This post contains a simple bit of advice that I have often found very useful for players who are working on their throws. Generally speaking, control and distance in a throw comes from making sure that the disc is spinning. Spin is added to the disc via a good wrist-snap, but how can you improve your wrist snap?
One way is to make sure that you’re cocking your wrist when setting up for your throw. If you pick up a disc in either a backhand or forehand grip it is unlikely that you will naturally cock your wrist. The “natural” way to hold the disc (in either grip) is to keep your wrist straight, in line with your arm.
Moving your hand from the natural position to a cocked position is essential to get the most out of your snap. By cocking your wrist you give your hand more time to impart the force from the snap onto the disc, causing it to spin – a lot!
Cocking the wrist is important for any throw, but I’ve taken a look at backhand and forehand positioning:
Here are some pictures of my backhand grip. The picture on the left shows my hand and wrist as they sit when I simply pick up a disc and hold it out in front of myself in a backhand grip.
The picture on the right shows the disc in the cocked position. You can see that the edge of the disc is much closer to the inside of my forearm and my wrist is curved in a pretty serious bend. My thumb ends up pointing across my body instead of away from it.
Here’s my forehand grip. The left picture shows the position if I just pick up and hold the disc out in a forehand grip. The picture on the right shows me cocking my wrist back. You might notice that I had to move my arm over to the left of this photo to fit the disc in shot. This should give you an indication of how far “behind” my arm the disc ends up in the cocked position.
The fingers under the rim of the disc (inside) are pointing across my body in the “natural” grip. In the cocked position they are pointing away and to my right, at about 1 or 2 o’clock. The fingers outside (below) the rim of the disc change from roughly 9 to 12 o’clock.
Hopefully that helps to demonstrate how you can cock your wrist before a throw. Give it a try and focus on it for a few throws. If you keep at it you’ll start doing it automatically and your throws will be smoother and more controlled out of your hand. This is particularly useful when throwing into the wind, or when doing high-release throws.
For some more tips on throwing check out Rob’s post on The Basics of Throwing.
One thing I heard is that it’s actually better not to “pre-cock” your wrist.
That is, the cocking of the wrist comes naturally as you begin to swing your arm forward. This then makes use of the springiness of the tendons to get improved spin. For example, on a backhand, you would begin with the wrist in a neutral position. As you begin to move your forearm forward the wrist is cocked; as the arm goes further the wrist snaps off the cocked position to give the disc spin.
It’s like the following analogy:
– how high can you jump using only your calves (no knee bend) in a single jump?
– how high can you jump using only your calves if you first jump up and then bounce off your toes?
The latter makes use of the springiness of muscle and tendon.
@JeremyS Hi Jeremy – thanks for the comments. Certainly an interesting idea!
I like the analogy but I’m not convinced that the bio-mechanics of your calves/ankles/knees are the same as forearms/wrists elbows. Your legs require the ability to bounce and spring in order to deal with impact from walking and running, but your arms don’t.
That said, I’m not a doctor or a physio so I’m only speaking from personal experience via experimentation and observation of results.
For example, in a throw where I have complete control of what I am doing (such as when you are pulling) I find it essential to “pre-cock” my backhand to achieve a good result. The natural “cock” that happens by moving my forearm forward is not enough to get a sufficient amount of spin on the disc.
However, when throwing around a marker I think the lines become a bit more blurry. In the action of pivoting and faking the “cocking” action will happen more fluidly, and could occur as your arm is moving forward into the throw. My observation of myself and others is that the “pre-cock” is very typical in most situations however. Most throwers have a noticeable starting position for their throws, but it can be a very quick transition from fake –> pre-cock –> throwing action.
I’d be really interested to hear if anyone can provide some further insight (or link to some posts..) into the bio-mechanics of wrist actions during throwing.
