The Overlooked Importance
Of Arm & Wrist Angles

How They Affect the Shooting Process

By Shooting Coach Rick Penny

When it comes to shooting a basketball, arm & wrist angles are more important than you might think! More than likely you’ve never given this topic much thought.

In fact, arm & wrist angles determine the following:

  1. Ball location at SET
  2. Type of shot … One-Piece or Two-Piece
  3. Efficiency of the Shooting Curve (S-Curve)
  4. Speed of the release

Three techniques will be analyzed in this discussion:

  • HEAD PAUSE
  • CATAPULT
  • ONE MOTION

Each method creates its own unique set of arm & wrist angles resulting in “Cause and Effect” throughout the entire shooting process.

Knowing “How” and “Why” different techniques work can be very valuable to coaches, parents, and players giving them the ability to make adjustments when needed.

In the basketball world, too many blindly accept the “status quo” when it comes to shooting. Making your own decisions based on sound principles is much better than sheepishly following Conventional Wisdom!

Our eyes are trained to focus on how the shot finishes (arm extension and follow through) because that particular aspect seems to garner the most attention. But in reality, it’s the beginning of the shot that determines the finish and that is where this discussion will focus.


Topic 1 - Ball Location at SET

All techniques have a starting point called SET and it is defined as:

  • Position of the body and ball right before the shooting motion begins (ball rising)

SET is where the all-important arm & wrist angles are created prior to the onset of the shooting process. It’s the foundation of any shot and the critical component in determining how the shooting motion operates.

Shooters that consistently arrive at a good SET tend to have more success making baskets when compared to those that don’t … short and long term. Depending on the technique, the ball generally starts in one of these areas:

  • Waist
  • Thighs
  • Chest

The following illustrations/pictures demonstrate the ball location at SET and the resulting angles created by the upper arm, forearm, and wrist:



Kyrie Irving at SET

  • Upper arm angled behind
    perpendicular
  • Forearm angled below parallel
  • Wrist/hand slightly cocked (blue)
  • Ball at or below waist level



Kevin Durant at SET

  • Upper arm angled near
    perpendicular
  • Forearm angled down
  • Wrist/hand is straight(blue)
  • Ball at thigh area







Rick Penny at SET

  • Upper arm angled past
    perpendicular
  • Forearm angled up
  • Wrist/hand fully cocked(blue)
  • Ball at chest level



As you can see, the arm & wrist angles at SET are different with each technique. These angles determine the entire shooting process including the type of shot each player utilizes.


Topic 2 - Type of Shot

When breaking down the mechanics of various techniques, a detailed analysis shows all shooting forms can be classified as either a One-Piece shot or a Two-Piece shot. They are defined as:

  • ONE-PIECE - has one distinct movement throughout the shooting process with no stops or pauses from start to finish
  • TWO-PIECE - has two distinct movements in which the ball pauses or stops at some point during the shooting process



HEAD PAUSE … Two-piece

  • Starting at or below waist level (SET), the ball loops up and back to a point near the forehead (First Distinct Movement), pauses slightly, and then changes direction toward the basket (Second Distinct Movement)
  • Momentum travels up the Shot Line in this manner: START / PAUSE / START

CATAPULT … Two-piece

  • Starting at the thigh area (SET), the ball loops up and back to a point somewhere above the head (First Distinct Movement), stops, and then changes direction toward the basket (Second Distinct Movement)
  • Momentum travels up the Shot Line in this manner: START / STOP / START

ONE MOTION … One-piece

  • Starting at chest level (SET), the ball rises straight up and then begins to curve toward the basket (One Distinct Movement)
  • Momentum travels up the Shot Line in this manner: NON-STOP

At some point during the shooting process, the wrist must fully cock in order to maximize power. ONE MOTION accomplishes this at SET while the HEAD PAUSE waits until the ball pauses near the forehead and the CATAPULT waits until the ball stops above the head.

This delay in fully cocking the wrist is what causes the ball to loop up & back causing movement away from the basket … Negative Motion.


Topic 3 - Efficiency of the Shooting Curve (S-Curve)

The Shooting Curve or S-Curve is the essence of the shooting process. It is defined as:

  • Ball path during the shooting motion as seen from the shooting hand side … determines efficiency of the shot

Once the ball begins to rise up the Shot Line, the Shooting Process begins. As stated earlier, arm & wrist angles affect the shooting motion and pre-determine the path of the ball up the Shot Line.

Efficiency of movement is determined by the manner in which they operate during the shooting process. The following illustrations/pictures represent each technique’s S-Curve which starts at SET and ends at the wrist snap … Release Point.





At some point during the shooting process, the wrist will fully cock.

The HEAD PAUSE starts with a slight wrist cock at SET. This causes the ball to loop up & back as the shot begins... Red

The wrist fully cocks near the forehead and the ball starts toward the basket ... Green

1. SET
Ball starts below waist level with
wrist slightly cocked

2. Shooting Process
Ball loops up & back to forehead
and pauses / wrist fully cocks
First Distinct Movement

3. Shooting Process
Ball starts toward basket ending
with wrist snap … Release Point
Second Distinct Movement





At some point during the shooting process, the wrist will fully cock.

