1 May 2011

Fixing that forehand

There are 5 fundamental points to throwing a disc: grip, stance, snapping your wrist, angling the disc and pointing on the follow-through.

You can remember it as GSWAP.

Rob and Brodie have demonstrated these points or similar ones.

But have you seen players whose forehands curve over with too much outside in? Despite you mentioning these points? Do they look like this?

GSWAP needs an update.

Number 1: rolling your wrist under, not over

Number 2: moving your elbow through.

These two ideas are linked.

You can practice the first point now: hold a disc (or an imaginary one) in forehand grip, but hold it vertically so your palm faces down. Pretend to throw, and finish with your palm up. This counteracts the outside-in curve that is a regular problem.

To assist this correct rotation, you need to use your elbow. If your elbow is locked in next to your waist, rolling your wrist under is awkward - your wrist prefers to roll over from palm up to palm down.

So free your elbow!

Get into forehand stance again. Hold a disc in forehand grip with your palm down. But this time start with your elbow out, back and bent at 90°.

As you swing your elbow forward, you have more power. Your wrist will more naturally rotate under, from palm down to palm up. Follow through with your palm up.

It looks more like this.

Or you can watch Rob and Brodie

Here are the 5 updated fundamental points to throwing a forehand: grip, stance, rolling your wrist under with snap, swing the elbow, and pointing palm up on the follow-through. You can remember it as GSWEP.

Thanks to Mama for demonstrating the throws.


  1. Hi!
    This is my first visit to your blog. You've got some great thoughts on here!

    I love your thoughts on video analysis and using it to improve throwing.

    Two thoughts:

    1. Even advanced players often have no idea of what their bodies are actually doing during throwing. Nowhere does this seem to be more true than with the wrist/palm/forehand issue. Despite what Rob, yourself, and anyone who's ever taught a beginner how to throw a forehand (myself included) says, the palm does not actually remain facing up in the forehand throw. At least that is the conclusion of high speed video analysis of skilled throwers. http://www.ultimaterob.com/2010/01/13/more-surprising-findings-from-the-world-of-biomechanical-analysis/

    I would not have believed it either if I hadn't read the paper! Perhaps regular video doesn't work for catching this level of detail. More likely, we're just seeing what we want to see when we look at forehand throwing footage rather than what is actually there.

    2. How much does it matter if we know what our bodies are doing? The conscious brain is not well equipped to control the body's motion. There is some evidence that motor skills hold up better under pressure when the performer consciously knows less about their own movement patterns.


  2. @mwitner15

    Thanks for the feedback!

    When consciously focussing on trying to throw, I am recommending players finish with their palm up on the follow through.

    I recognise that almost no-one does this in a game. The palm does not remain facing up. But! The act of trying to roll the palm under does counteract the tendency of the disc to curve over. The best throwers' wrists roll under. Their elbows move forward.

    I've collected a dozen photos of throwers immediately after a forehand. I have video footage of 20 people, and I've edited a few so I can watch them in slow-mo. I need to go through it all thoroughly. And find more.

    I'd like to create a summary of 4 things:
    the video and photo evidence of the biomechanics of excellent forehands, the video and photo evidence of poor forehands, what the trends are in each, and what to suggest to players who have poor forehands.

    For backhands, it doesn't seem to matter that we don't know what our bodies are doing. Almost all players learn to throw a flat backhand over a good distance. Just practise.

    This is not true for forehands.

    My question is: why not?

    Repeatedly throwing forehands without feedback or coaching isn't working. Too many players have forehands that drop out of the sky like wounded ducks, once they attempt something over 15 metres.

    What steps can coaches use to fix this? I feel that coaches and players have to focus on some changes when practising forehands.

    I've coached a few people in the last month on the 2 points of rolling wrist under and using the elbow. I'm trying to work out how often it helps.

    Of course, in a game, you don't want the player thinking - just reacting, and throwing.