This is the time of year when many throwers are in their “hypertrophy” phase of training where the focus is on increasing muscle mass. As I mentioned in my interview with Vern Gambetta, the concept of building a base in the off-season is a bit outdated for elite athletes. So is the related concept of hypertrophy. To put it simply: bigger is not better.It is a time honored tradition for men to work on getting bigger muscles. But bigger muscles are not necessarily better for the throwing events. You need more powerful muscles and, contrary to popular belief, the two do not go hand in hand. Read more
While the Weltklasse Zürich Diamond League bills itself as the “Olympics in a day”, it is hardly a one-day event. For me, the action began on Tuesday as I coached some kids to throw medicine balls and toy javelins with Valerie Adams at the Weltklasse Zürich Kids Clinic.
On Wednesday I attended the “Big Shot” shot put competition with Kibwe. For the second year in a row, the shot put competition was held one day before the main meet and placed in the center of Zürich’s main train station. With over 350,000 people a day passing through there, it made for a packed and energetic venue. We produced a video for Flotrack (see below) showing a behind the scenes look at the venue, the competition, and the competitors. The competition was thrilling. Valerie Adams controlled the women’s competition until Nadzeya Ostapchuk took a brief lead. Adam responded for the win. The podium for the meet (and the final podium for the overall Diamond Race) were the same as in Daegu. The men’s competition was very close and the top five throwers were nearly within a foot of each other. Reese Hoffa led for much of the competition before a struggling Ryan Whiting found his technique in the final round. Then, on his last attempt, my old training partner Dylan Armstrong responded for the win. His first place also secures a victory in the Diamond Race for him. Young Swiss shot putter Gergori Ott also got to throw with the big boys and set a new national under 18 record of 20.00 meters with the 5-kilogram shot put.
In addition to the interview I posted earlier this week, there is some other information available online about Werner Günthör’s training and Jean-Pierre Egger’s training methods. I have tried to collect much of it below to help put the interview in context and also provide more information for those interested. Enjoy.
- Training Talk With Jean-Pierre Egger (Part 1)
- Training Talk With Jean-Pierre Egger (Part 2)
- Jean-Pierre Egger Training Video
- Translation of Training Video
- Sample Yearly Plan
- Sample Training Program
On Friday I posted the first part of my interview with Jean-Pierre Egger, the coach of former shot put world champion Werner Günthör and current Olympic champion Valerie Adams. Click here to read part one. After talking about training methods, our discussion turned towards throwing and technique and the future of the shot put.
Training Technique – Range Throwing
Martin: Does Valerie normally throw without a reverse like she did today?
Jean-Pierre: She normally throws with a reverse at meets, so today was naturally not her competition technique. It is only a training technique that we use because she has a tendency to jump too early. Last year she came to Zürich and threw almost 20 meters and then came to Magglingen. We did five training sessions then like we are doing now: precise throws without a reverse and without measuring or anything else. Then in Croatia at the Continental Cup she threw 20.86m, the second best result of her career and in an important competition not just a small one.
Jean-Pierre has now returned part-time to the sport and has been coaching Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams since last winter. In June I had a chance to visit a training session at the Swiss Olympic Training Center in Magglingen. After the workout we sat down to discuss throwing and training. The interview was conducted in German and I later translated it to English.
Throwing in Switzerland
Martin Bingisser: My first question is about the current level of the throwing events in Switzerland. It’s low right now. Very low. What do we need to increase the level?
Jean- Pierre Egger: We need talent that doesn’t go to other sports like Handball, Volleyball, Schwingen (Swiss-style wrestling), and so on. We have definitely have the potential though.
Martin: Last year I was at the Eidgenössische Schwing- und Älplerfest (the historic Swiss wrestling championship) and everywhere I looked I saw potential shot putters.
Jean-Pierre: I do the strength and conditioning coach for one of the best, Mattias Sempbach. He just took second place in Zollikofen yesterday. He would be a good thrower. And may others too. The problem is that they have more fun wrestling. The shot put is just not as attractive. And more importantly they don’t see the way that they can really more forward in the event. And that problem isn’t just one for the shot put, it also affects other athletic disciplines. The top results are so far, so high, so fast that for the it is more discouraging than it is attractive.