@Jason de Puit @JeremyS Jason makes some good points which I agree with. Jeremy, it’s not a natural thing that happens – I can put a lot of power into my arm swing without my wrist moving. Cocking the wrist back pre loads it and as we swing our arm, the last thing we do before the follow through is to snap the wrist. This will get the maximum amount of power on the throw. Trust me – from competing in distance competitions with some of the best throwers in the world, there’s no motion in the throw to “naturally” load the wrist and snap it…you must pre cock the wrist. It also allows for a quicker throw, especially on your backhand.
@ultimaterob @Jason de Puit @JeremyS
Agree on the backhand, disagree on the forehand.
@ultimaterob @Jason de Puit @JeremyS
Agree on the backhand, disagree on the forehand. What Jeremy is referring to is the stretch reflex which absolutely occurs in forearms and upper body musculature, not just the calves.
We ditch the stretch reflex and pre-cock the wrist in the backhand for 2 reasons. First, the initial acceleration of the disc comes from the hips, lats, and scapular retractors. To get the most out of this part of the backhand we need to take all the slack out of the upstream system – protracted scapula, externally rotated humerus, locked elbow, cocked+tight wrist.
The second reason to ditch the stretch reflex in the backhand is that the wrist extension that accompanies the release is less active muscular contraction, and more mechanical sling, transferring angular momentum from the elbow extension and transverse shoulder extension to the disc. The wrist extensors tend to be weaker than the flexors anyways. The effect is basically that of the sling on a trebuchet, and by putting the center of mass of the disc behind the wrist joint, we can maximize this transfer.
The flick is mechanically such a different throw that it’s hard to know where to start in a comparison. The whole damn movement is actually a great example of elastic loading – while most people can move through their backhand throwing motion arbitrarily slowly, I’ve never seen a male able to accurately replicate the shoulder positioning involved in a flick huck without dynamically loading (ie. throwing the arm back to start the motion).
I guess the key is that the big power generating movement is the throwing of the elbow forward via transverse adduction (and a bit of flexion) and a huge external rotation load. Contrary to what you said, holding the wrist neutral at this point will generate a large angular moment about the wrist, naturally cocking the wrist. Holding the wrist either flexed or extended at this point reduces the ability of the disc’s momentum to extend the wrist and induce a stretch reflex.
A key difference in the release too is that while there is also a sling effect for the flick release, the pivot point is primarily the spot where your middle finger meets the rim of the disc. This puts significant force on the middle finger which is why you can strain the finger joints if someone throws too much from the side of their finger rather than the pad.
God, this is already a wall of text, but while flick technique is up for some debate – watch video of great flick huckers and you’ll see the wrist in dead-on neutral after the wind-up starts and before the elbow starts leading the wrist. On the flip side, I’ve seen plenty of soft flicks come out of people holding the disc pre-cocked, and I usually find cueing them to pretension the wrist+finger flexors in neutral wrist and then follow through with a fully flexed middle finger to “snappen” things up (actually, snapping is a very appropriate phrase – following a flick the hand pinky, ring, and middle fingers should be touching the palm, while the pointer finger and thumb are partially extended, just like after snapping your fingers).
@BFG @Jason de Puit @JeremyS Thanks for this great contribution BFG! I agree with you on the forehand – it’s much more complex to try and describe than the backhand and is thus a much more difficult throw to teach and learn I find. However, I think what you’ve written here will go a long way in helping make that easier. Can you send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org? I’d perhaps like to use this somehow and would love to discuss with you further…
@BFG Thanks for the detailed reply! That’s a lot of really interesting information.
I will definitely be trying a few different things with my forehand when I next get out for a throw.
@ultimaterob Oh, and if an unsolicited email mentioning “get cocky” should trip your spam filters, I did send an email your way.
Rob, why do you choose not to have your thumb on the ridges on your forehand grip?
@will_gresch that’s not my grip…that’s Jason’s…I like putting my thumb on the ridges since I find that I get a more solid grip that doesn’t slip but some people’s thumbs aren’t big enough to do that.
@ultimaterob @will_gresch Ah yeah, it isn’t a choice – I have quite small hands. I would have my thumb on the ridges if I could.
@Jason de Puit @ultimaterob @will_gresch Ok, then i’ll keep doing what I’m doing.