Sidearm misconceptions

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Sidearm misconceptions

Postby boru » Tue Nov 22, 2005 9:46 am

I haven't been to this board in a while, but since posting on the PDGA DISCussion is now limited to members, I figure new players will be turning increasingly to this site for advice. I'm here to offer a little help with the sidearm shot. Although some of what follows will conflict with what Blake says, I hold him, his knowledge, and his contributions to the sport in the highest regard.

There is a lot of decent, but not complete, advice online about throwing sidearm. In particular, there are two misconceptions that I think hinder people from developing the shot to its potential. They are, in no particular order:

1. Throwing sidearm for power will ruin your elbow.

Not if your technique is good. I experimented with the Stokely method, and yes, it caused me considerable elbow pain. I think the culprit is the advice, "lead with your elbow". When I throw a good sidearm, my elbow doesn't do much work at all. It basically stays in position, tucked in tight, fully extended, or somewhere in between, depending on the throw. Yes, your elbow should lead your hand/disc, but it follows shoulders, chest, and hips, even on a low-power shot.

And then, and this is crucial, you must follow through. It's easy to tell if you're doing this right. If you are, you'll throw smooth, powerful shots. If you're not following through, you'll throw crappy shots that hurt your elbow.

2. Sidearm power comes from the arm.

This is dead wrong, and probably contributes to arm problems. Like every other kind of throw ever, sidearm power comes from effectively harnessing a weight shift. Think of it like a medieval trebuchet: A big, slow weight comes down, pulling a long arm with a sling attached to it up. With the leverage provided by the arm, that slow weight shift becomes a whipping action fast enough to launch a 500-lb. rock a quarter mile.

You can throw a 350-foot sidearm with no arm effort at all if your body mechanics are right. The arm is sort of a turbocharger – a boost you can give your throw after everything else works out properly. I need the extra arm effort to get out to 400', and I find it makes shorter shots a little more precise, but it's by no means the main power source of the throw.

I hope this helps people, at least a little. Someday I may get around to posting some video of myself, but otherwise, you're on your own as far as implementing this advice. The most important thing to remember is that if you want to develop a good sidearm, you have to throw it constantly, and focus on improving it. Reps aren't enough. You need to pay close attention to what you're doing and how it affects the flight of the disc.

Good luck.
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Postby Blake_T » Tue Nov 22, 2005 4:48 pm

good post.

i know there exists a good sidearm technique that will throw D as well as everything else. i have seen it, know people that throw it, etc.

downside is that it requires a lot of intangibles to push it beyond the 350-380' plateau (the equivalent of backhand "snap").

bigger downside is that there currently isn't a video/book/article teaching it and people are more apt to learn from the stokely book/video .

i can teach certain aspects of sidearm technique: grip, disc orientation/position, etc. but not the entire form.

when there is a method i can reference i will be less apt to give caution towards sidearm throwing.
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Postby boru » Wed Nov 23, 2005 8:50 am

Blake_T wrote:i know there exists a good sidearm technique that will throw D as well as everything else.


Ha ha ... that's what I end up thinking on the tee sometimes!

downside is that it requires a lot of intangibles to push it beyond the 350-380' plateau (the equivalent of backhand "snap").


Intangibles. Interesting choice of words. Makes me think of things like heart, leadership, and work ethic. I guess sometimes it seems the best shots (i.e., the most accurate ones) happen through sheer force of will.

I think what you're calling intangibles (snap, etc.) are actually technique points that, while very tangible, are also quite difficult to explain, especially in writing. I should also say that I don't often flick over 400'. It's just not necessary on most holes around here. I do hit 350-380' very easily and (when things work right) with good accuracy. When I need to, I have a couple ways of cranking more power into the throw that will reliably add distance, but at the expense of some control.

I once casually flicked a Viking on a practice throw, and through some strange combination of anhyzer, snap, and early release, had it turn over with lots of height and sail easily past 400'. What amazed me wasn't so much the distance as the effort required - practically none! It wasn't the conditions either, as I was throwing on a flat field with no wind. So far, though, this has been filed away as an interesting anomaly. I've tried to replicate that throw without much success, so when I need big D, I just rip a QK or a Predator.

bigger downside is that there currently isn't a video/book/article teaching it and people are more apt to learn from the stokely book/video . ... when there is a method i can reference i will be less apt to give caution towards sidearm throwing.


Good point. For now, my advice would be this: Practice a lot, but take it slow, and pay attention to the signals your body is sending. If your arm starts to hurt (especially joint pain), call it quits for the day.
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Postby Blake_T » Wed Nov 23, 2005 11:37 am

boru wrote:Intangibles. Interesting choice of words. Makes me think of things like heart, leadership, and work ethic. I guess sometimes it seems the best shots (i.e., the most accurate ones) happen through sheer force of will.

