Monday, April 06, 2009

Isolating the Wrist

Plenty of people have written plenty of blog entries about Ultimate Frisbee, and, being a typical perennial rec-leaguer (read: not that good) I'm not really qualified to write squat about Ultimate frisbee.

But - I did manage to "fix" my back-hand throws over the last year (more or less) and, being a big nerd with no coordination who doesn't "get" any sporting activity naturally, I can write about how I did it, because the process was deliberate, intentional, and took a while.

I think you could identify a number of important elements to throwing a frisbee - spin is always at the top of the list, as well as the relationship between the disc and its flight path, how the disc is oriented at release, etc.  In my case what I was missing most was wrist isolation.

When you throw a frisbee, the wrist has a special role: many muscle groups are providing forward velocity, which will make the disc go faster (and thus farther before it falls out of the sky).  For a short throw, the elbow and shoulder might be involved; for a longer throw the whole body might rotate.

But the wrist is the only part of the body that can make the disc spin.  Why is that?  Well, the bigger the muscle group, the slower the rotational speed it produces.  I can snap my wrist almost instantly, but I can't rotate my hips 90 degrees that fast.

Thus the key to a frisbee throw is to "save" the wrist snap until the very last instant possible.  If you snap your wrist too early one of two things happens:
  • Your wrist has rotated as far as it goes and the throw isn't over.  Or more likely...
  • Your wrist rotates more slowly than it can so as to rotate at the same speed as bigger muscle groups.
I suspect that many attempts at "big" throws go wrong because the thrower synchronizes the wrist and another muscle group.

For my forehand, snapping my wrist at the last second just sort of happens - I don't know why. But for my back-hand, one of the keys to rehabilitating it was to learn to delay the wrist snap until the last minute - it was an issue of coordination.

What finally got my head in the game was to think of the arm movement and wrist snap as two distinct steps.  The exercise I do is to first step across to 10 o clock with the arm swinging as part of the movement, and then, only once my arm actually gets to the throwing position, snap my wrist to throw, as if throwing without any arm movement at all.

(A number of websites suggest first throwing wrist-only to isolate muscle groups - I think this is a good suggestion.  The next step then is to be able to move the arm and not lose the independent wrist control.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I'll try this next time I play.

--Yer bro