Ah, the ever illusive forehand. Long the bane of many rookie’s early learning curve, it’s a foreign movement and very difficult to master. It’s not something you can really pick up from any other sports, except maybe baseball or tennis, and demands a lot of hours before it is reliable. I’ve taught a lot of people how to improve their forehands, from beginners to advanced, and these are the most common mistakes I see and how to fix them:
‘Breaking’ your wrist too early
By ‘breaking your wrist’, I mean that point in the forehand throw where it goes from being cocked forwards, to bending backwards, before it snaps forwards again to generate spin before releasing the disc. Ideally, the wrist should break very late in the movement. The cue I always use is that it should break after the disc has passed the line of your body on the forwards swing. A really common mistake I see is breaking the wrist as the disc is pulled back. If this is you, it’s difficult for me to communicate how much this is robbing your forehand of power and control. To rectify, over-exaggerate cocking your wrist forward as you throw. Do some reps in the mirror, making sure that your wrist doesn’t break until it’s past your body.
Grip not aligned with arm
The most common mistake I see is the disc is being held too much on the pads of the fingers and not the sides. This is difficult to explain so here are a couple of side by side photos.
Everything needs to be aligned in your throwing motion in order for power to transfer efficiently from your torso through your shoulder, elbow, then finally your wrist. Having the disc aligned with your forearm is a key part of this chain. The forwards motion of your forehand acts in a similar way to pendulum - all the force of your torso and arm swinging towards one release point. Any kinks in this chain, like the disc not being properly aligned, will sap power from the resulting throw.
This also helps with control, as you are effectively able to measure the release angle of your throw, but the angle of your forearm.
Really the only time it’s useful to drop the disc so that your pads are gripping the rim, is a high release forehand. So, all the time. #amiright. But no seriously, don't get used to this grip.
Falling off the throw
To throw forehands consistently, you must be balanced before, during and after the movement. Falling backwards off a longer throw or a wider pivot is where this is most commonly seen, and this will cause your throws to end up sailing far too high. Measure success here by maintaining your pivot stance after completing a throw during your practice sessions.
Elbow tucked into side
The classic beginner stability shortcut is tucking your elbow into your side to simplify the movement. If you coach beginner throwing like this, please stop now, you are hamstringing your athletes who will spend years shaking off your shitty tutelage. At the release point of each throw, your arm should be relatively straight (see image of Seb above). This achieves both increased width to the throw and a more efficient flow of power from the shoulder to the wrist.
Pivoting too wide
Wide releases are very useful in our sport, but you need to be able to make that throw while being balanced and able to recover quickly. Pivoting too wide on your forehand can get you a couple of insta wins, but is unsustainable as you start to progress in the sport. What is ‘too wide’? I think probably when the angle of your off pivot leg knee passes 90-110 degrees. Symptoms of this include falling over after the throw or not being able to get up in one movement, instead needing a couple of seconds to get yourself out of an impressive split stance. The solution to this is leaning more over your off-pivot knee to get width. Yes, it takes more strength, but you can get just as wide and it is far safer.
Foot facing backwards
An alarming number of people throw wider forehands with their off-pivot foot angled backwards, away from their target. Often this is justified by their knee getting in the way of forehands. The backwards angled foot allows them to lean their knee behind the throwing arm and get their forehand off cleanly. There are a number of things wrong with this: it’s a really dangerous and unstable position to repeatedly put your knee in, it is sapping potential power from your forehand stance and it encourages over extension off that off-pivot leg. When throwing a wide forehand, your foot should be angled forwards or maybe sideways (but this is much less stable). To get your knee out of the way, just lean further into the throw and over your off-pivot knee, as noted above. If you move your shoulder wider and past your knee, there’s no way that pesky, god-forsaken joint can interfere with your dime flick hucks.
If you're guilty of any of these sins, you're forgiven. Get out there and practice, practice, practice to iron out the kinks in your forehand and you'll be ripping field-length god hucks in no time!