The Middle Blocker In Volleyball Position

Middle Blocker In Volleyball

As one of volleyball’s most challenging positions, the Middle Blocker In Volleyball Position is undoubtedly one of the most challenging. It is common to refer to this position as a “middle blocker,” but it is also a crucial part of the offensive system of a team.

Middle blockers are faced with significant challenges when it comes to defending the entire net in addition to serving-receiving and defending transitions.

What is a middle blocker in volleyball?

Middle Blocker In Volleyball

As a middle blocker, you block the shots of your opponent’s hitters near the net. Also, they contribute to their team’s offense by attacking the ball.

It is common for middle blockers to have a high vertical jump and to be taller than most of their teammates. To make blocks, they must also move quickly and agilely around the court.

Additionally, they are responsible for passing the ball, digging, and playing defense.

It is important that the middle blocker is tall, athletic, technically proficient, has good vision, and has a competitive nature.

An entire book could be devoted to detailing the duties of a middle blocker. An explanation of how to attack and block from the middle position will be provided in this article. 

Middle Blockers Are Blocking Specialists

Middle blockers are volleyball teams’ primary blockers. They primarily aim to make it difficult for opposition hitters to kill the ball.

Middle players need to be able to block the opponent’s middle and setter (if they’re in the front court), as well as transition out to the sticks to block their outside hitters.

Almost every attack a team makes is blocked by them, as well as attacks from the back row.

The Middle Blocker as an Attacker

Middle Blocker In Volleyball

Attacking the middle third of the court is the primary responsibility of the middle hitter. Middle hitters are often used behind the setters in some offensive systems.

In general, middle attacks place pressure on opposing blockers at a fast tempo. The middle hitter can attack in three ways. There are three kinds of attacks: the 1-set, the 31-set, and the slide set.

The 1-set and the 31-set

In the 1-set, the attacker attacks quickly and close to the setter. Fast tempo places pressure on the middle blocker to decide whether to block the quick attack or risk not being able to reach the outside attacker if that is the set goal. A middle blocker who focuses on the outside attack risks being late to block the quick 1-set.

With the 31-set, the concept is the same. This set differs primarily in that it is attacked from a distance away from the setter. As a result, the middle blocker is forced to make a decision.

By staying with the 31 attacker, the middle blocker risks not being able to defend against an attack from the right-side attacker. Middle blockers are challenged to block the 31’s attack if they focus on the right-side attack.

The video shows the 1-set and the 31-set.

The Slide Attack

Defending the entire net will be necessary for a slide attack. It puts a great deal of offensive pressure on a player’s left front blocker when executed correctly. Here is a video demonstration showing the middle attacker running to the right antenna’s point of attack.

Antennae must be set at a fast tempo by the setter. By hitting hard down the line, the hitter beats the left front blocker. In addition to placing tremendous pressure on the opponent’s left-front blocker, the middle hitter can attack a slide set at any point behind the setter.

It will be challenging for the middle hitter to establish the correct court position relative to the setter and coordinate the attack approach with the timing of a fast-tempo set when attacking the one-set, the 31-set, and the slide. Attacking after blocking, also known as transition attacking, amplifies these challenges. A “home base” must be reached by the middle attacker after blocking.

A quality attack will be facilitated by getting to the home base position. It depends on the location of the block to determine the home base position. When the middle blocker blocks, he or she drops directly off the net, and then approaches the 1-set, 31-set, or slide attack using visual cues and the offensive system.

Defensive Responsibilities for the Middle Blocker

Middle Blocker In Volleyball

Middle blockers play a crucial role in any team’s defensive success. Blocking the middle third of the court is the main responsibility of the middle blocker.

The middle blocker must then follow and join the outside blocker as he defends the opponent’s sideline attack. The distance between the sidelines is nine meters, so being able to determine where the attack is coming from and move quickly laterally is essential for successful blocking.

Middle blockers must start in a posture that facilitates movement laterally since most offensive sets take place on the sidelines. When the hands are at chest level or lower, I prefer a balanced blocker.

Every play presents a different look, which is one of the challenges of the position. Different locations along the net are used for the middle attack.