The CATAPULT starts with a straight wrist at SET. This causes the ball to loop up & back as the shot begins... Red

The wrist fully cocks above the head and the ball starts toward the basket... Green

1. SET
Ball starts at thigh level with wrist straight

2. Shooting Process
Ball loops up & back above the head
and stops / wrist fully cocks
First Distinct Movement

3. Shooting Process
Ball starts toward basket ending
with wrist snap... Release Point
Second Distinct Movement





At some point during the shooting process, the wrist will fully cock.

ONE MOTION starts with a fully cocked wrist at SET. This allows the ball to rise straight up as the shot begins and then curve toward the basket...Green

1. SET
Ball starts at chest level / wrist fully cocked

2A. Shooting Process
Ball travels straight up the Shot Line

2B. Shooting Process
Ball starts curving toward the basket
ending with wrist snap... Release Point
One Distinct Movement





Topic 4 - Speed of the Release

When comparing each technique, it is clear which has the most efficient S-Curve. From start to finish, the ONE MOTION technique is more efficient than the other two making for a quicker release!

With a fully cocked wrist at SET, the ball is able to travel straight up the Shot Line and gradually curve toward the basket. This is done in a non-stop manner throughout the entire Shooting Process with One Distinct Movement!

Starting the ball at waist or thigh level creates arm & wrist angles that require a looping action (up & back) in order to fully cock the wrist. This Negative Motion takes the ball away from the basket making the Shooting Process slower than it needs to be.

Summary

If you look at each technique, they all end at the same place... the Release Point. The arm is extended at an approximate 45 degree angle with the wrist snapped. How they get to that point is the real issue.

The S-Curve never lies! It tells the story of the Shooting Process and how the ball gets from Point A to Point B (SET to Release Point). Less movement makes for a quicker & smoother release... every time!

And what controls the S-Curve? It’s those all-important Arm & Wrist angles created at SET!



What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...




Comments

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Zane says:
10/20/2019 at 6:02:05 PM

My shot is okay. The problem with it is that my hand motion really isn't in place. Also, my head pause is a little weird. I pause but then my feet get out of place which makes my angle off.

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Tayte says:
7/17/2019 at 10:28:12 PM

Curry''s form is the purest... do your research.

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BigDave says:
2/28/2019 at 2:11:33 PM

Rick,

Thanks, this has really improved my shot, as i was having shooting slumps that i couldn't fix. I am looking forward to more of your articles, Breakthrough Basketball.

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Ty says:
10/16/2017 at 1:42:21 PM

I have studied KD and Steph shooting and have realized that both of them attach their left and right elbows to the their hips before they shoot.I have tried this and it really works. I also made a research and found out that elite golfers tuck in both elbows to give the ball a chance to follow a straight path. what do you think abt this?

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OVN says:
2/22/2017 at 12:12:54 AM

My shot''s problem is movement in my legs witch effects accuracy and speed of the ball when i release. I have one motion shot.

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  1 reply  

Rick Penny says:
2/25/2017 at 11:10:35 PM

OVN,

Without seeing you shoot, I don't know exactly what your legs are doing to affect accuracy.

Let me suggest making your "leg action" quicker. That means down & up quickly vs. too low & too slow.

A quick down & up causes the ball/arms to be quick as well which creates good rhythm and timing, especially with a One Motion shot.

Hope this helps!

Rick Penny
www.onemotionbasketball.com

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Rick Penny says:
2/16/2017 at 11:22:21 PM

Adam,

Sorry, just seeing your post. What you''re describing is very hard to visualize so any response would be a wild guess.

Email me at rick@onemotionbasketball.com and we''ll figure out a way to address your situation.

Rick Penny
www.onemotionbasketball.com

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Adam says:
12/30/2016 at 10:40:12 PM

P.S. my wrist isn't broken

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Adam says:
12/30/2016 at 3:28:22 PM

Hey coach Penny I know this comment is late in response to your article about shooting motions etc. but it would be a great help to me if you could try to answer my questions regarding my shot.
After detailed analyzation of my shot I have recognized that my problem in making shots comes from my hand placement on the ball. When I shoot I make my elbow and my wrist in a 90 degree angle but when I bring the ball into my shooters pocket and create a 90 degree angle with my elbow my hand becomes crooked and cannont become straight with my elbow therefore slightly facing my fingers away from the basket to the left. This crooked hand alignment creates a twitch in my follow through where my hand wants to follow through to the left therefore throwing off a straight follow through and a 90 degree angel alignment between my elbow and wrist. I do not know how this came to be in my shooting form and I do not know how to fix my wrist to be able to straighten it where it creates a 90 degree angle with my elbow I was wondering if you could help me figure out what is wrong with my wrist alignment, it used to not be like this. Thank you for your time.

Freshman basketball player Adam Bearden

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Rick Penny says:
10/11/2016 at 11:52:13 AM

Emmanuel,

I use an app from UpMyGame to analyze shooting form.
Email me at the address below and we'll discuss evaluating your shot.

rick@onemotionbasketball.com

Rick Penny
www.onemotionbasketball.com

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Emmanuel says:
10/10/2016 at 3:51:04 PM

Is there any way I can send a video of my shot to get a quick evaluation on my shot?

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