Volleyball Setting Rules: Official Rules of Set + 8 Tips

The setter is important for controlling the offense in volleyball. The setter is in charge of positioning the spikers so that they can hit powerful spikes. Setting requires a combination of technical abilities, strategic thinking, and mental focus. This guide will walk you through the fundamental volleyball setting rules, assist you in avoiding common errors, and provide tips for improving your setting skills.

What is a volleyball set?

A volleyball set is an attacking player’s second contact with the ball, often performed by the setter. The goal of this setup is to position the ball so that the spiker can perform an accurate strike. A skilled set can turn a simple strike into a deadly spike, leaving the opponent helpless to defend.

Types of sets

Volleyball setters use various types of sets. Each one is designed to complement specific offensive strategies and spiker preferences. Here’s a rundown of the set types:

  • High Sets: These are spikes that are lofted high above the net, giving the spiker plenty of time to prepare and execute an attack. These sets are frequently used against aggressive blockers who are expecting quick sets.
  • Low Sets: Low sets are closer to the net, giving the spiker a faster and more direct attacking option. Low sets are especially effective against teams with slow blockers or when the spiker is skilled at quick attacks.
  • Quick Sets: Quick sets are executed rapidly and close to the net, catching the blockers off guard and creating a scoring opportunity. Quick sets require precise timing and coordination between the setter and the spiker.
  • Deep Sets: Deep sets are delivered far from the net, extending the offensive zone and forcing blockers to adjust their positioning. Deep sets are used to exploit gaps in an opponent’s block or to target specific weaknesses.
  • Pipe: The pipe set is a unique type of set executed by the setter when they are positioned directly behind the center blocker. The setter jumps up and sets the ball in front of the blocker, creating a surprise attack opportunity.

Official Volleyball Setting Rules

The official volleyball setting rules are intended to keep the game fair and safe. These rules cover a wide range of topics, such as legal sets and faults, set types, setting zones, and common setting errors.

Here’s a summary of the key volleyball set rules:

Legal Setting Actions:


Stand centered with your knees slightly bent, your shoulders directly over your toes, and your feet staggered. This stance provides a stable base, allowing you to react quickly and efficiently to any situation on the court.


Your hands play a crucial role in shaping the trajectory and precision of the set. Use both hands to contact the ball, forming a triangle with your pointer fingers and thumbs. This hand position creates a platform for the ball, enabling accurate and controlled setting. Contact the ball with your fingers, not your palms, ensuring a soft and controlled set.


The first contact is typically used for serve reception, the second contact for setting, and the third contact for tipping or dumping. Adapt your contact to the changing game flow, maintaining composure and readiness.


Master the two-hand overhead set, the most common and versatile option, providing a high set suitable for powerful spikes. Use the forearm set for low sets that catch blockers off guard, and use the sideways set for quick sets that surprise opponents.


As you set, extend your hands towards the target spot, maintaining a focused gaze on the intended destination. This follow-through guides the ball’s trajectory and increases the likelihood of an attack.

Illegal setting actions:

Double Contact:

Double contact is a violation that occurs when the ball is contacted twice in succession. To avoid this mistake, ensure that you contact the ball with both hands simultaneously, creating a unified platform.

Catch or throw:

The catch-or-throw rule prohibits players from intentionally catching or throwing the ball. Instead, setters should focus on controlled contacts that elevate and position the ball for spikers.

Open-Hand Underhand Motion:

The open-hand underhand motion is illegal in volleyball. A technique where the ball is contacted with an open palm. This volleyball setting rule ensures that sets are executed with precision and control, preventing players from gaining an unfair advantage.

Setting the Serve:

Setting the serve is prohibited in all volleyball leagues. It is the act of contacting the ball directly after it has crossed the net. This rule maintains the flow of the game and prevents teams from gaining an immediate offensive advantage.

Scoop, Hold, Lift, or Push:

Scoop, hold, lift, or push are illegal actions that alter the natural trajectory of the ball. Setters must avoid these actions by setting the ball in a smooth, controlled motion to avoid violating volleyball setting rules.


A double occurs when the ball rotates more than the allowed number of revolutions during its trajectory. Setters must be mindful of this rule and adjust their technique accordingly to avoid incurring a fault.


An “over” call is made when a setter contacts the ball above the plane of the net. This volleyball setting rule ensures that players do not gain an unfair advantage by setting the ball from an illegal position.


Setters in the back row are not permitted to attack the ball above the height of the net. This rule maintains the balance of the game and prevents back-row players from gaining an offensive advantage.

Read our latest blog on blocking rules in volleyball.

Common Volleyball Setting Mistakes

Even experienced setters can make errors that hurt their performance and the offense of the team. Here are some common setup blunders to avoid:

  1. Setting the ball too far away from the spiker’s preferred location can make it difficult for them to attack effectively.
  2. Setting the ball in the same location or at the same time every time allows blockers to anticipate and neutralize the attack.
  3. Setting the ball too early or too late can throw off the spiker’s timing and reduce the attack’s effectiveness.
  4. Miscommunication between the setter and the spiker can result in missed connections and wasted offensive opportunities.

Practical Setting: Drills and Exercises

Regular practice is required to improve setting and develop consistency. Here are some volleyball setting drills and exercises to help you improve your setting technique:

  • Two-person setting drill: drill with a partner to practice setting with accuracy, timing, and communication.
  • Target setting drill: Set the ball to specific targets on the net to improve your precision and control.
  • Ghost setting drill: Practice setting without the ball by focusing on footwork, hand positioning, and body movement.
  • Varied setting drill: Include a variety of set types in your practice to increase your versatility and adaptability.
  • Game simulation drill: Practice setting in a game-like environment with game pressure and decision-making.

Tips for Improving Your Setting Skills

Aside from drills and exercises, the following tips can help you improve your setting skills:

  • Examine the setting technique, timing, and decision-making of professional or high-level volleyball players.
  • Ask for feedback on your setting technique to identify areas for improvement.
  • Learn your spikers’ tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses so you can tailor your sets to them.
  • Analyze the opponent’s blocking patterns and tendencies to expect their movements and adjust your setting.
  • Setting requires mental focus and anticipation. Be prepared for any situation and react to adapt to the changing game flow.

Wrapping Up:

Technical skill, strategic thinking, and mental focus are all required to be an effective volleyball setter. Understanding the rules of volleyball setting, avoiding mistakes, and including practical drills can help. This will improve your setting skills and make you an indispensable asset to your team. Remember that excelling in this role on the volleyball court requires regular practice and dedication.

Additional Tips:

  • Warm up before setting: Setting requires good hand-eye coordination and flexibility. Before practice or matches, warm up your arms, shoulders, and wrists.
  • Stay hydrated: Dehydration can impair your performance, including your ability to set. To stay hydrated, drink plenty of water throughout the day and during matches.
  • Visualize success: Visualization is a powerful technique for improving your goal-setting abilities. Consider making precise, accurate sets that lead to powerful spikes and scoring chances.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are setters allowed to block?

Yes, setters are allowed to block in accordance with volleyball setting rules. In fact, blocking is an important part of a setter’s responsibilities, as they often have a good vantage point at the net. However, setters focus on setting over blocking, as their primary role is to orchestrate the offense.

Can setters touch the first ball?

Yes, setters can touch the first ball, but only after it has crossed the net. The first touch by an offensive player is the serve, and the setter can receive the serve and then set the ball to a spiker.

Can a setter dig in volleyball?

Yes, setters can dig in volleyball. Digging is the act of passing or deflecting a spiked ball that is directed towards the setter’s side of the court. Setters should be able to dig to help their team transition from defense to offense.