Thursday, July 28

Did You Ever Wonder

...what your arm/chest look like when you throw really hard?

This guy looks like he's throwing a disc.

The first pic that came to mind was me at CHC08 getting humped by the mark. Post-release, rather than pre-, but the similarities incl. off-hand positioning (I do get called for pushoff fouls from time to time. I believe these are more accurately described as "upper-body rotation fouls".), and... not sure what else.

That gallery, however, included the following pics: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Things to look at: Off-arm/hand positioning, positioning of throwing arm relative to shoulder, elbow angle(& valgus stress!), facial expression, hips, and more.

Back to the original photo. Consider the engagement of muscles from all of the pectoralis major (clavicular [aka "upper", aka "attaches to clavicle"], sternal [aka "middle", aka "attaches to sternum"], and costal [aka "lower", aka "attaches to the ribs"] sections, to everything in the general frontal/side-al ab region, to the ever-sneaky coracobrachialis. Consider the engagement of the muscles on the opposite side of the body. Consider that the motion is essentially a full-body twist/rotation with the spine/sternum as the pivot.

Consider the elevation of the handballer's arm. Consider the extension of the muscles at various arm positions (compare to the frisbee photos). Consider the paths that they draw to the sternum.

Try an activity! Put your non-throwing arm (L for Righties) on your throwing chest. Now, pin your elbow to your side and externally rotate. If this confuses you, put a disc in your throwing arm, and slowly replicate a throwing motion with your elbow pinned to your side. Feel how the muscles in your chest move. Note how far back you can move the disc. Now, straighten your throwing arm at shoulder height. Rotate similarly with elbow locked. That is, take your arm back as far as possible, and then swing it forward to point straight ahead. Note the difference in distance behind your back. Notice the difference in what your non-throwing hand feels in your chest muscles. Now, reach UP and BACK with your straight throwing arm. Swing it forward so that it ends at chest height in front of you. Notice any differences. Finally, reach UP and BACK with your throwing arm, but when you reach the end of the line, bend your elbow to ~115 degrees. Swing your arm forward to the same end point. Note the differences.

Which of these feels strongest? Which, if you provide resistance, is the strongest? Which engages more muscles? Which engages more muscles in a straight-line force-production rather than bending through your shoulder joint?

Back to the handballer. That dude is about to rip the shit out of the ball. He's calm, he's got his eyes on the prize, he's got good form, he's taking the ball high rather than low (see: tennis.), he's engages the muscles from his wrist through his arm through his shoulder through his abs through his hips. I bet if he had no pants, we'd see good activation in the hips/legs as well.

But what about that awkward off-hand? What IS it doing? Why is it so similar to what frisbee players do? What about that funny way that soccer players run around with their hands awkwardly reinforcing the strength of their legs? Counterweight. Balance. Power. Not sure exactly why in all cases, the palm is facing inward, but I know for a fact that I do goofy looking hand positions like that too when I throw. The opposite side of the body has to counter what the activate side of the body is doing. If I grab a disc and huck a flick in slow motion, one of the first things I do is reach forward with my left hand. As I start the throwing motion, my left hand moves back toward my body. If I pretend someone is hugging me on the mark, I throw my shoulder forward without extending my arm. Counter. Counter.

Further, if you imagine that this handballer has a disc in his hand would there be any changes to make to his form? Aside from the largely irrelevant notion of "wrong pivot foot"? I come up with exactly zero.

So, why, again, do we teach people to throw low?

To add on, if you consider the arm extended at the following degrees (60, 90, 110) from the torso, which of them provides the greatest distance from hand to body? 90, pretty obviously, for those of us who have seen triangles before.

So, why, again, do we teach people to throw low?

This is why, while I have monkey-arms, my arms seem even longer. Even when I throw from a lowered body position or a sub-90 angle, I am extending my arm as far as possible at the point of release.

So, why, again, do we teach people to throw with their elbows pinned to their sides?

If you've played against/with me and wondered "how does he throw like that?" the answer is in this handball picture. The answer is in how infielders throw in baseball. The answer is in "because my body works that way".

Next question... why do people insist on releasing low in the wind? Is there less wind there? Is it because they believe that by throwing the disc UP to their target that the disc is less likely to fly up up and away? Is it because they can't actually throw well so they need to get low and throw hard hoping that it will balance out?

Next question... why do people say "think about the wind before you throw"? Isn't that like "looking at the defender instead of the offender" when you throw? Doesn't that just mean, in a very literal sense, that the defender/wind is in your head? Isn't "so I don't have to think about the wind when I throw" why warmups that involve game-time throws in the conditions of a given game are important?

Next... Nope. I'm done. That was a lot of rambly-type typing just now.


Daniel H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel H. said...

Lately, I've been considering how the non-throwing arm is positioned. Thanks for articulating what's been on my mind, while taking it to the next level with some substantive observations.

gapoole said...

