Jim Solum
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The mechanics of the throwing motion for a lob or power shot requires the shooter to use the proper grip, elevate to the correct release point, use the proper hand angle to put arc on the ball for a lob and have the correct arm speed and leg speed.  For those throwing a lob shot, the proper lob aiming point must be used.  Taking a shot that scores is not just a blind emotional shot thrown at the goal with a prayer.  The shot requires a technical method for efficiently throwing the ball for its highest velocity and accuracy.  The unthinking shooter with the slogan “I just throw heat,” will soon become a dinosaur in the game of water polo.







There are three grips: standard cradle grip, the pinch grip, and the football grip.  The player using a cradle grip has a horizontal hand with the fingers up and the ball lightly resting in the hand.  The advanced grip used by many shooters is the pinch grip.  The hand is almost vertical behind the ball and the five fingers firmly grip the ball.  The pinch grip allows the lob shooter to use the standard 3-finger release lob, a 2-finger release lob, a middle finger release lob.  The pinch grip is also used with the football grip where the hand is on the side of the ball and firmly grips the top of the ball (see Fig. 1).

The football grip is named after the way that an American football is gripped.  The player’s hand is on the side of the ball with the fingers on top of the ball and pointing inward to the leftThe football grip allows the shooter to throw topspin power shots and lob shots and to curve the ball.  The shooter’s hand slides forward 1-inch (2.5-cm) to place a forward spin on the ball (topspin). To curve the ball the shooter’s fingers slides a little to the right side for a diagonal spin on the ball.



Fig 2

30-inches (76-cm)

 The ball should be released from the same release point in the air every time.  This is a critical factor in creating the correct ball arc.  The shooter needs to get the center of his or her hand up to 30-inches (76-cm) above the water a position level with the high corner of the goal.  This 30-inch release point allows for a power shot to score in the high corner and a lob to drop into the high corner (see Fig. 2).

When the release point is always the same height the proper amount of arc can be applied to the ball trajectory.  When the shooter varies his or her release point height all accuracy is lost.  For example, when the shooter drops the release point 6-inches (15-cm) while throwing a 55-degree arcing lob, the lobed ball hits the middle of the goal, instead of the high corner of the goal.

The athlete must be trained to always reach the same height so a 55-degree arc or a 30-degree arc can be placed on the ball.  Dropping the release point a foot (31-cm) because the player does not want to kick hard with the legs dooms the shot.  The lob will be destroyed before the ball ever leaves the hand of the shooter due to lack of leg effort.  The legs are the shot and the release point height.





The shooter’s hand angle is critical on the lob shot.  For the power shot, the hand angle is not important.  The angle of the hand determines the amount of ball arc on the lob. The greater the hand angle the more arc; the less the hand angle the less the ball arc.  When the power shooter tries a lob he or she must readjust the hand angle to match the new lob aiming point.





The lob requires the ball to have a trajectory with an arc on the ball.  The degree of ball arc can vary tremendously from 15-degrees to 55-degrees.  The standard backspin lob used throughout the world has 45 to 55-degree ball arc.  A 2-finger lob (index and middle finger together) has a 30-degree ball arc.  A middle finger release has a 0 to 15-degree arc.  There is tremendous ball arc variation due to different ball spins with backspin, no-spin diagonal spin, and sidespin shots.




The faster the arm speed, the faster the lob and the less arc height and curve.  The lob is an interesting exercise in differential motions.  The shooter cannot slowly kick up, go square to the goal, sink, and then slowly move the arm for the lob.  These incorrect actions telegraph the lob shot to the goalie.  The correct technique is to kick up hard with the legs, remain angled, and elevate.  Only after these quick and strong body actions can the shooter slowly move the arm forward.

The formula is hard legs and a soft arm.  This differential motion is difficult for the young player to emulate.  He or she has been taught to react slowly for a slow lob shot and quickly for a power shot.  The player must be retrained to be quick with the legs and slow with the arm.  Speed matters.  A fast arm makes a fast lob.  A slow arm speed makes a slow lob. A hyper player may not be able to slow his or her arm speed down enough to throw a lob.

There is a new lob called the locked arm lob that is proving to be more accurate than the 3-finger backspin lob.  The arm is locked with the hand lightly pinching the ball.  The arm accelerates forward at medium speed and the ball is released early.  There is no ball spin on this lob. The exact lob aiming point about 24-inches (60-cm) about the goal. The lob aiming really is not needed as the arm motion determines the lob trajectory and the spot in the goal.  The locked arm lob is extremely accurate when compared to the “pray and hope” 3-finger lob shot.