I think what you're calling intangibles (snap, etc.) are actually technique points that, while very tangible, are also quite difficult to explain, especially in writing.


hehe, when something is based upon timing and feel and a player has no idea what they are trying to feel/do, it is pretty intangible :P

on your 400'+ effortless viking throw i can tell you what you did, but not how you did it, nor do i know what it feels like... basically you just got perfect timing and load/release of the tendon elasticity in your forearm and were able to harness it just perfectly so that all of it was transferred directly into the rim wall in the forward direction. the concept of what happened is there, but not how to go about doing it. to me, that is pretty intangible unless you have done it, and most people looking for advice have not done it.

i know what 450' of snap/rip for a golf shot feels like. i know how the disc sounds differently as it cuts through the air and zooms away (MUCH different from a 380' throw). i can explain it to others, but until they feel it for themselves, they will never really know wtf i'm talking about other than as a concept.

reminds me a little of a "snipe hunt" in that unless you have experienced it first hand you have no clue what you are looking for.

i believe the key to sidearm distance lies in the same concepts that gave shawon dunston a sidearm cannon from short stop for the cubs whereas most SS's were relative weenie arms in comparison.
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Postby boru » Tue Nov 29, 2005 2:17 pm

Blake_T wrote:on your 400'+ effortless viking throw i can tell you what you did ... basically you just got perfect timing and load/release of the tendon elasticity in your forearm and were able to harness it just perfectly so that all of it was transferred directly into the rim wall in the forward direction.


The whole business of directing all possible energy into the rim of the disc makes sense to me, and it's the principle I try to use on any distance shot. The difference with that one Viking shot, I think, was that I took advantage of everything else – nose angle, height, etc. – basically inducing a freakishly long glide. By contrast, most of my distance shots with the Quarter K rely on a good deal of speed to cover a lot of ground before they glide. Ultimately, I think these QK shots are more useful because of their line-drive trajectory, but I'm still working on a slow turnover distance flick.
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Postby Blake_T » Tue Nov 29, 2005 4:15 pm

i've found a finesse turnover flick shot is generally a lot easier with slower discs (e.g. gazelle, cyclone, and polaris ls) as they are much easier to hold nose down with a lot of height.

i've seen stokely crush x-clones as well as finesse stratus' and mrv's with his sidearm.

it was odd watching him throw a sidearm stratus turnover shot in a 190' slight late left fade rather than throw backhand hyzer.

btw, i believe i offered before on the pdga board, but i am fully willing to post some sidearm articles if you wish to write them.
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Just somthing to add to the Side Arm throw.

Postby alerik » Fri Dec 02, 2005 2:59 am

I have introduced several people I know to try disc golf. I try and show them the RHBH way of throwing, along with several other types of throws as they come into play. (Thumber, Tomohawk, etc...) It is odd for me to see that half the people I try to teach RHBH actually do better, ( as in drive futher as beginners<) and throw further using side arm throwing styles.

Is this something that a beginner has a better grasp of?

I don't throw RHFH, instead I throw LHBH. Should I learn to throw sidearm so that I can help more beginners reach father faster?

I want to do what ever I can to help promote the game. How is the best way to go about teaching beginners (throwing style) to improve in our game?
If I can't beat you now, I will practice until I can.
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Postby Blake_T » Fri Dec 02, 2005 5:42 pm

learning an alternate throw first is sort of like the power chord method of learning guitar. early success but faster plateau and bypasses development of a lot of early fundamentals that they have to return to and learn later.

there's only been 1 person that i've played with taht simply could NOT throw backhand for the life of him. his 3rd round out i taught him to throw thumbers and he got hooked and threw all thumbers off the tee for his next 10 rounds or so. he just loved disc and began to slowly integrate learning backhand and siderarm into his repertoire. after about 6 months of playing he had a solid all around game, could throw 275' backhand, 250' thumber, 225' sidearm.

from my experiences it takes someone about 13 holes (with bare minimal instruction of the basic backhand with no runup) to start throwing straight. for people that haven't gotten it after their first 36 holes, it's often a better method to point them to another type if it keeps them interested and excited about disc. this is based upon my experience introducing about 90 players to disc.
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Postby robj » Fri Dec 02, 2005 8:34 pm

Blake, it's interesting you brought up Shawon Dunston who used to be my favorite player. Mark Grace used to wince on close plays at first because Shawon could fire the ball so fast. joke: why did the Cubs choose Dunston ahead of Gooden as the #1 overall draft pick? answer: because he had a better arm :D

As for the 400 ft Viking sidearm -- it reminds me of a quote:
"the less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be" -- Bruce Lee

did you maybe thow unconscious?

i used to play a lot of ultimate and had a decent forehand for medium to throws but always to my strength the backhand for long hucks. i was good enough that i could do it inside out and it sort of kept me from learning distance forehand. In golf, i have a good forehand for medium and short approach shots using an Aviar of a midrange. Drivers tend to stall and fade on me. i think i use all wrist and very little body weight and that works better for glide.

with forehands, is getting the nose down on drivers a key for distance? any tips on how i might practice driving would be appreciated. can i throw with a little hyzer or do i need to rotate the disc more towards annie? i don't get any flutter on my forehands at all, just poor distance with drivers...
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Postby TexasOutlaw » Thu Dec 08, 2005 12:16 pm

Guess I'll reread any articles I can find on sidearm throws; I have never been able to do it. They end up falling about 30 feet in front of me.

One problem I have is that the players I see are almost completely different throws, and their advice conflicts.

I'm hoping to catch one guy that throws well, and maybe see if I can get some pointers.
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