Yuriy Sedykh's orbit during the 1976 Olympics.

Your Orbit Tells a Story

Yuriy Sedykh's orbit during the 1976 Olympics.My first week back training for the 2014 season, Bondarchuk mentioned something in passing about the hammers orbit he had just witnessed during a throw. I felt it was way too important not to ask follow up questions! Long story short, he basically said based on the orbit throughout the throw, he knows exactly what issues there may be. He’s seen millions of throws from thousands of athletes. And that was before he left Russia! So this was an interesting perspective to me. Akin to Neo “seeing” the matrix code.


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19 replies
  1. Glenn McAtee
    Glenn McAtee says:

    So where should the low point be, and should it move during the throw?
    If you look at the line drawing above, it appears that the low point moves from the right foot to being in the center on the 3rd turn.
    What are the issues here?
    Glenn

    Reply
    • Kibwé
      Kibwé says:

      Hey Glenn,

      Good question, that gets brought up a lot. I asked B at this afternoons session.
      His philosophy is basically not to pay any special attention to the low point (obviously you don’t want it skewed to an extreme, though). Like with most things, technical issues are individualized. So one persons low point isn’t necessarily going to be an issue for another athlete.

      Instead, B says think of hammer AND body as one system. To think anything otherwise is inefficient (ie. degrees, body parts, low point, etc..) That’s not to be taken so literally, though. it is the goal to attain, but each coach and athlete find their own way.

      I hope that helps! :)

      Reply
  2. JeffR
    JeffR says:

    While I think the point you are making is great, in my opinion there are lots of coaches in the U.S. who understand the importance of orbit and coach it as much if not more than body positions.

    Reply
    • Kibwé
      Kibwé says:

      I agree, there are some. But my point isn’t whether an emphasis is put on the idea of the orbit or not, but the fact that the orbit itself reveals clues about one’s throw. And these clues are teaching moments.

      Reply
    • JeffR
      JeffR says:

      I think there are a lot of factors contributing to lack of consistent far throws. To say its because coaches don’t know the importance of orbit is short sighted.

      Reply
      • Kibwé
        Kibwé says:

        Indeed, there are a lot of factors contributing to the lack of far throws internationally. This post and I’m sure James’ response above are generalizations. If you personally are instilling the importance of the orbit, great! Keep it up! (Again, I didn’t say people aren’t coaching the importance of it, I said the orbit provides clues to help one coach the overall movement.)

        In the spirit of generalization, I will also say, at what point do we acknowledge the fact that what most American coaches are doing isn’t cutting it? (Again, generally speaking). Our problem isn’t lack of talent.

        The first step is coaches letting their guard down. All of this is in the name of learning new things and applying them. All too often too many coaches get their feelings hurt and get defensive and standoffish when someone says something they don’t specifically agree with (I’m not saying you’re doing this). That’s not what this is about.

        How many American coaches have coached someone to 80m (zero) or even 75m?? (Very few) Of the four of us that have thrown 80, you’ve got only two coaches in common. Let’s not forget James at 79+. The fact that probably every American that has thrown 78m or more can be tied directly to only two coaches is pretty telling evidence to the issue I’m trying to shed light on.

        The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. My message with this blog is, and always will be to learn and share my experience so that I can possibly help grow this sport in my own country. Something that Bondarchuk has stated are his intentions with us working with him. My challenge to throws coaches is to think [or continue to think] outside the box when it comes to training and technique.

        Kibwé

      • JeffR
        JeffR says:

        I see your points and maybe I am giving U.S. coaches too much credit. I just think the system is more to fault than the coaching itself. This is probably a whole different topic, and has been discussed on Martin’s blog some, but I think the late start that U.S. hammer throwers get, along with the quick results that are expected (how far can you throw in a 4 year college career) are more to blame than bad coaching. If you asked some of the best U.S. coaches to coach a 15 year old hammer thrower and get him ready to compete at a world class level in 10 years, most would have a different approach than they would when coaching there collegiate athletes.

      • Martin
        Martin says:

        I agree. It is a complex combination of problems that is holding the US back from getting the results in the hammer that it does in some other track and field events. There are many good coaches, but coaching could still definitely be better … but this can be said of nearly every country I’ve visited. Everyone can learn more. For example I don’t know if UK coaches “get it” on average better than American coaches, but they had just as many 70m throwers last year with a fraction of the population. That’s a tribute to the improved throws culture there. But that’s just the first step. More improvements are needed to get those guys up to 80m too.

