Whether you’re new to the sport of disc golf or looking to up your game, you may be curious how to increase your throwing distance. While there are many ways to do so, learning techniques to increase your arm speed is a critical element of that equation.
When you hear the word “speed” within the context of disc golf, it’s likely that your first thought is about how fast the disc travels, the actual disc speed (don’t worry, that’s pretty normal). However, there’s another type of speed to consider: arm speed.
Increasing arm speed is a great way to increase your throwing distance. After all, the faster your arm is moving, the faster the disc will be released from your grip. This means that the disc will not only have more momentum, but also more spin – both of which add up to greater distance.
How Do You Increase Arm Speed?
Glad you asked! The best ways to increase arm speed are as follows:
- Engage your hips with proper foot placement
- Rotate your shoulders all the way around in your reachback
- Pull through correctly
- Train your core and lats for strength
You’re not really here just to know what you need to work on to increase your arm speed, but also how to focus on those key points. Below, I’ll go over each in detail so you know exactly how to improve on them. Let’s do this!
Engage The Hips
Though it may seem odd to discuss engaging your lower body to increase your arm speed, properly throwing a disc isn’t limited to the upper body. A vast majority of the power behind a throw originates from your hips, core, and legs. Utilizing these large muscle groups allows your body to create more strength behind a throw.
To engage your hips, try loading them, meaning shifting your weight from your rear legs/hips to the front throughout the motion of your throw. Bend your knees and get low. Once your hips are loaded, they’re now considered to be in a closed position (that is, your hips are more perpendicular to the throw than facing it). The kinetic energy is stored until your hips are in an open, unloaded position, which means they’re facing the direction of the throw. This hip swivel – moving from a closed position to an open position – forces your upper body to turn towards the desired target, transforming your arm into a whip.
Which brings me to my next tip…
Rotate The Shoulders
Whether you tee off forehand or backhand, rotating your shoulders is a vital step to increasing your throwing distance. And now that your hips are loaded, your upper body becomes even more engaged by rotating your shoulders. Remember, these movements don’t happen at the same time; rather, they’re complementary. The shoulders actually gain a portion of their throwing strength from the hips and core.
For proper shoulder rotation, turn your shoulders toward your rear leg as you pull the disc back. Make sure to keep them level and “actively” relaxed – shoulders should feel loose and engaged, not tense and shrugged. As you continue the reachback, turn your head toward your rear leg (away from the target) to get that extra bit of windup goodness. Your disc should be flat and parallel to the ground throughout this motion. Now, fully extend your arm to prepare for the next step: the pull through.
Before proceeding, I need to briefly mention rounding, as it’s a common issue in disc golf, and unfortunately, can totally destroy the power and distance of a throw. It happens when the player’s body is in between the disc and the target. Rounding is when the disc travels on a curved, or round, path due to the shoulders rotating too early, which causes the lead shoulder to close in tightly to the body. For detailed ways to counteract rounding, click here.
Timing is everything here, so keep working to find the rhythm that works for you and your throw.
Pull Through Correctly
Okay, your hips are loaded, shoulders rotated, and your throwing arm is fully extended away from the target. To maximize the power behind a throw, it’s critical to apply both rotational and linear force, the latter of which is referred to as the “pull through” in disc golf. It consists of several well-timed movements, starting with pulling the disc right in front of your chest. Ideally, the disc will be just below your pecs/chest area you move it toward the release point. This motion requires your elbow to bend at 90 degrees in order to get the most power.
Because of the simultaneous rotational and linear forces applied to the disc, when thrown correctly, it will have greater acceleration, leading to a higher speed, and ultimately, a farther distance traveled.
Strengthen The Core and Lats
With all this talk about utilizing the upper and lower body to increase arm speed, it’s no surprise that strengthening certain muscle groups is also helpful in gaining throwing power. Although the sport of disc golf engages the entire body – from your head to your feet – it really comes down to the core and lats (latissimus dorsi). Your core is comprised of the abdominal and oblique muscles, and is the powerhouse behind the body’s ability to rotate. The latissimus dorsi is the largest muscle in the upper body, and extends from the bottom of the shoulder blade, stretches to the sides, and ends at the lower back.
To strengthen your core, do some crunch bicycles, planks, ab crunches, and oblique crunches. Yoga and Pilates are also great mediums for core conditioning. For lats strengthening, try doing dumbbell rows, dumbbell pullovers, and pull-ups/chin-ups. While slowly adding a bit of weight to your workouts will increase your arm speed, this same effect can be reached without them. For example, doing the lat pull with resistance bands at home mimics the machine at the gym that works the same muscles.
By regularly training and exercising, you’re setting yourself up to circumvent suffering major injuries (remember to stretch before and recover after workouts!). Any way you slice it, stronger muscles equate to longer, harder, and more effective throws in disc golf.
Disc Speed, Arm Speed – What’s the Difference?
Disc speed is the speed at which a disc should fly when thrown correctly. This is dependent upon several factors, such as the type of disc, its speed rating, its weight, the timing of the throw, as well as the player’s form and arm speed. When arm and disc speed are maximized at the same time, the disc’s flight will be steady and long.
Because arm speed is such a fundamental – and often misunderstood – component of disc golf, it’s worth discussing in more detail.
Contrary to popular belief, arm speed doesn’t entail using specialized equipment to clock how fast your arm moves through a swing; rather, it’s about the velocity at which you pull the disc across your body. Ideally, the faster this happens, the quicker the disc will be released, the faster it will travel, and the further it will go.
Not surprisingly, arm speed is largely affected by the player’s form. Think of your arm as a whip. The fastest moment is the very last moment, just before your arm releases the disc. The entire throw is based upon the buildup of kinetic energy…then it’s all released in that one moment as your arm whips out to full extension.
It’s important to keep in mind that your arm speed also depends on your age, fitness level, experience, and sex. For example, generally speaking, men can throw discs farther than women due to their natural inclination to have more upper-body strength. Likewise, a person with no prior disc golf experience probably won’t outdrive someone who’s been consistently playing for a couple years.
As you can see, there are many ways to increase your arm speed in disc golf. Breaking down the steps of throwing is only a portion of it. Try not to get bogged down in the details. There’s so much you can do to improve your form and overall game before, during, and after playing a round – the rest is up to you. Good luck, have fun, and drive on!