Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

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Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby LH99 » Mon Aug 20, 2012 8:58 am

I'm in my third year disc golfing, and I throw RHFH nearly exclusively with a single finger on the disc's rim. Each year I've steadily increased my distance by trying new techniques, doing research, changing things up, etc. I intend this post for anyone starting out throwing forehand who's looking to improve their technique for more distance.

One recurring topic on these sites has been whether or not to keep your elbow close to your body when going for maximum distance. After finally developing a technique (getting there) that doesn't hurt my elbow, plus gives me additional distance, I thought I'd share what works for me.

After hurting my elbow recently when playing, I "went back to the drawing board" so to speak, and really started analyzing my drive. I used to do a two-step sidestep that kept my hips pointed at the basket through the entire throw. My absolute maximum distance was probably 300 feet, but it sure didn't feel good. My triceps and elbow would hurt after about three holes. I can confirm now that this drive was all arm, and I don't recommend throwing this way at all. While it's accurate because you can keep your eye on the target, it relies too heavily on whiplash which really takes its toll on the elbow.

In order to solve the problem, I wanted to focus on generating more power with my hips and core. These last couple months I've been developing a run up (more like a walk-up that's getting faster) where I start with my hips square to the basket, feet at the back of the tee. I hold the disc in front of me perpendicular to the ground. As I walk toward the front of the T I raise the disc back over my head and begin to turn my hips away from the basket. When trying for maximum distance I WILL turn my back to the basket completely. So far these steps are slow, but at this point I begin accelerating, and it's here that I make the decision to hold my elbow away from my body or bring it in by my hip as I pivot and follow through. These last couple weeks I was holding my elbow in, and was still feeling pain. Yesterday I went out and very deliberately held my elbow away from my body as I accelerated through the throw. (I don't think my arm's completely straight, but my elbow is not held in to my body). As when throwing backhand, the goal at the acceleration point is to use your body's momentum as you spin to add power to the disc. But instead of pulling the disc across your chest when throwing backhand, you're pivoting and using your arm as a lever with the disc at its end. It takes awhile to get used to it, but when you can spin your body into a forehand throw, you'll feel a tremendous amount of momentum. Usually my follow through will continue to turn my body through the throw. If you're having trouble, try bending your knees a bit and getting lower to the ground.

If you concentrate on your form, I've found that this technique generates considerably less off axis torque, and now for my long approach shots I'm able to pull out a mid range instead of a fairway driver.

I'm happy to say that yesterday I threw my longest throw so far with a pro valk: somewhere in the neighborhood of 350+, and it felt really good. My release point is becoming more and more consistent, and eliminating OAT has become my focus. It also doesn't feel "maxed out" like when I was throwing all arm. I'm excited to continue to develop this throw, and I hope the description of how i drive helps someone else achieve great results while avoiding injury.

Just to clarify: I'm not claiming that my forehand is anywhere near world class, and indeed I have much to work on. I feel like 350 is a good starting point, and doing it without any pain is key.
Last edited by LH99 on Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby JHern » Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:16 pm

Sounds like you're still throwing with arm speed, mostly, instead of snapping the disc.

I've spent some time with some guys who are arguably some of the greatest sidearm throwers of all time (Ken Westerfield and Michael Barry). Westerfield once threw a 40 mold Frisbee well over 500' back in the day. Barry has been playing continuously for decades, and he is still winning world championships as a grandmaster while throwing dominantly sidearm. Unlike many other sidearm throwers from the past, his arm is in great shape and he throws with surgical precision.

The unanimous chorus from these grand masters of the sidearm craft is: Get the elbow in!

I've been doing some sidearm drills that Barry suggested, and my short sidearm game has improved dramatically, saving me many strokes. It's basically a hyzer flip shot, keep your elbow glued to your waist, and hold the disc down with hyzer. The key is to not use the arm really at all, but instead to transfer your weight from your off foot to your plant foot, turning the hips open as you do so, and just get the whip action starting from the hip turn in order to sling the disc out without using more arm muscle than necessary to simply control the orientation of the disc.

He is also critical of the sidearm lesson that Avery gave in the "Deep in the Game" for not teaching people the proper mechanics, and he thinks this could result in a lot of people getting injured (including AJ himself).
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Re: Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby keltik » Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:27 pm

also look for videos of Jeremy Koling. He is a FH dominant player and he throws elbow in and makes it look effortless.
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Re: Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby LH99 » Mon Aug 20, 2012 12:29 pm

I watched that video as well and determined that it didn't work for me at all. I agree that it sure doesn't feel like the proper mechanics.