            24-inches (61-cm)           55-degree lob 3-Fingers

            12-inches (30-cm)           2-Finger lob

            6-inches (15-cm)             Middle Finger lob

            Crossbar                         Power lob

            In Front of goal post      Curve

            Edge of goal post            Bar-in


24-inches (60-cm)

3-Finger Lob

The lob, like the power shot, must have a target to aim the ball.  The aiming point for the power shot is the high corner of the goal (30-inches high, 76-cm).  The lob aiming point is an invisible mark in space above the goal that the lob shooter aims the ball for the lob to drop into the high corner of the goal (see Fig. 3).

The power shot aiming point cannot be used by the shooter because the lob shot has an arc on the ball.  When the power shot high corner aiming point is used for the lob aiming point, the ball drops into the water in front of the goal.

The standard lob aiming point is to throw the 45-55-degree backspin lob with a 3-finger release at a point 24-inches above the crossbar of the goal.  The ball will drop 24-inches (49-cm) and fall into the high corner of the goal.  The coach can place a flag that is 24-inches (49-cm) high so the shooters can have visual aiming point to aim the ball.

Wrong Lob Aiming Point

The wrong lob aiming point destroys the lob shot.  Does the coach ever wonder why some lobs go over the goal, hit the water, hit the goalie in the head, and, some lobs go into the goal?  Does the lob shot score due to luck?  The answer is the successful lob shooter uses a lob aiming point that takes into consideration that the lob has a 55-degree arc and drops 24-inches (60-cm) before it falls into the high corner of the goal.

In the illustration above, Figure 4, the shooter makes the common mistake of the using the high corner power shot aiming point instead of the higher lob aiming point.  As, a result, the ball drops down in front of the goal and does not score. In archery, for example, the archer aims above the target because the arrow has an arc trajectory and drops down to hit the target.  When archer aims at the target, the arrow hits the grass (see Fig. 4).

 12-Inches (30-cm) 

 2-Finger Lob

A 2-finger lob uses a 12-inch (30-cm) lob aiming point because the trajectory arc is only 30-degrees.   The reason the lob aiming point is lower is due to the 30-degree ball arc.  The lob aiming point for a middle finger lob from the outside perimeter (7-meters out) is probably 30-inches (76-cm) but the distance can vary significantly (see Fig. 5).

 6-Inches (15-cm)

 Middle Finger Lob

The middle finger lob uses a much different hand technique than a power lob.  The shooter may or may not use a 12-inch (30-cm) crossbar lob aiming point.  The farther that the lob shooter is away from the goal, the higher the middle finger aiming point due to a higher ball arc (see Fig. 6).

Power Lob

A 30-mph (48-km/h) power lob aiming point is 6-inches (15-cm) above the crossbar.  The power lob is a cross between a power-shot and a lob.  It has the speed of a power shot but the ball arc of a low arching lob.  The shooter has the hand on top and uses the thumb to arc on the ball and the index and middle fingers to push down on the ball to lower it into the high corner of the goal.

The power lob is used primarily to develop smart hands.  The Europeans use the power lob as an end of shot clock shot to bounce the ball off the crossbar and into the field to get a new shot clock.


A crossbar lob aiming point is used for a topspin power shot and the power lob.  The pure topspin power shot will rise up in the middle of the ball’s trajectory and then settle and become level as the ball nears the goal.    When the topspin power shot is aimed at the high corner it drops a little and will hit mid-cage. A power lob that is meant to bounce back into the field of play as time run out, uses the crossbar to aim the ball.

In Front of the Goal

Curve Shot

The curve aiming point is in front the right goal post for a power shot or a lob shot of 36-inches (88-cm) approximately.  Depending on the degree and size of the curve, the ball is thrown at an aiming spot in front of the goal. The greater the curve placed on the ball the farther out from the goal is the aiming point.  For young lob and power shooters, figuring out the curve shot aiming point is a puzzle.  It is a puzzle, that the player will in time master (see Fig. 7).

Locked Arm Lob

There is a new-old lob called the locked arm lob.  The author first learned about this type of lob in 1978, and promptly forgot about it.  Real men in the late 1900’s did not lob.  It was considered unmanly.  Some women in the 21st century have also adopted this attitude.  The rule is: lob if the lob shot is there.

This locked arm lob is probably the most accurate lob in water polo.  And it is also mechanically a very simple shot.  It is recommended by the author to stop teaching the backspin lob to the players.  The locked arm lock is the lob shot of choice.

