Melissa Witmer

The Anatomy of a Backhand

The key to advancing from short throws to long throws is not about using more effort, it’s about using more of your body. In your throwing practice you should think of your arms as being loose like the strings of this monkey drum.


Seek velocity and distance in your throws not from the strength in your arms, but from the motion of your hips and core which transfer kinetic energy to your arms the way rotating a monkey drum handle swings the beads to hit the drum.

Teaching the Brain Motor Skills

Brain science tells us that the brain uses different processes and different parts for gaining different types of knowledge. The type of conscious, or explicit, knowledge we learn in school is controlled by the prefrontal cortex. The logical prefrontal cortex can quickly solve rational problems and learn step by step tasks. Using the prefrontal cortex, we can analyze what we know, we can show our work in math problems, or explain to someone else how we performed a task.

More Surprising Findings from the World of Biomechanical Analysis!

This is part II of the summary I began last week (located here). Today’s discussion has important implications for how we instruct new players in learning to a forehand.

In case you’re just joining us, I’m reviewing an article published in Sports Biomechanics called “Biomechanical analysis of the sidearm throwing motion for distance of a flying disc: a comparison of skilled and unskilled players.” (Being a scientist, I should make it clear that my analysis of the work reported is very similar to, but not exactly the same as the conclusions arrived at by the authors of the paper. So this is not a direct summary of the paper.)

Surprising Findings From the World of Biomechanical Analysis!

I am going to attempt a summary of an article published in Sports Biomechanics called “Biomechanical analysis of the sidearm throwing motion for distance of a flying disc: a comparison of skilled and unskilled players.” I am hoping to offer something brief, easily understood, and practical. If you want experimental details, or are looking for something more erudite, please read the paper : )

In this study ten skilled and seven unskilled players were taped throwing forehands as far as they could. The movements of their shoulders, arms, and wrist were analyzed. The initial velocity of the discs, spin rate of the discs, all angles of the disc, and distance of the throws were measured.

Throwing Practice Evolution

What follows are my thoughts on phases a player might go through as they engage in deliberate throwing practice. These are offered so that you know what to expect and can avoid becoming stagnant.

Beginner Phase: This phase may be characterized by unbridled enthusiasm and complete obsession with throwing practice. During this phase, I’d say just go with the flow and do what feels right. When you first begin, you’re going to have quick gains in throwing capabilities no matter what you do. Just get the disc in your hands as often as possible.

Deliberate Practice

Obviously you want to be practicing the right throwing techniques. You should also learn how to practice the right practice techniques.

Research by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson indicates that anyone can become a master at any task if they devote 10 000 hours of deliberate practice. Um, that’s a lot of hours. What I want to focus on here is not the volume of practice, but the words “deliberate practice.” Even putting in the hours is not enough. It must be “deliberate” practice. If every hour you invest in throwing is deliberate practice, you will improve much more quickly that someone who just dicks around with the disc for twice as long.