Oh No - The Basketball Throw !

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10-Year Member
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Oct 31, 2008
Here are two great posts about techniques that can help improve your distance on the Basketball Throw:

Originally posted by Patentesq
The basketball throw event appears to be more of a test of athletic ability than shear arm strength. In the words of the CFA instructions, “The basketball throw measures ability to generate shoulder girdle power and total body coordination and balance from a stationary position.” When you dig into the details of the basketball throw, there seem to be at least five components in play: (1) knee placement, (2) left-arm movement, (3) body torso movement, (4) right-arm movement, and (5) basketball release. The real trick is not ONLY to master each component, but also to get each component moving seamlessly in concert with the other. To do this, you need to build muscle memory, and the only way to do that is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. I would think that soccer goalies and javelin throwers would have the easiest time with the basketball throw event, because they have already mastered the combination of these various components to maximize their throwing distance. Baseball, football, or even BASKETBALL players, on the other hand, might have a more difficult time because they have learned to throw a ball differently over the years. And throwing a basketball for the CFA is NOT like throwing a baseball or a football (or even a basketball in a real basketball game). If you try to throw the basketball like a baseball or football, it won’t go as far as it potentially can.

Also, note that all of your movements have to be EXPLOSIVE. Some of the posters on this board have suggested that screaming during the release of the ball has helped them obtain a higher explosive yield. My DS is not a “screamer,” so he didn’t really do that. But make no mistake that this is NOT a delicate free-throw shot where you are simply trying to get the basketball to land in the basket! It is all about explosive force applied to a basketball in less than a second to make the ball travel the maximum distance possible.

The other thing to point out is that physics really plays an important role in this event. Your body not only has to take advantage of its muscle and strength, but it also has to use your body frame/skeleton in a way to serve as a fulcrum as the ball is transitioning from one state to another. You should definitely experiment with a variety of techniques and go with whatever works for you. Here’s what worked for my DS.

(Note: Everything that follows is written from the perspective of a right-handed thrower; if you are left-handed, simply reverse everything concerning right and left arm movements).

This is pretty straight forward. You have to spread your knees apart to provide a stable base for everything else you are doing with the rest of your body. You should position your knees a comfortable distance apart. If you use a 1-inch mat to cushion your knees, which is permitted, be sure to have the mat under your feet as well because if your knees are higher in relation to your feet, it will be more difficult to bend your torso backward as far as possible. Or you can simply tough it out and don’t use a mat at all.

In this event, put your left arm to work (don’t let it just dangle on your side)! The left arm helps to rotate your body radially as well as forward. Place your left hand (my DS made a fist) over your right clavicle and, in a violent jerking motion, move your left elbow down and to the left to twist your body to the left and to bring your upper torso forward. At first, my DS just used his left elbow to twist his body to the left (with his elbow moving horizontally in relation to the ground). But then he figured out that he could gain a few more feet by jerking the left elbow slightly downward as well, so that the left elbow was not only helping twist his torso to the left but was also helping move the upper torso forward.

You must also utilize your torso to master this event – it is NOT simply about arm and shoulder strength. Exercises should be incorporated in your workout routine that are specifically aimed at strengthening your abdominal muscles as well as your lower back muscles (these muscles, surprisingly, will also help enormously with pull-ups). As you arc your body backward, you have to bend back as far as possible – WAY BACK – to provide as much forward movement as possible (it is sort of like an airport runway – the longer the runway, the bigger the plane that can take off on it). As you bring your torso forward, you have to simultaneously twist your torso to the left so that your right shoulder is not only moving forward but also gaining additional speed because you are twisting your body to the left.

The other thing that has apparently worked for many, including my DS, is to twist your torso from left to right a few times before you throw. This helps build up “rotational energy” that can be released when you actually throw the basketball.

Here is an important point: My DS improved his distance by no less than 15 feet by simply delaying bringing his right arm forward a split fraction of a second so that his torso was 2/3 of the way twisted to the left and was 2/3 of the way forward before setting the right arm in motion (the final 1/3 happens in both the forward and radial motion when the right arm is actually set into motion). This is a motion that javelin throwers and soccer goalies understand well. Do a search on YouTube for tips designed to help javelin and shot-put throwers and soccer goalies improve their distance. Also check out the video below related to “trebuchet catapulting” action.

