The Huddle, Issue #10: Throwing For Distance
Posted: September 16, 2008 03:45 PM
ISSUE NO. 10
Throwing For Distance
|Tuesday, September 16th, 2008
(Note: the following issue of The Huddle is a reproduction of an article originally published on the-huddle.org)
There's likely no play more exciting in Ultimate than the huck. A team puts everything on the line for one big thow, for a moment of glory. But how do the best throwers in the game throw the disc so far and with so much accuracy?
In this issue of The Huddle we have asked our roster of authors to explore what it takes to get more distance on throws (both hucks and pulls), and some techniques, drills, and exercises players can use to improve their long throws.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Issue #10: Comments/Discussion Thread
- Complete Every Huck
- I think a lot of people focus too much on how to throw the disc far rather than on how to complete their hucks. A lot of time, players will spend hours practicing throwing the disc really far, but then they don't make disciplined decisions during a game about when to use those hucks. There are three questions to ask yourself before unleashing any bomb if you want to increase the chances of completing that huck:
1. Does the cutter have separation? I am a proponent of throwing to separation rather than throwing to match-ups. Sure, how much separation a player needs to be considered "open" will vary from person to person based on their speed, height, and hops relative to their defender. But the bottom line is that any cutter needs some steps deep on their defender for it to be a good decision to put up a bomb to them. That separation is a cushion that will allow them to get position for any less-than-perfect throw, increasing the chances of completing your huck even if you don't execute your pass quite the way you envisioned it.
2. Are you adhering to the "rule of thirds" with this huck? As a cutter, it is easiest to read and catch a huck when you can approach the disc from a different angle than the flight path of the disc. As such, the teams I've been a part of have emphasized the "rule of thirds" for setting up hucks. Basically, if you divide the field lengthwise into thirds, for any deep shot either the cutting path of the receiver or the flightpath of the disc needs to cross from one third into another third of the field. If you stick to this rule, you will avoid the temptation of throwing a huck down the sideline to an "open" cutter who is also cutting down that sideline with a narrow window of opportunity to complete the pass. You will also throw to space more often and give the receiver the maximum time to read the disc, out-maneuver her defender, and attack the frisbee—especially important if the pass wasn't perfectly thrown.
3. Is the point where the receiver can catch a pass in-stride within your throwing range? Notice, I said, "Where the receiver can catch a pass in-stride" not, "Where the receiver is." Hucks often get underthrown when the thrower misgauges how far away the receiver will be when they'll be making the catch. Just like you want to lead cutters on shorter cuts, you want to be able to lead deep receivers as well. Obviously, increasing the distance you can consistently throw the disc will increase the number of hucking opportunities for which you can answer "yes" to this question. Ideally, you want to work on your long throws such that you can put more distance on the disc without needing to think "I have to throw this pass really far." Often players' throwing form falls apart when they think they have to do something different to throw the disc farther. When you only throw within your range, you are more likely to be able to execute the pass the way you wanted.
Drills to practice long throws should be set up in a way to allow the throwers to also practice answering these three questions quickly and accurately, which includes having a defender present on the deep cut.
When working on your throws by yourself in a big open field, practice your throwing mechanics: gripping the disc tightly, staying balanced on your throw, generating torque through twisting your torso and hips, and snapping your wrist as hard as possible. You should imagine a cutter running for each huck as you put it up and then evaluate whether the disc took the flight path and landed where you envisioned.
- GWEN AMBLER
- Find Your Chris Page
- You need Chris Page. Chris who? Remember back when Sockeye was good the first time? Back in the 90s and you watched those epic battles on NBC? Dreaming of how it was gonna be you? Sockeye-Double Happiness? Sockeye-Rhino? All those heart-breakers against DoG? Remember that shaggy headed blonde kid ripping it forehand, backhand, marked, didn't matter? That was Chris Page.
