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100 Throwers for Leon

Leon Joslin (1912-2012)

There were advantages and disadvantages of training off campus when I attended the University of Washington. The main downsides were the commute and the fact that the left side of the sector only extended 65 meters before meeting a steep hill filled with blackberry bushes. On the plus side, I got a chance to throw with a lot of other people in the community since West Seattle Stadium was the only place in town to train. I threw with local high school kids and throwers from the bustling masters scene, aged 13 to 99. The 99-year-old was Leon Joslin.
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For Starters…Dress Rehearsal #1

I have been busy training, getting prepared and neglecting my blog for over a month now. I have been throwing a LOT… enough that I have kind of lost touch with the world outside the ring. To get anyone interested caught up, I have been throwing 8 sessions weekly in the discus and about 560 throws weekly (including special strength)for the last 5 weeks. This includes 2k discus 1.85k, 4k, and 2.5k. My moves are a bit better at the moment with the 2.5k and I have a training best of 56m with it (goal=60m by May). I am coming into good condition though I’m really tired, which is a pretty interesting feeling. I was a bit sick 10 days ago and even during that time I didn’t have a problem throwing around 63m with the 2k every day. I have a goal to throw over 68m in the USA before the 1st Diamond League meeting in Doha.
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USA Discus Debacle Part III: Mid-range Domestic Pro

We have already examined quite a few things in this series and today I will talk about what I call the Mid-range Domestic Pro. If you are just tuning in it may be helpful for you to  go back and read my first two installments of the USA Discus Debacle.

In the USA we have an unbelievable system of development for athletes up until their collegiate eligibility runs out. The NCAA and other Collegiate Associations are doing a pretty good job  identifying and developing junior and university age talents. Where we fail is the lack of a national bridge program for our athletes. Many people, who I believe are mistaken in their concept, feel that the lack of medal contenders in the discus is related to our lack of high quality athletes competing. I for one consider my self a quite good athlete and feel this to be utter bullshit.
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Training Talk With Erik Cadee

Twenty-seven year old adidas discus thrower Erik Cadée brought a fresh new idea into the discus ring last season. The Dutchman was already among the world’s best, but he took a risk and began training with a new technical style. It paid off and Cadée threw a new personal best of 66.95 meters in the spring. That ranks him just barely behind former World Championship medalists Erik de Bruin and Rutger Smith on the Dutch all-time list.

For years the major difference in technical styles at the elite level could be boiled down to whether or not a thrower ‘reversed’ at the end of the throw. Cadée’s style plays with the orbit and adds another quarter turn of rotation at the start of the throw. After seeing him train and throw in Turkey last year and talking with his coach about the technique, I figured it was time to ask him a few questions directly.

The style itself is so unique that it doesn’t even have a name yet. Feel free to share your thoughts on the technique and a potential name in the comments after the article. My suggestions are either ‘540’ (for the number of degrees you rotate to get to the power position) or ‘Neu’ (after a German who used a variation of the technique in the seventies; the word also has the relevant meaning of ‘new’ in German).


Martin: For people who are unfamiliar with the technical changes you have made in the last year, can you give a brief overview of what you are doing differently?

Erik: As you can see from my throwing videos I get into the throw from a slightly different starting position where I put my right leg further back and keep the disc higher. From there I let the discus drop and make a longer turn. During the throw I try to keep things more relaxed and let it happen, instead of forcing it all. By using this technique I try to generate more energy and create more time and easier positions the get the most efficient path for the discus before releasing it at the end.
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Ask Martin Vol. 16: Grip Strength

I wanted your thoughts on grip strength in throwing the hammer. I’ve been told that it doesn’t matter. But I have seen several hammers “rip” out of hands of throwers this year. -Gary
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Training Update w/ Video

I figured that I would take a quick break from my series of posts about the USA discus and give everyone an update on my training.

After a bittersweet end to the 2011 season, I planned for a psychological rest period between the World Championships in Daegu and the Pan American Games. After a brief physical break of a week, I restarted my training for 2012 promptly. During this 1st training cycle I still considered myself on a mental rest.

Fun Program- 4 weeks

  • I threw 2 days per week for 4 weeks in the grass with bare feet
  • Just working on how to improve my throw in 2012
  • I did high intensity cardio for 60min, 3 times per week. Was challenging and surprisingly fun!
  • Did interval training with weights twice per week and mobility work as well

Results: Lost about 15lbs of extra beef and felt very healthy to start my next program which is designed to help solidify some of my movements in the ring.

