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Proper Discus Technique: A Complete Guide to the Standing Throw

discus standing throw technique demonstration by casey malone
Contents

This is the ultimate guide to proper discus technique for the standing throw.

From beginners to advanced throwers - the quality of your standing discus throw will have a massive impact on distance and consistency in the full throw.

Why? Because it’s the position you're in when you actually throw the discus.

Everything that happens in the back and middle of the ring is setting up the body to hit a correct power position, on-balance with optimal speed.

We’re going to break down the stand throw step by step with a deep focus on proper discus technique. You'll get insight from Olympian and NCAA champion Casey Malone and one of the most successful throws coaches in the country, Brian Bedard.


Chapter 1: Crucial Concepts

Before we jump into the details of the power position we’re going to share 3 "crucial concepts."

They'll give you a deeper understanding of the sport and improve your performance as a thrower.

If you understand and follow these concepts you will progress much faster and reduce the chance of developing distance killing habits.

Watch Casey Malone bomb a ~190 ft. (~60 meter) stand throw.

Concept #1 - Power comes from the legs and hips - not the upper body

As with most sports, the main source of power in the discus throw is generated from the lower body. This "power chain" starts with the right (or back) foot turning and moves up through the knee and hips.

Similar to explosive exercises like box jumps. The final lower body position should be in triple extension. That means the ankle, knee and hip are extended and generating power.

The upper body stays relaxed with the discus back and is ‘pulled’ by the work being done by the legs and hips.

To throw the discus far you have to understand the concept of separation between the upper and lower body.

Casey Malone got his stand throws over 60 meters or ~195 feet which is farther than many good full throws.  He attributes his success to a lot of time spent practicing and learning to use his lower body.

When we interviewed him about the standing discus throw he was clear about using the upper body: “You can’t use your upper body. If you start pulling away using your left arm too much too soon, if the timing of that movement is off because your upper body is too active then the whole movement will disintegrate very quickly.” 

Hear Casey talk about the importance of the stand throw and some tips on how to improve it.

Concept #2 - Technique Beats Strength

Yes, elite discus throwers are big and incredibly strong but that’s not why they throw far.

There are many strong throwers in high school and college that never throw past the 160’ mark (49m). Strength is useless unless you know how to use it.

There is a rhythm to the throw which involves knowing when and where to apply force as well as when and where to be fluid and relaxed. Developing a great standing throw is the first step in mastering proper discus technique and developing the right throwing rhythm.

The standing discus throw is a coordinated movement that involves applying power at the right time.

There is no doubt about it, if you want to throw far - strength & power development is a must. But so is flexibility, explosiveness, quick feet, a successful competitive mindset - the list goes on. 

No amount of strength will compensate for poor discus technique. Focus on the technique versus “throwing hard” and the distance will come.

Concept #3 - Posture = power

In order to accomplish the first 2 rules (rhythm and generating power from the lower body) you have to hit the right positions with the proper posture.

Conditioning the nervous system is a big part of discus training and is instrumental towards developing good habits and injury prevention. 

Notice the tall posture throughout the throw. Straight back, long arms, head connected with the chest.

Beginners and advanced throwers alike should use a coach or a mirror to periodically verify correct static positions and hold them for 10-30 seconds to reinforce proper posture.

If an athlete can’t hold the correct positions without the discus it’s not going to happen during the throw.

Many breakdowns in discus technique, injuries and fouls can be traced back to poor posture. Great throwers are built on a solid foundation - make posture a key priority when working on the discus power position.


Chapter 2: How To Perform The Discus Standing Throw

We’re going to build the throw from the ground up.

We’ve only included the most important aspects which means no filler. It also means each step is critical for solid discus technique.

Take your time and review each one as they all apply to the positions that should be hit at the end of the full throw.

The following instructions are for a right handed thrower. For left handed throwers simply reverse them. 

Step 1 - Discus Standing Throw Stance

The feet should be shoulder width apart or slightly wider depending on the height of the athlete. 

The left foot should be at the front of the ring and the right foot close to the middle. The reason why the feet are in this position is to allow the right foot to turn and maximize power from the legs and hips. 

Stay on the balls of the feet during the entire throw. The discus throw is about rotation which becomes very difficult if you have a flat foot.

demonstration of foot position in the discus throw for the power position
Russ Winger gets ready for a standing discus throw while filming "Throwing Smarter, Throwing Farther." He's on the balls of the feet and a little wider than shoulder width apart.

Step 2 - Heel to toe relationship

The back (right) heel should be in a straight line with the front (left) toe.

This is a crucial aspect as it allows the hips rotate and produce maximum force.

A common error athletes make is to line up with their feet in a straight line or even have the front foot ahead of the rear.

This results in what’s called ‘being blocked off’ where the hips fail to rotate and most often times causes the discus to go into the cage or out of the right sector. 

foot work and stance for discus throw
Heel to toe relationship enables the hips to rotate.

