More Effective Ways to Throw

There’s a lot of downtime during training sessions.
Not only in between drills and while you’re on the sideline during games, but also (especially) at the beginning of the session while everyone is arriving and getting changed. This means that we usually only go for our warm-ups about 15 minutes into our scheduled session start time, that’s a lot of time wasted where we could be running drills or learning in other ways.

Of course, it would be unreasonable to expect everyone to be on the pitch ready with their boots on by 12:00 when most people have lectures just before on Wednesdays (although we do expect this kind of punctuality from everyone at Saturday trainings). So how can we use that downtime more efficiently?

Most of us just end up finding a partner and casually throwing backhands and forehands with no real purpose or goal in mind. Sure it gets your throwing warmed up slightly, keeps your hands warm, but realistically it really isn’t that useful and we can do much better for barely any more effort.

Here are a few examples of easy throwing routines to try out instead.

70 Pass Drill & Variations

There’s a good reason this is my go-to drill I tell people to run during downtime, it’s so simple yet so much more useful than just casual aimless throwing. The most basic variation is simple, just stand at a comfortable throwing distance away from your partner (can be as far as you want it to be, ideally make it just far enough that you’ll turn over at least once or twice as you are ever so slightly outside of your comfort zone) and throw:

10 flat backhands
10 flat forehands
10 around backhands
10 around flicks
10 inside-out backhands
10 inside-out flicks
10 overheads

Simple enough. You can stop reading here if you think that’s all you need, this is already much more useful than normal throwing. But here are some other variations I recommend trying out:

10 flat backhands
10 flat forehands
10 low-release backhands
10 low-release forehands
10 high-release backhands
10 high-release flicks
10 overheads
This is the traditional variation everyone’s run at least once. Practice it both in high and low winds, it’s useful to know just how much you can get away with on the high and low releases in different conditions.
Really push how low you are throwing from (aim to catch blades of grass/mud as you throw the disc), ask your partner to tell you if he/she thinks that you could be reaching lower. Similarly for high releases, really push yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s the best way to improve in trainings.

10 normal backhands
10 normal forehands
10 wide pivot backhands
10 wide pivot forehands
10 “quick pivot” backhands
10 “quick pivot” forehands
10 overheads
I really like this variation. Realistically, you aren’t throwing that many roll curves and hard inside-out throws in game, most of your around breaks will come from pivoting wide and floating a throw into space. Most of your inside breaks will come from reaching that throwing space before your force can adjust in time.
Once again, and as always, really try to push your limits. You should aim to complete at least 6-8 throws (otherwise dial it back a bit), but if you’re completing all 10 reliably then you probably could be pushing yourself further out of your comfort zone.

10 normal backhands
10 normal forehands
10 “touch” backhands
10 “touch” forehands
10 “laser” backhands
10 “laser” forehands
10 overheads
Throwing with touch (ie. as much spin as possible with as little power) is an extremely useful skill to learn. Spin is what keeps your discs flat in Ultimate, and the ability to float a disc out into an area of space for a receiver to run on to is one that all good throwers should have. Being able to “fire” throws into tight spaces is an equally important skill, as you sometimes need to be able to jam a quick throw into a tight window before the defense can adjust. Obviously, don’t huck it with full power right into your partner’s face.

One great thing about the 70-pass drill is how easy it is to come up with your own variations on it. One that I didn’t mention here to keep this post a bit shorter is Frig’s new favourite of having the receiver be running so that the thrower has to throw to a moving target. Another good one is to throw very short (“pop” pass) distance, normal distance, as well as long (high percentage huck) distance.
Just think of different types of throws you want to be practicing, and experiment. Trying out new things by yourself is the best way to learn.

1st Break-mark Drill

Being able to throw really well without a force is nice and all, but it’s very unrealistic. The defence will always be putting pressure on your throws in games, so you need to practice the ability to reliably be able to break your force.


