An Introduction to Special Strength

One of the big things that sets Coach Bondarchuk apart from the typical American coach is how he approaches weight training for the hammer throw. 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, and after a certain baseline level of strength is attained, you reach a point of diminishing return where strength’s correlation to success falters. Coach Bondarchuk takes a slow and steady approach to weight training. This is an approach that will get his athletes to the level of strength they need over the long term. His athletes do not aim to be the strongest and will take plenty of time to develop strength. In the short term, this also means they will have more energy that can be used to take the volume of throws needed to improve their technique, another essential element to success.
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More About Coach Bondarchuk

Coach Anatoly Bondarchuk

Coach Anatoly Bondarchuk

I’ve already discussed a little background about my coach, Dr. Anatoly Bondarchuk. As I have repeatedly said, he is widely regarded as the best hammer throw coach in the world.  However, when I speak to most people about my coach, their first question is normally: ‘why is he now living in small town Canada?’  The short answer is that his current job with the Kamloops Track and Field Club allows him to be closer to his daughter, an emigrant to Canada.  A recent article in the Kamloops Daily News discusses this and more about Coach Bondarchuk, telling everything from his history as an athlete and coach to his pleas for more support for his athletes.  As for how much he enjoys his new life in Canada, the ever optimistic coach said: “Everything is good.  Good city, good people, good life, good job. Everything is fantastic.”  This was the most informative and in depth article I have read on Coach B and well worth the read.
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One Road Leads to Rome

1956 Gold Medalist Hal Connolly

1956 Gold Medalist Hal Connolly

I am lucky enough to have been coached by two Olympic medalists throughout my career: Harold “Hal” Connolly (’56) and Anatoli Bondarchuk (’72).  It is interesting to see how many similarities they have in their approach to the sport despite their differences in upbringing (Boston vs. the Soviet Union).  First, they are both very resourceful.  I have seen Hal at work in his shop developing various makeshift implements to throw onto astroturf fields.  Dr. B is well known within our training group for jerry-rigging hammers.  If we only have a 6-kilogram hammer and he needs a 6.5-kiogram hammer, he’ll just strap on enough bolts and washers for it to be the desired weight.  If we run out of handles, he’ll find some scrap metal and weld his own.  His solution isn’t always the safest (I’ve often been thrown to the ground as my hammer breaks), but it allows us to continue with training.
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One Step Back … Two Steps Forward

I don’t think anyone will ever understand all the intricacies of Dr. Bondarchuk’s training methodology. That being said, the underlying theory is easy to grasp: one step back and then two steps forward. To help explain, imagine that you want to be the world champion in pull-ups. You head to the local gym one day and do as many pull-ups as you can. You manage to do ten. Determined as you are to improve, you dedicate yourself to doing pull-ups every day. Most people will initially get very sore and tired because their muscles are not used to working in that manner. After a week, they may only be able to manage six or seven pull-ups. However, over time, the muscles will recover and strengthen and what once seemed hard will become easy. After time, twelve or fifteen pull-ups will be no problem.
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The Deficiencies of Indoor Track and Field

I mentioned in my last post that I had published my first article. I have actually published one prior article back in the Summer of 2006. Track Coach, the technical periodical of the US Track and Field Association, published my article on track and field training called Rethinking Your Approach to Training for the Weight Throw (available below). The weight throw, for those of you unfamiliar, is the indoor version of the hammer throw. It is shorter and heavier, but athletes use essentially the same technique to throw the implement.
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