Backhand Driving Problems
I seem to be losing power and I don't know why.
This is sort of a little mental checklist of common problems to go over. I have explained each in slightly more detail below.
The timing of your footwork and pull-through is off.
Make sure your x-step is smooth and your pull-through is happening at the right time. A fluid 1-2-plant-whip is what you should be feeling. If you are late with the whip it will sap your power and leave you out to the left.
Your balance and center of gravity are off.
Make sure you have your balance and a defined center of gravity during your motion and plant. The weight should be on the balls of your feet at all times, no heels. Players' body shapes differ greatly, so whether you choose your center of gravity to be over your plant foot or down the center of your body, it's up to you, just make sure you stay balanced and your weight is where it should be.
Your steps may be too short or too long.
Too short of steps in your x-step and you won't have enough power. Too long of steps in your x-step and you will be awkward and off balance. Practice will help you find the correct step length that gives the maximum power from your hip-swing and give your upper body the most acceleration.
You aren't keeping the disc close enough to your body.
If the disc isn't tight to your chest you aren't going to get the benefits of the elbow extension or wrist bounce that is the source of much of a throw's power. A good drill for this is standing facing a wall with your disc. You should be close enough to the wall that there is maybe 1 inch of clearance between the disc and the wall and another inch between your chest and the disc. Practice the feel of pulling the disc through on that line. Keep in mind on a real throw your shoulders will be doing the pulling, but this will at least give the feel of a disc tight to your body.
You aren't rotating your shoulders enough on your reach back and pull-through.
If you don't get your shoulders rotating correctly, there's no way you will get maximum torque from them. One tendency I have noticed is that on open holes, players are more likely to turn their shoulders all the way with their back facing the target but on tighter holes they keep their eyes on the target throughout the throw and this prevents them from getting the same kind of shoulder rotation. If you do practicing on fields, you are probably used to turning all the way. If you find yourself inconsistent on tighter holes and courses, try to make sure that you do everything the same way you practiced it. The other side of the coin is the pull-through and follow-through. Make sure that your shoulders are opening up all the way during your throw. Poor shoulder rotation or bad follow-through will sap your power by limiting the explosion of your shoulders as well as sometimes causing you to strong-arm your throws.
Your grip and wrist positioning are off.
Make sure your grip is firm so the disc can really rip out of your hand. Loose grip will lead to loose, inaccurate shots. Also make sure you are not over or under-cocking your wrist. Try to find a neutral position that is comfortable. The extremes are only going to steal power from you by limiting the "pure" range of motion.
Your are gripping the disc too tight at the wrong times.
Can a grip be too tight? No. Can a grip be too tight at the wrong times? Yes. If you have your hand clenched down on the disc for the duration of your throwing motion your forearm will be rigid and this will lead to loss of power. Leading into your throw your wrist and forearm should be loose and fluid. The only time your hand should be very tight is right when the disc is ripping out of your hand. The timing of this is critical. If your hand, wrist, and forearm are too tight too early they will not be able to pull through as quickly and you are going to lose snap even though you may still maintain an audible "pop" as the disc rips out of your hand. One thing to keep in mind is that the momentum of the disc will press itself into your hand right before it rips out incidentally tightening your grip at the last second. With practice and focus you should be able to pinpoint this event and find the correct time to really clench down on the disc but you may find yourself throwing well without the added grip strength. Do remember that the disc should have to rip out of your hand and if it is slipping or pulling out early, your grip is not tight enough.
Your aren't leading with your hips.
A powerful throw in disc golf is generated from the legs up. The direction of your feet lead everything and start the hip rotation, which turns the torso, which turns the shoulders, which pull the arm and sling the disc. The legs are the intial source of your throwing power as your thighs and hips put your body in motion and are one of your strongest muscle groups especially when you compare them to your upper arms. Getting your hips to explode through and lead your upper body is critical for generating maximum upper body rotation and arm speed. Without the hips you are basically trying to strong arm throws so they should come through quickly and early. A common symptom of strong arming throws (even if you have great distance) is the finish of your throw. Most throwers that do not properly use their legs to their advantage will find themselves hopping off of their pivot foot several feet after their release. This is caused by their upper body moving through faster and their throwing arm stopping which then forces the hips to rotate through and throwing them off of their pivot foot. Getting the hips to lead the throw may or may not increase your distance but it will definitely increase your distance potential and should get you at least the same amount of D with less effort. Your grip has improper thumb pressure.
