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Elevate to the Moon: Press Stroke & Shoulder Stroke. ~ Tom Simpson

Getting above the Stick: Shooting Tall

Most of us have pretty good bridges for getting over a blocking ball—at least when the blocker is not too close to the cue ball. But what about when we have to seriously elevate our stick because the balls are close together, and maybe we need some draw? We know that is much, much tougher.

Unless you’re really tall, extreme elevation is a challenge.

We’ll illustrate two different ways to accomplish extreme elevation and still keep your stick under control: the Press Stroke and the Shoulder Stroke. And yes, it’s even possible to get good draw while frozen to the rail!

Part of the difficulty with elevating, is keeping your stroke arm in the vertical swing plane. Most players wing their forearm out sideways to get more elevation. But then they can’t really see down their stick, and their tip is moving side to side as they stroke. Problematic. The photos below show two surprising ways to elevate to an extreme, see down your stick, and stroke straight.

The Press Stroke requires flexibility and strength. Here are the steps, but once you have it, you can get there in one smooth move:

Simpson #126 - photo - press stroke 1-1

Photo 1: Press Stroke—set up

Shoulder stroke

Photo 2: Press Stroke—ready to hit

Choke way down on the cue. Stand close to the table, pressing the table with your thigh. Form a high open bridge on the rail. Using the webbing between the thumb and index finger of your grip hand, press the front of the stick down securely into your bridge. Maintain that downward pressure as you bend forward from the waist and raise the back of the stick to get into shooting position. Tuck your bridge elbow to your body as you bend.

To raise the butt of the stick, lift the point of your elbow straight up (vertically, not tilted). Unfortunately, we’re not ready to hit yet. Notice how my stroke arm is already fully folded. I have nothing to stroke with. The solution appears in the second photo.

The final move is pretty weird, but it works.

To get stroke room for your arm, glide your head down the stick line until your forearm is perpendicular to the stick when the tip is near the cue ball. This puts your arm in the proper place to perform an accurate, athletic stroke. Of course, it will seem very strange to have your eyes overtop the cue ball, and you will have had to aim well prior to the head move. Don’t try to hold this position for long. You’re using lots of muscle. Finally, stroke and hit while holding the stick against your chest for greater stability.

The Shoulder Stroke is remarkably easy for most players. They’ve just never seen it. Even players with physical limitations like neck pain, stiffness, and lack of flexibility can usually do well with this technique:

Shoulder stroke

Photo 3: Shoulder Stroke

The beauty of the Shoulder Stroke is that you can stand up straight and comfortably see down most of the length of the stick. The actual stroke is different from the standard, but so is this technique. So what if the method is unconventional? It works, and it’s legal.

Stand facing fairly square to the shot. Find a place on your shoulder where the stick can ride fairly smoothly and you can see down it. Make a high bridge.

Here’s the key—grip the shaft about halfway between the joint and tip. Hold the stick gently against your shoulder and your bridge by pulling your elbow straight back along the line of your forearm. Find the angle and pulling pressure that allows the stick to stroke smoothly and straight, without slipping around on your shoulder or being loose in your bridge. Stroke with your forearm right through the cue ball like you’re trying to hit the table.

On elevated shots like this, most players prefer looking at the cue ball during the hit stroke. Notice in Photo 3, I’m taking a half tip of cushion. It’s rubber, after all. I’m going through like it’s not there. Draw off the cushion? Yep, it’s beautiful and it’s easier than you’d think, but it could cost you some “customers.”

Tom Simpson has been a player most of his life, and has been an active instructor since 1994. In 1994, Tom founded Elephant Balls, Ltd., the manufacturer & marketer of Elephant Practice Balls, the Ghostball Aim Trainer, and numerous other products. He is a PBIA Master Instructor (9 worldwide) and Member of the Instructor Committee. He is an ACS Level 4 Instructor/Coach (top level – internationally recognized) and the founder of the National Billiard Academy (Accredited PBIA Master Academy – since 2004). He is also a Secret Aiming Systems™ Coach. Check out his website.

Photo: Alex LA/Flickr Editor: Edith Lazenby

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