An attempt at explanation: consistently throwing perfectly flat is more difficult than throwing with a slight tilt because your margin of error is smaller (see: Billiards). If you are trying to throw perfectly flat into the wind, your margin of error could make the disc come out tilted slightly up or slightly down, which means the wind would push it either up or down respectively. If you start from a low release point, you know the disc is going to be tilted up, so the potential influence of the wind is more predictable (you know it's pushing the disc up). That means you can plan for the adjustment, rather than trying to avoid it.

I agree, though. Thinking about the wind is counterproductive. I never look at my mark when I'm breaking him successfully. But I do get called for push-off fouls, and I say they should either stop humping me or accept that with physical play comes physical play.

dusty.rhodes said...

Glenn, you forget that OI throws are just as tilted as IO throws. Why advocate one without mentioning the other? This may be a deeper issue with the understanding of what throwing is. What "good throws" look like.

If we draw a straight line btw the disc and the point at which it will be caught, the "under" (IO) curve, and the "over" (OI) curve, is there a substantive difference btw them w/r/t throwing in the wind?

Understood that the flight path of the disc past that point is different, but I would argue that depending on the wind and the position of the players on the field either could be considered to have more/better ancillary advantages.

gapoole said...

There's no arguing that IO is better sometimes, OI at other times, I was referring merely to the vertical tilt of the disc, not the degree of IO/OI.

I also ran a few numbers trying to see if the margin of error for vertical tilt angle was different for release points 6", 2.5' and 4.5' from the ground reaching targets 10yds, 20yds and 40yds away assuming that a "catchable" disc reaches the receiver between 2' and 6' from the ground. Turns out that the range of acceptable release angles is almost identical regardless of release point. That may have been obvious, but my point is that throwing from a certain height has no objective margin-of-error benefit.

In fact, I would say that the ideal release point for a given throw has much more to do with how fast you can get the throw off and how likely it is for the mark to block it with a hand/foot. For this reason, OI throws (which get you a little extra horizontal distance from the mark) are probably better than IO releases, provided you can accurately throw to the spot you want the receiver to catch the disc...but it can be pretty difficult to quickly judge the meeting point of two vectors when some dude is humping your hip.

dusty.rhodes said...

The Extra Extension for use with the OI is also given by the option of releasing the disc *Earlier* with more OI (think longer path, more arc, but thrown harder and released earlier) which is prevented on an IO throw by the way that IOs travel. If I release an IO earlier and give it more IO, it will travel further away from the intended target.

Also, I would argue that in men's ultimate, a catchable disc is from 1' to 9' without undue presure put on the receiver. With some lines/teams/players you can throw incuts at about 10' consistently with little ill effect. Your figure of 2' to 6' doesn't even account for arms which easily reach over 6' on most men. Ross Littauer may be an exception.

Point is, I like to guess at which numbers are meaningful.

Also, what of the direction in which the target is traveling? Which throw is better for which directions w/r/t the thrower? In a way, IO flicks to a cutter flaring to the flick side actually provide more opportunities for the receiver to catch the disc than OI flicks in the same situation. But can you mae any of those opportunities as easy as the best opportunity provided by the OI throw?

And this is the reasoning that leads me to throw my favorite throw: "The Outside-In to the Inside-out Side".

"it can be pretty difficult to quickly judge the meeting point of two vectors when some dude is humping your hip."

Only if you suck at throwing in ultimate. It's hard to hit a curveball too, but that's baseball.

gapoole said...

Sorry, I've been playing mixed...and even at Rutgers, passes above 6' were only caught by certain receivers (i.e. the ones that didn't suck). But I suspect that even with a bigger sphere of catchability, the ranges would still differ little to none.

The OI-to-the-IO-side was the throw I was actually thinking about when I said you had to know where it would meet the cutter. And my final comment was more joking than serious. I love threading the needle, especially through a zone--gauging not only what flight path a disc must take to hit a moving popper, but also when/how to throw it so the two goofy 6'4" guys in front of me curse and try to figure out which one of them should have stopped it.

BCR said...

As with most things ultimate-coaching related ... people don't think about the advice they got, and pass on the same bad habits and coaching techniques to each new generation.

Optimal throwing mechanics for range/power/speed/whatever criteria will always be overruled by the needs of the game. We teach throw low because thats how you get under a force's arms.

Teaching with elbow to the side (which i hate) is a coaching cue to get people to use correct mechanics for the end of the kinetic chain (wrist etc) and it in no way should be used beyond that.

Throwing low with wind - There's a slight difference in the wind down there but there is also a truth that it is harder to throw an OI disc down low due to the mechanics (or any other angled disc really, though that is because the ground gets in the way). Due to flight mechanics there is a difference between an IO and an OI disc in the wind in so far as which will turn over quicker...