When I hit the big time in 96, I had some power, but no control. None. Pager and I would go out to Red Square and rip for hours, throwing everything. Starting with regular forehands and backhands, but after a while, towering blades, spot-benders around the sculptures, huge inside-outs kissing off the buildings. I threw as hard as I could and he still had ten yards on me. And touch.
Eventually, though, I got there. So the message to you is: go find someone who loves to throw and who is much better than you. Go throw with them until you are better than they are.
- LOU BURRUSS
- Face A Mark
- The most important part of throwing for distance is learning to do so while facing a mark. It's easy for many players to throw 40+ yards unmarked, but when someone's standing in front of you, it becomes much more difficult.
Begin your backhand motion with your hips and follow through with your shoulder and arm. I'm a proponent of bringing the disc straight from the wind-up point to the release point, as opposed to a more arced path. This sort of release will give maximum power and result in I/O or flat throws, which typically make the best hucks. When practicing the backhand huck, try to release the disc before crossing the plane of your body. Developing a quick release will allow your hucks to come off naturally in games. People who release hucks in front of their body will often shortarm hucks, resulting in a crappy throw, or they'll crush someone's face with their follow-through. So, lead with the hips, follow with the shoulder and plan on releasing the disc as it reaches the plane of your body. You should be able to get a good wrist snap to add some distance as well.
Flick hucks are similar to backhands in that power should come primarily from your core. Lead with the hips and shoulders, then let your wrist do the rest.
For both forehand and backhands, power should be generated primarily by the torso. Open-side hucking is easy on the flick side because it releases very quickly, but on the backhand side, a good marker will be able to pressure the slower throw and infringe on your follow through space.
Pulling is a essentially an exagerated backhand huck where you get to run up. First, establish a footwork routine that you will follow for all of your pulls. For me, I take three steps and release. If pulling upwind, try to ride any semblance of angle the wind gives you. The field is 40 yards wide. From one corner you should be able to throw further if you ride some of the crosswind. In severe wind incorporating a 360° spin at your release can add some distance, which is handy during hurricane season. A good pull is primarily about keeping it in play. OB pulls are no good. Secondarily, finding the right balance between distance and height is key. Hangtime allows the defense to set up while distance without good hangtime is less useful. It's better to throw 65 yard pulls that are well covered than 85 yard pulls that are line drives.
I think the best way to expand your range is to throw a lot. Because you can't necessarily do so in game situations, throwing casually can help. Just make sure to be bettering your form at all times. If you relax your form, then any work you put in will be pointless. Work on throwing hucks as if there were a mark, even if you're throwing on the open side. As a general rule, I'd say if you can't throw a flat huck, then don't throw one so work on long flat throws.
- JEREMY CRAM
- My Secrets For Throwing Farther
- How to throw farther.
A good question. To start I will say this. Some people do not have the physical ability to throw as far as others. Strength, body type, and other factors are the reason behind this. However, there are ways to throw further no matter how far you can throw it now.
The best throwers in the game and their ability to throw the disc further than others is based on a few techniques.
In my opinion the most important of these techniques is the grip. A loose grip with result in a weak release with little spin. Which is okay for shorter throws with touch. A strong grip, strong enough that the disc can not be moved from their fingers while the disc is being held, is key in getting distance on your throws. Gripping the disc firmly will not only allow you to produce more spin on the release but will also allow you to hold onto the disc as you throw it with all your strength. A weak grip and a strong throw will result in an early and most likely inaccurate release. A good strong grip is key when throwing for distance.
Watch people as the try to throw far in practice and you will usually see them step forward in an attempt to get the disc out in front of them as soon as possible, this is a mistake. By stepping forward you will limit how much spin you can put on the disc, and spin is what helps the disc cut through the air. Spin is a result of the snap of our wrists as we release the disc, and is another key component in throwing far. It is much harder to get that snap as you step forward, and that's because the angle of your wrist is not conducive to a strong snap in front of your body. So while practicing, continue to step to the side when releasing a huck. This will also help you feel more comfortable while throwing a huck with a mark on you.
