Thursday, July 3, 2014

Improving Backhand Form - Part 297

Quick update (7/10/2014): I've been staying after it everyday - making some progress. Still pulling too close to my chest, which causes my disc to drop a bit - but I'm getting the plant/pivot to work and it's coming along. Even got my brother out to the field yesterday to join in the torture!
What a long strange trip it's been. A month ago, I went from feeling great about playing well in my first tournament, to a raging case of tennis elbow that came on like a freight train right after I got home. I tried a few quick fixes (snake oil and and some voodoo), but after talking to my buddy who is a doctor - I decided to stop anything that "hurts" which ended up being EVERYTHING except easy upshots.

After a couple weeks of nothing but upshots, I decided to start videoing myself and see what my backhand form actually looked like, frame by frame. I've had a couple blog posts about what kind of torture that started. Ultimately my form was completely wrong. My backhand WORKED in that I could throw drivers 400-425' and they were pretty accurate to 350' - probably because I throw so much fieldwork that I got very comfortable with my wonky form.

But I would watch my buddies with rock-solid form throw as far or much further, with what looked like substantially less effort. So I decided to figure out what I needed to tweak to get better results.

But, there was no tweak.

There was only the reset button.
The nuclear option.
A full rebuild.

The problem that I faced was probably the single most common issue with disc golfers: I was generating the disc acceleration and hand speed without my hips.

Sidewinder22 is one of the resident form masters at DGCR - and most of the time somebody asks for help, he'll respond with some videos and some very good advice about learning how to throw like the pros.

You can read the full thread here, if you're especially bored: Throwing putters

Back and forth we corresponded... until I was frustrated and basically hand-cuffed and posted the following:
So I went out to try to incorporate the video above - head on the inside, tilted. The best way I can describe it, is that I know where I'm supposed to end up... but now I'm very stuck even at the slowest pace getting into that position dynamically.

Meaning, I can get myself into that braced position - but once there, I don't feel like I can throw, and I can't seem to "slide into" that position in order to throw.

Is there a way to think about it that makes this transformation easier? Should I be thinking along the lines of hockey stopping or ski checking speed - and then having all my energy pivot up and right?
To which he replied with a great image that spawned my "ah-ha! moment":

Now I'll just let you watch my happiness/insanity unfold here:

And then today, I stood outside my garage, while my kid looked at me like I'd fully lost my mind, swinging his tennis racquet in the alley at invisible tennis balls, realizing that my backhand drive is actually more like hitting a tennis backhand, which makes getting my hips right a bit easier than trying to do a left handed hockey shot.

Hips opening and plant foot pivot... it's just tennis!
Over and over, I had lunged past my plant foot if I tried to throw the disc farther than 300.' I would reach back, leaning over my back foot - getting my balance all wonky - then swinging my upper body forward and the whole mess was flying everywhere, power leaking out at every turn - accuracy going to poop.

The hockey image and the tennis imagery immediately highlighted my struggle. I had to brace against my plant leg like our buddy below (nice shorts):

The really nice thing about having a little background in tennis is that I can plant with my right foot, as if I was trying to throw/swing/hit left handed. And that's the key! Right handed backhands are ultimately dependent on a LEFT HANDED stance, which is exactly what you have with a tennis backhand.

You never see a tennis player (a good one at least) hit a backhand and go flying forward afterwards. They pivot on their plant foot and are back to a balanced stance. The bad news is that if you have no reference at all for this left handed/right footed stance - you may just want to learn to throw left handed backhand! 

I kid, I kid. It just means that you're going to have to learn to open your hips (face them forward) which is what you'd be doing if you were swinging a baseball bat left handed, throwing a pitch left handed, hitting a hockey shot left handed... basically all the things we never do as right-handers, which is why we struggle so mightily with this concept.

I'm nowhere near done. NOWHERE NEAR DONE, but that's okay. I have some idea now - and I have much work to do, which is very exciting and I know I have to keep after it. There is some light at the end of this tunnel, and I hope if you're working on your form - this helps in some small way.

And just to beat this horse one more time - here's some of the biggest arms in the game planting, bracing and pivoting without flying past the end of the tee pad.


  1. Yep, you've made the key realization about the backhand - it's like the slapshot or baseball swing with the non-dominant side. Part of it too relates to which of your legs is dominant. I'm a lefty for throwing but kick with my right leg, and my right leg is stronger for bracing against then my left. It's my left though that needs to do the bracing when I throw.

    The pec drill is also helpful for working on getting onto the bracing leg.

    Good for you for having the courage to start from scratch again.

    1. I've been messing around w/ a 2 pound weight, basically mimicking a one handed baseball swing... that's been a bit helpful.Yeah, it's really gotta be the most counter-intuitive aspect of disc golf that I've run into yet. it's nuts.

    2. The tough thing is progressing from knowing a thing to actually making concrete improvements to one's form. Also playing into things are aspects like core strength, spine health, and the ability to clamp down on the disc when the wrist is curled in, which is not at all easy. The backhand is a difficult motion to sort out and damnably difficult to become truly consistently good at, at least in my limited experience.

    3. By the way,

      if you want to check out a player with a pronounced 'hockey slapshot' style of backhand, look for videos with Tim Skellenger.

    4. I've definitely watch tim in some tournament footage... I'll have to go check out some more. Dude can rip.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. You sound bitter. Was it because he couldn't help you throw farther than 150'? Maybe you should lose the skirt so it doesn't get in the way of your throw. Software huh? Hey newsflash, a regular golfer's swing is a little different that a disc golfer's. <- This is probably why my little sister throws farther than you.

    2. You can have all the opinions you want, but unless sidewinder22 wants to have his name public, I'm going to have to delete posts that contain it. People have private lives - and if they want to share their info publicly - that's fine, but I'll let him make that decision.

    3. Sorry for the idiots, regardless ones opinions its so childish to bash another!! Again sorry for the idiot!
      Thanks for all the information, definitely give me some direction to work on!!

  3. Here is proof...does he look like someone who is taking his own advice? No, I don't think so....

    1. This guy probably can't play basketball too well, but does that mean he doesn't know what he's talking about:

  4. I would even venture into the territory to make claims that his style of throwing is worse than many noobs I see on the course.

  5. Notice that of the throwers in the last video that Feldberd is the odd one out. he doesn't pull the disc up high, and he hardly seems to bend his arm at all while the others bring the disc fairly close to their left pec before uncorking the throw.

    1. Yeah, Feldberg throws with a very straight arm. It's become sorta known as a Swedish style (Tomas Ekstrom) - which creates a huge straight lever on the outside edge of the disc.

  6. THis has been very helpful...I get about 20% more distance on my forehand and this makes it seem like it is because I played basketball. The power lay-up leads with the left foot and drives the right hand thru late....just like a forehand. So I need to do the fieldwork on getting the hips thru early on the backhand. Awkward in a lefty kind of way...but do-able.

  7. This helped me a lot especially throwing my mids and putters can get my mids close to 300 now. getting my hips involved and remembering my baseball background has helped it feel more natural for backhand.

  8. It is truly insane how important this concept has been to my backhand form. Not even just for the sake of throwing far but also for the sake of control and accuracy as well. Sidewinder22 just brought this home for me in the exact same way he did for you and I can agree that this is THE ah ha moment most people are probably looking for. Im my case it, once I grasped this, everything else I have ever read about backhand form made more sense and throwing felt so much less awkward and painful (lots of back problems). I still have a TON of work to do but Its is good to know for once that I am not just causing more bad habits to break later or injuries to heal later. I suggest everyone starting out to check out everything that Sidewinder22 has written (and filmed) about bracing and posture!