The foul shot or free throw is the one shot in the game of basketball when you are able to take your time and think about the shot. You need to understand the great benefits involved with being a great foul shooter.  Teams have the ability to win another 3-5 games a year just by, as a team, being able to shoot 70% or better from the free throw line, and most players have the ability to increase your scoring average by 2-3 points per game just by being able to shoot a higher percentage free throw!

Elements of Free Throw Shooting

We’re going to break up the elements of free throw shooting into five specific areas.

  1. Pre-shot routine

  2. Physical mechanics of the free throw

  3. Mental mechanics of the free throw

  4. Rhythm and timing

  5. Practice routines

Pre-shot Routine

#1 is your pre-shot routine. The pre-shot routine is basically whatver you’re comfortable doing to prepare for the free throw.  Once you’ve completed your pre-shot routine, you need to start by taking a deep breath in order to relax your body.

Free Throw FundamentalsPhysical mechanics

The second thing you need to have for a perfect free throw are physical mechanics. Physical mechanics involve your body balance and your body position, as well as the mechanics that you use with your arms and legs to complete the repetition of the free throw.

A common acronym for free throw shooting is called BEEF. “B” means you have good body balance. Your feet are shoulders’ width apart, and you line up your right foot, if you’re right-handed, on the middle nail hole.

Free Throw Fundamentals

Free Throw FundamentalsThe E stands for elbow in. The elbows should be inside of the knee, as this helps you finish your free throw shot in a straight line.

The second E stands for eyes on the target, which is the middle hook on the back of the rim. Free Throw Fundamentals We want to aim at the middle hook because when a player puts backspin on the ball, which is what you’re taught to do if you’re a good shooter, and the ball makes contact with the rim, it will hit the back of the rim and it will spin backwards with the backspin into the cylinder.

The opposite of this is when you aim at the front of the rim. When the ball makes contact with the front of the rim, the ball will impact to the rim and, with backspin, spin backwards away from the cylinder, allowing you not to complete your free throw.

The final part of your free throw with physical mechanics is the follow-through. You must have and maintain good follow-through in order to be a successful free throw shooter.

Mental mechanics

Free Throw FundamentalsThe third part of being a great free throw shooter involves mental mechanics, which is what helps you concentrate better on the free throw, and not the pressure of the game situation. We’ve developed five words that allow you to concentrate on the mental processes of the free throw. These five words also allow you to say the words to yourself as you’re conducting the physical mechanics of the free throw at the same time. The five words are:“  Elbow In, Bend, Follow Through

After their pre-shot routine and taking their deep breath, the player will go to a position with their knees locked and they will break their elbow in or tuck their elbow in as they say “elbow in.” Players want the elbow inside the knee, not directly above the knee in the set position or outside of the knee. In either one of these cases, it’ll force a player to possibly finish with their arm shooting to the side. By having your elbow in, a player will finish their shot in a straight line with their toe, their knee, their elbow and the ball to the back of the rim.

The second part of mental mechanics is bend. Players keep their knees locked in an elbow in position is so when they come to the bend part of the free throw, their physical mechanics are identical every time they shoot the ball.

The third part of mental mechanics that you say to yourself is to followthrough. This helps you focus all of your mental concentration on the physical act of backspin on the ball and following through with your shot.

When you learn to be consistent in how you shoot your free throw, you will then become perfectly consistent in how well you shoot your free throw.  We want to eliminate negative thoughts as a player shoots a free throw by implementing positive thoughts and mental mechanics that will incorporate the physical mechanics and the rhythm and timing of a perfect free throw.

Rhythym and Timing

The fourth area of the foul shot is the rhythm and timing in which you shoot the free throw. We’re trying to minimize the amount of movement every time we shoot a free throw so that we minimize the amount of errors that can take place.

We’re also trying to make consistent the timing of our free throw so that it is exactly the same every time we shoot the ball. This, additionally, will help us to shoot the ball more consistently.

Our rhythm and timing needs to be incorporated not only into our mental mechanics, but also into our physical mechanics. 


Practice is the fifth and final element of becoming a great free throw shooter. It’s best to incorporate free throw practice within your normal workout routines so that you can incorporate game situations. In a normal game situation, you’re shooting free throws when you’re winded, fatigued, and a little bit tired. So we want to practice a drill at full intensity and speed, and rest on our free throws.

Watch for my next article on Free Throw Practice Drills coming soon!“  Have a question about free throws and foul shooting?“  Ask it below, and I’ll answer it in the next article!“  And don’t forget to Follow Me on Twitter, where I will share more great Basketball tips & techniques!