

In this post, we’ll reveal everything there is to know about the lift and other instances of a player illegally contacting the ball.

Here’s everything we have in store for you:

  • Volleyball Lift Rules
  • Types of Lift Calls
  • Difference Between Lift and Carry in Volleyball
  • Difference Between Prolonged Contact and Double Hit
  • How to Avoid Lift Calls in Volleyball
  • Do Players Lift When Receiving a Serve?
  • Scenarios that Don’t Get Lift Calls
  • Conclusion

Volleyball Lift Rules

A hit is only legal if the ball rebounds off a body part. According to the latest FIVB rules (2021-2024), the lack of a rebound means the ball has been caught or thrown, which is a fault in volleyball.

This means even if the ball only momentarily stops on a body part before redirecting, you have committed a lifting violation, and your team will be penalized.

Referees have the difficult task of deciding whether or not a play should be called for a lift. This makes such calls more controversial than less subjective ones like the net touch or double hit.

USA volleyball rules allow players to lift when they try to block the opponent’s spiked ball. Also, the two main versions of the sport: indoor and beach volleyball, have slightly different lifting rules.

Indoor Lifting Rules

Indoor volleyball rules allow players to maintain prolonged contact with the ball so long as an opposing player contacts the ball simultaneously.

Also, you can touch the ball on multiple locations if it’s the first hit for your team. The referee will consider it a single play of the ball.

Beach Lifting Rules

Beach volleyball rules are a little different. Touching the ball with multiple fingers is a violation. Also, if you lift the ball right after a block in volleyball but fail to attack it, you’re at fault. The only way to avoid a lift call after blocking would be to attack the ball. Punishment ranges from loss of the rally to disqualification.

Types of Lift Calls

The following are the common lift calls you might find in a volleyball match.

Passing Lift

When you have the ball roll over your forearms in an attempt to create a passing platform, you’ll get slapped with a lift call.

Inexperienced players who don’t get enough jump power and technique to force the ball to rebound upon contact are prone to this violation.

Setting Lift

This is arguably the most common type of volleyball lifting. While trying to set the ball, you may end up following it on its new trajectory or allowing the ball pause momentarily, making the hit more prolonged than it should be.

Attacking Lift

This kind is not as common as the other two. However, people still commit the fault when they strike the ball and try to control its trajectory with their fingers. If the referee notices this, they will make the call and penalize your team.

Difference Between Lift and Carry in Volleyball

A major point of confusion with the volleyball lift is that it has some similarities with the carry. Both are faults in playing the ball, but there is one difference.

The lift has to do with prolonged contact to move the ball in a vertical or upward direction. On the other hand, the carry involves using prolonged contact to move the ball in a horizontal direction.

Both the lift and carry violations follow the same rules and cause the other team to gain a point.

Difference Between Prolonged Contact and Double Hit

We already mentioned how the double hit is slightly more objective than the lift. The same also goes for the carry and other forms of prolonged contact.

Think of prolonged contact as any hit on the ball that takes longer than is absolutely necessary. If you watch volleyball often enough, you should get a sense of this timeline – it’s nearly instantaneous. When the ball touches a body part and doesn’t rebound almost immediately, the player has made prolonged contact.

A double hit is quite different. This is when you contact the ball with any body part two consecutive times, and the first one wasn’t a block. So, if you volley the ball with two hits instead of one, it’s a double-hit fault. However, if you block an attack and then volley the ball, it’s not a double-hit fault.

So, where does the line between the double hit and prolonged contact merge?

One common case is when you try to play the ball with both hands but end up hitting it one hand at a time. If this happens fast enough, you may get away with it. But referees have highly-trained eyes and can spot this fault quite easily.

The result is that the double hit can sometimes look like a prolonged contact and vice versa. Either way, both are volleyball faults that will cause your team to lose a rally.

Players should always make their ball contact as quick and clean as possible to stay out of trouble with the ref.

How to Avoid Lift Calls in Volleyball

No matter your skill and experience, playing volleyball will always put you at risk of getting the dreaded lift call.

To minimize this risk, follow the tips below:

Practice Quick Contact

Learning how NOT to possess the ball when you strike it is important. The more awkward the situation, the higher your chances of lifting.

Practice striking the ball as quickly as possible in a variety of positions. Get comfortable with volleys, digs, and blocks at different court areas.

Improve Your Technique

Get your coach, mentor, or instructor to help improve your technique in the following aspects:

  • Passing platform
  • Hand placement while setting
  • Proper defensive posture
  • Movement

These are also techniques that you can improve by practicing solo. All you need is to get your own volleyball and create some space in your backyard.

Keep Fists Closed for Underhand

Hitting an underhand with a closed fist will reduce the risk of lifting the volleyball. The platform method is always best, but in cases where you must use one hand, close your fist.

Also, you can use the heel of your hand to contact the ball.

Maintain a Flat Platform

Don’t be tempted to dismantle your platform at the last second. You should keep it flat and rely on your legs to provide the power for the rebound after the ball hits you.

We recommend you do some strength training to improve your hitting power and minimize lift calls.

Do Players Lift When Receiving a Serve?

You may have noticed that players who step up to receive service from the opposing team appear to lift the ball.

This is more obvious when they contact the ball using multiple body parts, albeit in one motion. That seems to fit the context of a lift or double contact, so why do referees not make calls against them? Well, the rules are a lot more lenient with serve receivers.

Receiving a serve with any part of the body is difficult. Servers hit the ball so hard that the human eyes can easily miss the trajectory if they don’t focus, especially direct ace in volleyball. Such a hard-hit spike makes life difficult for receivers, and they need all the help they can get.

By momentarily removing some of the restrictions on lifting, defenders can do a better job of receiving serves. This allows them to contact the ball multiple times, so long as it’s a single in and out motion.


The aim of this leniency is to give serve receivers a better chance to defend and also to keep the game fun and exciting. If games were plagued with constant lift calls, volleyball wouldn’t be as interesting as it is right now.

Scenarios that Don’t Get Lift Calls

Besides the serve-receive case above, there are other instances in the game that look like a lift but won’t get called by most referees.

1st Scenario

The first is when players from both teams simultaneously hold the volleyball over the net. No matter how long this lasts, the referee will not call a lift. Play continues once the ball falls back on the court.

2nd Scenario

The second case occurs when a player tries to protect their face and holds the ball in the process. Even if this lasts for more than a moment, provided the referee sees it as a genuine act of self-defense and not a ploy to gain an unfair advantage, there will be no lift call.

Final Thoughts on What is a Lift in Volleyball

By now, you should have a clearer understanding of how lift calls work in volleyball. If you’re a player, you can use our tips to become better at avoiding mistakes that force you to lift. Points are vital throughout the game, so you want to be on the right side of the lift call as often as possible.

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