I was asked last week about foot placement on forehand hucks. I’ve been meaning to write about foot placement for a while now, and for something so seemingly simple there’s actually a decent amount of nuance to it, so this likely won’t be the only post on the topic.
Some general points on stepping and throwing a forehand:
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The easiest (and best) way to control for this is with your shoulder tilt. It’s easy to think that some wrist tilt can compensate, but the plane of the throw, flat or otherwise, is decided by your shoulders. A throw that naturally comes out OI becomes flat becomes IO if you adjust the plane along which it’s thrown.
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I’m just going to stop commenting and tell you to read Gwen’s stuff. She nails it.
Be a good thrower for your decisions, not your throws. Put your throwing practice in the context of a game-time decision to make it that much more of a seamless process in high-pressure situations.
My two cents on forehands…first, read what Miranda Roth has on long backhands (she covers it very well–all of the articles in this issue have gems):
I’m all about maximizing torque when throwing—using rotation to generate power flowing into your throw. On a long backhand the first point is to step out so that when you twist your body you’re not killing your defender with a giant elbow to the face (this is easier for tall players—shorter players should focus on a quick stepout). While stepping out, I also reach the disc out as far as I can to create the longest lever possible (thus creating the most force). The last major step is to rip it—use your abs to pull your arm across and really focus on opening your body all the way toward where you are throwing.
A lot of the same rules apply for forehand hucks. Take into account your grip and your arm action, but the power all comes from the torque of the hips and torso transferring to the disc (this occurs through your arm and grip, so those things are not trivial: refine your mechanics if you find your best effort still yields poor (wobbly) results), with your core as a mediator (and mover–train your core rotationally).
The key difference between the backhand and forehand hucks is how the body generates power and how power is transferred. Forehands are much more of a finesse throw, but you can still generate a very significant amount of power using your body properly. For me, this means stepping out to the side, even slightly back, as I torque my torso back slightly, particularly at the shoulder (to load the scapula). Using my step slightly, I use the momentum and transfer that energy up from my foot to my body, as my body undulates–leg, then hip, then shoulder torque forward in time, and as the next link in the chain comes forward the previous link comes back, creating a whipping motion (Which is to say, as my shoulder is coming forward, my hip has begun to move back).
The essential component is to relax. Whereas you can usually brute force a backhand, too much tightness on a forehand will sap your power. Allow your body to flow, to seamlessly send the energy up through your body and into your arm. You will be tense at the core, but your arm will be very loose up until the moment of release (but your grip will remain tight throughout). Unlike the backhand, where the arm can do a lot of work, the arm can really only hinder a flick. You’ll see a lot of people throw with their elbow on the hip, which displays the lack of necessity for the arm very nicely–the ideal, however, is to get the elbow off the hip and leading the throw, much the same way a pitcher like Chad Bradford throws (but with more upright posture). Get that extension, but relax and let your body (esp. your shoulder) whip the disc.
This is hard to describe, so I’m going to try to insert some video to clarify (this is via a youtube embed). If this works decently I’ll try doing it some more going forward!
When I talk about arm action, I’m referring to the path your arm leads the frisbee on. Strive to take the frisbee on a straight path when you release it, rather than an arcing path.
Use all of your fingers when you grip a forehand!
It’s easy to learn to throw by pinching the rim, and flicking your fingers to propel the disc. Much harder, but much more rewarding, is to use your thumb on top and your ring and pinkie fingers on the bottom of the frisbee’s rim to hold the disc with your ENTIRE hand, using your full grip instead of your pinch grip.
The way I’ve started explaining it is by pointing out that, with a pinching grip, the disc tends to rest in your hand at an angle that is not parallel with your forearm–often much closer to perpendicular in fact. When your arm is out of line with the frisbee’s plane, any throwing motion will naturally confuse the path of the disc as you’re giving it two different planes to work with–often leading to the wobbly, unstable, difficult to control throws (some of this is also arm motion–more on that later–but even that can stem from the fundamentals of how you grip).
Holding the disc with your entire hand–use your thumb on top of the disc and really dent the rim–keeps the disc in line with your forearm, and the frisbee becomes an extension of your arm and your throwing motion rather than working in poor harmony with it. Throwing with touch becomes a lot easier, making IO and OI throws consistently becomes an option…it’s the most important thing for throwing a forehand/blade/hammer.
The same concept of keeping the disc flat with your forearm also applies to backhand and, really, all other throws as well. Really build an awareness of how you’re holding the disc.
Hopefully this gives you a good idea.
So many novice throwers use primarily their arm, or throw from their hip. Both sap throwing power. Relax your arm (but not the grip), and load the scapula when you’re hucking forehands.
The force that results from this loading should flow fairly easily from your torso/shoulder to the disc if you’re keeping your arm relaxed. From your biceps to your forearm, nothing should be tightening up until your snap your wrist to release the disc.
Next time you’re watching somebody with really good forehand hucks, watch their shoulder. I can almost guarantee you that if they throw with any power or authority they load their shoulder to some extent.
I’ve yet to determine whether “loading the scapula” is appropriate for backhands. But it most definitely helps for forehands. Pull your shoulder blade in when you wind up, and just let the natural stretch-shortening cycle pull your arm through the throwing motion.