Don Babbitt has developed a name as one of the top throws coaches in the world after guiding athletes like Reese Hoffa, Adam Nelson, Breaux Greer, Jason Tunks, and Andras Haklits. Recently he’s been involved with a number of projects in the throwing world like leading a rotational shot put project in Japan, analyzing throwing development in the US, and work with Koji Murofushi to research specific strength exercises like “hammerobics.” On this week’s podcast Babbitt joins us to brainstorm about what’s on his mind recently. Read more
When you read Frans Bosch’s critique of traditional strength training, two main elements stand out: traditional lifting lacks transfer as it is based on different coordination, and traditional lifting lacks the variation inherent in sport. In his book Bosch outlines a different approach to strength training and while we can argue about his approach it is hard to deny the issues he is working to solve. As a hammer thrower, I am constantly thinking about how our event can address these issues, a topic Bondarchuk has spent his life working on. In this month’s Strength and Conditioning Journal, Olympic champion Koji Murofushi, University of Georgia coach Don Babbitt, and Ken Ohta describe their framework for addressing the problem. They call it hammerobics. Read more
In part one of my interview with throwing coach Don Babbitt, he discussed how he indizidualizes the training plans of his athletes like Adam Nelson and Reese Hoffa. Coach Babbitt continued the discussion by talking about what factors he looks at when tailoring a plan to an athlete how he came about this approach after learning under a quite different system as a thrower at UCLA.
Martin: When you mention what factors you look at before individualizing something and what you adjust, it sounds like most of the adjustments are made to fit an athletes schedule and prevent overtraining. Is that the focus of the individualization, or is it also adjusted to address shortcomings or other aspects of training?
Don: The answer is yes to both. When setting up a training plan, I try to look at the overall situation, and then prescribe a plan. The base of the plan will be to address the basic needs of the event from both a physical standpoint and a technical standpoint. There is not a preset plan that I could say is “my system.” If the athlete is new to the program, or a new athlete that I am working with the has been training for some years, I take a look at what they have done in the past as the “base” and then modify it to the situation at hand. Koji had expressed this to me in the past as if you have a training footprint or path is one direction. You have to continue to work down that path or deviate it slightly if this is the case, you cannot just pickup and go a completely different direction. This is the foundation of my training philosophy. Each athlete will also have a plan based upon addressing certain weaknesses and body balance issues, and with regard to technique, the technical model will be based around their strength and weaknesses too. It takes a lot of thought and time preparing, but it seems to be the only way to get the most out of someone in each case. A one size fits all system just does not meet the specific needs of every individual.
One of the most successful throwing coaches in the world over the past decade without a doubt is Don Babbitt. Coach Babbitt has been at the University of Georgia for sixteen years in which his athletes captured 11 NCAA titles, and 55 All-American certificates. Chris Hill (javelin) and Jenny Dahlgren (hammer) also set NCAA records under his guidance. In addition, he has worked with athletes like Adam Nelson (shot put), Reese Hoffa (shot put), Breaux Greer (javelin), Jason Tunks (discus), Brad Snyder (shot put), Andras Haklits (hammer) and many other international champions.
In addition to his success across all the throwing events, what sets Coach Babbitt apart from other elite coaches is the way he individualizes training. Many successful programs have a system which they apply to all their athletes. Coach Babbitt, on the other hand, adapts his system to the individual athletes’ needs. Just listen to Reese Hoffa and Adam Nelson describe their training and you’ll immediately notice major differences even though they are training partners and produce similar results. Despite his recent trip to Japan for a seminar, Coach Babbitt found time to exchange some thoughts on how he fits individualization into the training of his athletes.
Martin: For starters, could you give us a quick overview of what are the major differences in the training of Reese Hoffa and Adam Nelson and why that is the case?
Don: Adam and Reese are quite different in a number of ways, and this may actually be a reason why they can train together so well. In terms of mentality, Adam is a gambler by nature, and sets very high goals for himself. In a way it is manifested in his technique, high risk, high reward. It is challenge for him to stay on a certain course for more than about 3-4 months without a change. He needs and likes change. The key for him in this regard is to change things up to make it fresh without changing too much and getting of task. His training varies from year to year, and it may cycle back around to the same thing over a 2-3 year cycle.
Reese is much more steady and methodical, which again is manifested in his performance and results (very steady). Reese does not like change, he likes to keep homeostasis, so to speak, and do the same schedule and train the same way each year. Sure, there will me minor variations because of schedule, injury, etc., but he tries to replicate the same high level results each year. When things go a little off for Reese, he does not respond too well, and likes to keep things in a controlled situation. He does not like experiments.