A solid, strong grip will have pressure between the index finger and the ball of your thumb or lower (between the ball of the thumb and the joint). A common grip problem is applying thumb pressure with the very tip of the thumb. Not only is this grip weaker but it also causes the pressure to be applied at an angle that will effect the disc orientation at the release. The end result is a dipping of the back and outter edges of the disc resulting in a nose up release at a hyzer angle. Since a nose down throw is required for maximum distance and glide, this problem can have adverse affects on your distance and accuracy. Changing your thumb pressure to having your thumb more flat and pressure from the ball of your thumb or lower should help to achieve a nose down release on your desired angle.
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I want to add distance to my drives but I don't know how.
Just about everyone would like to add distance to their throw, just as most people that play sports would also like to run faster, jump higher, etc. Disc golf, pure and simply, requires excellent technique to crush drives. Brute strength has very little to do with it and may even be detrimental to your throwing technique as it reduces flexibility, timing, and quickness. There are some general assumptions about being able to throw far. Using the x-step and a four-finger grip are some examples of that. If you are searching for guidance on basic throwing form, there are some articles describing the standard reach back method as well as the bent elbow technique. Each technique is strong in its own way but you will probably favor one or the other depending upon how you learned, your body shape, and other factors. Assuming you are already comfortably into your technique and you are confident with the line of your throw (s-curve vs. line drive vs. hyzer, etc.) with which you intend to try to achieve max distance with, here is a method for isolating the parts of your mechanics that generate your throw power. Once you have found your sources you can try accenting or modifying them individually to see if they can be enhanced to provide even more power to your throw.
Start from your base throw. Use just your normal body rotation but without taking a step. After you have found your base D, try incrementally adding specifics and measuring the distance differential. Things that increase distance should be maintained or even exaggerated in some cases while things that decrease your distance should be avoided. Anything extra that does not add any distance is a waste of motion and source of inefficiency and can therefore be eliminated. Each of the items below should be repeated with several tries and find your avg distance when you are doing it right to calculate.
1. Throw and measure your basic throw.
2. Take 1 step and throw.
3. Take 2 steps and throw.
4. Throw with a basic moderate to slow speed x-step.
It should be assumed that 1-4 will have increased your distance. If you did not increase distance, you may want to concentrate on balance and proper weight shift. The next things to check are based upon footwork.
5. Throw with an elongated x-step.
6. Throw with a fast x-step.
By now you will have an idea of what length and speed of your steps in your x-step works best for you. Pick the one that gave you the best distance and use that one for the rest of the test period. The next things to check are based upon your hip swing.
7. Throw with an emphasis on strong hips.
8. Throw with an emphasis on quick hips.
With this you will know if no emphasis, strong, or quick hips give you the most power. Pick the one that gave you the best distance and use that one for the rest of the test period. Next come things that are arm related.
9. Throw with a longer reach back.
10. Throw with a compact/shorter reach back.
11. Throw with the disc closer to your body.
12. Throw with the disc slightly further from your body.
13. Throw with an accent on faster shoulder rotation.
14. Throw with an accent on a strong follow-through.
15. Throw with a modified grip.
Chances are, one or more of these may have given an increase in distance. If you aren't as sure of your throw, integrate them slowly one at a time rather than trying them all at once. You may want to make notes of each of these for your future reference if you do not feel comfortable making the changes immediately. Lastly, you can try increased footwork.
16. Throw with 1 extra lead in step.
17. Throw with 2 extra lead in steps.
18. If 16 and 17 have increased your distance, try more until adding steps no longer does.
By now, not only will you have isolated the things that help you throw further and hopefully rid yourself of unecessary motion but chances are you will have a good idea of your power and how to manipulate it to the course. If your full throw is 20' too strong, remove something basic that will reduce 20' from it if you don't have a shorter disc that can reach it. Feel free to try additional modifications if you think they will work for you as I have only outlined some of the basic ones and may have missed a few. If you have any additional mods or commends/feedback you would like to share, please email me.
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