  3. STS
    STS says:

    I’ve only started studying the hammer throw about 4 years ago, so I don’t consider myself an expert. But, I keep asking the, so called, “Great Minds” of the hammer about the orbit, and they dismiss anything that I ask them.

    Maybe most people don’t grow up learning about physics, and they are just ignorant about how those properties affect the distance that an implement will travel. One of those principles, in regards to projectile motion, is called, “angle of release.” The angle of release is determined by the orbit of the implement as it travels through the turns of the throw. The optimum angle of release of a projectile is 45 degrees. Now, I’m not saying that 45 degrees is always the best angle of release for the hammer in any given circumstances, but I am saying that the angle of release at 45 degrees must be pretty important, since all mathematical formulas say that it leads projectiles to their greatest distances traveled. All of these formulas are calculated based on certain circumstances, like “a frictionless environment” So, we know that friction will affect the angle of release, and the distance that the implement travels. But, we also know that 45 degrees is a very important figure, and that the angle of the release of the best throws will probably be somewhere near that number (within a few degrees). But, most of the throws that I see are much lower than 45 degrees. But, the winning throw of almost every meet is also the one with the highest orbit.

    How can you possibly throw the hammer for a living, and say, “I’ve always known the end game of the orbit throughout the throw is not to decelerate, but beyond that I never put much thought into it.” That blows my mind. As an neophyte in hammer throw analysis, I know that it is a major component of the throw, if your desire is to throw as far as possible. How can this be your livelyhood, and you don’t know one of the most important parts of the throw?

    Let me give you something else to think about. If the orbit of the hammer is high, what can I do to apply more force to the implement? The answer is push into the ground with my feet/legs/lower back. Applying force on the circle will allow me to increase the speed of the ball, if they are opposed to each other. Okay, that makes sense and it also allows me to give 100% effort and not worry about foot fouling, because I’m not falling forward. My energy is being directed upward, not outward (toward the sector).

    But, what if my orbit is lower? What do I do in order to apply more force to the ball and increase the speed of the implement? This creates problems, because I have to lean into the direction of the throw in order to apply force to the orbit. Remember, the force is in the orbit, and the orbit cannot be quickly changed. It can only change in small increments as each turn is completed. I cannot keep my orbit flat for 3 turns, and then think that I am going to lift with my legs at the point of the release and change the orbit of the hammer. It doesn’t work that way. The only way to accelerate the hammer is to apply force to the orbit, If the orbit is low, then that’s the angle that I have to apply the force. If I do try to lift upward when I release the implement with a flat orbit, then the the hammer will push me backwards. This is seen easier when the thrower is throwing the weight, because of the mass and slower speed of the implement. Pushing down on the circle will not help me apply force to a relatively horizontal orbit. If my orbit is say, “35 degrees”, then my body has to adjust to apply force into that orbit. This means that I am now leaning into the sector as I release the implement, and it makes it harder to stay in the circle at the point of the release.

    All of my throwers know the importance of the orbit, because I talk about it on every throw. If it wasn’t important, then there would be no formula to calculate it. If I were you, I see about getting a refund from my coach.

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      I think you are confusing orbit with the angle of release. The angle is one component of the orbit, but there are many others (radius, speed, rhythm, etc.). And the angle is also less important than you think. You say “winning throw of almost every meet is also the one with the highest orbit” but that simply isn’t true. A German team in Frankfurt has analyzes several big meets and none of them show this. Berlin WCs in 2009: Kozmus won with a angle about 3º less than Pars. Wlodarczyk was also not the closest to 45º. Same in Daegu 2011, Stuttgart WAF, London, etc. A degree or two of angle has very little meaning in the throw. The biggest point is speed of the hammer, so Kibwe trying to think about always accelerating is much more important than the angle of release.

      Also, the angle should always be less than 45º. The physics you are talking about rely on several assumptions that are not true in the hammer throw. First, it assumes no air resistance. But more importantly it assumes that the hammer is released at the height it lands. Accounting for both of these, the optimal angle of release is lower.

      Reply
  4. tb
    tb says:

    STS: Do other coaches say your kids drag like crazy? Because that’s the impression I’m getting from your description of orbits.

