This article was inspired by a series of questions from Erin Faylona, an ultimate player living in the Philippines, who is currently taking her masters in human movement science. She is working on a paper (for Biomechanics) and has decided to dissect the hammer throw. Below you’ll find my response to her questions.
Let me start off by saying the following:
The RIGHT way to throw a hammer is the exact same way you would throw a football pass or a long baseball throw. You will be stepping with the opposite foot of your throwing hand (step with the left foot for a right handed player). However since we have to establish a pivot foot you can step back and work on transferring your weight from the back foot to the front foot.
This is not my opinion; it’s biomechanical fact. Anyone who promotes throwing a hammer (or a forehand for that matter) by stepping with the same foot as your throwing hand is WRONG. Watch the top disc golfers play and you’ll see how a forehand/hammer is meant to be thrown. Just keep in mind that we need to adjust to account for having a pivot foot in ultimate.
1. How many years have you been playing ultimate?
I have been playing ultimate for 14 years but I have been throwing for 15 years. I currently play 10 disc sports and throw a wide range of discs/Frisbees from 65 grams all the way up to 200 grams). I focus on the proper way to throw and how to make each individual a better thrower. I currently hold 6 Guinness World Records in flying disc, have won 10 World Championships and hold the Canadian Distance Record for throwing a disc 700 feet. I have also observed and interviewed the Upside Down Distance World Record holder, who threw a hammer throw 483 feet (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yq5dNMn3oyk). I have learned from, competed against and beaten the best in the world. So my knowledge isn’t just my opinion, but it’s the collective learning from over 40 years of Frisbee teaching and learning.
2. When do you feel the need to use a hammer throw?
A hammer throw is really just a vertical forehand. So the best time to throw a hammer is when you need the disc to get up into the air quickly and come down quickly. The ideal situation for this throw is when you have some defenders in between you and your receiver.
3. What do you think is the best way to do a hammer throw?
Here are the things that I’m trying to look into:
a. Angle of the disc
Depending on how hard you throw the disc and how much snap/spin you put on the disc, depending on how high into the air you want to throw and depending on the conditions including wind and altitude, you will adjust the angle accordingly. Since a hammer is a vertical forehand, it will turn the exact same way that a forehand will (to the left for a right handed thrower). That means the harder you throw the disc, the more vertical you will want to throw it.
b. Position of the head
The head position will depend on the angle and height of release. For a higher throw, the head will be neutral. For a lower throw, the head will tilt away from the disc.
c. Arm form (angle)
The angle of the arm depends on the height that the disc is thrown. For a higher throw, the arm will be extending more vertically and for a lower throw, the arm will be extending more forward.
d. Center of gravity
Since the power for this throw will be coming from the explosive hip turn and the spin will come from the snap of the wrist, it’s important to keep the center of gravity as much underneath the disc as possible to make the release as efficient and clean as possible.
e. Foot stance
Since the best/right way to throw a hammer is by stepping with the opposite leg of the throwing hand, the thrower will want to transfer the weight from their back foot to their front foot. However, when throwing a hammer in ultimate, it’s important to keep in mind the pivot foot so the thrower cannot step forward so instead they will step backwards and transfer the weight accordingly.
f. Angle of the feet
Stepping towards the target
g. Position of the leg
The legs will be slightly bent and straighten up as the thrower moves through the throw to the release, adding to the power and facilitating the hip turn and weight transfer.
h. Hip position
It’s crucial to get hip turn when throwing a hammer so initially the hips will be perpendicular to the target but as the thrower goes through the motion towards release, the hips will turn towards the target and end up perpendicular again (for an ideal throw with the maximum power from the hip turn)
i. Hand movement
The grip will be the power grip – thumb on top of the disc, two fingers underneath pressed together against the rim and the other two fingers pinching against the outside of the rim so we have the thumb, two fingers and two fingers all pinching. Three pinch points. Think about putting your hand in the shape of a gun, pointing two fingers forward. That’s roughly how the grip will look.
j. Focus of the eye
The thrower should look at their target. For example, if I’m throwing to a receiver 40 yards down the field, my target might be 5 yards above their head so I would aim for that and let the flight take care of the rest
k. Aerodynamics of the disc
The disc will behave the same way as a forehand, so the disc will want to turn over to the left (for a right handed thrower)
l. Timing of release
The timing of release all depends on how high the thrower wants to throw. For a high throw, you will want to release the disc earlier, when the disc is overhead and for a lower throw, you will want to release later, when the disc is lower and in front of you.
m. Wrist (timing of release/flick)
The wrist snap is the last part of the throwing motion. Just like snapping a towel, the towel will whip at the end, just like the wrist will whip at the end of the release.
n. Speed and accuracy
The speed of the throw will be determined by how much power the thrower puts on the disc and by how hard they snap their wrist. For a short throw, not much power is required but there should be plenty of snap. The more spin on the disc, the more controlled the disc will fly. For a longer throw, the thrower will need to put a lot of power on the disc and also a lot of snap. Accuracy is all about practice to build up the muscle memory and to work on having a consistent release point.
4. What are the requirements for a player to be able to throw a good hammer?
Proper mechanics, power and spin. Work on shoulder and wrist mobility and improving the hip turn.
5. What is the goal of a hammer throw?
The goal of a hammer throw is to have the disc flattening out as the receiver catches it.
6. What possible injuries / problem do you think might occur if an individual does not know how to properly do the throw?
Injuries that can occur by throwing a hammer throw incorrectly are elbow, shoulder, wrist primarily. Adding more body into the throw (hip turn, leg power) will help alleviate stress on the shoulder and elbow.
*NOTE: I will be working on filming a new instructional video on the hammer throw since I have gotten a lot better at teaching throwing since the last video on a hammer throw was posted. I have a learned A LOT since then. It’s not that it was necessarily wrong. It’s just not entirely right. I was showing the right motion but I didn’t fully understand why I was throwing the way I was.