Step 3 - Body angle comes from bending the hips and knees

The back should be nice and straight forming a straight line that starts with the head and continues through the front leg (which is slightly bent) to the ground.

To set up the proper body angle you want a good right knee bend. 

A common mistake many throwers make is being “broken at the waist.” This will cause a whole host of issues and a big loss of power. Remember that body lean comes from the left knee and hips. 

Don’t bend at the waist.

discus thrower demonstrating the proper body angle by bending at the right knee
Straight line from the head to the front foot enables maximum power transfer to the discus.

Step 4 - Setting a low and high point with the arms

One of the key technical elements to throwing far is creating the largest radius possible with the discus. A longer discus path = more power and speed being delivered into the discus.

In order to achieve a maximal radius, the throwing arm should be extended as far as possible with the other arm providing a counter balance.

Both arms should be extended at a 90 degree angle off of the body. The right arm should be close to being on top of the left  leg and the left arm mirrors to balance it out.

This is a good example of “posture = power.” An athlete should be able to hold this position for at least 10-30 seconds without an implement.


Chapter 3: Introducing movement to the throw

Once the footwork is correct and the athlete is able to hit and hold the proper positions with the right discus technique, it’s time to start throwing.

Remember crucial concept #1 -power comes from the legs and hips. 

The preliminary wind-up is a big source of errors as it can draw athletes out of position. Reduce it to one or eliminate it completely for beginners that are just learning how to throw. 

Watch coach Bedard recap the standing discus throw positions.

Step 5 - Initiating movement in the standing discus throw (Power Chain)

The upper body should be wrapped back with the discus over the left leg and left foot (or as close as possible depending on flexibility).

The movement will begin with the right foot turning followed by the right knee and then the right hip. All of this occurs as the upper body stays back as long as possible. 

This is a key discus technique concept coach Bedard covers in great detail in our Discus Master Class.

Tip - Throw without a ‘wind-up’  Many beginning throwers like to wind multiple times. This is a bad habit as it promotes the use of the upper body and is simply unnecessary.

By only using one wind (or eliminating it all together) it will make it much easier to develop the upper and lower body separation and use the right leg and hip to develop power. 

Notice how the upper body is still wound back on-stretch while the right leg is bent and rotating towards the front of the ring.

Check out the video below to see a good example of what the feet are doing during the discus standing throw. The right foot starts the movement off. It continues to rotate and maintain contact with the ground until the discus is released.

Left leg rotation close-up in action.

Step 6 - Right knee stays bent and rotates towards the front of the ring

The right knee should stay bent until the discus is released. If it straightens out the hips won’t be able to turn which will result in a much shorter throw.

At this point the athlete should have a good amount of upper and lower body separation. As the lower body leads the movement and the torso begins to turn. The head and chest stay connected and the discus is moving on a long radius.

Some coaching cues/things to look for:

  • Don’t push off the right and shift weight to the front. Stay back on the turning right leg.
  • Have patience with the upper body and feel the separation. You want a good stretch with the discus arm. 
  • Keep a nice tall posture and work the discus over a long path. 
discus thrower casey malone showing upper and lower body separation
Keeping weight on the back leg optimizes power transfer to the discus.

Step 7 - Block and release in the power position

The lower body leads until the right knee is pointing out towards the front of the ring. The hips are facing forward. The upper-body begins to unwind utilizing all of the stored energy created by the lower body.

The upper-body is in a “C” position. The head and chest are up, the right hip is out and the discus arm is on stretch. Remember that the right leg should still be bent. The head continues to move and stay with the chest, not ahead of it.

Once the upper body is facing towards the front of the ring the athlete should initiate a “block” with the left side. This is done by shortening the right arm and applying force with the left leg.

This will stop the rotation of the upper body so all of the remaining energy will be transferred to the discus arm as it continues to rotate and increase in speed until the release point.

If the upper body continues to rotate past the blocking point it will result in several issues: waisted energy, shorter distances and a high likelihood of fouling. A good way to keep this from occurring is controlling the head and watching the discus release.

The discus throw technique for the block and release in the power position should carry over to the full throw. 

Tip - Keep both feet on ground and skip the ‘reverse.’

A reverse is where the right foot leaves the ground and switches places with the front foot right after the release of the discus. Even if a thrower uses a reverse during the full throw they should perform non-reverse standing throws. 

The video below pulls all of the movements together and calls out each critical position and the proper discus technique for the discus standing throw.

Casey Malone hitting the "C-position" prior to releasing the discus.

Now it's your turn (pun Intended)

Those are the main discus technique elements of developing a solid standing discus throw.

It won’t happen overnight but learning the steps in this guide will absolutely lead to better discus technique. You'll have fewer fouls and farther throws.

If you want a turbocharged approach to learning and coaching elite discus technique check out the discus master class Throwing Smarter, Throwing Farther.

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