In my own quest for improving my driving and throwing distance, I have done an extensive amount of video review of some of the top distance throwing pros such as Simon Lizotte, Eagle McMahon, Paige Pierce, and Paul McBeth.
And in comparing to my own form and technique from filming myself, I noticed many significant differences from the Pros that were severely limiting my distance.
One of the first things I noticed was,
Specifically, placement of my front foot when bracing for my throw.
Footwork during a run up or X-step is something that many players worry about and are aware of when trying to improve their throwing distance,
but where your front foot goes can actually have one of the biggest impact on how far your disc flies upon release because it sets up everything in your form that ultimately effects distance.
Foot placement directly effects hip engagement, body weight distribution/transfer, and whether or not you can use these two things together to create an effective brace when pulling the disc through the power pocket.
So lets take a look at what you should do with your front foot to maximize your throwing distance during your next field work session!
What direction should my foot face when I plant it for my brace?
Before we get into where your foot should go, we need to quickly go over which direction your toe should face when it is planted and bracing for your throw.
Your foot needs to be 100% perpendicular to your target, with your toes pointed forward,
as shown below:
In this picture, my right foot is completely perpendicular to the line that I'm throwing on, which is correct.
Your toes should never point at a 45 degree angle, at the target, or anything in between when it is planted for a throw.
Here are some examples of incorrect foot directions that you want to avoid AT ALL TIMES.
Which direction your toe faces is extremely important because it helps to set up proper placement and use of your hips, which is vital to improving distance.
When your toes are pointing forward and "square" to the target, your hips remain closed and are prevented from opening up prematurely.
Only once you are releasing the disc should your toes be pointed the direction they are in the last picture shown above.
If you plant with your foot in any position other than perpendicular to the target, your hips are going to follow, and you will never get their potential help,
as once they're open, they stay open.
Once you nail down the direction your foot is supposed to be facing, it's time to address where it should be planted in relation to the rest of your body and the line that you're throwing on.
For proper foot placement:
Your front foot should be planted slightly forward to the rest of your body.
What does this mean?
To simplify, stand with your feet together.
Now, take your foot that is in the front when throwing a backhand throw, and move it forward so that you're front foot's heel is in line with your back foot's toes.
This staggered position is alignment that you want when planting your front foot for a drive.
NOT in a straight line as if your feet are together.
When done properly, and combined with the proper direction your toes should be facing, it will look something like this:
or like this:
As you can see in both examples, the front foot is slightly staggered forward compared to the rest of the body.
This foot placement helps lock the hips in, closed, and ready to go for when you hit the power pocket and release the disc.
What you don't want your front foot to look like on a throw is this:
In this picture, not only are my feet not staggered, but my foot is not perpendicular to my target.
As a result, you can clearly see my hips are already open while I'm still in my reach back phase, YIKES!
Luckily, it was only a 200 foot hole, so max distance was not needed.
But if I was throwing for max distance, I would have struggled.
How far should I reach with my front foot?
Now that we've discussed proper foot direction, and foot staggering, it's worth mentioning that you should also not reach too far out ahead of your body with your front foot, nor put it down too soon when planting.
If you reach too far, you'll spread yourself out so much that you won't be able to effectively transfer weight into your throw. Getting too far ahead will also tend to cause a high release as your shoulders get behind and your back shoulder dips.
Naturally, putting your foot down too quickly will have the opposite effect.
When put it down too quickly, your hips will open too soon, your weight transfer will happen too quickly, and neither will help your throw gain any distance as a result.
Doing this will also cause your shoulders to get ahead of your body, and cause a low release as your front shoulder dips from getting ahead of the rest of your body too quickly.
I refrain from showing a picture of this because it is largely going to vary from player to player and depend on things such as the player's height and the speed of their run up.
What advice I can give you is to not feel like your reaching with your front foot, and to not try and get it down as soon as possible.
Simply put it down whenever it feels most comfortable and natural.
Do this, and most of the time you'll be in good shape!
In summary, there are 3 things you want to focus on in regards to your front foot:
Toes pointed away from your body and completely perpendicular to the target
Front foot staggered forward from your back foot so that your front heel and back toes are in line
Don't reach to put your front foot down, and don't put it down too quickly, just let it happen naturally.
Do these 3 things, and you will start to see other aspects of your form really come together and feel better, which should ultimately improve your driving distance in time and with practice, if not immediately.
One final thing I'd like to mention is that a lot of this is not possible without having another player watch and give you feedback, or by filming yourself.
Otherwise, it can sometimes be difficult to truly see what position your body is in, especially in full speed.
Being able to SEE what you're doing wrong is often the first step in FEELING what is wrong, and making the changes necessary to fix it.
So don't be afraid to ask others for help, or set up a camera to film yourself, and really break down your form from time to time.
It will definitely help you improve your game!
So get out there, practice your foot placement, and let us know if it helped!
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