Program #2- Technique Base- Current

  • Throwing 8 sessions of discus throws per week
  • Throwing about 130 throws daily
  • 1/2 of these throws are fulls throws others are special strength
  • Sprint every day/ sometimes twice
  • Lift every day 30min(same exercises) light
  • Over 2000 throws per month, good quality and healthy body
  • Build special strength
  • Be very fit for the discus throw

Currently this program has worked well and is very similar to the training that I did for 2010 when I had my best overall season. The difference here is that I am able to throw 2X per day with better quality than before. So far I have thrown a 2.7kg tool, 2k discus, and 1.8k as my base for full throws in the ring and 4k shot and 25lb plates for special strength exercises.

My history as a strength coach and athlete has taught me that for my personal attributes, I have very little translation from weight lifting to my throw. I have been rather strong for quite sometime and tend to become very big 300lb+ quickly, even when lifting for pure strength. I train much differently than many throwers, but I have found that I have a unique and special power in this regard that many do not posses.

Due to what I have just stated I lift heavily for very short intervals of 2-4 weeks throughout the year and many times I do no lifting for 6-8weeks at a time. This just depends on what I am working on the ring and how my body is responding. A great example of this is last summer between May 17 and the Daegu final on August 29th I had 2 lifting sessions, but increased my throws fitness very gradually with a large volume of high intensity throws.

Over the 1st 5 weeks I have had a lot of inclement weather and just braved the storm. Over the last few days the weather has been very nice and I am coming up in my throws. Best so far with 1.8k is a smidgen over 70m and with the 2k 65.2m with some good wind. I hope to do about 2m better within the next 2 weeks on both distances, prior to doing some heavy power training for a few weeks in February. I have not measured the 2.7k tool in training thus far.

If there are any questions or comments, I would love to hear. Thanks.

USA Discus Debacle Part II: The Home Phenomenon and Prevailing

I hope everyone is enjoying the new year and that you had a great holiday season. Last time I left off talking about how well discus throwers do near home. As an athlete who has competed around the world, I can really appreciate when athletes throw well quite far from home, especially right after a long trip/ time change. This is quite the rarity in our sport and more often than not the comfort of home or near home results in the biggest distances.

Looking at the all-time top marks lists you will see that the majority of athletes have there personal records in their home countries, many that do not fall within that category have them very near their home countries or training bases. The biggest exceptions to this on the top of the list are Imrich Bugar who holds his personal record in San Jose, California and Mac Wilkins who’s farthest throw came in Helsinki, Finland! Many of the all-time farthest throwers have never gotten near their Pb’s in overseas environments and those that have done so, usually set a training base there. A great example is Alex Tammert’s PB throw over 70m in Denton, TX which is not far up the road from his spring training base in Dallas. Even the mighty Alekna has a personal record in his home country, Lithuania.

For many years I have heard the chatter about USA athletes that can’t throw far in Europe and have massive bests in the USA. One issue with this is that looking at the schedule of world class track and field, I see that there are roughly 16 meetings on the Diamond League and 2 of them take place in the USA (1 discus per gender). This is despite the fact that the USA has the best Track and Field team in the world. Obviously there has been an attempt to take away our advantage of competing close to home and without lengthy travel. In events like the discus some of us have the choice to compete overseas or stay at home. Since Anthony Washington in 1999 we have not had a medal in discus, but prior to his accomplishments he traveled to Europe may times to compete against the rest of the best throwers in the world. This is necessary but was much more demanding on his part,though tough to replicate, it can be done.

I feel that USA men’s discus is not at the level that is needed yet for medals but we have to understand that in an event in which we are not currently among the top in the world, all of our best throwers are working diligently to overcome this issue. The best Diamond League meet I have ever done was 2010 at Eugene,l I was in great shape, I threw almost 67m and was 3rd behind the Malachowski and Kovago. I had about an 8 hour travel time (2hour time change)from Texas to Oregon and nearly prevailed at the comp. I beat many of the top throwers in the world that day including Kanter and Alekna, who on most days in Europe they would clobber me by 2-3m. You see on this day, it was them who had to take 3 flights to a comp 48 hours beforehand, be crunched between everyone on flights for 18 hours, eat crap food, and try to sleep while some guy shoves his elbow into your ribs. This can be the great equalizer of sorts and even though those guys where better than me, I got the best of most of them that day.