I agree I have a lot more potential and need to work on snapping the disc. Transferring weight and turning hips is exactly what I'm trying to describe. However, keeping my elbow in results in elbow pain. I've tried to stick with it because it seems like "keep the elbow in" is the general consensus, so it's been many weeks of thinking I was doing something wrong. Perhaps I still am, but from what you describe
"The key is to not use the arm really at all, but instead to transfer your weight from your off foot to your plant foot, turning the hips open as you do so, and just get the whip action starting from the hip turn in order to sling the disc out without using more arm muscle than necessary to simply control the orientation of the disc.


the only difference is that I'm not pulling my elbow in. I think I'm going to record it and further analyze what I'm doing, but I feel I'm on the right track. Based on the conflicting reports of "elbow in" vs "elbow out", I'd have to assume that it's somewhat unique to the individual.

Thanks for the reply. I'd be interested in any other drills you recommend.
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Re: Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby JR » Mon Aug 20, 2012 7:20 pm

Hi and welcome. I'm not so sure that keeping the elbow in is the consensus. Check out the Discraft forehand clinic video on Youtube and Ville Piippo on several videos on Youtube channel lcgm8 like Tali Open 2009 and Dutch Open 2010 first round. Ville is locked to the hip often but flat and anny shots are easier on the arm the farther out the elbow is from the body. My arm is extra sensitive to FH fumbling because i've been injured and the surgery didn't rectify everything and i have nerves that are under pressure from scars that were in inoperable places. Close to the hip arm dominant throws hurt me and i don't always get 300' because i can't train FH safely. In fact i'm down with tendonitis now from BH. I have thrown 370' with warp speeders on a fluke with a good run up but even at 300' i'm inaccurate and inconsistent to the point of being a noob. Check out Sarah Hokom the current female Open division world champ giving form tips on Youtube in Disc Golf Monthly episode 95.
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Re: Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby LH99 » Mon Aug 20, 2012 9:01 pm

Hey JR,

Thanks for the recommendation to watch Ville. He's more controlled than I am at this point, but I think when he's going for max distance that's about where my arm is.

Yeah my goal at this point is to play without pain, and the way I was playing was not working for me. I watched a slow motion video on youtube of some guy throwing forehand that looked a lot like the way I threw, and you can actually SEE the whiplash in his elbow after the disc is released. To have thought I maxed out at 300, then to change things up, make it feel better, and throw 350+ with what feels like half the effort (in the arm), is great. My next goal is to get this under control, increase consistency, and then focus on breaking the 400 foot barrier. Never thought I'd be setting that goal.

I appreciate all the recommendations. I'm not familiar with the pros, let alone who throws what style. It's very helpful to be pointed in a direction.
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Re: Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby JR » Tue Aug 21, 2012 12:11 am

Here is a little something we did with Avery Jenkins a world champ when he was here on two occasions:



Note that Avery might be the most physical player in disc golf so his body can take the abuse better than many and he doesn't get the arm too tight in although it is pretty tight in.
Flat shots need running on the center line of the tee and planting each step on the center line. Anhyzer needs running from rear right to front left with the plant step hitting the ground to the left of the line you're running on. Hyzer is the mirror of that.
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Re: Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby Mark Ellis » Tue Aug 21, 2012 7:58 am

I'm not sure the differences are as great as players may think.

On a hyzer shot the elbow has to stay pretty close to the body. On an anhyzer or a roller the elbow has to be away from the body (short of using an ultra-flippy disc). Even among players who think they are from the different camps, their form may be closer to each others than they realize.

If you watch slow speed video of a forehand (or a baseball pitcher delivering to home plate) you will see that the elbow leads the hand. So the arm is not straight even if it feels that way. The elbow leading gives a whip action to the arm.

The biggest question to me is which form puts more strain on the elbow. For me elbow in is painful while elbow out causes no discomfort or long term problems after 15 years of non-stop addiction (my first few years I was backhand dominant so they don't count). It is pretty obvious that players differ here and each player should do what is best for them.

As to the question of maximum power potential, I think elbow out is the winner. Consider other sports with similar motions, throwing a baseball or swinging a racquet. None of the top players use elbow in. The longer the lever the more power it generates.

