Why do some athletes get it and make it and others with equal talent and ability fall by the wayside. This is a lifelong fascination of mine. Talent and ability are a given to make it to elite status, but it is so much more than that. Some athletes navigate the path easily and directly and other struggle, but both still make it. Why? Certainly athlete development and passage through to elite status is a process. There is no one model or framework. Nor is there a set time like ten years or a time period like 10,000 hours. No doubt it is related to practice depth and quality. It is related to coaching guidance to first ignite the spark of interest, then inspire and guide the athlete. Read more
Advances in technology over the past few decades have added a new element of training athletes and coaches: biofeedback devices to gather data about the body. More data is almost always a good thing and technology now makes it easier to track several aspects of life that have an impact on the body and training such as sleep, activity level, heart rate, and heart rate variability (“HRV”). Coaches can then use this information in a variety of ways to learn about the specific athlete and customize training to them. Of these new measures, I have been interested the most in HRV due to its potential ability to track an athlete’s state of “sport form” one of the concepts central to Bondarchuk’s periodization models. HRV is hardly a new concept. As this peer-reviewed article on the origins of HRV notes, scientists have been monitoring heart rhythms for hundreds of years. However, since many of the methods are dependent on technology, it was not until the 20th century that research really took off. Only in the past few years has the technology been made easily available for athletes and researchers to work with.
I thought my series on the future of hammer throw research was done after Part 1 and Part 2. But that was until thrower Kevin Becker passed along the link below. Becker is currently finishing up his Ph.D. in Kinesiology at the University of Tennessee focusing on motor learning and the hammer throw. We will have more on his work in the coming months, but for now Becker sent me a CNN special from last month that focused on figure skating.
The special looked at the work of Professor Jim Richards at the University of Delaware. As a biomechanist, Richards recognized the value his field could offer figure skating, but also was well aware of its limitations.
Last week I started to look at ways science could continue to help improve performances in the hammer throw. To start with, I ask renowned biomechanist Dr. Jesus Dapena what direction he thought hammer throw research should move. Dapena, who is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Indiana University wrote seven influential biomechanics papers on the hammer throw in the 1980s. His idea was also simple: we need to look closer at the role of balance in the throw.
To continue the discussion, I posed the same question to Dr. Klaus Bartonietz, a biomechanist who worked for more than 15 years at the German Olympic Training Center in Rheinland-Pfalz/Saarland. In addition to being a scientist, he was also a successful throwing coach who guided Boris Henry to over 90 meters in the javelin. His 2000 work “Hammer Throw: Problems and Prospects” for the International Olympic Committee is the best summary available of the current findings in research on hammer throw technique. Currently he is editor of the leading German track and field technical journal and works as a speaker and consultant on a variety of training topics. His comments are below and cover four areas of research. As I mentioned in the past post, if you are a student or scientist who would like to do research in this area, or are already doing research on another topic, please get in touch with me since I would love to follow your progress.
Simultaneous with the growth in results, the 1980s produced a plethora of scientific research into the hammer throw. The Soviets had their teams of scientists, and, sports being central to the cold war, the Americans worked hard to decipher what the Soviets had discovered. East and West Germany were equally well invested in pushing the event forward. But since then new research has slowed. The best work in the past two decades has come from Marwa Sakr and Koji Murofushi, who have both used new technologies to measure many of the forces taking place in the throw, rather than simply looking at body positions. But most other papers seem to simply reanalyze old work or look at topics like effect of wind on a throw that are very interesting but offer few practical applications for athletes.
Research into training methods has been ever more sparse lately. While new translations of Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk’s work on the transfer of training and periodization have helped individuals like myself learn more about these topics, no one is continuing his research into event-specific training methods.
We obviously still have a lot that science can teach us about the event, but it is hard to determine what direction future research should head in. Recently I posed this question to some sports scientists. First up is Dr. Jesus Dapena. Dapena recently retired from Indiana University where he was a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and ran their Biomechanics Laboratory. While he has not published any recent work on the hammer throw, he produced seven influential biomechanics papers in the 1980s that were essential in helping the English-speaking world start to understand the Soviet advances in hammer technique. His comments are below. In Part 2 I chat with Dr. Klaus Bartonietz, a biomechanist who worked for more than 15 years at the German Olympic Training Center in Rheinland-Pfalz/Saarland and was the personal coach for 90-meter javelin thrower Boris Henry.
If you are a student or scientist that would like to do research in this area, or are already doing research on another topic, please get in touch with me since I would love to follow your progress.
Good effective coaching demands a careful blend of art AND science. It is not an either or proposition. Modern coaching necessitates that the coach have a sound foundation in sports science which means the coach is educated in sports science, but is not a sport scientist. You can learn the science in school or by reading, you can’t learn to coach in a classroom, online or in a book. You must get out and practice coaching. Read more
Movement is quite simple and from that wonderful simplicity comes the complexity of sports skill and performance. Twenty-five years ago in an attempt to better explain movement and how we should effectively train movement I came up with this simple diagram I call the Performance Paradigm. It was somewhat like what Albert Szent-Gyorgi, once said, “Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought.” Essentially it is the stretch shortening cycle of muscle with a more global interpretation and proprioception brought into consideration. It is the basis for what some people call the Gambetta Method; to me it is common sense. I use this to evaluate movement efficiency or deficiency and then to guide training and if necessary rehab. Read more
Martin Bingisser is a Swiss hammer thrower and coach. His blog http://www.hmmrmedia.com/ is on my must read list. I think Martin is one of the bright young minds in track & field. I find his ideas informative, stimulating and challenging. Here he is talking about his coach Anatoly Bondarchuk, a true coaching legend: Read more
Sometimes learning more about throwing can lead you to some weird places. Over the last year or two it has led me to read a lot of work by distance coaches. There is so little throws-related research and writing taking place that I am always looking for some nugget of information in another sport that might carry over to throwing. The mass participation in distance running means there are a lot of new ideas, research, and writing on training topics. Former Nike Oregon Project assistant coach and current University of Houston distance coach Steve Magness does a good job of keeping track of what is going in the field and contributing his own ideas on his blog, the Science of Running. His most recent post is definitely one that throwers can learn from too.
As I mentioned last year, mental fatigue can hurt your training. A recent study showed that cyclists peak power output was reduced 20% after being put through demanding cognitive tasks. I notice this first hand: since I’ve started to work my post-work training results have dropped and my morning training is now regularly better.