Each situation requires a different footwork pattern, so the middle blocker must be capable of handling a variety of situations. Four footwork patterns will be discussed.

Shuffle Step Block Footwork

Whenever there is a short distance to cover or ample time to move to a point of attack, the blocker uses the shuffle step to block.

It is easier to learn blocking movement for younger players with the shuffle step since the shoulders remain square to the net. When blocking a long distance or when the opposing offense’s tempo is fast, it is slower than the crossover step.

Three-Step Crossover Block Footwork

This footwork pattern is used when the middle blocker goes outside and crosses over. The crossover differs from the block jump in that the blocker runs into it.

The block jumps into the block when it is performing a two-step-hop block. Depending on comfort and effectiveness, the blockers will choose one of the two.

There are many similarities between the Two-Step, hop-blocking footwork, and the Three-Step crossover. It differs from the 3-step footwork in that the blocker takes the first two steps in a similar manner and then hops into their jump.

Having their shoulders square to the net when jumping makes this footwork more comfortable for some blockers.

Two-Step Crossover Block Footwork

Whenever there is only a short distance to cover or the set speed prohibits using the full three-step crossover blocking move, the Two-Step Crossover is used.

One-Step Crossover Block Footwork

One-step crossovers are used to cover as much distance as possible in the shortest time possible.

Neither the middle blocker nor the right blocker should have difficulty executing the above footwork. By shaping the blocked ball back into the opponent’s court, the middle blocker attempts to block the attack by reaching the point of attack.

As the offensive attack speeds up, the middle blocker faces significant blocking challenges. In addition, the middle blocker has to deal with back-row opponents at higher levels. “In-system” opponents are difficult to stop.

An outside attacker’s offensive efficiency depends heavily on the effectiveness of the middle attack. Hence, if the middle attack is effective, the opposing middle blocker becomes less successful in blocking the outside attack because they are focused on stopping the middle attack.

From both an offensive and defensive perspective, the middle blocking position poses significant challenges. To achieve success, it is equally important that players have a positive mental attitude and a willingness to embrace challenges.

Where Does The Middle Blocker Play on the Court?

Middle Blocker In Volleyball

Blockers who are instructed to play in the middle, the tallest people on the team, will be in the front row at the net in the zone 3 area when the ball is served.

What Happens on Front Row Defense

As soon as one of your teammates serves a ball, your team officially goes into defense.

Blocking the ball is your first defensive goal, preventing the ball from reaching your back-row diggers by doing everything you can in the front row.

Defending against the block is the first step. 

Ball – Setter – Ball – Hitter:

Middle volleyball blockers watch these things in defense

Passing the ball by the opposing team

While the ball is being passed, you, the middle blocker, should be reading and anticipating whether this pass will be a perfect one for the setter waiting for it in Zone 3. 

The Middle Blocker Position in Volleyball: When a team is opposing

Middle Blocker In Volleyball

Set the ball

If you, the middle volleyball blocker, see that the ball is headed for Zone 3, you should immediately turn your attention to the setter.

It is the setter’s job to run her offense so that you as the middle blocker won’t know who she is setting in the front row or the back row.

Defending setters are responsible for faking you out as middle blockers.

Her goal is to trick you into believing that one of her hitters will be set when actually another hitter will be.

In order for her offense to be effective, she must run it in such a way that a middle blocker would have no idea who she is setting in her front row or back row. 

The set she wants to deliver to one of her hitters is one that you can’t reach. It is more likely that her hitter will hit the ball to your court floor if he or she hits against one blocker. 

A hitter has a much more difficult time attacking a ball when they face two blockers, that’s you and your outside blocker!

Reading her body language and anticipating, correctly, who she will set the ball to is your job, so your outside blocker can set up a two-girl Wonder Woman block (as opposed to the usual two-man block), making it more difficult for your opponents to attack. 

As the setter sets the ball to one of her hitters, you use special footwork to follow the ball as it travels.

When you jump into a timed block jump with your left side blocker or right side blocker, you can use your volleyball blocker footwork to travel along the net and join your side blocker. 

The Middle Blocker Position in Volleyball: Looking At The Hitter

With the ball set, it’s time to take a look at your hitter.

