The Hammer

The hammer might have gotten its name from the thunder mallets thrown by the Norse god Thor. It is a high, loopy, upside-down throw.

The hammer is controversial because it often leads to turnovers. However, if you learn how to do it well, it will be one of your greatest assets.

Let’s break the throw down to its elements. Once these are understood, we will put them together to from the complete throw.

The grip is the same as the one used for the forehand. Stick out the thumb of your right hand like you’re hitchhiking. Keep the thumb there and also make a peace sign. These are the three fingers you need to throw a forehand.

Hold your hand palm up. Grab a disc with your left hand and hold it flat with the logo facing up. Put the peace sign underneath the disc and fold your thumb onto the top. You should be able to hold the disc up with these three fingers.

Fold you other two fingers (your ring and pinkie) into your hand as if you are making a loose fist. These two fingertips should touch your palm. They just stay out of the way.

Fold your middle finger towards your palm. Push it against the inside of the rim. The tip and last few centimetres of your middle finger should be tight against the rim.

Your index finger is still straight and pointed towards the centre of the disc. It should support some of the disc’s weight.

Squeeze the disc. Press your thumb down and push your middle finger tight against the rim.

This grip will feel strange for a little while. But you will get used to it and soon the disc will feel snug in your hand.

Stand facing your receiver, squatting a bit, with your feet hip-width apart. Jump as high as you can and hold your landing position. Take a half-step forward with your right foot. That should be about right.

This is where things start to get a little funky. Hold the disc so that it is vertical- straight up and down. Hold it like you are planning on karate chopping the air.

Now raise it up above your shoulder until your thumb is at ear-level. Your elbow should be pointed out to the side. The disc should be directly above your shoulder. Tip it towards your head a little, so that the logo is just barely facing down. Your arm should be bent like you are casually waiting to ask a question.

First, try throwing the disc using only your wrist. For now, try to hold your arm still. The disc won’t go far but it will get a nice spin, and that‘s the important thing. It is the spin that keeps the disc stable in the air. (i.e. no wobbling)

Stand in the stance described above. Bend your wrist backwards so that the disc is almost touching your shoulder. This is the “cocked” position. Now bend your wrist forward so that the top of your hand is horizontal. This is the “released” position.

This movement of the wrist from cocked to released is called “snapping your wrist”. It is what makes the disc spin.

While holding your arm still, use your wrist to move the disc forth and back between the cocked and released positions. Do this slowly and watch to be sure that the disc does not twist as it moves forwards. Try to keep it leaned over at the same slight angle the entire time. Imagine you are trying to slice the air.

Bend your wrist all the way forwards and all the way back. Snap your wrist with a little more speed. See if you can still prevent the disc from twisting. Hold it with a tight grip.

Get your receiver to stand about five meters away from you. Tighten your grip and cock your wrist. Keep your eyes on the receiver’s chest. Snap your wrist. As you bend your wrist forward, open your hand and let the disc fly to the receiver. You should feel the disc fling off your middle finger.

As the disc flies, its angle in the air should become flatter. When it leaves your hand it should be almost vertical. It will tip over until it is almost horizontal when it gets to your receiver.

Do this until it feels easy. Make sure you are holding your arm still and using only your wrist. Get your receiver to back up a little and see how far you can throw without using your arm.

Why did the disc just flutter to the ground?
For the disc to fly, it needs lots of spin. If the disc flutters to the ground or flies all wobbly, try to snap your wrist more quickly. This will provide lots of spin.

I’m snapping my wrist but the disc still just flutters to the ground. Why?
If the disc twists as you snap your wrist, it won’t be aerodynamic when it leaves your hand. Practice snapping your wrist while trying to make the disc slice straight through the air like a knife through butter. Try to bring your pinky finger directly down and forwards instead of twisting to the side.

Why did the disc fly straight into the ground?
If this happens, you were holding the disc too long. Try to open your hand a little sooner.

Why did the disc fly straight up into the air?
If this happens, you let the disc go too soon. Try to open your hand a little later.

Why did the disc fly vertically in the air? Why didn’t it flatten out?
If the disc flies through the air like a buzzsaw, the disk wasn’t tilted enough as you snapped your wrist. Try to tilt it towards your head a little more and keep it at this angle as your snap your wrist.

Snapping your wrist provides the spin that keeps the disc stable in the air; using your arm will add the power for longer throws.

Stand the same way as before, with your knees bent and facing your receiver. Hold the disc up by your head with your elbow pointed out to the side. Bend your wrist backwards into the cocked position. Pull your elbow back so that you feel a little stretch in the front of your shoulder. This is the “set” position for throwing a hammer. You are ready to throw.

To throw, first bring your elbow up a little and forward. As you do this, extend your arm. Your hand will come forward in an arc as you snap your wrist. As your arm reaches full extension, release the disc.

Practice the motion without a disc. Watch to make sure that you start the motion with your elbow. This will ensure that your entire arm is engaged and will create a whipping motion.

Watch your hand move forward. It should start above your shoulder and rise up with your elbow. Then it extends forwards and strikes like an attacking snake.

The release point is slightly above your head-level and straight in front of your right shoulder. At release, your arm is extended like you are pointing at the horizon.

Practice this motion with increasing speed until you have all of the elements working together. Then try it while holding a disc.

Look at your receiver and do the exact same thing as before, but this time release the disc. Start with your receiver about ten meters away and slowly increase the distance.