Consider a backhand throw. It can be done elbow in. But nobody does it for distance, only for hyzers. Except for a Ed Burde. He is a Pro from the midwest (or at least used to be, have not seen him in years). His form looked like someone tied his arm to his body at the elbow and he did this wild looking T-Rex swing. He was a good player, btw. I always wondered how good he could have been with traditional form.
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Re: Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby LH99 » Tue Aug 21, 2012 9:01 am

Wow, thanks Mark! I've watched a bunch of your videos and appreciate the input.

If I may ask, what's your max forehand distance, and what's a reasonable expectation for a non-pro throwing forehand to reach distance wise? (both on the course and flat out max distance in the wide open?)
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Re: Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby Mark Ellis » Tue Aug 21, 2012 9:22 am

LH99 wrote:Wow, thanks Mark! I've watched a bunch of your videos and appreciate the input.

If I may ask, what's your max forehand distance, and what's a reasonable expectation for a non-pro throwing forehand to reach distance wise? (both on the course and flat out max distance in the wide open?)



With advancing age I have lost distance the last few years (Dammit :) but still reach 400 foot holes on good shots. I am not a fan of "realistic expectations" as they limits our goals and efforts. Nonetheless power has little to do with differentiating Pros from Ams. I see Ams who push forehands out to 500' but few who control them at 350'. Fewer who bend tight anhyzer tunnels at 200' (that is all right, most of them are smart enough to throw backhand for this shot).

One way to increase distance is to learn wide rimmed drivers (Nuke, for example). These are tricky and risky, requiring practice but when done right will add another 50' or so. It seems many folks view these discs as inherently evil for new players, guaranteed to damn your soul and ruin your form forever. I think the opposite. They require such a precise, flat, clean release that they teach good shots and this skill, once gained, carries over to other shots.
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Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby Cavere » Tue Aug 21, 2012 3:33 pm

I consider myself to be a pretty good distance forehand thrower. I can put a boss or katana out about 500'. I used to get a lot more elbow pain with both elbow in and elbow out. I felt with both I was putting more strain trying to get my arm up to speed.

What I do now and it seems to keep distance with less effort is start with my elbow in. Mid way through my rotation I extend my elbow out. I believe this let's me achieve better rotation and when I extend my arm I am accelerating the disc into the snap.
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Re: Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby Wyno » Tue Aug 21, 2012 4:39 pm

Mark Ellis wrote:One way to increase distance is to learn wide rimmed drivers (Nuke, for example). These are tricky and risky, requiring practice but when done right will add another 50' or so. It seems many folks view these discs as inherently evil for new players, guaranteed to damn your soul and ruin your form forever. I think the opposite. They require such a precise, flat, clean release that they teach good shots and this skill, once gained, carries over to other shots.

LizardLawyer rhetoric, that "damn your soul" bit was esp nice ;-)
I still think it's a bad idea. Your hypothetical learning process could happen, of course. What usually happens though, is people get a lucky throw or two while most shots are lawn darts. Then they get impatient because they can't deliver that precise clean release that you speak of consistently, and start muscling the disc and turn it over that way (through more arm speed with less spin and some wobble (OAT) as well).
So, they trade more control and predictable distance on most shots for what might be might be significantly longer in 1 of 5 throws, but totally off line/lawn dart in 3 of 5 shots, and they develop an unclean throw - because they just don't have the snap/technique yet to get the disc up to speed, cleanly and consistently. With this, worse, form they can't even get those rare good throws anymore, so their net distance gain is diminishes...
Most beginners will score much better, and develop their technique quicker, with slower discs.
To me, this theory makes sense, and in my experience it works for most people, at least better than driving their Nukes max 280 feet in a wobbly flex shot...

Edit: Back to topic: I don't throw much forehand for distance, but to me elbow in is essential or I get a stabbing pain in my shoulder, never been able to figure that one out. When I really push it, I think I'm letting my elbow out at the hit, but I'm not really consistent enough to be sure :-)
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Re: Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby LH99 » Tue Aug 21, 2012 6:04 pm

lol, I enjoy the debates from experienced players on this site very much. It further reinforces the fact that in the end, after all the analysis, there is a basis for technique that one must learn and adapt to fit them.