When throwing a disc for distance you must consider the effects the air/wind will have on it. To achieve your maximum distance in a windy situation, I believe an inside-out throw is best. A disc that starts its I/O angle will lose less spin and speed early in its flight than an outside-in angle will. It will then flatten out and float as far as the spin and strength behind it will allow it to. This is especially true when the wind is strong. An extreme inside-out angle is the only way to get distance in an extreme wind. Outside-in throws will achieve the distance of an inside-out throw only if going down wind. I leave it up to you to choose which angle works best for you going down wind.
Personally when I practice hucking I try to simulate game time situations. That means, even though there is no mark, I am still stepping out and in my mind breaking the mark to release my huck. I also throw one or two fakes in before I huck, as most marks will stop your first and maybe even your second choice. However, I have learned through my experience that if the mark stops your first huck look and especially your second, it is better to holster that throw and move the disc elsewhere.
The most accurate and best choice huck tends to be one without a mark. How do you get a huck without a mark, you ask? Give-and-go. Getting the disc on the move, hopefully up field, will give you an open look at your target without a mark. However, it is not easy to stop running, establish a pivot foot, and step to the side to throw a good huck. So while practicing hucks, throw the disc a few yards in front of yourself, run up to it and catch it and throw it. Remember to step out to the side and not forward, especially in this situation. This will simulate a game time give-and-go into a huck. Personally, that is my favorite huck look.
There are a few muscles key to the success of throwing the disc far. First is your hand/fingers and wrist strength. These muscles allow us to "grip it and rip it," if you will. Wrist curls, strength balls for your hands, and that gyro-ball that spins while you rotate your wrist are all exercises I do to increase and maintain my hand and wrist strength. This is especially true with the flick/forehand. It is called a flick for a reason, there is little to no body in the throw. It's all in the "flick" of your wrist. Backhands tend to go a bit further because you can get your body into it. A strong core, upper back, arms and shoulders will all help increase your backhand distance. Curls, chops, sit-ups, military press, push-ups, and planks are just a few I do to maintain that strength. There are plenty of exercises that will give the same result.
If there is one thing I would tell someone looking to throw the disc far, it's this: get out there and play some disc golf (with Ultimate discs). But don't simulate a pull every time you are on the tee-box, like most do. Establish a pivot foot, throw a fake, and then huck your disc towards the target. My throws are not as far as the other guys as they run up to the line and throw theirs. That's fine. My approach shots always make up for that. Come tournament time, however, this technique pays off. I have no problem stepping out and throwing a disc as hard and/or far as I can without traveling, because I have done it hundreds of times more than most.
- PARKER KRUG
- Long Backhands
- I am going to focus on a long backhand because that is my best long throw, but I think that a lot of the principles hold for long forehands and pulls as well.
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. Your left arm should be relaxed and end up above your right foot while your entire right arm should rip through to be above your left foot (obviously switch for lefties).
Based on this, if you were going to pick something to train for distance throwing, I'd work on my core muscles. Also, you can always grip it harder to get more spin, particularly for keeping these long throws in inclement weather.
- MIRANDA ROTH
- Advice For Improvement
- I am writing in about this topic not because I am a great distance thrower. In fact I am quite the opposite. Throwing the disc was something that I did with much trepidation for many years. In fact I was ridiculed constantly by my teammates for not being able to throw a simple backhand (which is why my scoober is a decent throw for me now).
However, over the years I have improved in this area and I do have some advice to pass along to others who struggle.
1. Practice throwing a ton. But simple practice does not make perfect. I think I remember Wayne Gretzky saying that "Perfect practice makes perfect." Get someone to take a look at what you are doing or videotape yourself if need be to make sure you that you are not practicing a flawed skill. Then choose one throw a year that you are going to improve and work on that throw before practice, after practice, and during game play. Make that throw a weapon before you move on to the next. This may mean that you have to play fun tournaments or league in order to find a game where you can play loose and try things out. For me I played ultimate 4-7 times a week for the first six years I played (league, college, and club all at the same time). I still miss my college day...
