Arm And Wrist Motion For A Classic Billiards Stroke

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Ready for action

Ready to stroke. Photo (c) 2007 Matt Sherman licensed to, Inc.

What is the motion of the shooting hand and shooting arm through the classic pool stroke? It is perhaps best described in photos. Here is also my text on correct arm and wrist motion. And see the last page if you are advanced and want to jump ahead to look at supinative and pronative motion.


All is set to prepare for an easy tossing or throwing motion with the cue stick. I wish to ignore the impact with and presence of the white cue ball and simply thrust forward on the final stroke.

The hand is relaxed and gently cradling the cue with the classic grip. I consciously have elevated my right forearm from the elbow as I am taller, this places my arm in a position from which to comfortably thrust the cue forward. My upper arm and lower arm are near a ninety degree angle. (I explode the 90-degree pool myth elsewhere.)

Your arm may hang down naturally as you are comfortable or try my raised arm move.

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The backswing writ large

Let the upper arm flow freely. Photo (c) 2007 Matt Sherman licensed to, Inc.

You are looking at a greatly exaggerated backswing motion. My right hand has avoided interfering with the gentle, almost pendulum motion from the position of the previous photo.


Many fine players release their pinky and perhaps ring finger from the stick here. Of interest is the fact that in photos 1 and 2, you can see how my upper arm is near parallel in position to the stick itself. The angle between upper and lower arms, though, has increased.

The sensation is of moving the cue through the stroke from elbow down, however, and quite important, my upper arm is not restricted with rigidity on the backswing, it moves.

Far too many beginners hold their upper arm in check in a vain attempt to create a pure pendulum movement with the lower arm. The pros say "like a pendulum" instead. A true pendulum would make timing the bottom of the pendulum, the hit on the cue ball a difficult challenge. The player who tightens their arm frequently gets unwanted draw or topspin on their stroke.

It bears repeating--stroke the lower arm in a pendulum like motion or throwing motion allowing the upper arm to move on the backswing, in the same way you would toss a ball perfectly straight and exactly to where you intend without conscious effort. Watch your pool skills soar immediately!

The pool myth of pure pendulum has persisted for years, so do not take my word for it--heft a pool or other ball and toss it to a target along your pre-planned arc, but hold the upper arm rigidly with constricted muscles and note your results. Now toss to the same target again with a free moving upper arm. See the difference?

It is on the forward move that the upper arm will return to its starting position and move but a few inches forward, giving the illusion on short shots of a pendulum stroke and an explanation of the pendulum pool false theory.

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All the way through

An exaggerated followthrough. Photo (c) 2007 Matt Sherman licensed to, Inc.

A greatly exaggerated follow through shows the direction of the thrust forward in pool. The throwing motion is here taken to its furthest extreme.


In the classic pool stroke, the cue is tossed gently through the stroking motion. You can take this analogy too far, for reasons of subtle touch and control with the cue stick, you may ease up on the throw motion at times. There are a huge variety of stroke techniques, which differ from the classic stroke, requiring different arm and hand moves.

Take your stroke all the way through then beyond. Did your elbow touch the stick or your forearm or nearly so, as in this photo? If your forearm comes to touch the stick or close to it, you have a clear indicator your stroke was straight from beginning to end, progressing from an upper arm hanging straight from the elbow (or nearly so) at address.

What is the specific motion of the shooting hand through the stroke? Take a look at the next photo, shot from an intriguing angle.

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The motion of the hand explained

Photo (c) 2007 Matt Sherman licensed to, Inc.

Another powerful billiards controversy, is there a particular movement(s) of the wrist that will aid the stroke?


You'll want a relaxed wrist and grip in most instances. Yes, the laws of physics do not care whether a wrist is moving or not when stick strikes ball, but holding the wrist stiffly can cause repetitive motion injuries from impact.

On the other hand, (pun intended) a subtly moving wrist can impart speed to the stick, providing distance and spin easily. There are six motions your wrist can make, I've sorted to 3 categories of 2 directions each:

1. ulnar deviation (down from wrist driving the pinky towards the forearm) and radial deviation (up from wrist driving the base of the thumb to the arm)

2. palmar flexion (straight forwards sending fingertips toward the smooth upper arm) and dorsal flexion (straight backwards moving the back of your hand to the hairy side of the forearm)

3. pronative (roll wrist forwards from the elbow of the arm on down) and supinative (roll backwards from the elbow)

Cup a billiard ball and toss it forward alongside your hip, ending with palm to the sky. You've naturally used palmer and dorsal flexion. Cup again, then rotate your forearm 90 degrees, placing the thumb and forefinger facing up, and toss again without releasing the ball. The weight of the ball will have your wrist perform ulnar and radial deviation instead.

Now lower the whole arm and your trunk to roll the ball along a pool table's felt and you have the pool stroking motion. "Tossing" the cuestick without actually letting go provides weight-induced deviation on backswing and follow through (and for some, a tad of supinative or pronative roll, too).

Examine my hand on this exaggerated stroke and see the wrist motion, occurring easily if not forced. In this closeup and the previous photo, note the wrinkles in my wrist. That's pool!