Thanks for the reply Wyno. I admit (shamefully) that I was one of those that began with an advanced disc and completely powered my shot with my arm. It eventually led to an injury, and although it wasn't serious it ruined a great trip to Highbridge in northern Wisconsin (I believe three courses are still in the top ten on disc golf course review. I hope everyone gets a chance to play there. It's a fantastic place) since I couldn't throw anymore. When I learned more about discs (I think the problem lies in the misconception of thinking a faster disc will automatically equal more speed. People just need to be better informed when starting out in the sport), I began to step down and stuck to Dx plastic which beats in a little faster. That was before the injury. Now I'm focusing on fixing my form, eliminating the pain from my game, and mastering OAT. Then I'll start stepping up the discs again. For now I'm really happy with my Valk, and I know I can get more distance with it with more practice. I also prefer the pro plastic as it's more grippy.

As far as the OP: I also think I might begin with the elbow close and let it drift away through the hit. I'll know more when I record my drive. When I feel good about it I might post it here for critique, but for now I'm too new to it. My shoulder never hurts, and I can feel the muscles used in the left side of my back all the way from the waist to upper mid back. Before I would feel a horrible pain just below my front shoulder on the side of my arm that ached all the way down to my elbow. If I keep my elbow locked to my hip (or fairly close) through a throw, I immediately get a bit of that ache back.
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Re: Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby Mark Ellis » Wed Aug 22, 2012 7:43 am

Wyno wrote:
Mark Ellis wrote:One way to increase distance is to learn wide rimmed drivers (Nuke, for example). These are tricky and risky, requiring practice but when done right will add another 50' or so. It seems many folks view these discs as inherently evil for new players, guaranteed to damn your soul and ruin your form forever. I think the opposite. They require such a precise, flat, clean release that they teach good shots and this skill, once gained, carries over to other shots.

LizardLawyer rhetoric, that "damn your soul" bit was esp nice ;-)
I still think it's a bad idea. Your hypothetical learning process could happen, of course. What usually happens though, is people get a lucky throw or two while most shots are lawn darts. Then they get impatient because they can't deliver that precise clean release that you speak of consistently, and start muscling the disc and turn it over that way (through more arm speed with less spin and some wobble (OAT) as well).
So, they trade more control and predictable distance on most shots for what might be might be significantly longer in 1 of 5 throws, but totally off line/lawn dart in 3 of 5 shots, and they develop an unclean throw - because they just don't have the snap/technique yet to get the disc up to speed, cleanly and consistently. With this, worse, form they can't even get those rare good throws anymore, so their net distance gain is diminishes...
Most beginners will score much better, and develop their technique quicker, with slower discs.
To me, this theory makes sense, and in my experience it works for most people, at least better than driving their Nukes max 280 feet in a wobbly flex shot...

Edit: Back to topic: I don't throw much forehand for distance, but to me elbow in is essential or I get a stabbing pain in my shoulder, never been able to figure that one out. When I really push it, I think I'm letting my elbow out at the hit, but I'm not really consistent enough to be sure :-)


Why do we assume new players are stupid? Unskilled sure but also fools? A newbie wants to throw with power and control. He can see that good players do this. Good players do it with ease, like it is nothing, like it is free for the taking. Good players do it with different discs and with different forms. So the newbie finds a Nuke, which goes fast and far but is hard to control. He can't figure out when to use and when not to? He can't figure out how to make it go straight? He can't figure out that certain discs work better for certain shots? Just having the Nuke in his bag as one of his options is wrong?

Do I start a player on their first day with a Nuke? Or a Predator or a Drone (or anything else very overstable)? No. I give him a putter. But 10 minutes later anyone with basic athletic skills is ready to start experimenting and learning.

If a player throws flat and smooth and balanced with full follow through, this form is the basic recipe for success. It works for putters and mids and drivers. It works for stable and understable and overstable discs. It works for Nukes, too. The wider the rim the smaller the margin of error but also the greater the distance potential.

Risk and reward is what course management is all about. There are some shots I don't throw Nukes on and I am theoretically a good player. It took me a year to get used to the feel of a wide rim and learn to control it enough that I used it in tournaments. Just because I was unskilled with the disc doesn't mean I was so stupid I used for every drive. It didn't stop me from throwing good shots with my other discs. It didn't stop me from learning a Nuke so that today it is my primary driver.

You learned to ride a bike by hopping on and trying it. Yeah, sometimes you crashed. But you learned and got wiser. Wide rimmed drivers are not poison. They won't harm your form or hold you back from becoming a good player. They start you on the road to doing what the good players do. Take the training wheels off, Baby! :shock:
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Re: Forehand Drive: elbow in or out

Postby vtbuzzz » Wed Aug 22, 2012 8:14 am

With that reply you'd think he was a lawyer or something
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