The set-up is once again simple, just get an extra partner (ie. form a three) and have one of the two force you straight up as you try and throw it to your other partner. Once thrown (even if incomplete), follow your throw and start forcing the partner that just received your disc as he tries to throw it back to your original force and do the same as you just did.
To make this drill even more targeted and useful, I recommend deciding on which throw you want to be completing before every rep. As my force is running up to me, I might decide that I want to be throwing a low release inside-out backhand, I’ll then do my best to get that exact throw off. You can even decide on the exact way in which you are going to pivot and fake to get the force out of your way for the decided throw, and see if that plan works. Targeted throwing with a specific goal in mind is always better than aimless throwing.
Additional things you could be adding:

Only allow yourself one fake before your throw.
The best throwers all need the ability to break the mark in as little effort as possible. When you see a man being extremely free on the break side, you don’t want to have to pivot and fake for 5 seconds before you can get your throw off. One decisive fake, and get your throw out.

Only allow yourself one pivot to throw with.
Same as above. Shoulder fakes are allowed, but your goal is still to get your throw off as quickly as possible so don’t overdo it.

Tell your force which throw you are aiming to complete.
Hold yourself accountable. Break the force despite them knowing exactly what you’re aiming for. Of course this can be almost impossible if the force decides to be a dick and just stops biting on your fakes.

Reduce the stall count with each repetition.
Practice throwing under more and more pressure (another good one for this is to allow egregious fouling by your force) by starting your stall count at a higher and higher number with each rep. Giving yourself only 2 seconds (starting on stall 8) to throw is a much tougher challenge than the ridiculously long 10 seconds. Also helps you realise just how long 10 seconds is (there really is no reason to panic until you reach stall ~7 in a game).

Kung-Fu Throwing / Zen Throwing

Here are the full articles about these throwing routines: Kung-Fu & Zen.

These throwing routines are generally a great thing to try out when you have time and a partner, but for training downtime just pick a few of your favourite exercises and run those. Here are some of my top picks:

Compass Throwing
“Imagine a compass with your pivot foot at the center. Pivot N and throw. Pivot NE and throw. Pivot E and throw and so on around the compass. Go four times around, twice throwing forehands and twice throwing backhands.”

Strobe Catches
“While receiving, blink eyes as rapidly as possible.
Hone catching anticipation and reflexes by removing roughly 50% of the information that your eyes receive to simulate the coordination needed to catch while running, distracted or in traffic.”

Target Throwing
“Partner puts up a one-hand target. Try to hit that target. If you can’t hit it perfectly, try to make your misses be farther away from the hand on a line from the targets heart.”

Late Eye Pickups
“Throw to a partner that is standing either eyes-closed or facing away from you. About a third of the way through the flight of the disc, say ‘Now’ so that your partner can find the disc quickly and catch it.”

Full-Power Windups
“Wind-up for each throw as if you were throwing absolutely as hard and far as you can. Throw only 10 yards or so, trying to throw smoothly and without flutter even though your body is propelling.”

Catch Reverts
“On each catch, look the disc all the way into your hands and pause until your eyes refocus on the disc (usually on some specific detail like the flight rings or a part of printed logo). Don’t move to throw until you have completely focused (1-2 seconds).
Reminds your body by overemphasis that it needs to watch the disc as far into your hands as possible.” [this is a great thing to do in general if you’ve had a lot of dropped catches recently]

Whatever you can come up with!

Don’t be afraid to experiment, try out new things and practice new skills in whatever way you think would be useful. As I said at the beginning, any focus whatsoever is better than aimless throwing. Read through your DTS Intentions & Actions and have a think about what you could do to work towards achieving your goals during session downtime.

One thing I really like to do before games for example is to do some casual throwing with a partner, but start sprinting towards the disc as soon as my partner releases it to practice attacking the disc (and get myself warmed up).

Let us know if you come up with anything you’d particularly recommend.

Willem Garnier

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