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…
Sharing feedback with our very own Jimmy Hedger and GB decathlete Ashley Bryant
3) Be a good all-round athlete
It should come as no surprise that throwing athletes are usually pretty good when it comes to medicine ball throws and shot throws etc, but their jumping and running abilities are often overlooked.
Relative to bodyweight, you’ll find that many elite throwers match sprinters and jumpers when it comes to squat or countermovement jump tests and will also put up a good fight with horizontal jumps despite the extra mass.
These activities are a massively underrated stimulus when it comes to developing power and, for me, they are an essential part of developing the strong, powerful and athletic body that a thrower should be striving for.
What good is a 250kg squat if your body is unable to sequence your body’s movements in such a way that it can toss a 5kg medicine ball into space?
I can’t tell you how many athletes I’ve taken on who were completely missing this
component in their training and the difference it made to their physical capabilities once it was introduced was huge! Learning how to sprint and jump properly are essential tools that should be taught early on in an athlete’s career regardless of their sport or event.
It should also be noted that for bigger athletes such as throwers, this type of work can be a good source of general conditioning without the need to send them plodding around the track for a few horrifically slow and painful laps.
4) Put yourself in the right environment
This is a point which is often overlooked when it comes to developing into the athlete that you want to become, but it’s something that in my experience is just as important, if not, more important than the programme itself.
Most athletes are competitive beings, or they probably wouldn’t want to be involved in
sport in the first place. This competitive instinct brings out a desire to win or be better than their peers and, for most athletes, this extends to the training environment as well as the competitive arena.
We as humans are also creatures of habit and our behaviours are strongly influenced by those individuals that we are surrounded by.
With these points in mind, when it comes to bringing out the best in yourself every day at training and pushing yourself to the next level, I strongly believe you will be much more likely to achieve this if you’re in a training group with like-minded people who will push you to be better in everything that you do.
I know from my experiences as both an athlete and coach just how much of a difference this can make. Training with the best athletes in your sport challenges you in so many ways and forces you to step up your game even on days when you don’t feel like it. Your mindset changes and the standards you once held yourself to will be a thing of the past as you challenge yourself to be better than you were yesterday and chase down those ahead of you.
The benefit of being in this environment over training as a lone wolf will be immeasurable, so find yourself some training buddies who are stronger or more powerful than you and get hunting!
Zane guides GB number 1 shotputter Amelia Strickler
So there you have it – a simple breakdown of how to become a big, strong & powerful animal with the versatility and athleticism to apply these physical qualities to a wide range of sports.
Zane is happy to go into more detail with anyone willing to listen to his ramblings plus is available for consultancy or programming for strength and power.
Please feel free to contact him on social media or through his website: