For many people, and even fans, volleyball can look very complicated, first because it’s fast-paced and it’s easy to miss out on something. Second, while the play is ongoing, lots of things are happening, players are switching the zones in between, and so on. Though it can look like a mess on the court, volleyball is, in fact, a highly organized sport; therefore, positions play a crucial role. Besides the Libero, middle blocker, opposite, and setter, there is the last position called an outside hitter, the only one where the player needs to master all the aspects of the volleyball game.

There are always two outside hitters in the starting six, with one playing in front and the other diagonally in the back row. The priority of the outside hitters has to be passing and attacking. However, they need to be excellent in defense, block and set as well.

Having all said, let’s take a detailed look at the position of an outside hitter, skills, and how the teams use the position in a volleyball game.

Zones where outside hitters play in volleyball mostly on the left side of the court (4) and in the back row (6)

The importance that outside hitters carry in the back-row

In almost all cases, the outside hitter’s base zone in the back- row is in 6, meaning they have to be excellent in defense, therefore knowing how to position themselves correctly while being ready every second, to start the approach onto the pipe attack. We will get to that in a second… In addition, they need to cover more court when passing to take some of the pressure off the second outside hitter who is playing in the front row.

The defence in zone 6 is more than just standing in the middle of the volleyball court

Yes, we said defense in zone 6 is more than just standing in the middle of the back-row! That means the player needs to move constantly, regulating the position; for example, if the middle blocker is running late, the positioning will be different than if the block is perfect; However, the positioning of the outside hitter in zone 6 also depends on the opponent’s attack direction, that’s why the teams need tactics, to direct players where to stand on the volleyball court.

Redi Bakiri / Defence in zone 6

Ace out of outside hitters sleeve: Pipe attack

Despite hearing about pipe attacks, many fans still don’t know what these kinds of attacks are or how they work. The outside hitter is the only player who does these in volleyball; therefore, it should be mastered to be performed successfully. A pipe attack is very lethal for the opponent team if it’s performed fast and with the right timing. However, it demands lots of skills, that’s why it is mainly seen on the higher level of volleyball.

One of the outside hitters is always a better receiver than the other

It is usually always the case that one outside hitter of the two has better passing skills, meaning together with the libero, they should help take up more volleyball court, therefore taking off some pressure of the other outside hitter. Passing is extremely important in volleyball because this is when the side-out action starts. Scoring the point on side-out should be the team’s number one priority, but to do that, the team needs at least positive reception first.

The main difference between liberos, outside hitters receive in all back-row zones /positions (1,6,5). One of them is always located in the front row, meaning, that one has to stand in front of the other passers. In addition, both outside hitters need to be ready to start the approach for the attack as fast as possible so that they are not late either in front row on the left side in zone 4, right side in zone 2, or back row on pipe attack.

Redi Bakiri / Passing in zone 5,1, and 6 ( + Pipe attack)

Having different serve variations, either short or strong, jump or float, is crucial in today’s volleyball

Volleyball today is not efficient without an efficient serve, and same as other players, outside hitters need to have a great one with different variations as well. Usually, outside hitters are better technically, and they should know how to make and when to use different serve variations, either jump or float. However, that should depend on the score and moment of the game.

Probably the most attractive way of setting

Usually, in volleyball, the libero should be the one who sets the ball in case the setter either passes the free ball or makes a defense; however, in volleyball today, some outside hitters are so skilled that they can start the approach for a pipe attack and decide either they spike the ball directly on the second touch or set the ball while being in the middle of the air, to the left or the right side of the court, but that is usually seen on a higher or rather we would say in the world-class level only.

Most points come from the front row

Despite pipe being more effective percentage vise, attack in a front-row plays much greater importance. The outside hitter in the front-line must be as effective as possible on perfect passes. Furthermore, he has to make points and use every ball also in difficult situations, when sets come from deep of the court.

Great outside hitters need to know all the elements of an attack from spiking the line, diagonal, making successful tips, and using an opponent’s block. That means being able either make a block-out or softly tip the ball in block to make a replay of action; however, this implies mainly on hard situations.

Redi Bakiri / Quick transition after the bad pass on the left side of the court

Blocking the opponent opposite is not an easy task

Another skill that outside hitters need to be good at is blocking. Most of the time, being in zone 4 on the left side of the court, they don’t have an easy job blocking opponents’ opposite. If the ball bounces off the block and the ball is still in play, the outside hitter must make the transition into attack as fast as possible. Blockers on either the left or right side of the court must be ready to perform the triple block if the situation allows it. Therefore outside hitters should recognize the situation and signal other players to adjust the defensive positioning.

When playing, front-row defense players have to be ready to defend strong, sharp diagonal attacks, but what is even more important is taking care of the tips on and inside the 3m line.

Communication with the other players is crucial.

Communication with others plays a crucial role for everybody to be on the same page. The outside hitter must communicate with a libero and other passers for the team to have a better pass. In volleyball, every outside hitter should communicate with the setter also for sets to be on point.

Most common injuries outside hitters can suffer

Injuries in volleyball are not as common as in other sports; however, they can happen. From our experience, outside hitters are most prone to ankle injuries, so it is even more critical to use good quality equipment, from shoes to knee pads. All volleyball online store provides excellent stuff and is worth checking out. Besides that, having good physical preparation and training is also crucial for players and something they must focus on if being serious about volleyball and want to prevent future injuries.

Best volleyball shoes for outside hitters / Editor’s choice

Adidas Crazyflight-Mid



Why do they call it outside hitter?

The position of the outside hitter was named due to spiking on the sides of the court and not on the middle when being in the front row. Here in Europe, we usually call them receivers because the reception is also one of the primary skills outsides need.

What skills does the outside hitter have?

The primary skills of outside hitters are receiving and attacking. However, they need to be great all-around players. They also need to be good at setting, blocking, serving, and defense. The pipe attack when in the back row is also crucial in volleyball and an essential skill to be a great outside hitter.

Do outside hitters need to be tall?

The height can help immensely for outside hitters. Players in that position on the highest level of volleyball are usually quite tall, 190-200cm. However, there are some great shorter players as well. Japanese players are known to be shorter on average but have one of the best national teams, and their outside hitters are among the best in the world.

Is it hard to be an outside hitter?

Every volleyball position can be hard to master. It can be challenging due to all skills outside hitters need to master, but it is not as hard as being a setter, where one of the primary skills is the mentality. And that cannot be learned.

Are there 2 outside hitters in volleyball?

On the volleyball court, there are two outside hitters. They are positioned diagonally, one in the front and the second in the back row. Both outside hitters play in reception together with the libero. The jobs of the hitter in the front row are mainly blocking and attacking, while the one in the back row needs to play defense and play pipe attack.


Backrow tasks

  • Defense
  • Passing
  • Pipe attack
  • Setting

Front row tasks

  • Attack, line/diagonal/tips
  • Block
  • Defense
  • Tips

To conclude outside hitters need to be great overall players knowing all the aspects from passing to attack. We will include tips and guides on how to become a better outside hitter in other blog posts. We hope you got a better idea of ​​the position and that you learned something new about the volleyball system and that you will implement them in the next practice.

Which of the volleyball skill that outside hitters need is the hardest in your opinion? We would be happy to hear your thoughts!

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