Angle of attack on the disc is pretty much all the matters with the wind in practical terms, release height is negligible.

And i'd say thinking about the wind is equivalent advice to "throw where the defender can't get it" - sound advice.

B-Lo said...

i swear i've seen you turnover your "OI to the IO side" flick a ton of times. maybe it's because you just throw it a lot. or maybe it's because your notion of that throw creating a larger margin for error is not quite right. i mean how many points along the flight path of that throw are really viable points for the receiver to catch the disc (especially the way you throw your flick)?

on the other hand, i believe the count used to advocate not worrying about the flight path of the disc. just get the disc to the spot.

agreed that advocating low release throws (especially in wind) is one of the best examples of bad advice that just keeps getting perpetuated. i challenge anyone to find me a picture or video of cruickshank or defrondeville or regetz or damien or idris throwing a low release throw.

as for release height, one reason i tend to throw below shoulder height is so i can throw with a bit of pitch (lip up tilt) to add touch to my throws without subjecting my throw to a rising flight pattern. but i know throwing with touch is not something you subscribe to (but should).

dusty.rhodes said...


Or is it that the coaches don't always think about or understand the advice they give? Yes, both is the answer.

What is this ludicrous obsession with getting under the force/mark's arm? Seriously, people mention that, and it doesn't fly with me. Why not throw over the mark's arm? Why prioritize one or the other? Why not do both? Contrary to the image I give off, I'm perfectly capable of getting low and throwing the IO flick and I believe it is a definitively valuable throw. But I'm also relatively sure it is used for ~10-20% of throws.

I also will not rubberstamp the idea that it is difficult to throw an OI flick when you're low. I learned this from Ian McClellan, originally, but a great low OI throw to the breakside is a truly flexible throw. The low IO is the complimentary throw to the low OI. Not the other way round. In part because the lower you get, the less space you have to actually throw the IO. That is, if the disc is below your hand when you throw your IO flick, you can't reach down as far to throw it as when the disc is above your hand for the OI. The disc is more likely to touch the ground and interfere with your motion. The flight path is more likely to actually include the ground due the "grass is down" rule in ultimate. If you release the disc while it is touching a blade of grass, it is a TO.

Yes, the OI obviously "turns over" faster. But so what? If the wind is traveling from my left to my right and I throw an OI flick, I'm never anticipating that the disc will be flat. If I throw an IO disc there, I'm relying on it to flatten out before the wind affects it too much.

"Throw where the defender can't get it" is more relevant in football because you get more downs. "Throw where your receiver gets to it first" is more applicable to ultimate.

dusty.rhodes said...


I never said I don't believe in touch. I was probably making a point about how touch isn't vital to a good throw. That is, it is way more important for the disc to be in the right place than for it to be the softest easiest catch imaginable. The timing of the throw's arrival (the earlier the better with exceptions) is also relevant.

Sure, I've turned that throw over a ton. I've turned every throw I've ever thrown over a ton. If I play with people who are unfamiliar with me, I'll also try to force that throw without them knowing it is coming. Which is bad for everyone. So too when I try to overplay my hand as a player like when I play with truly bad teams (pickup/Nocturnal Decisions/08 Pike) when I'm mentally trying (and usually failing) to raise my game and carry them. I've seen you throw your low-stepthrough backhand directly into the ground more times than I care to remember. Certainly doesn't invalidate the throw.

The viable catch points, when thrown correctly, are along the flight path as the disc moves away from the receiver, but in the direction he is traveling. If the pass is thrown appropriately ("with touch" might be appropriate here) it doesn't dive hard for the ground, but rather fades in the same direction as the cutter is running. Yes, I've definitely completed this pass after the initial catch was missed. And I've definitely seen receivers run it out to gain position on the field by choice. Contrast with an IO that, once you miss the optimal catch point, it is moving away from you. The options you have as a receiver w/r/t catch points relate more directly to the defense and preventing a D than it does with "what can i do with this disc *after* i catch it." That portion of the throw, for this (Still breakmark) OI is totally on the thrower. It is a different weighting of responsibilities, in a sense.

Further along that line of thought is where the defender has a chance to D the disc with an IO or an OI to the breakside. On an IO, it tends to be "near the receiver when he tries to catch" or "late in the flight path". On an OI it is "Early or not at all".

There are Definitely clips of Shank throwing low. I'm thinking either 05 or 06 Nationals going away from the food/tourney central/merch tents. Some called play with maybe Grant in the front of the stack and Shank throws this flat-out absurd cross-field lefty backhand IO break. The others I can't think of any.

My take on DeFrondeville's bit is "only the last 15% of your throw matters".

btw... I did the "Regetz Shrug of Disdain" at Mercer on Tuesday when the timing to the breakside was terrible. I had flashbacks.