On the other side of the net, the opposing team’s hitter approaches you with a spike. 

To know how and where she will attack the ball, you read her body language and arm movements.

The two of you stretch both arms over the net, in front of the hitter, to create a human wall by extending your arms and hands, preventing the hitter from spiking the ball over the net. 

Defending the ball means digging it up if the ball passes your block. 

It is now time for your team to get on the attack once the ball has been dug up.

Using your next two contacts, your team must get the ball to the floor of the opposing team’s court in order to score a point. 

Your primary responsibility on offense is to hit balls from the middle zone of the net, otherwise known as Zone 3, rather than as the middle blocker. 

Middle Blocker Position in Volleyball: Responsibilities in Hitting

You and your setter need to coordinate extremely well to receive sets from the middle blocker, now the middle hitter, attacking from Zone 3.

Middle blockers transition off the net when the ball returns to their court during a rally and is dug up by the back-row players. 

How does that work?

During the rally, the front-row hitters are changing from blockers in defense to hitters in offense, thus the term ‘transition’ means ‘to change’ in Latin. 

When the setter gets to the ball that was just dug up in defense, the hitters will back up to the ten-foot line.

A hitter will then be set by the setter to run the offense. 

What Are The Strengths Of A Good Middle Blocker?

Middle Blocker In Volleyball

A good middle blocker is pretty different from an average one.

Here are some characteristics you should emulate when selecting a middle blocker.

Good Middle Blockers Move Efficiently

Movement efficiency is the key to blocking.

Blocking a wing spiker is difficult because of the difficulty of getting out far enough without leaving a gap (seam).

It is only through extremely efficient footwork that you will be able to achieve this.

An outside leg step must first be taken by the middle blocker, followed by a crossover step and a jump before they can get out to the wing.

Spikers punish those who hesitate or make mistakes even for a split second.

Often, middle blockers are docile and slow at the junior level, failing to develop the footwork efficiency required for effective blocking.

In junior volleyball, this may be one of the biggest differences: elite players have been able to fill out their frames and control their bodies so that their movements are fast and efficient.

Good Middle Blockers Are Really Smart

Middles often have the reputation of being dumb at the junior level.

As a junior, I played middle blocker!

Intuition, body control, and offensive decisions are often lacking in them.

Most middle blockers are switched on when they play at the highest level.

Each point is processed by an elite middle blocker with a great deal of information.

  • When I receive a tight pass from the setter, do I toe-jump on him?
  • How do I handle too-tight spots? Do I hit the overpass, block or dump it, or dig it up?
  • What should I do with the opposition middle? Do I read it, or do I commit a block on it? What direction should I take?
  • If I have to block the setter, middle, or both while still being able to block the wing, how do I do it in just a few milliseconds?

There have been many times when I have had a conniption at the net, trying to balance so many factors in a fraction of a second.

It all comes down to intuition and just doing without really thinking too much once you’re experienced enough.

Good Middle Blockers Are Often Strong & Powerful

A 7-footer who is fast and athletic is different from a 7-footer who is tall and long.

It’s true that technical skill and ability must be the priority in middle blocking, but some of the top middle blockers have made a name for themselves by being freakishly strong.

Robertlandy Simón is the world’s best middleman not only because of his technical skills but also because of his sheer athletic ability.

There is rarely a player on the court who can spike or serve the ball harder than he can.

The difference between getting a kill and a defender digging your attack can be just 10-15% harder hitting the ball than everyone else.

Also, he is a great blocker of wing attackers due to his remarkable speed.

The same was true for Muserskiy.

There is no substitute for being extraordinarily athletic (like Simone Anzani or Marko Podrasanin), but you could make it to the top by being as athletic as Sreko Lisinac who did it with superhuman athleticism, not technical ability.

In any case, if you want to become a middle blocker, you’ll need to be strong, powerful, and fast!

Good Middle Blockers Hit Efficiently

Being smart is the key to this one.

It is common for weak middle blockers to attack the ball in a predictable manner.

The same plays are often repeated and the ball is almost always hit the same way.

It is more important to bounce a spike clean off the 10-foot line than to win the point, so they tend to hit the ball too sharply!