Bondarchuk is most well known for his legacy as both an athlete and a coach in the hammer. But his greatest success since he began coaching Western athletes has been in the shot put. His star pupil Dylan Armstrong increased the Canadian record to 21.58 meters and placed fourth in Beijing, just one centimeter off of the podium.
Often hidden in the shadow of Dylan is Justin Rodhe, and that’s something he hopes to change in the future. When Justin arrived in Kamloops in 2007, he had just graduated Division 3 Mt. Union College, where he was a consistent 16 to 17 meter thrower. During his last meet for the school, he threw 18 meters for the first time and won the NCAA D3 title. Since joining the group he has made quick progress: last year he threw 19.52 meters and this year he expects to be in the 20 meter range in 2011. Rodhe also married Megan VanderVliet in 2009, a Commonwealth Games participant for Canada in the hammer throw, and is deciding whether to compete for America or Canada in the future. The two recently launched RodheThrows.com. Justin has been kind enough to share some of what he has learned about the shot put from Bondarchuk and others.
Martin: To start off with, tell us a little about RodheThrows.com and what you and Megann are trying to do with the new site?
Justin: RODHETHROWS.com is the platform from which Megann and I have found ourselves in a unique position to offer professional products and services as well as an information resource for the throwing community and our support groups as we endeavour toward the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
The site offers blog updates concerning our nutrition, training research and competition updates. We also provide handmade leather products for sport performance, our signature product being the RODHETHROWS Shot Put Glove.
What Sets American Shot Putting Apart
Martin: Unlike the hammer throw, the U.S. has been able to stay on top of the world lists in the shot put. Why do you think the U.S. has been able to maintain such a high level of success in the shot put while success in the other throwing events has fallen?
Sometimes things are so stacked against you that you feel like you cannot fail. It’s a similar line of thinking to the famous “two wrongs make a right.” That is how I felt on Friday and why I was so optimistic. In reality, however, the more things that are stacked against you, the more likely you are to fail. So the fact that I’ve been sick of the past week with my first illness in year, the fact that I didn’t throw the shot put much, that my technique is erratic, and that others actually focus all their energy on the event ended up winning. I lost. Badly. I took home a measly tenth place and was five feet under my personal best. But as I said on Friday, I had nothing to lose. I enjoyed the competition and will try again at the Swiss Outdoor Championships in August.
U.S. Olympic hammer thrower Loree Smith recently wrote a detailed post on goal setting for hammer throwers. She provided, better than any sport psychologist I have ever heard, the best explanation of how useful goals can be.
To summarize, athletes need long term goals, short terms goals, and flexibility. I believe the long term goals are the most important for a hammer throw since shortcuts and quick success are hard to come by in such a technical discipline. It takes a certain type of athlete to train year after year towards a goal that may be a decade away. But those as the type of athletes that succeed in the hammer throw. I’ve seen many talented throwers give up the hammer after one day since they were not able to throw further than their shot put best. That was probably the right move because they didn’t the mental prerequisites to be a good hammer thrower.
If you want to be a successful hammer thrower, curiosity is a requirement. Language skills are not. I’ve traveled the world in search of hammer throw enlightenment. Some coaches speak English, some do not. But they all speak hammer throw, and that transcends any language.
When I tell people that I’m coached by Anatoliy Bondarhcuk, their first questions tend revolve around his level of English proficiency. His English is actually relatively good after six years of living in Canada, as are the multiple other languages he speaks. However, when he first arrived it was another story. His advice was broken into choppy three or four word sentences. Onlookers seemed perplexed that we understood him, and were even more perplexed that we instinctively replied to him with our own version of broken English. But his messages nevertheless came through clearly. Sometimes you don’t need any extra words to say “push entry more” or “terrible” or even “double excellent.” I still remember one of his first pearls of wisdom to me: “If hammer feel heavy, then you pull. If push, then hammer feel light in hand.” He couldn’t have said it better if his English were perfect.
In addition to my comments below, read my thoughts on watching Weltklasse Zürich over at Jesse Squire’s Track and Field Superblog.
Although I’m a track fan and athlete, my interest in athletics goes well beyond spectating and competing. For me, I also love the business side of the sport and am constantly thinking about the challenge of how we can grow athletics. One recent idea that has proved very successful is the shot put’s move outside the stadium at many meets. This has been a classic example of thinking outside the box (and the stadium) that has worked.
How We Got Here