The lob shooter locks elbow, uses a long arm extension, pinches the ball and releases the ball above the head.  There is very little wrist snap.  The ball spin is a no-spin knuckleball.  The al lob aiming point is 24-inches (61-cm) above the crossbar.  The ball automatically goes right into the goal.  The player can master this lob shot in one throw. The early release of the ball coupled with the lack of ball spin makes this a very controllable lob shot. 

Edge of the Goal Post Bar-In Shots

Power Shot Micro Curve

Left Flat to Right Post = Index Finger

Right Flat to Left Post = Ring Finger

In the bar-in shot, the shooter is dealing with a micro curve off the goal post to deflect the ball into the goal.  The bar-in shot requires a different aiming point than the lob aiming point.  The ball is aimed directly at the edge of the goal post.  The bar-in a ball hits the edge of the goal post and deflects into the goal.  The bar-in can be power shot or a lob shot.  For the ball to bounce into the goal, there must be a micro curve on the ball so it bounces into the goal rather than off the goal post (see Fig. 8).

There are two kinds of releases that are used for a hand behind the ball bar-in shot: a ring finger release and an index finger release.  Ring finger pressure on the ball causes the ball to have a micro curve and deflect into the right corner. An index finger pressure causes the ball to micro curve on the edge of the left goal post and into the left corner of the goal. When the finger pressure is incorrect, the ball is “pushed” to the outside edge and deflects into the field.

A demonstration for the players is to hold the hand up and slightly move the ring finger to turn the hand slightly to the left.  Then have the index finger slightly push down and the hand turns to the right.  When the ball bounces out into the field the shooter knows he or she “pulled” the ball out by using the wrong finger on the ball.

Right Post Bar-In from US-2, EU-4

Ring Finger Release Left Wing to Right Goal Post

The 2-spot shooter (EU-4-spot) bars-in the shot from the left wing by the ball striking the edge of the right goal post and bouncing into the right corner of the goal.  The usual shot is a power shot but a lob can also bar-in.  The shooter must be accurate enough for the ball to hit the sharp edge of the goal post.  A goalie when he or sees the ball going into the bar pulls the hand away from the ball to prevent breaking a finger.

The power shooter who masters the bar-in shot begins to occasionally throw a bar-in lob shot.  The lob shooter has unconsciously figured out the aiming lob height and the precise angle of the edge of the goal post to bar in the lob (see Fig. 9).

Left Post Bar-In from US-4, EU-2

Index Finger Release Right Wing to Left Goal Post        

The 4-shooter (EU-2) is on the right wing and shoots cross-cage at the edge of the left goal post and bar-ins the ball into the left corner of the goal.  The dominant finger on the left corner bar-in shot is the index finger.  The shooter’s index finger subtly places more fingertip pressure on the ball causing it to micro curve to the right and bounce off the goal post edge into the goal.  If the ball bounces off the goal post into the field, there was too much ring finger pressure and micro curved the ball to the left.  When the ball hits the edge of the goal post and bounces back to the shooter’s hand, there was no curve on the ball and the shooter’s hand was perfectly flat when facing the goal (see Fig. 10).

Bar-In Drill

The drill is to have the shooter on the 2-meter line at the left goal post and shoot cross-cage at the edge of the right goal post.  The shooter is given three shots and then the next player shoots.  After mastering the 2-meter bar-in shot the shooter moves up to the 4-meter line and repeats the bar-in shot.  Once the left-to-right bar-in shot is mastered then the shooter moves to the 2-meter line above the right goal post and shoots cross-cage at the edge of the left goal post, a right-to-left shot.  Next to finish the drill by moving the shooter up to the 4-meter line for the final bar in shots.  The shooter will find that shooting at the right post is much easier to score.  The bar-in shot using the index finger is a much more difficult shot.

At first, the players miss the edge of the goal post by a meter.  Gradually, the players develop the visual/body skills to accurately throw the ball at the edge of the goal.  It will take several practices for players to train themselves to become more accurate with their shot, but it will happen.


The lob consists of six elements: grip, elevation, hand angle, ball arc, arm and leg speed and the lob aiming point.  All of these elements work together in unison to throw the high arching and accurate lob shot.  The lob shot is not a blindly thrown shot that is a “pray shot.”  There is definite technique required to score the lob shot.

The shooter’s grip must be correct, the shooter must elevate so his or her center of the hand is exactly at 30-inches (76-cm) so the release point is always the same and the ball arc is always the same, and the ball will go into the spot in the goal that the shooter intended.  The ball arc is determined by the hand angle and that element needs to be conjunction with the lob aiming point.  The lob shot is a technical shot, one that requires more skill than the power shot.

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