2. Mechanics are very important. This is where everyone does things a little different, but in order to get distance you need power and explosiveness. The power needs to come from a summation of your joints (shoulder, elbow, wrist) as well as a transfer of weight from your legs and hips. Your explosiveness will come from the final snap on the disc (like whipping a towel at your brother). For me, I have found an inside out throw to help me with my longer throws (both forehand and backhand) because I am able to hold onto the disc for a longer period of time. This creates a larger throwing arc and this allows me to generate more power.
3. Grip—Some people play around with different grips. I use the split finger for forehand (more of a touch throw grip). A popular power grip for the flick is to have two fingers together.
4. Genetics are key. Some people can just throw things further than others. Shank and MG who I have played with forever can both throw the disc forehand really far. I could practice and train all the time and never be able to out throw either of them.
5. Drills—Hucking in game situations is always the best way to improve your long game. However I do have a old favorite drill that I used to play with a buddy at the park. This drill is a 1-on-1 game where you are trying to out throw your opponent and force them backwards and out-of-bounds. What you do is you line up about 60 yards from each other with the middle of the park in between the two of you. One player throws the disc as far as they can over their opponent's head. That player then catches the disc as quickly (and high) as they can (trying not to lose yards) and they throw it, trying to gain yards back. If you drop a catch—then you have to take five steps backwards before you huck it. Once a player is forced past a certain out-of-bounds line the game is over. It is tiring, fun, and improves your distance throws and catches.
6. Confidence—If you think you can throw it a long way, you can. However, if you doubt yourself and are unsure; then you will short arm it, lame duck it, or air bounce it up into the stratosphere.
- KIRK SAVAGE
- My 2¢ On Hucking
- When I think about throwing long, it helps me to visualize a spring in action. I try to activate four parts of my body that act as springs: legs, hips, shoulders, elbow, and wrist. As I wind up for the throw, I think about compressing these springs in turn and as I throw, I think about releasing each of the springs. The legs are an important part of the step; I step out as far as I can to still feel completely balanced throughout the throw. Step evenly with your legs, rotate your torso through your legs and hips, drive your shoulder, lead your wrist with your elbow, and finally snap your wrist. This works for both the forehand and backhand.
When I am shooting for maximum distance, I try to throw the disc so it has three stages of flight (credit for the "three stages of flight" terminology to Tiina Booth and NUTC):
1. Disc starts with some inside-out (more i/o with more headwind),
2. Flattens out, and then,
3. Finishes its flight path by spinning in (still mostly flat) towards your receiver.
A few details related to each throw:
Forehand. I think the most important thing to keep in mind when throwing a long forehand is to focus on throwing hard, not far. Thinking about this focuses me on keeping my form compact and makes me think about snapping the disc quickly and hard.
When you watch a baseball pitcher, there is a moment in time where they have not yet released the pitch, but their arm is moving forwards and you see their elbow leading their wrist through the throwing motion. (A quick Google Image Search brings this.) This same leading with the elbow motion is what I think about when I am about to release a disc because it helps me get all the possible snap out of my wrist.
A few ways to practice wrist snap for the forehand: Throw fast and flat (not high arcing) blades with a partner. If you don't have a partner, often indoor tracks or gyms have these tall, heavy curtains that you can pull out and throw blades upwards on. Also fun to try to catch the rebound.
Backhand. Visualize yourself inside a hula hoop that is suspended in the air about chest height. As you bend at the waist, the angle of the hula hoop changes with respect to the ground, but stays the same with respect to your upper body. You can vary the angle of inside-out on the throw by bending at the waist. When executing my throwing motion, I try to think about keeping the disc in the plane of the hula hoop. Air resistance (including wind) will make the disc flatten out.
