Litvinov on Hammer Technique
Earlier this month, Sergej Litvinov Jr. posted some insightful comments about hammer technique on Facebook. Litvinov Jr. is one of the top up and coming throwers in the world. He has a personal best of 78.98m and placed 5th at the 2009 World Championship at a young age of just 23. He’s also had the benefit of learning the event from his father, the former Olympic champion and world record holder of the same name.
Litvinov Jr. posted a link to this hammer throw instructional video. The video takes a subjective approach to hammer throw technique and says that the position of the low point during the winds should be individual for the athlete. Litvinov Jr. quickly replied that this is wrong; the low point should never be on the left side for a right handed thrower.
I had the chance to spend some time training with Litvinov Jr. and his father back in 2004. Rather than focusing on footwork or positions like most of the coaches I had met before, Litvinov focused on the orbit of the hammer. If the hammer travels the right path (e.g. a long and balanced one), then the throw will be good. And to get the hammer to go in the right path starts with the proper low point. Once the low point gets off, the orbit will never recover.
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You see it a lot. Letting the low point get left kills the release; it becomes a strength event.
I think it’s a good point to control the low point and keep it centered. I like watching litvinov jr and feel he brings up a good issue. That said, I sometimes feel that gifted athletes with great coaching from a young age have the luxury of simplifying technical issues they’ve never had to struggle with. I don’t think the reason a left low point is bad is as simple as squatting with the bar not balanced. There was a biomechanical study I recall about low points I’ll have to revisit.
He was not using the squatting example to illustrate the biomechanics. He just wanted to say that if you don’t do a movement properly, you are making it harder for yourself. The hammer throw obviously has different biomechanics. Let me know if you find that study. I remember reading one sometime, but cannot find it now.
It reminds me of the time when I was talking to Roman Feldman, the coach of Andrey Abduvalieve about Andrey’s technique, I said I was amazed how far he could throw with such sloppy technique, but he told me that I was making a mistake looking at the athlete’s positions, rather I should look at the exact orbit of the hammer. I then looked again and his orbit was perfect. Andrey was double world champion, Asian champion and Olympic gold medalist, he could not have beaten Astapkovitch, Nikulin and Siderenko et al without great skill.
Gifted athletes, what is that? If you think this is a gift or something to throw technically good, you wrong. It’s hard working. I don’t think that weightlifting is hard to do. This is stupid work, nothing else. Technique training is a very difficulty thing thats never ends, for nobody. there is no perfect technique out there but we must to try do it perfect. I know i have the luck to have a coach like my dad but in our group we are all coaches for our self. An athlete must be independent. You think why i’m so aggressive about this. I can tell you, this is a defamation for my sport if people says, It’s not matter where the low point is, when people just talk about the body movement and don’t cares about the hammer orbit, when people throws 15 throws a day and push 2000kg in the weightliftingroom in a day and after this they wondering “my technique is bad”. this people says with all that, “Our discipline is primitive” “Let’s go do shot put with the hammer”
Hi Sergej, sounds like my comment got misunderstood. I didn’t mean to say anything offensive to you and thought I should clarify:
Gifted just means you have good generally athletic genes from your dad, not that you are lazy. I assume you work just as hard as any elite athlete, which I respect very much. Good technique is not a gift, but it is easier to learn if you are 1) athletic 2) start young and 3) have good coaching. Most throwers don’t have all three of these. For this reason, things that elite throwers tell us as “simple” and “basic physics” can be frustrating to hear because they are really not simple or intuitive to athletes that struggle through bad 35 lb weight throw habits or poor coaching, got a late start to the event, aren’t as athletic, etc… People had a good understanding of basic physics long before modern hammer technique was developed. If it was just simple intuitive physics someone would have figured it out long ago in the 20s or 30s not in the 70s and 80s.
