Pepper is a volleyball drill or exercise you can see in just about every pre-match routine and training session warm-up. In its most basic form it comprises a 3-touch sequence executed by two players which replicates the three contacts used in competitive volleyball – dig/pass, set, hit. It goes as follows.

  1. One player hits the ball at their partner.
  2. That player digs the ball back to the first partner
  3. The first player sets the ball back to the second
  4. The second hits the ball to the first
  5. The cycle repeats

This is a great little volleyball exercise featuring all the primary game skills in a way where they can get many contacts. Because it also replicates so many of the game movements, it is also good for warming up ahead of training or competition.

There are many, many variations on the basic pepper structure. They include adding players, having the ball go over the net, requiring specific contact sequences, and incorporating jumping, among other things. Here is a collection of those variations (look for more added over time).

Overhand: All digs must be made with hands, requiring hitters to execute a higher attack than usual.

Rotating: This is for when the whole team is doing partner pepper. At intervals you have one side of the gym rotate so players are spending time peppering with different partners. This is good for getting players introduced to each other during the team formation process, breaking them out of persistent patterns later in the season, and generally for them to better know how each other plays.

Speed: Players stand quite close together and try to do the pass-set-hit sequence as quickly as possible. Obviously, they aren’t hitting the ball very hard at each other. (Saw this used by USC)

Tempo Change: This is a 3-player variation. The digging player intentionally digs either low or high. The setting player is then required to set at proper tempo. So, if the dig is high, the set will be lower while if the dig is low, the set will be higher. (Saw this used by Long Beach State)

See also:

I should note that it makes sense to go over the net as much as you possibly can. That, obviously, makes things a lot more game-like.

Have a favorite variation on pepper you’d like to share? Use the form to let us know about it. If we like it too, we’ll add it here and give you all the credit. 🙂

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