Middle blockers who are inexperienced tend to have a lower hitting percentage than elite players who often bat above .400.

There are many offensive plays that top middle blockers can run besides A-quicks.

They run both Cs and B-quicks accurately.

When they play deep into the backcourt, they put their egos aside because they’ll get more kills and fewer blocks than when they play sharp.

The ball can be hit to either sideline, so opponents have a difficult time blocking them.

Utilizing the right tools at the right time and using them effectively will develop efficiency when you have a lot of tools in your toolbox.

How Important Is The Middle Blocker?

Middle Blocker In Volleyball

For many reasons, a volleyball team benefits from having an experienced middle blocker.

Middle Blockers Reduce Opponent’s Hitting Efficiency

With a good primary blocker, you’ll not only get more points from stuff blocking your opponent, you’ll also get more ‘touches’ that will change potential kills into designable ones.

Consequently, your opponents score 0s and 0s become errors.

Middle Blockers Provide A Back Court Defensive Framework

Middle blockers make life easier for the backcourt.

Getting much of anything dug will be very difficult if you don’t block well.

It is much easier for your defenders to keep the ball off the ground if your middle blocker is positioned well.

There is more to the middle blocker offensively than first appears.

Strong Middle Blockers Make Your Other Attackers More Efficient

If your middle blocker can kill the ball efficiently, your team will be able to score a point.

Additionally, opposition middle blockers are forced to commit to you on every play simply by being a well-rounded, offensively-minded middle hitter.

You’ll find your wing attackers in more 1 on 1 situations this way, so they’ll be able to be more effective offensively.

Even though you may not be set the ball that often, the fact that you pose a big risk whenever you are set increases the efficiency of the entire team.

Volleyball’s middle blocker is easily the position with the greatest impact on the court.

Is Middle Blocker A Good Position In Volleyball?

The middle blocker position is still one of my favorite positions to play despite my love-hate relationship with it over the years.

Most people are never tall enough to play middle, so I always recommend steering clear of playing middle as a youth athlete unless you think you’ll one day be able to play it at the senior level.

The role of the middle can, however, be very exciting if you choose to play it.

Getting massive blocks is always fun, but you’ll get more than your teammates.

Also, you may have some success bouncing some quicks into the attack line.

There will be jousting, coordinating blocks, trash trash-talking… you’ll be involved in establishing which team wins the war on the web!

Should I Be A Middle Blocker?

Middle Blocker In Volleyball

I don’t think so.

Because you really need freakish height to be a middle blocker, very few volleyball players should be middle blockers.

Playing at the Olympic level or professionally differs from just playing for enjoyment. I am referring to people who aspire to participate in professional sports or play at the professional level.

Anyone who is reasonably tall can play middle, but at the highest level, you should possess certain characteristics to make yourself a good middle blocker.

Physical Attributes Of A Middle Blocker

Middle blockers must possess a number of physical prerequisites to be effective.

To succeed as an elite middle blocker, you must meet certain benchmarks.

Extreme Height

According to the calculator, only 0.00013% of men are 6’8″ (203cm) or taller…

To play middle blocker in senior men’s volleyball, one needs to be lucky and tall.

As an Olympic middle blocker, you would actually be undersized since the average height is 206cm.

To play middle blocker at the highest level, women need to be at least 6’2″ (188cm).

The numbers come from volleyball rosters at the international level at the present and in the past.

My previous article on middle blockers goes into much greater detail about height. For more information, check out that link.

Most readers will never be tall enough to be an effective middle blocker at the highest level, but that is a fact of life.

What if you were a bit shorter and learned how to jump really high?

In most other positions, that works pretty well. However, not for middle blockers.

Why? Let me explain…

Because you need to be able to block quickly, sometimes you must toe jump to block an opponent’s middle or setter.

A 265cm standing reach middle blocker can contest the quick attack with his hands above the net without having to jump very high.

The same block would require jumping 15cm higher than your standing reach if you only have a 250cm reach.

The opposing middle blocker has a lot of time to run quickly, so moving 15 cm in the air takes a lot of time.

You won’t be able to make the block in time.

This article on middle blocker height discusses how difficult it is to overcome this disadvantage.

