Updated: May 23, 2022
After watching countless tutorials, form tips, and videos for form review, one of the biggest problems I see in amateur players is effective execution and use of the power pocket.
It can look many different ways but generally speaking I see two main problems.
First is when a player is not getting into a power pocket completely or at all, but what I see most often and the purpose of this article is that they aren't getting OUT, of the power pocket properly.
This seems to be especially true for players who have been stuck at a distance plateau for any amount of time.
What do I mean by getting OUT of the power pocket?
Essentially, what I see happening is that even when a player does get into a proper power pocket, they don't finish it properly and fail to generate any snap.
That "snap" is what puts adequate spin on the disc and is needed to add distance to your throws, so by not generating this spin, distance is sacrificed.
Instead of letting their elbow snap into extension upon release of the disc, players instead "rotate" around the power pocket with their arm and straighten their arm way too early, thus losing that snap.
We know we need this snap, but we don't realize we're missing it, or we realize it but aren't sure how to achieve it.
So back to the questions at hand:
Why do players fail to hit or use the power pocket properly? Why do they lose this snap?
Because it is definitely not intentional.
The biggest reason I see that prevents a player from generating this snap surprisingly has little to do with the upper body, and has everything to do with one specific lower body element:
They may have the front leg braced and ready to use, but rather than using it and/or being patient to use it, they allow their upper body to do all the work and simply get ahead of it or rotate around it completely.
To help you visualize this, I present a question for you to ponder:
Have you ever wondered why your standing throws go nearly as far as your throws with an added X-Step or run up?
You have all this extra speed, but fail to see that result in further distances.
The answer is likely that when standing still, your brace is significantly better and allows for more snap to be put into your throw.
Once you add speed, your timing is off and the brace that is there ends up being wasted.
So why is the brace so effective?
When you generate any type of speed, you need to have a mechanism in place to stop that speed abruptly so that the energy can be transferred into the arm and disc quickly.
Without this sudden halt, your arm is going to continue through and only gradually slow until you run out of upper body torsion.
While this longer slowing process does generate some speed and spin into the disc, it is not nearly as effective as the quick and sudden stop that a brace produces.
Think back to your teenage years messing around with your buddies at the pool. Who remembers getting whipped and doing the whipping with a towel? Hurts right?
But were the most punishing whips done with a long sweeping motion? Or by pulling the towel forward before suddenly stopping it, creating a snap?
As you can probably guess, your arm (and disc) need to act in the same way in order to get the desired snap out of your hand. And this snap is very hard to achieve without the sudden stop, which comes from the brace.
Problems With the Brace
When I watch most amateur form videos, there are 2 major problems that I see with the brace:
First, and the worst of the problems I see, is that there is simply no brace at all. Their front leg is collapsed or there is just too much upper body involvement that they aren't focused on it.
You can't use a brace if it isn't there, imagine pole vaulting with a wet noodle!
Second, the brace is there or just somewhat there, but the player's bodyweight and throw is ahead of the brace, so the brace never is able to be put to use. Some players are even past their front foot by the time the disc is actually released.
Using the pole vault example again, a rigid pole is placed into the box, but the vaulter doesn't use the pole to get any height and instead just tries to jump with the pole in their hand. This doesn't add to their height either.
So what is the proper way to plant and brace?
By contrast to most amateur players, pro players or players who generate some serious distance know not only how to brace, but how to not go past it, using it to the best of their ability.
Pay attention to a pro player the next time you watch them in a video throwing for distance.
In many instances, they actually release the disc at the point of their brace or just a tad before it, before falling forward past their front foot that is doing the bracing.
They don't let their arm take over the throw, but rather allow the momentum of their weight shifting and hip engagement to pull their arm through, before stopping all that momentum with the front foot that is the acting brace.
If the arm is kept relaxed during this process, it is not stopped like the rest of the body and momentum, which causes the elbow to snap into extension and place all that energy into the disc.
Players who aren't using their brace effectively don't relax their arm however, often trying to muscle the disc to achieve more distance and failing to snap OUT of the power pocket.
So what do you need to do and feel to get this power pocket thing right?
Well hopefully you know by now that you need to brace properly.
For starters, get back to the basics and start with a standing throw, intentionally bracing and not getting ahead with your throwing arm.
Practice shifting your weight from over the back leg, and into (not past) the front leg.
As you get better at learning how a brace feels, slowly add the X-Step and try to replicate that feeling. If you're falling over your brace prior to releasing the disc, you're being too active with your arm and upper body and need to slow things back down.
Remember, ideally the disc should be released at the brace point, not after it.
As for the upper body, regardless if you're doing a standing throw, an X-Step, or a run up, the throwing arm should only be rigid from the shoulder to the upper arm as it maintains the 90 degree angle.
The upper arm and down needs to stay relaxed and just along for the ride.
Let the rotation of your upper body pull your arm through, rather than you consciously trying to pull the arm and throw the disc. If you do it right, the disc will come out amazingly fast and will travel amazingly far with great accuracy.
Doing all of this correctly is likely going to feel weird to you at first, if it doesn't you're likely not doing it right because anything new should feel different.
In time however, it will feel more and more normal and you will notice your discs traveling farther and farther with less and less effort.
So get out there, practice that brace, and watch those discs fly!
If you need any help or want us to take a look and provide feedback, do not hesitate to reach out and ask!
Happy Disc Golfing!
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