Arguably one of the most important aspects of disc golf form in setting up the entire throw when using a run up approach is the X-Step.
When done properly, it will not only allow you to quickly transfer weight, keep balance, and engage the hips, but will do so in a way that puts you in great position to execute the rest of your throw from the ground up.
When done improperly, you can lock your hips and prevent them from helping, you can become off balance, and you can put yourself in awkward positions that throw off timing for the rest of your throw.
In this sense, the X-Step is the foundation of a great throw whether you're attempting max distance, or a controlled throw from the fairway.
So in this article, we're going to take a look at what you should and shouldn't do when performing an X-step by breaking things down into 5 easy tips for you to see immediate improvement in your form and hopefully your driving distance during your next field or course session!
Let's get started!
How to Perform the Proper X-Step
Tip #1: Timing
The first thing we need to discuss is the timing, or cadence of the X-Step.
For a right handed player, the sequence of the X-step, without including a run up, is
Right Foot ---> Left Foot ---> Right Foot (plant)
for a left handed player, it becomes the opposite,
Left Foot ---> Right Foot ---> Left Foot (plant)
And if you read this sequence as if you were reading any sentence, you likely gave an equal amount of pause between each part of the sequence.
But when actually performing the X-Step, this is NOT the rhythm that you want to use.
In doing so, you're lower body would end up moving too slowly, allowing your upper body and arm to take over and preventing you from ever using your legs and hips to help the throw.
Instead, you want to SHORTEN the amount of time between steps 1 and 2, and LENGTHEN the amount of time between steps 2 and 3.
In written format, it would look this for a right handed player:
Right Foot -> Left Foot -----> Right Foot
And naturally, flip the right and left for a left handed player.
When done live, it will look like this:
As you can see, the first two steps have much less of a delay between them compared to the last step.
By keeping this cadence, or rhythm, you will have the ability to keep your weight transfer smooth and your timing where it needs to be to complete the rest of the throw.
Tip #2: Don't Hop! Keep it smooth
One thing I see many new players doing when completing their X-Step is any version of a "crow hop", where the foot work is completed using a hop-like motion of some sort.
There are many ways I've seen it done, but it usually looks something like this:
It looks fast, but compared to the first video, there is much more of a "hop" motion involved.
Although it nearly has the correct cadence, hopping is not preferred because it can often throw off the timing of the rest of the throw by getting the front foot down too quickly.
When this happens, a player may not have their arm reached back the entire way, or they will transfer their weight so quickly that their upper body never has the chance to catch up.
The hopping motion can also affect your arm placement during the reach back motion, causing inconsistencies in your entire form and will ultimately affect how well you hit the power pocket before release.
All of these things will immediately impact your potential throwing distance and are things you want to avoid even when properly performing the X-Step.
But not performing it properly will make controlling these things even more difficult, and none of us want throwing a disc to be any more difficult than what it already is.
There are pros here and there who utilize this motion, but they're far and few between and they are the exception rather than the rule.
Tip #3: Keep your toes pointed forward
The next tip for performing the proper X-Step is to keep the toes pointed forward, perpendicular to the direction you are throwing.
In an effort to get more separation between their feet, some players will accidentally turn their feet so that they are pointed nearly away from the direction they want to be throwing.
In full speed, it looks like this:
When we slow it down completely, and take just a quick snapshot, you can see the right foot pointed almost directly away from the direction I intend to throw towards.
This is what you want to avoid during during a proper X-Step.
Tip #4: Don't reach or get yourself spread out
While keeping a nice clean cadence as described in Tip #1 is important, it's equally important to not reach with any of your steps or to get your feet too far spread out.
When this happens, weight transfer is not as smooth as it should be and again, timing for crucial movements becomes off.
You should never feel like you're "trying" or "reaching" to get to a certain position.
Let the speed of your approach dictate your spacing and focus on the rhythm. Slower run ups will naturally have less spacing and faster run ups will have wider spacing.
As long as you let every step fall into place naturally, and neither rush nor delay getting the front foot down, you'll be in good shape!
Tip #5: Plant with a staggered stance
Our last tip is right in tune with the last part of the X-Step, the plant.
When planting properly, the front foot should be slightly forward of the back foot, not just in the direction your moving (naturally), but also in relation to the line that you're moving on.
In a sense, your feet should be staggered, with the front foot being ahead of the back foot.
To demonstrate what I mean, here are two pictures, with the first being improper foot placement, and the second one showing the proper way.
As you can see, my feet are in a perfect line to where
I'm throwing, which is NOT where you want to be
Shown here is proper front foot placement, with the front foot
being staggered ahead of the back foot
Placing your lead foot ahead of the back foot helps you brace for the throw, which then transfers all of your speed and power from your lower body into your upper body.
If your feet are in line with one another, your hips will likely open up prematurely, preventing you from adequately using them in your throw.
Planting your front foot with a staggered stance helps remedy this by keeping the hips closed and ready for action.
And those are our 5 tips!
By checking your form and making sure you're doing these 5 things correctly, you'll be well on your way to building a great foundation upon which a great throw will be created from.
Stay tuned for our next article when we get into another form check item on the list, a problem that plagues many new players,
Until then, keep practicing, having fun, and as always,
Happy Disc Golfing!
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