An Introduction to Special Strength

Most coaches simply think stronger is better. To a certain extent, this is true; strength is a necessary component to success since you need to be strong to throw the hammer far. However, strength is not sufficient to throw far. Dr. Bondarchuk realizes this and that is what has set helped him become the world’s best hammer throw coach.


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14 replies
  1. Jarrod Roberts
    Jarrod Roberts says:

    This is what I have been looking for Glenn. I would like to see more technique and examples of special strength. This will help me in developing my own theory and help to better serve my athletes here at Western. Particularly when my athletes are catching up to my coaching and our now exceeding beyond distances that I could ever hit. I want to give them the best possibility to succeed at the Division II level who knows maybe a couple of these exercises will help, put my throwers on top both in the conference and nationally.


    • Martin
      Martin says:

      No problem Jarrod. If you are interested in more special strength exercises for other events, check out my friend Dane Miller’s video of special strength exercises for the shot put: Dane runs and we’ll likely be writing an article about this and other topics in the near future.

  2. Coach Mac
    Coach Mac says:

    Martin…too bad you havent been too Moorpark…LOL

    Our womans record with the ROPE Hammer ( is 40 K)…lol The Scots have done heavy hammer winds for eternity and the Pakistani’s and Indians (Indian CLubs) since the late 1800’s.

    IF you dont study history your bound too repeat it ! author unknown

  3. jason
    jason says:

    I’ve seen plenty of people do heavy winds. The problem with American hammer throwers is that no one starts until they are in college, for the most part. Look at guys who train seriously before college; they are some of the best in the world for their age(Walter, Connor). I’ve also seen the video where Primoz hang cleans 170 for 4 without stopping to reset between reps. Hang clean, pretty general. Tell me that general strength in his posterior chain doesn’t help him sit against the ball.

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      Jason – You are right, Primoz has good general strength. I am not saying he doesn’t have good general strength or that his strength doesn’t help him in his throw. I am also not saying that general strength is not important; it is important, just not as important as special strength…there isn’t a very high correlation between results and general strength once you get to the elite levels. Bondarchuk oversaw thousands of athletes in his years as Soviet national coach. During that time he tested and tracked his athletes and was able to determine what were the things that all the successful throwers had in common. General strength had a lower correlation than many other exercises. For instance, compare Kevin McMahon (79m) and A.G. Kruger (79m). Both had similar results, but with a wide difference in general strength levels.

      While some Americans do special strength, my point is that I think few really give it the role in their training that it needs. Dr. Bondarchuk’s athletes and Primoz all spend much more time training special strength than they do training general strength.

      It is also not the only factor preventing our success, just one factor among many. As you mention, the lack of youth throwers is also a big factor. Starting young helps. Primoz’s training partner, Barabara Spiler, has been throwing since age nine. She just turned 17 this year and threw over 66 meters. Special strength helps her out, but not as much as her eight years of experience. But while it helps to start young, starting older does not prevent anyone from succeeding. Silver medalist Lance Deal didn’t start throwing hammer until college. Gold medalists Bondarchuk and Harold Connolly didn’t pick up the hammer until they were in their 20s. These athletes are exceptions, but show that you can have success even if you start later in life. Even more factors also contribute: a dearth of high level coaches, lack of post-collegiate funding (causing many talents to give up before reaching their potential), the weight throw, poor technical concepts, etc.

  4. Nick White
    Nick White says:


    Keep up the great work! I have read some of your writing’s about Bondarchuk’s training ideas and found them useful. In fact I have used them to design my training blocks for next year. Looking forward to hearing more about your views of training and other special strength exercises.

  5. jason
    jason says:

    I think we’re on the same page, Martin. But I just think as far as American throwers go, its often overlooked how late most hammer throwers begin the event as compared to other throwers around the world. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that general strength is the top priority. I do think, however, that “special strength” is the ability to translate your general strength into what you need for your event(I posted the same thing at The Ring, too). People constantly point out the fact that Americans rely too much on strength, but fail to mention that 95% of our hammer throwers don’t even know what the implement is until they are in college, and have already developed the technique of the discus and rotational shot put, which are completely backwards from the hammer…but thats just my 2 cents; doesn’t really amount to much..

  6. mohamad saatara
    mohamad saatara says:


    Once again an excellent article and observations. I would like to share my personal experience as a coach using the methods stated to coach my athletes over my career. I have been able to get pretty good results from my throwers using these methods. I would also like to metion that the people I coach are not “super heros” just kids who love to throw and students of their events.
    In the initial stages of training development of absolute strength and power levels are helpful but as you stated the athlete shortly reaches a point of diminishing returns and the training has to evolve and focus changes to the development of special power. Throughout this time technical execution and “time on the task” is focused on. Here is a case study of a shot putter whom is on this type of training and I have coached him for the last 4 years and he has one more year with me:
    year: avg: pr: pr 18#: squat: push press:
    2006 15.10m 15.90m 14.80m 200kg 140kg
    2007 16.30m 16.96m 15.56m 204kg 150kg
    2008 17.40m 18.23m 16.40m 227kg 160kg
    2009 18.00m 18.59m 17.10m 227kg 165kg

    This athete was a 55 foot high school shot putter. I focus mainly on developing special power characteristics and we throw different weights. As you can see this thrower is not nearly as strong as some of the other guys who throw similar distances but he gets the most out of the throw and is always in good condition to throw. I strongly believe that to get the best results from the thrower we have to put our focus on throwing and use other training methods to enhance what is going on in the circle not the other way around.

    Great success to everyone

    Mohamad Saatara
    NAU Track and Field

  7. Zach Hazen
    Zach Hazen says:

    Your compiled knowledge of Bondarchuk and elite throwers is a great benefit to the hammer community, especially those like myself who don’t have access to many in-person, post collegiate resources. I think it is important to stress a holistic approach, especially when the readers are presented with a video that they may be tempted to view as a “secret”, easy, one size fits all solution to throwing far.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Martin has an informative website on training and track and field events Martin’s website […]

  2. […] it doesn’t always work that way. This time the cause of the apparent paradox is the intense special-strength oriented training program I began in November. I would complain about the crazy amount of volume, […]

  3. […] Olympic lifts, etc.). To read a little more about why I think special strength is so important, read this post from 2009 or this article about Bondarchuk’s training […]

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