Long Arms Help A Lot

Volleyball players (other than liberos and setters) should pay close attention to their wingspan.

Even if you are 5-6cm shorter than most of them, you might be able to kick it with the best in the world if you are 200cm tall with extraordinarily long arms.

It is important to have a wide wingspan, or more importantly, a standing reach, in order to be fast in blocking – how quickly can you move your fingertips, hands, or arms in front of the opposing opponent?

You can get into position more quickly if your arms are longer.

The ideal standing reach for women’s middle blockers will be 241cm (7’11”), while for men, it will likely be north of 265cm (8’8″).

In the section on recruitment guidelines, I will discuss these benchmarks in greater detail.

Speed, Coordination, Strength/Power, Explosiveness

A youth middle blocker is all of these things and more.

We refer to the ‘baby giraffe phase’ as the period when you’re young and growing quickly.

If you are not that athletic or strong, you probably have bad posture, you are not so strong, and you can barely control your body weight.

It’s normal to experience this.

To succeed at the top, you will need all of these things over time.

Younger people who have any of those traits should double down on their strengths while improving their weaknesses.

What Do Coaches Look For In A Middle Blocker?

Middle Blocker In Volleyball

The sport of volleyball is much more enjoyable if you are a coachable middle-blocker.

We just discussed some of the physical attributes recruiters look for when hiring middle blockers.

Middle Blocker Recruitment Guidelines

As a middle-blocker aspiring to play college volleyball, you should know some important benchmarks.

Jumping Ability & Arm Length

According to the NCSA website, the following numbers are for women’s volleyball.

College volleyball requires the same stats, except for one…

In accordance with the NCSA website, 11’6″ or 350cm is a good middle-blocker attack jump for men.

The stat is also known as spike height, and I can tell you right now that 350cm is considered world-class and has a high level of difficulty.

There are two middle blockers in my top 5 who do not even have a spike reach of 350cm!

In light of the fact that I have plenty of experience measuring elite athletes’ standing reach and jumping ability, I figured I’d construct the equivalent table for men’s volleyball.

Based on my best estimates, these are the recruiting guidelines for men’s middle blockers.

SkillCollege AverageElite
Standing Reach258-265cm267cm+
Attack Jump335-345cm350cm+
Vertical Jump25-30″33″+
Block Jump330cm335cm+

After training and testing numerous college-level middle blockers, these are just estimates

Hitting Percentage

As a spiker, your hitting percentage measures your efficiency.

Middle blockers should aim for 0.400 as a decent benchmark, even if recruiters are unlikely to have access to these stats.

All positions have the highest hitting percentage, but middle blockers tend to have the highest.

I’ve included a list of the top 20 women’s middle blockers in NCAA Division 1 in the US.

As a result of recent research, I wrote an article addressing what hitting percentage is and how to calculate it.

For more information, check out that link.

Height

A middle blocker’s height requirements were discussed earlier.

You should be 6’8″ or taller for men and 6’2″ or taller for women.

Check out my article that goes into much greater detail about middle blocker height.

Experience

In order for recruiters to take you seriously, you need to have played club volleyball extensively.

Their goal is at least two to five years of competitive experience at a decent level.

On the court, you have to demonstrate your competence.

How To Be A Better Middle Blocker

Middle Blocker In Volleyball

What should you focus on to improve as a middle blocker now that you’re set on the position?

It is one thing to possess the genetic gifts to get your foot in the door as a middle, but it is another to train effectively for rapid development.

As far as middle-blocking tips go, instead of giving you a long list, I’m going to reveal the 20% that yields 80% of the results.

Become a better middle-blocker by putting your time and effort into these three things.

1. Improve Your Blocking Mechanics

Although blocking is less glamorous than hitting, I can tell you that being a good middle blocker is mostly about being able to block quite well.

You won’t see as much return on investment if you drill blocking than if you drill offensive drills, but drilling blocking will pay off significantly more than training offensive drills.

Make sure your footwork is perfect first.

Your blocking footwork is inefficient if you make even small mistakes, making you slow and inefficient.

Identify how you get from the center middle position to double blocks out on the sticks.

An empty net is a good place to practice this footwork.

