More on The Throwing Pope

coaches

Legendary coaches Pál Németh (L) and Anatoli Bondarchuk (R).

In a follow up to this week’s review of the documentary A dobópápa (The Throwing Pope), I wanted to mention that director Ágnes Sós has been kind enough to put the English version of the movie on her site now.  I also wanted to add a note about Coach Németh’s approach to coaching.  Throughout the entire movie, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities Németh has to my coach, Anatoli Bondarhcuk.  As perhaps the two most successful and legendary coaches in hammer throwing history, I guess it is not all that surprising that they have so much in common.  Nevertheless, it is intriguing.
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Training Tools Vol. 1: Essential Hammer Throw Special Strength Exercises

With the help of Mike Mai and Zack Midles, the Evergreen Athletic Fund‘s first clinic was a success on Sunday. We had ten athletes ranging in age from 8th grade to college, as well as local high school and college coaches. We are thankful to everyone who helped put on the event, and for the donations we received from it.

While most of the time at the clinic was focused on hammer throw technique, I also spent a little bit of time talking about one of my favorite subjects: special strength. I have previously discussed how I feel this an area most Americans neglect in their training. Since that post, I have received numerous e-mails asking about what other special strength exercises are helpful to the hammer throw. I thought it would be helpful to demonstrate some of what I was talking about, so I’ve posted a video below that demonstrates some essential hammer throw exercises.

Most of the exercises I cover in the video fall into the following categories, in no particular order:

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And Now for Something Completely Different

Coach Bondarchuk is a scientist, graduating with a degree in Pedagogical Science from the University of Kiev over 40 years ago. Like all scientists, he likes to experiment. He’s been experimenting for decades, searching for the best training methods. I am now one of his research subjects.
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Beauty and the Hammer Throw

The basic mousetrap may be simple, but it is an engineering feat (bear with me, this post is actually about hammer throwing). With just three parts, it is able to accomplish its task for hundreds as years while more complex versions have tried and failed to be more efficient. But if one part is removed, and it no longer works. There is the beauty, not just in its simplicity, but in the relationship between its parts.
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Reviving American Hammer Throwing

The hammer throw competition at the IAAF World Championships finished today. Today’s women’s final was highlighted by a world record performance by Anita Wlodarczyk and national record by home crowd favorite Betty Heidler. My training partner and roommate Sultana Frizell also made her first final and place tenth. While the American women had a strong showing, the Americans were once again absent from the podium. In fact, Lance Deal‘s silver medal at the 1996 Olympics was the only medal an American has won in the event at an Olympic or World Championships since 1956. I may throw for Switzerland, but I still am heavily involved in the hammer throw in America and hope the country can find success again, as has recently begun at the junior level. I hope I can help highlight some of the hurdles that need to be overcome in order for that to happen.
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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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