    Reply
  5. Joe Burke
    Joe Burke says:

    Thanks Kibwe for your insight into orbit. Now take it one step farther. Maintaining orbit has a lot to do with maintaining the left shoulder as the center of the orbit or so I have been taught. How should that center of the orbit move across the circle? Is it a straight line or a series of small ellipses? If I know what that optimal path is then what does that mean technically? How do I apply force to the hammer and optimize the center of the orbit path and thus the orbit of the hammer and accelerate the hammer. I know it also has to do with the angle of the orbit but if you look at Sedykh’s throw above the angle of the orbit does not change much after the first turn. And to you Martin this question: If I am going to teach beginners about throwing how do I teach them about orbit? Thanks

    Reply
    • Kibwé
      Kibwé says:

      Hey Joe, thanks for asking! Honestly, I will say there is the biomechanist point of view, and there is the thrower. It is very easy to get lost in the paradoxes of the hammer. Yes, the center should be a line drawn through the left shoulder, leg, foot for a right handed thrower. Most everything else that can be quantified will vary. Dr. B absolutely insists that we’ve fallen so far behind because we’re outthinking ourselves. The ol KISS method works best. ;)

      USATF employs biomechanist, and my conversations with him have always been super interesting. But only to see what the hammer is doing on a live throw. Beyond that, they aren’t much use. Theories based in the art of physics about how to improve results, almost always don’t pan out, and they are left perplexed.

      I have an interesting perspective I think because I had conversations with the biomech and ran tests both while in Ashland and since I’ve moved to Kamloops. In Ashland, I ate the numbers up! Took their theories (and some of them where pretty ridiculous), and tried as best I could to implement them in order to get better. Guess what? I threw roughly the same distance. Moved to Kamloops and have added almost 5m. Had a conversation with our guy that basically changed his thinking. Before, they were concerned with all these variables. I told him what I learned here. The ONLY thing that matters is velocity at release. And almost as important, any number of ways an individual can achieve it. A detailed report from the biomechanist was written about my results from a USATF competition. They concluded that based on their preconceived notions I should not have thrown as far as I did. If I remember correctly, the only variable in my favor was release velocity. I showed this report to Bondarchuk. You know what he said to me? “Kib, I know this 30 years ago!”

      I digressed a bit, (ok, a lot), but all that being said, what is most important is thinking about the throw as a whole. Keep throwing. Try new things. Beginners and experienced throwers alike. Don’t convolute things by thinking too much. Just throw. The dance is done in the ring. Leave the physics in the classroom.

      Reply
  6. Troy
    Troy says:

    I think a lot of what is being lost here is the most important part of Kibwe’s point. That if the orbit or the “ball” is in the correct place, (which will vary thrower to thrower) it means the athlete is in the right position. So if as coaches we can focus on the ball constantly accelerating and being in the right place, the athlete will be doing the right stuff. Other wise the ball will not be accelerating and will be in the wrong places. If you focus on the ball and not the thrower and making sure it is always accelerating you will find the where the athlete has to make corrections. Start at the entry and hopefully one day you make it to fixing the release. I think this is the point that is trying to be made, (I could be way off here).

    My question is, how does Dr B teach you to progress the throw? A steady even increase on all four turns, a big long one and two followed by trying to kick it in to gear on three? What is his ideal progression for the throw? Thanks and keep on sharing with the hammer world.

    Reply
    • Kibwé
      Kibwé says:

      Hey Troy,

      That’s a good addition to my point. Hammer is made immensely difficult by over complicating things.

      To your question: Basically, we don’t ever concern ourselves with tempo, unless it’s affecting my ability to complete a throw. I can go as hard as I want, but if too much speed is hindering my ability to complete a throw, or complete one with good technique, he will tell me to slow down. Conversely, if he can tell I’m in great state, he’ll tell me to go faster. (By pushing 2nd wind harder)

      Also, if you have a good connection with the ball, it will pretty much accelerate for you. Double support is the key to that.

      Reply
  7. Mohamad Saatara
    Mohamad Saatara says:

    hello all,
    it’s my experience that a lot of issues arise from the fact that a substantial number of coaches over-emphasize positions and modeling the thrower to look a certain way rather than teaching what the thrower needs to do in the throw. Observing the orbit of the hammer, it’s shape from turn to turn through the winds, entry and throw can provide a lot of pertinent information regarding what the thrower is doing through the throw and how to make adjustments. If the thrower is only focused on positions rather than moving and accelerating the hammer then they will not be able to take advantage of this type of information.

    Reply
    • Kibwé
      Kibwé says:

      I appreciate you taking the time to give some insight, Mo!

      Next time there’s a Bears Backers dinner, you’ll have to introduce yourself to my grandparents. :)

      Reply

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