Throughout the movement, you should perform it extremely quickly – you want to simulate real-world situations as closely as possible.

As much as possible, improve your reaction time and speed without starting to drift.

Mechanically or robotically automate everything.

If you want to block next time your team hits lines, ask if it’s okay.

Once the setter has set the ball, you should start from the center of the court.

The set will always take you a little longer to read in-game, so make sure to train a little slower or later than normal.

Get a solid block in place and cover as much ground as possible.

Here are some ideas for training middle blockers.

2. Improving Your Hitting Efficiency

The best middle is one who kills the ball at over 70% offensively.

The first thing you need to do is to master various types of attacks.

Over and over again hitting A-quicks isn’t good enough.

Spend the majority of your training time studying the B-quick and adding it to your arsenal.

As well as the C-quick, I occasionally hit the slide.

Upon mastering the A-quick, you should spend 70% of your time running B-quicks, while the remainder of your time can be spent practicing As and Cs.

Getting all of these attacks down fairly well is the first step to increasing your ball’s directional range.

Whether you’re on the left or right sideline, you should be able to make As, Bs, and Cs.

Having the ability to select the areas of the court where we hit is our ultimate goal.

Ensure you only target international hitting zones.

By doing this, you will earn more kills and avoid being blocked so much as you will no longer bounce balls straight down.

3. Constantly Improving Your Physicality

Middle blockers should not be tall, weak, and slow.

Your jumps should be high, your hits should be hard, and you should be able to move up and down the net quickly.

Regularly lifting weights is the key to this.

In order to increase the spike/block height of your spikes, you should increase your vertical jump.

Middle blockers with 365cm spike reaches are much more valuable than middle blockers with 350cm reaches.

Keep your upper body in mind as well.

To hit the ball harder than your opponents, do plenty of upper-body strength exercises like overhead presses and pullups.

You’ll notice a huge difference on the court once you’ve been lifting for three or four years.

What Are Good Stats For A Middle Blocker?

Players’ individual performance on the court is tracked by a number of useful statistics.

Many of you won’t need or have access to these stats unless you play at an extremely high level.

These are the main ones middle blockers need to be aware of…

Hitting Percentage

A spiker’s hitting percentage is determined by his number of attempts, kills, and hitting errors.

As a general measure of efficiency, .400 or higher is a decent benchmark for middle blockers.

For more information on hitting percentage, please read my full article.

Kill Percentage

The kill percentage is another very common stat used to track middle blockers’ performance. It’s just a more rudimentary version of hitting percentage.

It’s the number of kills over attempts divided by the number of kills.

For middle blockers, a 60-70% kill percentage is considered world-class.

Blocks Per Set

A kill block stat gives you an idea of how many you’re racking up.

The stat isn’t the best because it doesn’t take into account positive blocking actions that don’t result in kills.

There are a few other, better stats that could also be collected to get a better understanding of how well someone is blocking…

Block Percentage

This is useful over blocks per set because it shows how many blocks the middle made against all attacks.

Most people consider 5.5 to be a decent block percentage.

Opponent Attack Percentage

Blockers are still not considered positive effects unless they result in blocks in the above blocking statistics.

You’ll be better off having middle blockers who can receive more touches on the ball.

As a result of these touches, opponent attack percentages are lower.

This is why I consider the OAP stat to be the best way of tracking blocking effectiveness.

This statistic is considered decent if it falls below 45%.

You may also love to read What Shoes Do the Best Volleyball Players Wear?

Middle Blocker Volleyball Position FAQs

Is it better for the middle blocker to start or come off the bench in volleyball?

A middle blocker is usually put on the bench at the beginning of a set if they are the strongest.
Setters should sit between outside hitters and middle blockers who are your strongest players.

What’s the difference between a middle blocker and a middle hitter?

It really doesn’t matter what phrase you use, it’s all about what you prefer. The tomato is the tomato.

Conclusion

In summary, the Middle Blocker Volleyball position plays an essential role in both defensive and offensive strategies in volleyball. It requires athleticism, agility, and strategic thinking.

 A middle blocker’s role is to block opponent attacks, disrupt the opponent’s rhythm, and contribute to the defense.

You can also read Defensive Specialists In Volleyball

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