If I asked any of the top Euro throwers to fly from their home base to Dallas, Texas to compete against me 36 hours after landing, I’m sure that they would not RSVP for that comp. Especially when they find out that I grew up there and it’s just an 1 hour flight for me! You see the events like the men’s shot put where we are stacked with all-time greats, we frequently must go to Europe to battle and show that we are the best. In the shot put, we are so good that none of our athletes really need to go there to prove anything, buuuuuuuuuut Europe is where they make a living. My hats go off to our shot putters, who are the best in the world and keep showing that no matter what the situation they are always around and threatening. Some of you will note that non of our guys got medals in 2011. To that I say stop hating…hater. No other country gets 4 athletes into the a shot final or pretty much any other event.

This may sound like a great EXCUSE FOR OUR LACK OF MEDALS in the men’s discus but but it’s not. This is what I call my task analysis to develop a complete game plan.

I can list a few parts of my plan but some of them are secrets of course 😉

  1. Compete at home in the wind if there is no ample competition at the time. Yeah I said it, throw far when you can and train at home as much as possible. Far throws never hurt anyone. Ask the Cuban’s about La Habana, the Spaniards about Castellon, the Germans about Halle or the Swedes about Helsingborg? Nuff Said
  2. Compete as frequently as possible under any condition in the USA against any of the top 10 throwers in the world. During the USA domestic season, seek them out when/if they are here and try to beat them on our turf.
  3. Be extremely prepared to compete on their turf. Don’t train through any big meets in Europe. At our current state we can’t afford just to try and “peak”. This is where you learn to make finals. Doesn’t matter how many power cleans or squats you have done when you realize at the Major Championship, that you have never been the victor over most of the throwers you are versing in the final. Confidence is everything. Competing well creates confidence. Prior to Washington’s 1999 win, he was throwing very well in Europe and battling closely with Riedel and Schult prior to overcoming them in Spain.
  4. 4. Don’t relax and don’t be comfortable ever! I think that this is an American thing. I have studied the body language of the top throwers of all time. When I saw Lars Riedel in major meets, he always looked focused, anxious and ready to crap a brick. But he usually threw really far. I haven’t seen Kanter or Alekna singing cumbiyah with each other during comps. Throwing discus is athletic, graceful and balletic, but don’t confuse it with a yoga class.
  5. Can’t tell this one. It’s a secret.
  6. Also this one is just for me. Sorry.
  7. Utilize the major championships as a stage. This is one of the best opportunities to have a level field (besides some of our friends who disappear and reappear better in the last 3 weeks). Everyone gets acclimated and physically you can be at your best. This is the opportunity to break through. It is very hard and takes lots of competitive practice. Getting a great throw with 3 opportunities can be tough. I feel that this is they key to the whole system’s success and I feel that many USA throwers have the talent including myself to get over this hump but many will never really get a chance to. I will examine this issue in part III- Mid Range Domestic Pro.

I would like to say congratulations to a few people that I thought about while writing this…. My former athlete and training mate Julian Wruck for getting the Olympic A standard in the discus! And for Jill Camarena-Williams for jumping the same type of hump that we have in the men’s discus this summer and grabbing bronze at the world champs. Great job Jill, Dustin and Coach Carter!

USA Discus Debacle: Breaking Down the BS

Over the last month or so I have been steadily trianing hard and working to become better. Between training sessions and at night when I am putting my son to bed, I do alot of thinking, dreaming and breaking down of BS. I have been approached by people about the state of the discus throw in the USA and the state of our other throwing events. Once upon I time, I also read the forums and got into the net chat about these topics. What I have to say may enlighten, offend, bring joy to or infuriate readers. It’s ok though, I have handled worse. This is my take, part I of the USA Discus Debacle.

After observing the discus throw globally in 2011 (for the sake of this section, just the men) you see some major discrepancies in season best performances and outcomes at major championships. For many years now “we” the American throwers have been accused of throwing big distances in the USA in “wind” and not being able to replicate them in major championships. This statement is mostly true but can also be used to represent the majority of throwers world wide. I have been in conversations with people about how “the Germans” or “the Europeans” are so great at throwing in stadiums with no wind. Well those statements are far from true! If we analyze the data yearly, you can see that many times there are athletes from a variety of countries that don’t perform remotely near SB’s at major meets. In 2011 I was the 28th farthest throwing discus thrower in the World at 65.30m but was the 10th finisher in the World final at 63.20m? For example, let’s take the top 10 from this past season’s IAAF list and compare how they did at the World Championships in 2011?