Why are my throws all messed up again?
You might forget the basics because you have too much to think about. If your throws are fluttering, too high, too low, or the disc is flying vertically- go back to just using your wrist.

Once you’ve got your confidence back, gradually add the arm motion. Start slowly and watch what is happening to the disc while it is in your hand. Make sure it stays tilted at the same angle. Make sure your grip is tight and that you are snapping your wrist. Look at where you want the disc to go.

Why did it flutter to the ground?
If your throw was wobbly, make sure to grip the disc tightly and remember to snap your wrist. Both of these elements are necessary to create spin. The disc won’t fly smoothly unless you’ve given it lots of spin.

Why does the disc fly flat and not curve?
If the disc is almost horizontal when you release it, it won’t fly very far and will be difficult to aim. Hold the disc at a more vertical angle as you snap your wrist.

Why did it miss the receiver?
The disc will go in the direction that your arm points when you release the disc. Without releasing the disc, practice throwing and see where your arm points.

Look where you want the disc to go and make sure your chest is facing there too. Make sure that your arm is extending straight in front of you and not to either side. Now your arm will point in the direction of your receiver when you release the disc.

One rule of ultimate is that you have to maintain a “pivot foot” while you are holding the disc. The pivot foot is the name given to the foot that must remain in contact with the same piece of ground the entire time you are holding the disc.

Imagine that one of your feet is caught in a leg-hold trap. You can swing around (or “pivot”) as much as you like but that foot must stay in one spot. It seems strange at first, but right-handed people use their left foot as their pivot foot.

Why do righties pivot on their left foot? During a game, the person who is marking you will be trying to block your throws. You will have to learn how to throw around them. Because one foot must always remain stationary, the way to get some distance from your mark is to step sideways and forwards away from them. When righties pivot on their left foot they can reach much further than if they were pivoting on their right foot.

This movement also provides extra power to throws. When you add this step to the arm and wrist movements, you will be ready to throw in a game.

Stand facing your receiver with your knees bent and your arm up and back with the disc cocked. Now you are in the set position. In a game, this is how you should be standing to be prepared to throw a hammer.

When you want to throw, start by stepping your right foot straight forward. Take a medium-sized step that lets you stand tall but still provides some momentum. Keep your pivot foot stationary. As you step, whip your elbow and hand up and forwards and snap your wrist. Release the disc as your foot touches the ground.

Start in the set position and go through the throwing motion while stepping. Find a distance that you feel comfortable with.

Go through the throwing motion and try to snap your wrist at the same time as you finish your step. Pay attention to how it feels when you snap your wrist too early or too late. Too early, and you are unstable with one foot in the air; your accuracy will be affected. Too late, and you will have lost the momentum provided by stepping. You will be throwing with just your arm and your power will be reduced.

Practice until your foot, elbow, and wrist come forward in a single motion.

Go slowly through the motion and freeze at the point where you would release the disc. Look at where your arm is pointing. This is where the disc will go.

Rotate on your pivot foot and step in different directions. The direction in which you step will determine the direction of your throws. After you step, look at where your right foot is pointing. This is also where your arm will point and where the disc will go.

Visualize a receiver running to different spots. To throw to each one of these spots, your arm will have to finish in that direction. Step so your right foot is pointed where you want the disc to go.

Get your receiver to move to different spots and see if you can hit them. Start with short throws and a stationary receiver. Progress to longer throws and a moving receiver.

Why are my throws all messed-up again?
You might forget the basics because you have too much to think about. If your throws are curving, fluttering, too high, or too low- go back to just using your arm and wrist.

Once you’ve got your confidence back, try adding the step. Start slowly and watch what is happening to the disc while it is in your hand. Make sure it tilted at the same angle. Make sure your grip is tight and that you are snapping your wrist. Look at where you want the disc to go.

Why can’t I hit a running receiver?
The key to hitting a running receiver is anticipation. Watch them to get a sense of their speed and direction. Look at a point in front of them and throw there. Throw to where they will be, not to where they are. This is called “leading your receiver”.

Start with short throws to a slow-moving receiver. Throw the disc in front of them. It is easy for a receiver to speed up to catch an overthrown disc. It is difficult for them to catch a disc that is behind them. Gradually increase the length of your throws and the speed of the receiver.

  1. 5 Responses to “The Hammer”

  2. I found this very informative. This site is actually the place I came to learn how to do a hammer, in conjunction with youtube. Now that I’ve come back and looked at it again(nearly a year later) I have a question on the footing. The guide suggests leading with the right foot, and taking a step forward to follow through. Which foot should step forward, though? For a right-handed player the ideal pivot foot is the left foot, so it would be illegal to lift it and step through with the left. That leaves the right, but it’s already leading, and stepping through is awkward. I’ve found that from a normal stance, taking a step back with the right foot and leaving the pivot foot planted, then throwing and stepping forward with the right foot gives the throw more power and distance.

    By Alex Bell on Jul 27, 2008

  3. That is the way I do it. only I raise up a little when I throw. what I mean by that is, after stepping back with my right foot I pick it up as I hammer. I don’t know if this dose anything but I throw better that way than any other way I’ve tried.

    By Gregory Howe on Oct 4, 2008

  4. This is a great step-by step to use in teaching others how to throw a hammer. I’ll definitely be using this now.

    By Jed on Jul 24, 2010

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