Specific Strength for Athletic Throwers
BY BEN HAWKES
At this point, it's generally accepted that athletes need to do some physical preparation training to support their event-specific training to reduce the likelihood of injury and increase their performance ceiling.
Most physical development training happens in a gym environment. Your squats, your deadlifts, your cleans, your snatches... this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Still, for throwers, we can add a few specific strengthening exercises and variations into our programmes to get stronger in rotational movements - like throwing. Many of these exercises come from hammer throwers, but they also come from gymnastics, strongman, and physiotherapy.
Before we get into this, though, here's some required reading (watching). These videos form the basis of a lot of the discussion around special strength and are rich resources to pick stuff from:
AN INTRODUCTION TO HUNGARIAN HAMMER THROWING
ESSENTIAL HAMMER THROW SPECIAL STRENGTH EXERCISES
MARCEL LOMNICKY SPECIAL STRENGTH FOR HAMMER THROW
MARCEL LOMNICKY VOL. 2
MARCEL LOMNICKY VOL. 3
PHYSICAL PREPARATION - WERNER GUNTHOR
INDOOR TRAINING - GENERAL PREPARATION
THE IMPORTANCE OF SPECIFIC STRENGTH FOR ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
You might be asking why we need to do this kind of training. Throwers just need to be strong, right? Wrong. There's no point being strong if it doesn't translate into the implement - or if your body can't handle the energy the implement imparts on you - through the kinetic chain.
Let's take hammer as an example. As the ball increases in speed, the centrifugal force (force pulling away from your centre of mass) also increases. Having a massive squat doesn't help you resist that force. What you need is a whole load of intra-abdominal pressure and strength in anti-flexion and anti-rotation, and these exercises are where we develop that strength.
In Discus, you want to create a big stretch across the trunk as you reach the power position, so that rotational recoil accelerates the disc into the sector. But if you go floppy in that position - or can't get into it - you're not getting the most out of your throw.
STRUCTURING YOUR SPECIFIC TRAINING...
So, how can we go about implementing this training? First, you need to know you want to get out of it - is it movement velocity? Is it resisting movement... what movement is it? Then you can pick exercises from your movement bank and decide where to put them in your training week. How many do you want? Do you want to avoid fatigue, or does it not matter that much? Could you scatter them in warmup, do a mini-session following a technical day, or should it be standalone? These things will depend on your training system and where you are in your annual plan.
When you've decided this, you can then dissect the movements and find out the foundational patterns, figure out how to get the most out of it, and how to coach it.
Not relevant to thrower specific strength, but this is a great TikTok outlining how to break down, teach, and perform a movement:
Then you can get out and practice doing and coaching each movement, see what works and take what you like - discarding what you don't!
- Piece together a bank of movements which will develop an ability to control one's body in space or build trunk strength in the desired movement
- Pick the exercises you think are best suited to your athlete, training system and annual plan
- Figure out where in your training week you want to put them
- Figure out how to break them down and teach them
- Get out and coach!
Have fun with these!