Why is backhand so important?
Since in a game you are going to be marked by someone, you will want to be able to throw both a backhand and a forehand. A backhand will give you more separation from your mark than a flick since you’re getting further away from your pivot foot on your throw. As well, a backhand gives you more control over the disc since you have greater range of motion on your wrist flick with the backhand. Having a good backhand is crucial to being a good handler.
Gripping the disc
- Power Grip
I recommend starting off with the power grip for the backhand. A lot of players who are first starting will begin using the split finger throw since it provides more stability but it doesn’t allow for the same range of motion for your wrist so the power grip is actually an easier grip to start with.
The key thing about the backhand is that it’s all in the wrist to start off with. As illustrated in Image 1, you will want to grip the disc with your fingers along the underside of the rim. When you’re throwing, play around with this grip and find out what the most comfortable way to hold it for you is (for example, I find that my middle finger rubs on the rim a lot when I throw so I move it a bit away from the rim when I throw). The thumb is very important in the backhand, as illustrated in Image 2. Especially when it’s rainy or windy, you will want to form a tight grip using your fingers and thumb. Squeeze your thumb to grip the disc tightly.
- Split Grip
Everything else is the same for the split grip except the index finger is along the rim, as in Image 3.
Wrist Flick/Throwing Motion
- Wrist Flick
Once you have developed a good snap, then you can incorporate the rest of your arm and body into the throw to not only increase the power (and distance) but also to help you fake your mark so you can get more throws off. Much like a backhand shot in tennis, you want to be stepping out in a lunge (making sure to not move your pivot foot) and snapping your wrist towards your intended receiver. If you release the disc with an inside-out edge, as shown in Image 4, then you will want to release the disc to the right of your receiver (to the left for lefties). If you release the disc with an outside-in edge, as in Image 5, you will want to release the disc to the left of your receiver (to the right for lefties).
- Throwing Motion
Once you’ve developed the ability to flick the disc flat and with little to no wobble, you can add the arm and body motion into the throw. This will be different for everyone and it all depends on your flexiblity, range of motion and strength. I’ve found the most effective throwing motion for myself is to step with my right foot (non pivot foot), and at the same time turn my body (using my hips and core) and snap my arm, ending with my wrist flicking the disc. With this motion I am able to throw many hucks without my arm tiring since I have so much energy being contributed from my core and my legs. It has taken me many hours of practice to develop this technique and was adapted from watching good throwers throw. I would suggest that you try different techniques as well until you find one that works for you, but ideally it should incorporate your entire body.
Mechanics vs Technique
There are 2 parts to a throw; the mechanics and the technique. The mechanics are the parts which make up the technique so in the case of the backhand, the mechanics are:
- Wrist snap
- Arm motion/follow through
- Hip turn
I want to stress the importance of good mechanics in your technique. If we rely only on our wrist and arm when throwing then we will end up putting too much strain on our elbows and shoulders and will have our technique negatively affect our body. A lot can be said for good mechanics, and a good technique will have the proper mechanics built into its core. I really want to stress how important it is to develop the proper mechanics before you move onto throwing hucks and pulls because if you’re trying to throw hard and far without the proper mechanics, you will almost definitely hurt yourself. I’ve practiced many hours to develop my mechanics and my technique and I incorporate so much power into my throws using my body that I don’t have any stress injuries from throwing too hard or too much.
The best technique is really the one which works best for your body. Everyone is built differently so watch others throw, try different techniques and adopt the one which works best for you. And be open to criticism – you can never stop learning!