  1. Zoltan Kovago SB 69.50m, WCH 2011 62.16m (15th qual)
  2. Robert Harting SB 68.99m, WCH 2011 68.97 (Gold medalist)
  3. Jarred Rome SB 68.76m, WCH 2011 62.22m (14th qual)
  4. Piotr Malachowski SB 68.49, WCH 2011 63.37m (9th final)
  5. Gerd Kanter SB 67.99, WCH 2011 66.95m (2nd final)
  6. Mario Pestano SB 67.97m, WCH 2011 63.00m (11th final)
  7. Virgilijus Alekna SB 67.90m, WCH 2011 64.09m (6th final)
  8. Rutger Smith SB 67.77m, WCH 2011 62.12m ( 16th qual)
  9. Lawrence Okoye SB 67.63m, WCH 2011 DNC
  10. Martin Wierig SB 67.21m,  WCH 2011 61.68 (19th qual)

As you can see, 5 of the throwers with one of the top 10 distances in 2011 didn’t make it out of the qualifying round, and one didn’t compete in Daegu. If we go deeper into the top 20 distances you can see even more failure to perform near SB levels. By the way, I am not by any means attempting to show who sucks but am trying to show that very few throwers can throw within 3m of their season best in a major championship. I watched my teammate Jarred Rome throw his pr in Chula Vista and also watched him throw over 65m windless in training many times in Daegu. I watched my friend Zoltan Kovago, throw 67.5m on his 2nd qualifying throw and foul in Daegu. I watched another great thrower, Frank Casanas who has thrown 66m+ in the Olympics pull out due to injury just before walking into the stadium. Very few throwers have ever thrown over 68m in a Olympic games or world championships. I can think of 9 that have done it legally. Also, the farthest distance that has ever been needed to qualify to the top 12 of a World or Olympic is less than 63m! So, after looking at the stats, many European athletes under performed based on the stats as well as others. And if you base this under preforming just on wind, we see a discrepancy in that all of the top 10 throwers by distance in 2011 threw their SB’s in their home countries and/or training bases, except for Gerd Kanter who’s SB was set in Poland, which is not too far from his training base. This subject will be part of my next post but the idea that just us Americans throw far in wind or wherever and can’t perform, is not at all related to our nationality but the discus throw in general. BTW, a few athletes had outstanding performances from my point of view, Robert Harting threw very close to his SB at worlds, Ehsan Haddadi threw a new SB to get the bronze medal, Gerd Kanter, was within one meter of his SB for 2nd. Mart Israel and Benn Harradine where both within 2m of their bests and Vikas Gowda who lives and train in the USA, threw less than a meter from his SB. Funny enough his SB was at Chula Vista, California and has thrown windy many times but throws very well in big meets compared to most others. Next time I will talk more about THE HOME PHENOMENON in part II! See you soon and Happy Holidays!

The Next Level

The year of 2011 has brought me many highs and lows. I have seen my share of bad days and my greatest day ever so far, the birth of my son. I found my way into a major champs final after a subpar season but then lost my best throw  at World Champs of 65m to a slight foot foul. I lost a job of 8 years and my trust in some, but gained a large amount of perspective and from that I have derived that it is time that Jason E. Young go to THE NEXT LEVEL in the discus. Read more

Training Talk with Mac Wilkins (Part 2)

Mac Wilkins in his prime.

On Tuesday I posted the first part of my recent interview with 1976 Olympic discus champion Mac Wilkins. We talked about the current state of the discus throw in America and his new projects with the Mac Wilkins Throwers Academy and the The Wilkins Review. In this final part we turn our attention to training and what characteristics he sees are needed by elite discus throwers.


Training

Martin: What aspect of training or technique do most American discus throwers get right?

Mac: They wear throwing shoes when throwing. They know which edge of the discus to hold in their fingers.

Martin: What aspect of training or technique are most Americans missing?

Mac: No concept of how to create power in the throw, how to sling the discus. They want to hit it instead of sling it.
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