Coaches Corner Learning to throw with your off-hand by Alexander Gan

The process of learning to throw with your off-hand is one that will help add versatility to your throwing sessions, but more importantly gives an insight into what it's like to start again from scratch; an invaluable insight for a throwing coach

19th March 2020

The biggest thing preventing me from throwing well was grip strength. When holding the disc in the grip I wanted for the flick my hand felt awkward and got tired very quickly. I couldn’t even hold it horizontally with my wrist locked in position rather than dangling

Alex's grip for offhand forehand

You can see grip strength is weak since I can only really throw outside in rather than bringing the disc to completely flat

My throwing action is quite slow for the same reason

When throwing, I couldn’t move the disc out and throw quickly because my grip strength couldn’t take the disc through all the snapping motion. I was only able to throw flicks when I slowly brought the disc out first then threw. They came out pretty smoothly but turfed a lot. Focusing on pulling the elbow through first to lead the throw helped a lot to fix this. I found it hard to throw inside outs which probably had to do with elbow, shoulder and wrist flexibility/strength.

I started doing a bunch of exercises to strengthen grip strength in the flick grip (from the 19th):

  1. 20 grip changes from backhand to flick and vice versa (first using only one hand then using 2 hands)
  2. 20 reps of holding in the flick grip and bringing the disc from vertical upright to down by unfolding the elbow then bringing it back up
  3. 20 reps of flick fakes to get comfortable in the motion and try to prevent the disc from moving out of the hand

I cover these exercises in detail in my article on Learning a Good Forehand

23rd March

Today I felt a small improvement in grip strength but not too much. I have seen a big difference in the amount of elbow lead/flexibility I’m getting (the elbow is leading the throw a lot more and it looks much more like my righty flick). Bigger elbow lead helps my throws come out flatter and eventually inside out.

Elbow leads a bit more which is good but grip strength isn’t too much better

I found it was possible today to make them flat and inside out (though my aim was atrocious, they all kept going left of the target). Still a lot of gains to be made on grip strength but at least the flexibility of that elbow is getting better and making the throw nicer.

I think I could work on leaning a bit further forward and pushing that elbow flexion further as well as continuing to strengthen the grip

24th March

Had a bit of a shorter throw today (time wise). Grip is still annoyingly weak but it’s only been a day since last post so no surprises there. Tried to throw inside out ones with some success, just dropping the elbow while still trying to pull through with it. Got frustrated at the inconsistency of the throws when trying to release them flat. Trying to drill in the taut chest and elbow flexion to every throw. Chucked some longer ones which was difficult (20-25ish metres). Helped to try and grip the disc as tightly as I possibly could because that’s where the throw falls apart.

26th March

Had a great session today. Everything went well, throws came out smoothly and much flatter. Index finger was hurting though from a pre-existing injury. Elbow lead was good. Keeping my shoulder blades together to make the chest taut and create pull for the rest of the arm worked well. I practiced it a little when faking over the last couple of days and it made it feel more natural and powerful. Got much more consistent at the inside out when I was trying to do it too.

You can see a lot more distance and a snappier action which were the result of more grip strength

2nd April

Have been practicing a lot of wrist movement while holding the disc in the flick grip (shaking the disc back and forth along the throwing plane) to strengthen my grip so that I’m able to grip and throw better. It’s having good results. I was able to huck for the first time without the grip giving in and turning the throw ridiculously outside in, however the distance was still only about 25m

There’s still a lot of work to be done to get consistency on the 10-15m passes as I struggle to get them accurate a lot of the time. Having my head forward over my toes and engaging the core as well as throwing the disc from slightly less wide made some of the throws feel way more controlled and come out very nicely, so building on that to get consistency is probably a good start.

you can see that there’s a lot more elbow lead, and the disc comes out a lot faster

8th May

I continued to practice for a few more weeks and consistency got a bit better as well as power. I stopped for a week and a half because my middle finger was starting to get bruising pain where it contacted the disc on its right side (when facing palm towards me). I think this was due to me gripping it a bit wrong with my left. As I regained use of my right hand I noticed my grip was not on the rim enough and so readjusted. Threw again a couple of days ago and today and they’re coming out very smoothly. Consistency at 10-15m isn’t perfect but it’s a lot better and I can control the inside edge a lot better as well (though not very consistently – needs more practice).

Longer throws I can throw probably 30-40m now which is cool. I think a combination of grip strength improvement, finger recovery, technique and time off have made the technique a lot better. Still feels very different to the familiarity of the right hand so there’s work to do. Also worked on longer leftie backhand throws. Tensing my core as I threw increased my consistency through the roof so I need to remember to do that. Also experimented with weight distribution and pulling it back towards my pivot leg. My left leg just isn’t used to it’s quad being worked that hard so will take time to strengthen it.

you can see the focus on the core strength though it’s probably a little bit too rigid here

Final – 9th August

Adjustments I’ve made recently have been trying to pull the disc further back in the back swing so my arm has more space to accelerate through to propel the disc. Paired with a good elbow lead I feel this helps me get more power and consistency.

The movement is finally feeling more natural; there’s less unnecessary movement & rigidity while still maintaining balance and power

I’m also able to throw a variety of shapes, and be able to adjust to wind conditions:

Flat forehand

Outside in curve

An inside break

Backhands

Throughout the process I also worked on my leftie backhands a bit for the sake of balance. I had actually already practiced them a fair bit beforehand but it was still handy to go through the process of comparing it to the right and break down the steps of developing the throw.

Conclusions

My key takeaways from this process were:

  • Grip strength was an immediate barrier; if you’re not physically strong enough to hold a disc, then you’re never going to be able to throw it well. It didn’t take much time to improve this though.
  • Filming myself throwing and watching it back afterwards was hugely important to identifying some of the problem areas; it became no different than coaching my other students. See Learning a Good Forehand
  • Arm flexibility was another area of obvious weakness, as I couldn’t get the elbow to lead on my left. Again, this improved pretty quickly.
  • Our bodies are used to doing all the work on one side, so the simple act of pivoting onto the left leg felt hard. Throwing with both hands has helped to even up my lower body strength
  • I’ve been through the process of learning to throw again, this time from the perspective of an experienced player rather than a beginner. It’s really helped me to see things from a new perspective and I think it’ll make me better at coaching throwing

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