We've all seen the ongoing training log posted here by Tom Pukstys, and one of the things that he has put into effect is the special attention to throwing movements. While Tom's season is geared to a later start than most throwers here in the US, the fact that developing a correct movement pattern is important already for him, it should really be in the forefront of everyone's training now. Throwing a lot of reps correctly with a variety of implements is the foundation that the long throws in season will come from. Medicine ball throws from a stand and a few steps are a wonderful way to both ingrain the leg and trunk action in the throw and transfer weight room results into functional throwing power. You simply can't get away without spending time on improving the basic weight shifting action of the legs, and the work with two hands on medicine balls is great for this- you can't use the non-throwing arm to "cheat" forward when doing the double arm throws so you HAVE to use the legs and hips to get to your plant.
As a general rule, the more steps you take, the lighter the ball should be...your personal level of fitness and experience will determine the ball weights you will throw. You should also do a variety of standing and seated throws stressing the rotation between the hips and shoulders in improve the ability of the hips to "snap" the shoulders forward. In any of these throws: indeed, in all that we talk about in this article, the action of the body is to accelerate around a solid base to add speed to the implement. 1952 Olympic silver medallist Bill Miller talks in terms of "launching" the javelin; the German and Finnish athletes look for an "elastic reflex"; Tom says that good throws are "like a cough" from the belly- all ways of describing a reactive, accelerating movement that results from what the legs have done.
You can do quite a high volume of the throws since they focus on large muscle groups that should be able to carry a good quantity of work; totals in the 100's in a day are not unusual. Try splitting the load equally between javelin specific and general power throws and do your javelin style throws before you do the trunk special throws and try to get in 2 or 3 sessions a week. This is your special strength training and is WAY more important than what you may do in the weight room- if time is a factor, drop a weight session from the mix to allow the medicine ball work.
Single arm throws with balls, rocks, weight bars and various weight javelins are the other part of the equation that must be addressed. These are the exercises that mirror the actual delivery action and should have the greatest percentage of throws done from some steps. This is where you will not only learn the pattern of movement of the actual throw, but you can also learn HOW to channel momentum to best effect these movements. The more comfortable you are with letting momentum contort your body into a delivery position the farther you'll be able to throw- as long as you can "hold" those positions to pass that power into the javelin. THAT'S where the medicine ball throws pay their dividends. With the confidence you gain from literally thousands of throws done correctly as well as the comfort of "knowing" these positions you can run into the throws faster. This gives and even greater "elastic reflex", thus, longer throws. The effect is not unlike the old saying of riding a bike- once you learn, you don't forget it easily.
This the area that most throwers training lets them down. They simply don't spend enough time throwing to develop this slinging action off the run. Bill Miller told us at Chula Vista the most important thing is to "get from the running state to the throwing state" as quickly as possible, with no loss of running speed. Injuries from throwing is usually cited as the reason for not doing enough of these workouts, but the injuries are from poor throwing skills and/or trying to go faster than you can control correctly. Throwing from a single arm off steps doesn't always mean "throw fast, throw hard"- it means learning to transfer energy from the run into the delivery effectively. If you can only do that at a 40% effort, then that's all you do until your skill level increases enough for you to increase to 50% effort. Don't try to do more than you're capable of mastering, then bump up the speed of the movement a little bit at a time as you gain skill ability and comfort.
Most of us are in areas where weather/temperature don't allow a lot of outdoor/warm weather throwing, but that is an advantage for these throws. Using a wall or net to throw into keeps you from the trap of "how far is it going" and you can focus on the feeling of the throw rather than the distance it fly's. Judge the quality of the movement by the velocity of the projectile- ball, javelin, rock- how loudly it hits the wall, for example. At least 2 sessions a week of these throws should be done at a fairly high volume- that will vary from one athlete to another a great deal. 30 throws a day may be a lot for a beginning athlete while a international level thrower may take 100 or more in a session. Just be sure that most, about 75%, are done from some steps or short run-ups and they are being done with correct technique. As with the medicine balls the focus is on a smooth, fast weight shift into the plant and the delivery is a result of the posting action of the plant and its elastic effect on the trunk and shoulder. Remember that the plant is a "trigger" that starts the delivery action and the body continues to move forward around the block- don't get so caught up with the block that you stop when you hit it and fall off to the left. Stress the follow thru AFTER the release to make sure you move into and past the plant correctly.
This is when you are going to make or break your season; some of you start competing in 6 or 7 weeks and you need to have a good movement base to stay HEALTHY to get thru the season and throw well when it counts. You need to be comfortable with getting to your delivery with speed and knowing how to use it correctly. If you do these things successfully and faithfully you can have a fun and productive season; if not, Dr. Fletcher will be available to put you back together soon....
Winter Training Priorities
By: Jeff Gorski Founder/Head Coach Klub Keihas
USATF Master Throws Coach
NOTE: Written Dec. 2000