First off, the basketball should rest on your wrist and NOT your right palm. Use the fingers of your right throwing arm to balance the ball on your right wrist. If it rests on your palm, then there is a higher likelihood that (1) you won’t be able to bend back as far without having the ball fall out of your hand, and (2) as you release the ball, your palm and fingertips will cause the ball to spin, thereby transferring some of the forward energy that makes the ball go farther to a spinning action which adds nothing to the distance of your throw – even this simple tip can add seven inches to your throw, which can mean the difference between passing or failing the basketball event (distance is recorded to the nearest FOOT, not inch).

Also, while there is debate about this, my DS figured out that the throwing arm should be fully extended because this will give you the maximum arc possible as you bring the ball forward (if you bend your elbow, the ball will actually be closer to your shoulder and thus will have a tighter arc when you ultimately release the ball – physics informs us that if you have a wider arc in relation to your right shoulder, less force is needed to throw the ball farther when ultimately released). Also, you should delay setting your arm in motion until AFTER you have set your torso in motion (i.e., twisting left and moving forward). This will produce a “trebuchet catapulting” action such as that depicted here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfnJ2Zah8Kg

The right arm will feel like you are attempting to throw the ball underhanded (sort of like a softball throw, but not quite because you will have your arm extended behind you and you’re facing to the right). As you twist your body to the left, your arm will transition into an overhand throw (it’s just mechanics of how your upper frame rotates).

As mentioned above, you should avoid wasting energy by having the ball spin when you release it. For football quarterbacks, the spin serves a useful purpose because it keeps the odd-shaped football from tumbling, thus increasing both the distance and the accuracy of the throw (much like “rifling” action in a rifle or cannon). But a basketball is round, so the rotation adds nothing.

The second thing that this really important is that the ball should be released AT A 45 DEGREE ANGLE relative to the ground surface. If you release the ball at a lower angle, gravity will bring the ball into contact with the ground sooner. Similarly, if you exceed the 45 degree angle, while you may obtain greater height, the CFA does not measure height at all and you will obtain a shorter distance than you otherwise could have.

There are some posters who have suggested that horizontal velocity is more important than getting the right angle to maximize distance. I suspect that they are NOT physics majors. Rather, 45 degrees is the way to go, and if you don’t believe me, check out the “Punkin Chunkin” cannons on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjv18oaFYy8. They are ALL aimed at 45 degrees to maximize distance. Of course, you do have to obtain as much velocity as possible when you release the basketball at that angle.

In the above-mentioned video from Stew Smith (who I understand is actually a USNA graduate and a fitness instructor at USNA), you will see that he uses his left arm to help provide an “aiming point” that is at 45 degrees. The one thing that I can tell you is that what “feels” like 45 degrees is actually 30 degrees! It’s weird. As you practice, you should have a partner stand beside you and observe the angle at which you are actually releasing the ball – you will be surprised to learn how low the angle is with which you really are releasing the ball. As you build muscle memory by throwing the ball over and over again, you will soon learn exactly what 45 degrees feels like. Again, practice is key to mastering the basketball throw event.

Finally, I do have to say that DETERMINATION is very key to passing this event. Throwing a basketball from your knees is incredibly awkward. My DS threw the basketball throw every day for a month and didn’t improve an inch at first (not once in the entire month). In the month that followed, things started to improve because he was simultaneously working out on pull-ups, sit-ups, etc. But it wasn’t until he actually figured out the physics behind the basketball throw event that he saw HUGE improvements in his distance in very rapid succession – first it was two feet, then four feet, then an amazing jump in a single day of sixteen feet (by incorporating the simple technique of delaying his right arm movement until his torso was well in motion)!! I am not going to lie and say he did not get very discouraged along the way – he was. He is only 73” tall and 150 pounds and doesn’t have a football player’s physique (he is more of a track runner than a weight lifter). But his example is proof-positive that if you stick with practicing this event long enough, ANYONE can master it.
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Oh No - The Basketball Throw ! Part II

Originally posted by PDB88
Ok, here is my mini guide to the CFA Basketball Throw
1. Most of the information in the above post is really good, start there.

2.Accept this CFA event for what it is- the most random, pointless test of athletic ability they could come up with. Now relax. Nobody is expecting you to throw that ball into space. The first time I tried it, I spent about half my focus on things like “This is so stupid, what’s the point of this, why the hell am I doing this, why can’t I throw standing up, etc.” instead of “How can I throw this ball farther than the last time I threw this ball.”

3.STRETCH. You should stretch every day just to improve overall flexibility, which has been proven to increase speed, acceleration, etc. with pretty much no negative side effects. Now for this particular event, you want to focus on opening up your hips and stretching your core. This is where your power comes from!
a.Target Areas: Hip Flexors, Adductors, Core, Shoulders
i.Start with this stretch- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3Vfk...layer_embedded
1.The goal is just to get your hips moving, get a good stretch (8-10 reps per side), but don’t try to do too much.
ii.Then this- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL64c...layer_embedded
1.This is an adductor stretch. Go as deep as you can without hurting yourself. Again 8-10 reps per side, increase depth and time once you feel comfortable
iii.Or this (very similar)- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaxG6...layer_embedded
1.Same as above
iv.Now for the Hip Flexors- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JEuT...layer_embedded
1.Get a good stretch, try to keep your back straight and engage your core. Feel that increase in mobility after a few days- that’s what you need
v.Shoulder/Trunk time- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hpYD...layer_embedded
1.See how this is almost the exact motion you make when throwing the ball? Starting to make sense now
vi.These can be done every day! Wake up thirty minutes earlier (good practice for next year ;) ), get a good stretch in (add hamstring, quad, calf, biceps, etc.) before school, then another before you go to sleep.
vii.If you want more, make a visit to your school’s trainer or track coach. They will be able to help you and save you the money from going to a personal trainer. And if you really want to go the extra mile, try a yoga class. I am a big football player, and I felt so out of place, but it was definitely the best stretch of my life.

4.Practice- Practice makes perfect, right? No, perfect practice makes perfect. Start NOW if you are reading this and thinking about applying next year. 6 months of practice, finish your CFA in August, get that LOA! Find a partner (parent, sibling, a fellow service academy applicant, etc.) and get to work. First, I like to start with about 10 warm up “twists” just to get the blood flowing and my body ready. Then I do 10 warm up throws. Twist with good form, throw the ball 10 feet. Nice and easy, do twice. Repeat at 20 feet, then thirty feet, then 40 feet, then 50 feet. Scale up or down depending on your max, but don’t use more than about 75% effort by the last range (so, 15% x2, 30% x2, 45% x2, 60% x2, 75%x2). Now you are going for range. Take a short break, shake out your arms and knees, and get some water. Twist and fire, 90% effort, 100% technique. The distance is not important- there are no score sheets on the practice field. Listen to your partner’s critique of your form. Repeat, 95% effort. Repeat, 100% effort. If at any point your form begins to suffer, trust your partner to tell you and RESTART the warm up throws, then do one last power throw and go stretch.

5.Miscellaneous Pointers
a.Know your grader. You should meet with the person who is going to grade your CFA long before test day. Go over the rules thoroughly so that you both know exactly what is expected. Run through 2 or 3 practice tests, and pay attention to their critique of every event (did you go low enough on pushups, did you fall forward when throwing, etc.).
b.Be comfortable. In the game of golf, technique is supposedly everything. Yet there are pro golfers who have what is considered “bad” or at least “odd” technique. The guide here is a great place to start, but if you get ten extra feet by doing something different (after a few weeks of good practice), by all means go for it.
c.Relax, breathe, calm down. You have 6 months to prepare for a test that is less than a point of your whole candidate score.
d.And finally, if you really want to know the secret, here it is. Yell “Beat Navy” as you explode out. Guaranteed to get you at least an extra foot =]
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