(For this article, the right foot refers specifically to the dominant foot of the thrower. Although the term is “right foot,” if there is a left handed thrower throwing, just replace the “right foot” with left foot.)
Turning the right foot is a mainstay for technical cues. Coaches are constantly focused on just that right foot. It seems at most high school meets if there is one thing wrong, it always moves back to “just turn the right foot.” This is something everyone hears over and over and over again, but WHY?!?!
Is it really that important? Is there more to turning the foot than actually rotating the foot? What is the technical reason behind it?
Rotational Energy: Why the right foot technically should rotate...grounded.
In the dummies version of physics, we are attempting to maintain rotational energy during the spin as well as we possibly can. When we change rotational energy to linear energy, it needs to be understood that it requires further energy to elicit the change. SO, if we are doing a rotational movement such as the spin in the shot or the discus throw, we need to maintain as much rotational energy as possible.
If the right foot is holding plantar flexion and the energy is dispersed properly when the left foot grounds, the right foot will continue to hold plantar flexion through the entire throw. This allows the foot to stay grounded and allows the entire body to continue to accelerate the implement through a rotational pattern. As the right rotates forward, energy will transfer rotational into the left leg through the finish of the throw.
What happens when it doesn’t turn? What to look for…
What happens when the right doesn’t turn? If the right foot does not rotate, it could be due to a number of reasons. Typically, the right foot shuts off in the middle due to one of these causes:
The thrower leans slightly in the middle after the right foot grounds, leading to dorsiflexion and potentially a flat right foot entirely and shutting down the right side rotating as well as possible.
The ankle dorsiflexes just PRIOR to the left leg grounding. This is typically caused by an extension of the right knee, which will prevent a rotational right leg and instead lead to a “jumpy” right leg on the finish and a shorter period of double support for the finish.
The right foot stays plantar flexed but just as the thrower is about to finish their rotation at the finish, they lift their right side slightly early, leading to a “jump” and a throw that does not fully capture rotational energy.
These are usually issues caused by weakness throughout the ankle OR stiffness throughout the hip area, leading to an early knee extension.
THE Best Way to Approach the Right Turning.
Turning the right foot isn’t just about turning from the ankle joint. The ankle joint is the focus for most coaches but it needs to be recognized that the right foot will rotate because of what happens with the right leg out of the back, how the left leg will “sweep” to the front and how the right shoulder also rotates forward. While this happens, the right ankle joint must hold plantar flexion in an isometric fashion. So what are the keys behind the right rotating?
The right leg sweep to the middle will play a major contributor to the right rotating.
The right ankle must ground STIFF and it must be held isometrically in a position of plantar flexion.
The left leg SWEEPS to the front, around the left leg. Enabling the right side to continue rotating.
The left leg will ground with external rotation in the hip, allowing the right side to rotate forward.
The right knee must remain semi-bent as the right hip rotates forward to allow for continued rotational energy forward.
The right foot is indeed a very important point of pivot within the rotational technique. However, the focus cannot be entirely on “turning the right foot.” Instead, the focus must be on the entire technical system. As the technical movement develops, the right side will rotate much easier but it must be a global focus that enables the right to turn. It’s the right knee, the right ankle, the left foot sweep, the left hip opening, even the right shoulder! All of these aspects contribute to a rotational right foot!