Two things especially useful for pulling are to think about bringing the disc behind you as far as you can during your windup and on curling it into your wrist.
As with the forehand, focus on throwing hard, not far.
- NANCY SUN
- Strong Body Mechanics Early
- Hailing from Paideia I probably started throwing a frisbee earlier than most. In 4th grade I was learning push passes, thumbers, and scoobers from Coach Baccarini in addition to the more conventional flicks, backhands, and hammers. As soon as I picked up a disc I wanted to know how I could throw farther, faster, and better. But it wasn't until my senior year in high school that I was able to figure out how to throw deep with consistency from both the backhand and forehand side. Part of the delayed development was certainly attributable to regaining coordination after growth spurts, but a large part of figuring out how to throw deep was studying the mechanics of great long throwers and understanding what characteristics of their mechanics I could employ.
My career at the high school, college, and club levels has been built on my ability to stretch the defense by throwing it really far. Over the last ten years I've learned while every person and body type throws deep differently there are mechanical fundamentals that can help everyone improve their hucking.
To be a good thrower at any distance you must hold the disc in such a way that you are able to throw smoothly and comfortably without any wobbles upon release. This becomes especially important when throwing deep because a clean release can be be the difference between a nice pass out to space and a swill hospital pass that sails out of bounds. A key to the grip when throwing deep is holding the disc tighter so that your release is more snappy. Find your own comfortable and tight grip for your flick and your backhand and then practice it. Practice switching from one grip to the other, pivoting, and faking. If you always have a disc in your hands your new long-bomb tight grip will become second nature.
For Happy Gilmore it was all in the hips, but for throwing it's all in the wrist. The harder and faster you can snap your wrist while throwing, the faster and farther you will be able to throw. To work your flick wrist snap try throwing 5 yard blades with a partner without moving anything except your wrist. Attempt to get as many revolutions on the disc within those 5 yards as possible. To work on your backhand wrist snap you can use a similar drill and throw five yard backhands only using your wrist or you can take a deck of cards and whip them Gambit style one by one at a corner in your room. It sounds silly, but if you don't have a clean and tight wrist snapping motion the cards are going to flutter around the room instead of zoom into the corner like they should.
Once you've mastered the grip and wrist the next level of throwing is working on your arm mechanics and follow through. If you can generate some serious arm speed you are going to be able to launch the frisbee a long way. Some of the greatest huckers in the game can throw 60 or more yards using no body movement because the speed they generate with their arm, the power of their wrist snap, and the smoothness of their grip work harmoniously and efficiently. Practice isolating your arm motion by throwing from your knees with a partner 20 yards away. It will feel strange at first, but once it gets more comfortable start throwing faster and faster while making sure that your release is always clean and throws are never wobbly. Push ups, pull ups, dips, and military presses are also exercises that will help your arms get stronger and more capable of creating the desired velocity on your throws.
This last mechanical fundamental in deep throwing is the most complicated. It is also the one for which there is the greatest diversity amongst even the best bombers. Some players rock from their heels to a forward step when they throw deep while others pivot extremely wide. Still there are others who step backwards to generatetheir throwing momentum while a few may not pivot at all. Each of these styles, from both the backhand and flick side, deserve exploration until you find the one that fits you and your body type the best. All things being equal pivoting wide to the side is the best because it gets you far away from the mark. The general truths for using your body when hucking are that you need to find a stance that will enable to have your balance at all times, but will also help you to create an absurd amount of torque. Try throwing disc golf discs as far as you can to work on your backhand body mechanics. The smaller, heavier discs cause you to exaggerate your windup and can help workout kinks. If nothing else they can boost the ego since they will fly much farther than normal frisbees. For the flick side I have no cool exercise suggestions but keep in mind that your forehand can go much farther if you get your core involved productively. To that end, any core strengthening exercises that you do will help your overall athleticism as well as your hucking.
- PAUL VANDENBERG