Should beginners use a toe turn?

Tonight I had my second training session with my club’s under-16 group. Twice a month I am given a chance to teach them a little about the hammer throw and I try to make the most of the limited opportunity. If I had my way, I would have them throwing hammer much more, but these kids are still rotating through all the events to find what they like the best (and what they are the best at). In our first 90-minute session together a few weeks ago each thrower was able to do a one turn throw. Today they started to perfect that and I think they will be ready to move on to a full throw in their third session. In addition to coaching these youth throwers, I also have a few junior throwers that train more regularly this year. All of this has had me thinking the coaches perspective a bit more this year.

For the past 18 months I have been regularly trading emails and ideas with another coach, Mike Morley of England. He is also a student of Bondarchuk and this has led to some fun exchanges. Last summer he sent me a draft of an article that had me thinking about the coaching process. In the article, he proposes that we should teach beginners to throw with a toe turn, rather than a heel turn. His point: typically we teach a thrower to start with a heel turn, only to change it after a few years. Why waste that time learning a entry that will not be used in the future?


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8 replies
  1. Enzo
    Enzo says:

    Hi Martin, How do some throwers like Pars, Nazarov, even Annus I think, fit four heel turns in? Small feet, or different sort of technique?

    Thank you!

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      I think it is likely a few things.

      • They probably have smaller feet (at least smaller than me).
      • They all have pretty clean tight turns and Pars at least starts pretty fast and steep, which makes the turns even tighter. In any event, all three tend to start steeper than the typical toe turner.
      • They do not go straight through the ring. The maker curve through the ring, which gives them more space. Lots of toe turners also do this since it helps avoid the IAAF regulation cage, but it has the benefit of helping them get more space.
      • Despite all this, Annus almost ran out of space still. In his lt turn his heel hovers over the ring. Luckily he stays on his toes and that unique jump release keeps him in the ring.
      • You don’t need as much extra space as you would think. The toe turners often don’t turn in place on the first turn…they take up some space, especially since many international throwers use a quasi toe turn that is on the outside of the foot and uses up some space.
      • Enzo
        Enzo says:

        I’ve noticed the curve in their turns before and assume it’s something they consciously work on, which seemed odd to me. (Which I assume is because I’ve only thrown a hammer for four years and never even contemplated altering the path of my turns…) Do you know how they achieve it? Is it over- or under-rotating on turns, the direction in which they step…? Very interesting…

      • Martin
        Martin says:

        A lot of them catch the ball so early, some the arc naturally comes. A drifting low point will also do it. I don’t know if they intentionally work on moving through the ring like that, but it can be a byproduct of other technical improvements (like catching the ball early).

  2. TB
    TB says:

    I’ll only talk about the toe-turn if I’m asked about it. Only a motivated kid even notices the difference. Look at some of this year’s top throwers:

    #1 Pars – four heel-turns (?!) and a brutal release from a bad low point
    #2 Zagornyi – three hell-bent turns (similar to #5 Kibwe, who does four of them)
    #3 and #4 – Koji and Pavel Krivitskiy. THAT’S how you throw, in my opinion.
    #7 Vizzoni – three dinosaur turns of drag, drag, drag.

    There are so many ways to throw really far, so I can’t tell the kids that a toe-start is ‘better’ just because I like it.

  3. Ironman
    Ironman says:

    Beginning hammer throwers, especially with discus experience, tend to load up the left and turn ahead of the ball. If the ball is pulling them into the turn, then the feet naturally go into left heel/right toe turn. I demonstrate that to them but having them hold arms rigid in front of them (as if holding a hammer), then I push/pull arms past 90 toward sector…yup…they go into left heel/right toe footwork.
    I also agree with your teaching progression of learning wind, then one turn with proper release, then add turns. I disagree with lots of multiple turns before they get to throw. You only learn counterbalance, rhythm, timing, etc. with a ball moving in orbit of a throw.
    Great website. You are the true Renaissance Man working, training, competing, non-profit, etc.!!

  4. Dave Hahn
    Dave Hahn says:

    I’ve tried a couple of years going starting everybody with the heel, and then everybody with the toe. I’m at a point now, where I am more concerned with the ball than what feet are doing. So now we start the first day of hammer work with winds and turns, not really teaching the footwork, but to put the ball to 180 and step to it. In a set of 10 turns, most naturally feel what their feet need to do. Then the second day, we do 4 turn throws out of the ring. Some will toe-turn, some won’t, but everybody feels good about being able to 4 turn. If athletes get over the fear of doing 4 turn throws right away, they seem much more interested and able to adjust between the toe and the heel turn.

  5. Joe Pascone
    Joe Pascone says:

    I think teaching it is better. If you understand the mechanics and importance of the wind into turn one, then teaching the toe is an instant success after the winds have been mastered. And if you’ve done due diligence, embracing Togher’s idea of teaching the throw backwards from the point of release, the heel ground should merge to produce a heel toe throw.

    Working with experienced and previously programmed throwers, however, best judgement is best used. Hip, knee and shoulder alignment of the axis is easily confused and that can do all sorts of things to a thrower, particularly manifesting in changes to their orbit. I try to approach with caution, but what’s best is what works. And that, technically, is still individual.


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