Imitations have always been a huge part of my technical development. Hours and hours of work in front of a mirror, before every single throws session and in between lifting sets. But when I was a developing junior I did do some imitations but never really in a structured manner. It’s dangerous to drill movements repetitively without purpose or meticulous attention to detail. Especially as a junior, where we need to create the foundations for career-long development and prevent having to “undo” bad habits.
I recently put together a structured progression of discus drills. In this post I want to share my approach to drills, some examples from my own experience, and ideas on how to get the most of drills in training for any sport.
How do drills help you throw?
Some athletes and coaches have difficulty transferring the drills they do into the throwing movement. This is something that I had trouble with early on in my career. When we took a more intensive look at the throwing technique we were able to dissect it in a way that focused on several important layers. These included:
- Tension from the point of contact (feet) to the hips, all the way to the index finger.
- Posture. As with dance usually one change in posture can influence another. For example tucking the chin results in keeping the backside in, where as poking the chin makes the backside stick out.
- Force Production. How can we make movement efficient when considering maximal force production and acceleration.
If your drills lack these elements, they will not transfer. Therefore I always stay focused on them and each of the drills in the discus drills database ties back into these concepts.
Here is a simple drill for beginners or advances throwers to help keep tension at the start of the throw:
I mentioned that you need posture and tension throughout the body in order to generate incredible forces. During doing similar drills you will often hear coaches give instructions like, “nice easy windup” or “feel loose”. These instructions are true to some extent, but what is more important is that we feel “connected” with the ground. That means we feel “tension” or “readiness” in the right places, and feel loose and or “quiet” in others.
Whilst some or many of you will have seen this before, I chose to highlight this drill for a particular purpose and how that directly correlates to a throwing technique.
This drill is important since it helps you with “keeping the knees apart” or “opening the left side” and “creating tension between the hips” for maximal force production of the swinging leg. Here are some examples of elite throwers that do this very well:
Compare that to throwers who have trouble with this. You can see a noticeable lack of “tension” in these positions as a result of not focusing on “opening the hips” and moving around the left axis point.
I know I know! Maybe all of these examples are of athletes who are at different levels, but as far as we are concerned at Harradine Performance you can still practice movements correctly and efficiently at a speed that reinforces key points. Posture, tension and force production.
These exercises have purpose. They are designed from all the elements of a desired technical model. Their purpose is to help you become a better thrower by practicing specific components of a full throw. Not just to being good at drills for the sake of it.Drills must have a purpose; you don't do them just to be good at them. @bennharradine Click To Tweet
If you do them correctly you will the feel right muscles under load for longer than taking a bunch of throws at full speed. The goal is to teach and recognize those feelings so when you throw at higher speeds they become easier to execute and less likely to break down under pressure. Which, in turn, equates to long long throws!
It is very important that you and your coach pay close attention the details and that you debrief and have the right feedback. Especially when you are doing them often. As Ken Harradine always says, “I coach to help athletes be better athletes, not to make them tired.”
How do you prescribe drills?
I always did my drills in reps of 10. Constantly moving and allowing for things like proprioception, awareness of cues and individual experimentation. We always had feedback after doing a “set” of one drill. Making sure we felt confident before moving onto the next piece.
No matter what stage of learning or level of the athlete, we recommend always beginning at the back of the circle (wind up and transfer of weight) before moving on. The sequence should be a breakdown of the components of a full throw. From start to finish.
Troubleshooting With Drills
Some technical errors you see very very often whereas some are very subtle hence the need to help people find a way to focus on what is important.
When I was working with world record holder Jürgen Schult in Germany, one of the greatest fundamental lessons I learned from him was how I should decide what is most important and focus on that first! He would rarely tell me answer but lead me to think about things for myself and collaborate on a conclusion.
Our dialogue I remember very clearly and it went something like this:
Me: “Jurgen how should I work on keeping my upper body back when I hit the middle of the circle?”
Jurgen: “Can you write for me your first name in the air?”
Me: (to myself WTF??) “Sure” I started to draw B . . . e . . . n . . . n . . .
Jurgen: “Now can you write for me your last name using your foot in the air?”
Me: (to myself . . .is this guy serious?) “Sure” I started to draw H . . . a . . . r . . . r and so on.
Jurgen: “Now can you write for me your first name with your hand and your last name with your foot at the same time?”
I struggled to try and make it work but it didn’t
Jurgen: “Now, do you understand?”
It took me a little while but what I understood from that exchange was to focus on what was MOST important to achieve a result. Instead of thinking about where my upper body was, where I should have my head, or my feet, I should focus on bringing my hips to the middle of the circle, before my upper body. Which, in turn, resulted in my having greater separation throughout the throw.
Troubleshooting errors might seem easy for some and can be much harder for others but if you can SEE an example while it is being explained it may help to stimulate one’s own learning. Both for coaches and athletes alike.
Built to be modified
All coaches have their own philosophies and technical models and of course we all are completely unique both in our physiology and also our ability to understand and implement skills and movement.
One of my favorite musicians said:
“That’s one of the great things about music. You can sing a song to 85,000 people and they’ll sing it back for 85,000 different reasons.”
Appreciating that I would never assume that my technique was “the right way” to throw. What I have done however is compile a series of imitations and drills that create a little more structure to learning and understanding technique. From a fundamental level to intermediate all the way to advanced. The clips are by no means “the answer to all of your problems.” Drills should be tweaked and developed by those who interpret them.Drills should be tweaked and developed by those who interpret them. @bennharradine Click To Tweet
At HP one of our core beliefs include continually thinking, “training smart” and making movements more and more efficient. We experiment with different cues and ideas to achieve the best results we can. That is why we continually update this database. Skill acquisition is something both my personal coach Ken Harradine (co-founder of HP) and I are very interested in. We have been blessed to work with some expert specialist. To try and find new ways to think about force, acceleration and adapting movement to an individual’s physiology
If you want to learn more, check out the discus drills database on the Harradine Performance website. The drills videos are a compilation of years of experience and the constant quest for knowledge. They are examples that have been trialled and used at a beginner level and at a high level. All drills are helpful for throwers at all levels. Each drill provides a short clear explanation along with cueing ideas. Drill progressions are clearly labelled. Check it out!