I previously posted the first of a sequence of pieces on setter training. This was in response to an email I received asking me to share my views. In this post I want to talk about something I really got focused on during my days coaching at Brown. That is weight transfer.

Particularly on the women’s side, I see a lot of players do a knee bend and then upward extension through the ball when they set. I can see where this probably comes from small, young players not having the strength to set the ball high and/or far with arms and wrists. They then use their legs to provide added power. That’s all fine and good for a 14-year-old. To my mind it is not so good for physically mature players.

The other thing I see a lot among setters of both genders is the rear end going backwards. They have a piking motion when they set. Some go so far as to falling backwards. Sometimes this is a function of movement to the ball. Quite a bit of the time, though, it’s simply bad mechanics which come out when a player wants to push the ball a long way. They don’t realize that having their weight go backwards – which is what’s happening when they pike – takes power away from their sets.

My preference is to see a player do a simple back-to-front weight transfer through the hips. The weight starts mainly on the back leg (should be the left when facing the OH target). It then shifts to the front leg while executing the set. The hips move forward, but on a level plane (horizontal rather than vertical shift).

There are several reasons for preferring this to the often-taught bend-and-extend method.

  1. The back-to-front transfer shifts weight toward the target rather than upwards, making it easier to set over distance, with more accuracy (because weight is going through the ball toward target), and at a quicker tempo.
  2. The player stays in a consistent plane when addressing the ball which is better from a visual perspective.
  3. The player stays tall, which speeds up the offense.
  4. Bending the knees to set a higher ball tips off the block
  5. Shifting the hips forward through the set also clears them for smoother back-setting.

Players will be surprised at how much smoother things feel using this simple weight transfer rather than bend-and-extend or piking. I’m not the only one who focuses on it either. As I mentioned in my Getting validation post, I observed the USC assistant coach working their setters on the same thing.

And yes, the back-to-front weight transfer applies to jump setting as well. If you have your setter jump slightly forward rather than straight up it serves the same purpose as transferring their weight from back foot to front foot does while standing.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

    3 replies to "Setter Training: Weight Transfer"

    • Simon Tribelnig

      Hi John,
      why do you think the forward-movement of the hips clears players for smoother back-setting?
      (sorry, maybe that´s a language-problem as well)

      Maybe depending on your answer there´s a question to your first point as well:
      “The back-to-front transfer shifts weight toward the target rather than upwards, making it easier to set over distance.” So you don´t want the forward-shift when setting between position 3 and 4 (2 meter-pass in front and 7 meter-pass back)? Or would you even want a backward-shift there? 😀

      • John Forman

        Simon – It’s a question of leverage. We have less capacity to apply force through our shoulders if our hips on a back set are closer to 2 than the ball is (just as would be the case if trying to set to 4 and our hips are closer to 4 than is the ball). Of course, if you have the raw strength in your wrists/arms/shoulders – as we see in the men’s game and upper levels of the women’s – then it doesn’t really matter.

        • Simon Tribelnig

          Ok, if you want or have to use the whole body for setting that´s clear.
          Thanks for clarification! 🙂

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