Updated: Mar 15
Throwers…. the big, fat, pizza eating monsters of the track and field world. Or are they?
Big Z chucking the disc out to a PB of 63.46m - he sits 12th on the GB all-time rankings with more to come!
For years, the general stereotype of throwing athletes has been a little harsh. As a thrower myself and coach to some of the best throwing athletes in the UK, I take it personally when individuals make assumptions about how we train and imply that we just like to make a lot of noise in the weight room, and see consuming every calorie in sight as a daily challenge.
Don’t get me wrong, we like to eat (really like to eat!), but the training involved to reach the top level in the sport is very different to what most believe. Many of the most impressive athletic feats I have seen have been performed by throwers, and the physical qualities we develop can be transferrable to a wide range of strength/power sports.
So perhaps there’s something athletes from other sports could learn from the throwing community?
In fact, historically there has always been a strong link between throwing events and bobsleigh with a number of athletes performing to a high level in both sports at various points in their careers.
I can certainly say that I have picked up some very useful information from sled pushers in my time that I’m truly grateful for!
I have been fortunate to spend a lot of time around many of the best throwing athletes and coaches in the world. Picking the brains of these individuals and observing how they work gave me great insight into the successful programmes of these stars.
I was able to establish a number of similarities and common themes which I continue to apply to my training programmes today for both throwing athletes and those involved in various other strength and power sports.
I will now aim to convey these in the simplest way possible for your reading pleasure.
Zane imparting technical wisdom to a listening Ben Gregory (Welsh international decathlete)
In no particular order:
1) Get f*cking strong
There are no two ways about it, very few people have thrown far without possessing huge horsepower and having the ability to express large amounts of force. I would confidently say that this would be a useful quality to have when pushing a sled too!
Many elite throwers would perform well in high-level powerlifting competitions and these levels of strength are only achieved by getting friendly with a barbell on very regular occasions.
There are no secrets to getting strong and there are many ways to skin this particular cat. A good place to start when writing the basic outline of your programme is to try and include a deadlift of some sort, a squatting movement which you can execute well and then top this off with various upper body pressing movements.
No rocket science here!
Developing raw strength can be a long process but be patient and stay consistent and you will be surprised at how strong you can become.
Other benefits of regularly lifting heavy stuff can include improved overall robustness to withstand the daily pounding of training, improved ability to move heavy things for your nan, and if you’re really lucky, you might grow some muscle tissue that makes you look good in an extra smedium T-shirt #LifeGoals
2) Get crazy powerful
As discussed above, producing force is important but rate of force development in our
events is even more so. Release velocity is the biggest determining factor of distance and while technical mastery will have a big impact, the rate at which we can apply the force into the implement is arguably the most important physical factor that we have some control over.
Traditionally, the Olympic lifts have been the holy grail for developing power but recently
coaches and athletes are exploring other means to achieve the same outcome. Various
loaded jumping type exercises and banded variations of more traditional lifts are being
suggested as equal to, or in some cases even more effective than the tried and tested clean and snatch when it comes to power development.
So what should you do?
If you’re a good technician in the Olympic lifts and feel comfortable doing them then crack on! If not, try out some heavy trap-bar jumps or jump around with some heavy dumbbells to tap into the high force side of power development.
Whichever movement you can load up safely and feel you can express force in the most
powerful manner is probably a decent place to start.
When it comes to developing power with higher velocities, it’s hard to beat a well-balanced recipe of medicine ball throws, jumping/plyo and sprint work which conveniently brings me onto my next point…