I agree with you that athletes need to be independent and active in seeking better technique and I am glad that you spread this message. Weight room work can be stupid work but the best throwers are smart in the weight room about how they do every exercise to make it most relevant to hammer, avoid injury, and avoid overtraining. I think we agree on most of this stuff. My only point to you was to try to understand the point of view of throwers who have to struggle through what seems “simple” to elite throwers such as yourself.
I don’t misunderstood you. Your position is an art to think. This is your phylosophie about all whats happens. Look i have no good genes. My mothers hight is 155cm and I start to throw hammer with 16 years and my weight was 55kg. Every body said to me that i have no chance to throw far, I have no gift for this and my father was one of them. We start to throw just for fun. After i was having big problems with that and i was understanding that my only chance to throw far is to learn more about technique than others do. With 20 years my highest weight was only 78kg and my power in the weightlifting room was very bad. I mean i was doing squad no more than 100kg. Now my weight is 98kg and my power is in the middle but this costs me a lot of descepline and time. I don’t believe in gifts. this is an art of thinking.
I don’t say that what i try to tell is “Simple”. It’s not matter for who, it’s hard for profesional and for beginners and for all other throwers and this is the point. you want a easy way to throw far? there is no easy way. Its hard reality. Or you understand how to throw far and you do it, or not. I just want to help you out because i love this sport and nothing alse.
Hello Martin, hello guys!
I see you have hot discussion about technic. If I may I would like to give my opinion too.
I agree with Sergey. I think it is important position of hammer. As Sergey said the lowest point must be between legs or for me better little on the right leg. It is better position for the throw hammer in the field. Of course in the practice it is not easy to perform that. I always have a problem with position of hammer. It is easier to push hammer on the left side but the result is a few meters lower.
And I started with hammer throw similar as Sergey. I was 15 years old, 68kg and just want to throw. I finished with throwing after season 2009 but I am back on the field. I was missing throwing. Guys, we love this sport, we are hammer throw!
All the best, Primoz
Hammer is art and it ultimately is what each athlete makes of it. And while the physics of the event cannot be ignored, the human spirit is documented quite admirably by many hammer throwers and yet not exclusively by those with the greatest DNA. The pursuit of excellence in the hammer is not an easy road to follow and is wrought with great demands of time and effort
I agree each athlete is unique so the adaptations must be tailored, but the physics has only one best way to be applied. When throwers perform best, they are one with the hammerhead in the proper orbit path which makes for the greatest chance for the thrower to have maximum torque upon release….easier said than done mind you.
Thanks for the candid straight talk Sergej, Primoz and Martin.
Thank you Martin for sharing this great information. Also thank you Sergej and Primoz for sharing your insight. I would like to make some statements regarding what Zach shared, some of it may be a little tough to read but these have been my observations as an athlete and coach (by the way I learned to throw the hammer in college and almost all my athletes never threw in high school…):
First of all, talent is not just limited to physical attributes or the end all be all answer to athletic success in any sport, mental and psychological dedication to a task and the ability to continually work to master something is just as important if not more so in most cases.
Second, I can assure you with a very high level of confidence through personal experience as a coach that properly accelerating the hammer and developing a balanced orbit with the hammer are exponentially more important than any positions or anything like that. This goes for an 80 meter hammer thrower as well as a 40 meter hammer thrower. And subsequently these are quite simple and direct ways of looking at hammer throwing. Why not use a simple way to look at something rather than a complicated model which causes stress for both coach and athlete?
Third, the issue especially in the US is still what it was many years ago, one only needs to read the articles in Hammer Notes from the early 1980’s to see the same arguments were going on then which are going on now. Hammer throwers don’t throw enough and are focused way too much on absolute strength and power. It is much easier to increase your squat a 100lbs than to increase your throw with a 4kg hammer 5 meters, so that is where people look at more. Even with the issue of weight throwing in the indoor season you can still have great success. We try to look at the hammer throw as a series of positions with a technical model which is very “reactionary” and complicated, and we want too many quick fixes.
Anyway some of my observations
Michigan Men’s Track and Field
Field Events Coach