Updated: Feb 16
When viewing back hand form of both professional and amateur players, I often look for subtle differences in
small movements that make big differences in the overall result of the throw.
Examples vary but range anywhere from foot angles, weight distribution, and often timing.
One movement or position has recently caught my eye, and that is the angle that the upper part of the throwing arm makes with the body.
We often hear the term “power pocket” and it's importance repeated over and over and over again.
We as players know we're supposed to get into it, but we often fail in hitting it, and I believe that a lot of this struggle has to do with one thing:
The upper arm being too close to the body during the pull through phase of the throw.
This is a common arm angle I see from players struggling with a power pocket and distance, with the arm being very close to the body
So ,what angle should your arm be in when throwing backhand?
It is commonly taught that your upper arm should make approximately a 60-90 degree angle with your body when pulling the disc through the power pocket.
This angle not only allows the disc to stay close to the chest and your arm to achieve a deep power pocket, but it also allows the disc to remain flat and nose down.
”Breaking down the door” is how this movement is commonly described, and it’s important to remember you can generate more power in your throw when the arm is up versus when it is down.
When your arm is up and away from the body, it has more room to pull across your body before snapping the elbow straight and transferring energy into the disc.
When your arm is down however, you quickly run out of room before some sort of compromise is required to keep the disc flat and to get it out of your hand.
This compromise is often rounding.
Rounding will allow you to keep your arm speed up, but what you lose in this trade off is not worth it: the snap that causes disc spin.
Without spin, the disc is severely limited in how far it can fly.
As a quick call to action, take a break from reading and stand up.
First, keep a low arm angle and try to break down an imaginary door as hard as you can. Next, do the same thing but with your arm in at least a 60 degree angle with your body.
One thing you may notice is that power wise, both positions may have felt relatively equal, and some may even say they had more power with the arm down against the body.
However, in this position, you also should have noticed that the elbow did not want to naturally straighten, and if it did, it would be straightening into the ground.
Which is why players with this low arm angle are forced to round out of the power pocket.
Compare this to the arm being up, and you can see that your shoulder now has much more room to go into a deeper power pocket, and the elbow will naturally want to extend in the direction of the throw while allowing the disc to be flat!
There are plenty of other elements of form that can prevent a player from entering a power pocket, rounding being one of the primary reasons.
But I feel that many players are rounding because they’re not maintaining a sufficient arm angle during the pull through phase.
This angle can be compensated by bending at the waist more, but I also believe that arm angle is important even when you are getting your chest over your brace as this angle will create even more space for the disc to travel through, allowing for a deeper power pocket and more snap.
Interestingly enough, a player‘s reach back may even look and be correct, but as they pull the disc through, they lose their arm angle and drop the elbow too low, causing them to round out of the throw.
Now that I have somewhat described what is going on in writing, let me walk your through a series of pictures to demonstrate what I mean, starting with what is wrong and finishing with what is right.
If you’d prefer to watch a quick video explanation, then head on over and check it out in our Form Check Discussion group by CLICKING HERE!
Up first, let’s see what it looks like when wrong:
In these first two pictures, you’ll notice that from the side, everything looks somewhat normal. However, from the back, you can quickly see the potential for failure.
If my arm were to finish the throw in this angle, my shoulder would quickly run out of room, snapping my elbow into the ground.
Notice how my elbow has only reached the front of my hip, and how I have more room to pull my elbow through more, but any more distance and I would be unable to keep it flat if my elbow were to straighten, even though the disc is flat up until this point.
Keeping the disc flat as my elbow straightens in this position would be extremely uncomfortable and force my disc into a hyzer release angle that would look like I was throwing a grenade style shot.
As you can see, I can’t straighten my elbow to throw, so in order to get the disc out somewhat flat and with some power, I’m forced to round because of my low arm angle.
From behind, you‘ll really notice the rounding in full effect as the disc is very far away from my body.
From the side, you’ll notice how my wrist is still down ‘’pouring the tea”, but as my arm continues to come through, the part of the disc that will be downfield first will be nose up, despite my efforts to be nose down.
Now, let’s contrast this with an arm angle that is closer to 60-90 degrees.
In these pictures, you can see that my disc is still as flat as the previous set of pictures, and my elbow has reached the front edge of my body.
But unlike that last position where my arm is down, my elbow could straighten right now, and my disc would still be on a nice, flat angle.
Additionally, because of this I also have more room in my shoulder to continue pulling the disc through, which looks like this:
You can quickly see how even though my elbow is way past my body in these pictures, I’m still able to keep my elbow at a 90 degree angle and the disc in a nice, flat position.
The disc is also still rather tight to my chest, and could be even tighter if my form was better!
Comparing this to the previous pictures, the most obvious difference should be that before I had to round to get the disc out, where with my arm up, I can now simply allow my elbow to snap into extension and transfer all that rotational energy into the throw.
I‘m also very tall in these examples, which shows how bending at the waist can make this angle even more efficient, despite it still being advantageous when standing up rather straight.
It’s also worth noting that I didn’t show any of the reach back phase before these various positions, despite me having them, because they all looked the same!
That’s right, the reach back in these pictures were all identical, with my reach being low, and out and away from my body, like this:
The difference only occurred as I brought the disc into the power pocket, where I’d either maintain the ideal arm angle (right), or I would drop the elbow down and close to my body (wrong).
So, what do you do with this information now that you have seen the difference between the preferred position and the incorrect position?
It may seem like an easy fix, but trust me when I say it is not as easy as it looks.
Even when I’m aware of this problem,
and think that I fixed it and it feels better during my throws.
I’ll watch a video of myself throwing and can immediately see that my arm angle is still not where I want it to be.
It takes a lot of repetitions of correct form before you can truly break that muscle memory you have from years of doing it incorrectly.
Like anything, it can be fixed, but it takes a lot of practice and awareness to correct.
If after reading this article you have realized you’re guilty of having a low arm angle, make it a point to work on it during your next field work or throwing session.
Be conscious of your arm angle and if anything else, exaggerate the angle so that it feels ridiculous!
Chance are even if it feels weird, it’s probably much closer to correct than you realize because it’s going to feel weird no matter what angle the upper part of the throwing arm makes with the body.
Again, if you would like to see the video explanation of this in our Form Check and Discussion Facebook Group, be sure to do so by
Hopefully this tip helps you hit a better power pocket, and add some distance onto your throws!
Be sure to let us know if you have any questions or if this tip helped you!
Until next time, stay Inside the Circle!
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