When Should Full Reach Back Happen During A Backhand?
Updated: Aug 9, 2022
Of all the things that need to go right when throwing a backhand in disc golf, the timing of all aspects of the throw can truly be one of the most difficult things to really perfect.
Even when studying a slow motion video of your throw, body positions are often much easier to see than proper sequencing and timing.
Much of this is due to the fact that an entire throw from x-step to release of the disc may happen in less than 1 second.
While there needs to be precise timing for all form elements, one of the most important ones is achieving full reach back at the right time.
Even though it is so important, it is often the one element that amateur players don't get right when throwing, and ultimately effects both distance and accuracy.
In this article, we're going to quickly discuss when full reach back should happen, what it looks like, common mistakes, and what you can do to fix it during your next practice session!
Let's get started!
Click on the picture to check out the video of this still frame on YouTube!
When should full reach back happen?
Full reach back should occur JUST after the plant foot makes contact with the ground
At the earliest, full reach back should occur just before the front foot getting down, or even simultaneously as it being put down.
If it's not down by the time the throw is initiated, then you're too late.
By getting your throwing arm into full extension just after the plant, you have a bigger opportunity to create the desired lag needed to maximize throwing distance.
The second your arm pushes into full extension, it will immediately be pulled into the power pocket because the front foot would have been down and hips are ready to be engaged.
When done properly, your hips should initiate a weight transfer into the plant leg, if your arm is completely straight (peak reach back) at this time, it can be pulled through which is how lag is created.
In instances where your arm is not back the whole way while your body weight and hips are moving forward, or it is back too early, you lose that opportunity to maximize the effect the hips and legs have on accelerating your throwing arm.
To clarify, this is a split second order of events, so you may see some slight variation among players. So while a simultaneous full extension and bracing will work well, having the brace down mere milliseconds before full extension is a little more desirable.
What does the proper way look like?
So what does proper timing look like?
To show you, let's look at two examples from two professional players who absolutely crush back hand distances, Eagle McMahon and Drew Gibson.
First we'll take a look at Eagle and how his timing looks.
In this first photo, you can see his arm is still reaching back and his leg is only about half way to being planted. He doesn't have much more extension to go, but he has not reached full extension yet.
As an interesting side note, you'll often hear coaches and online personalities discuss "reaching back" as "walking around the disc".
They're talking about the same thing in 2 different ways, but as an important distinction, you can actually see this in action really well as the position of Eagle's disc relative to the background of the photo doesn't move at all.
So he is not "pushing" the disc back but rather allowing his arm to straighten as his body moves forward.
The next photo in the sequence, his plant leg is just about to make contact with the ground, and compared to the previous photo, his arm is now straight back and ready to be pulled through.
Again, the position of the disc relative to the tree behind it has not moved, reiterating that you don't want to actively be pushing or "reaching" back.
In this final photo, you can see his front toe is down, while his arm position remains unchanged.
This further demonstrates that his "reach back" had almost if not already peaked and his arm had reached full extension prior to his plant being down. If anything, he was a tad early, but he did not start his pull through too soon like amateurs sometimes do.
Next, we'll take a quick look at Drew Gibson.
In this first photo, his front foot is barely making contact with the tee pad and he still has a little bit of arm extension to go.
It also shows that there is some leeway in when full reach back should happen, as his form does differ from Eagle's but they both still bomb.
By the time his foot is planted and he is initiating the rest of his throw, the disc is still in the same position but his elbow has achieved more extension due to the lag created from his upper body being pulled by the hips and lower body.
What's important to remember is that sometimes, full extension is not the same as full reach back, as some players are able to create more extension in their throwing arms than others.
Ricky Wysocki for example often has even more bend in his elbow at times compared to most players, but that is his peak reach back and he is able to still hit a power pocket efficiently (and throw some crazy distances!).
Regardless of how much extension you do get, it needs to happen just after the front foot is down, or as it is going down. There is some leeway to happen just before if you time it out, but that brace needs to be down in order for you to achieve maximum distance.
What are the most common timing problems?
Typically I see players making two mistakes when it comes to their reach back timing:
They're either reaching their max reach back too early, or too late.
It's not too much more complicated than that.
For both types of players, the end result is the same though.
Because their timing is off, they are unable to maximize the effect their lower body has on pulling their upper body, throwing arm, and ultimately the disc through with maximum speed.
When the reach back is peaking too early, the upper body is dominating the throw and is going to get ahead of the hips, lower body, and plant.
When it happens too late, you are going to be actively pushing your arm in the direction opposite of where it wants to be going.
While this does create a lot of lag, what happens then is that the body has already used the potential created by the hips and legs, so the arm is then left on its own to generate any acceleration.
In both instances though, the arm is doing more work than it needs to or should be.
How do I fix my reach back timing if it is off?
Now you may have realized that among other things, you own timing is off and your reach back is peaking way before or even way after your plant foot is down.
So how do you fix it?
Ah, the golden question!
The short answer is lots and lots of repetition.
You can use video to fix this but honestly, my suggestion is to use a mirror (if not that is okay) and keep things slow and simple to start.
With a staggered stance (front heel aligned with back toe), and starting with your throwing arm in the power pocket, slowly lift your front foot and practice reaching back so that you hit full extension just after your front foot hits the ground again.
I know I said earlier that this movement is not desired and you should never feel like you're reaching back, and that is correct, but this is a drill designed for you to simply feel the timing and become aware of when full reach back should occur.
As you reach back, try to work on other proper aspects of the throw such as not rounding, maintaining a 90 degree angle at the shoulder, rotating the upper body, etc. As you work on one thing, you can definitely work on others as long as they're not the primary focus at that time.
We're trying to develop muscle memory here.
Repeat this motion over and over again, a full length mirror helps you see the timing as it happens, but if you don't have one, just pay close attention to how the movements feel.
Do this at least 50 times or for a set amount of time or until it starts to feel natural.
Start slow and slowly add speed as needed.
Once you start to get it, it's time to add in a slow x-step, again focusing on keeping your throwing arm into the power pocket and then slowly reaching back, timing full extension to happen just after your plant leg comes back down, or minimally, right at the same time.
Not to sound repetitive, but again start slow before adding speed.
Because you are adding body movement to the equation, you can also practice "leaving" the disc in one position and walking around it vs actively pushing it back.
If this seems like too much to focus on in one drill, that's okay, you can do the same drill 2 separate days and work on different elements!
The nice thing about this drill is that it can literally be done anywhere with or without a disc.
It can even become a part of your warmup routine!
Once you really feel like your timing is coming together, it's finally time to actually throw a disc.
Again you'll want to start slow from a standing position.
This time you may want to record yourself throwing so that you can get immediate feedback to help you fix things mid session.
Really focus on lifting the front foot, reaching back until full extension peaks just after the front foot is planted again, and then using your hips and bodyweight to initiate a throw with the upper body.
Repeat this several times before adding a slow x-step, just like when you were doing this drill in front of a mirror.
Eventually, you'll be doing a normal throw at full speed with perfect timing!
This may take you days, weeks, or months to fix if you're having trouble with it. But don't get frustrated as you're trying to retrain years of muscle memory.
Positive change always takes time, so stick with it!
Additionally, working with someone else on this and coaching them through the same problem can help you further understand your own body mechanics and lessen the learning curve.
Hope this tip helps, and let us know if you need help working on it!
Happy Disc Golfing!
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