On Short Hammers

Throwing light and heavy hammers should be a major part of hammer throw training. But in addition to playing around with different weights, many throwers also add variety to the length of the hammer. This is another way to add variety to training, but one method I am not a fan of.

In most of Western Europe, short hammers and heavy hammers go hand in hand. I have never met a Swiss or German coach that has thrown a normal length 10-kilogram hammer for men, and few that even utilize a normal length 9-kilogram. The theory is that heavy hammers can develop bad technical habits, but shortening a heavy hammer makes the hammer feel lighter and easier for the athlete to throw with proper technique.


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8 replies
  1. Lynden Reder
    Lynden Reder says:

    Martin- I don’t disagree with the notion that long and heavy hammers are good.  We throw a lot of 18-20lb hammers, especially into the net during the winter.  When you get heavier… 25-30 lbs I think shortening them keeps the specificity for strength but keeps the throw with a similar rhythm, is a little more forgiving, etc.  I guess I don’t agree with the thought that the orbit is/has to be different.  Sure, it’s shorter, but the angles of the wire can be the same.  

    For beginners I feel the short stuff can be good because it’s a bit like trainging wheels.  They can get good throws off, feel the ball (which can be hard with US guys who already come to college pretty strong and are learning the event from scratch).  This allows them to work on their turns and footwork and build some quality reps. 

    In limited use I think shorter/heavier hammers can be ok but not too heavy and not too short. As i wrote before…  I do agree that heavy long hammers always have a place in a yearly plan.  

    Thats my two cents… But all that said I’m just a dumb American college coach so take it for what it’s worth. 😉

  2. Bosko
    Bosko says:

    Michael Letterlough had programs with Bondarchuk that included short wire 10 kg hammers, as full throws. Maybe the application depends on the individual? What is Dr B’s stance on this (outside of the available research on correlation)?

  3. tb
    tb says:

    Don’t like the short hammers for throws because they don’t penalize the mistakes. No point in getting stronger and worse.

  4. Lynden Reder
    Lynden Reder says:

    I think saying that a short hammer makes you stronger and worse is a pretty big overstatement. I don’t care if my guys are throwing a rubber chicken, they can work concepts and find benefit in those reps as long as they are working towards the technical issues they are having. Shorter probably does equal more forgiving, that isn’t always the worst thing. Would I train a high percentage of a weekly throws total with them, no, but sprinkled in I do believe they can have value.

  5. Tony Dziepak
    Tony Dziepak says:

    A heavier hammer of same length requires more counter (greater knee and hip angle to move the athlete’s CG back). The more aggressive body position will impart a strength training effect. There is a combination of weight and length that offset so that the counter is the same. However, even if you are on this “isocounter” curve, the shorter hammer is faster to accelerate because the same body position has a greater displacement angle because the ball is closer to the thrower’s CG. By displacement angle I mean (from a birdseye view looking down), the difference between the line connecting the ball and handle and the line connecting the ball and the thrower’s CG.

  6. Martin
    Martin says:

    Great discussion everyone. I’ve got a couple of responses:

    Lynden- Even though most of the parameters stay the same, I think the fact that the orbit is shorter can have a big impact since the hammer is much closer to the body’s center of gravity. Because of this there is not as much of a lag between when the thrower accelerates and when the hammer accelerates. As you note, it is difficult for strong kids to feel the hammer. A short hammer will definitely be easier to feel, but artificially so. At some point the training wheels need to come off. They need the patience to work through the longer lag time and this is hard to develop with a shorter hammer. Like the weight throw, I definitrly agree with you that it can probably be used in training in a way that wouldn’t hurt the throw. But I think that with the other hammers available there are plenty of tools to work with. Throwing short also doesn’t necessarily help more than the others either. Plus, once you get up to 30-pounds the exercise starts to move more into the solely specific strength realm. It is a good exercise, but might be best to do with one turn or no turns rather than to combine its development with technical development. Just some thoughts. How often and how are you using them in training?

    Bosko- I recall Michael throwing the normal length 10kg hammer, but not a shortened one. I could definitely be wrong though. In any event, like most parts of training it is likely individual. I should not generalize as much. But, like I mention to Lynden, even if it might not hurt someone, it also doesn’t mean it’ll be the best option for them either. Only trial and error will tell.

    Tony- Awesome comment and great points. Bartonietz wrote a paper in the 1990s that talked about the differences in forces between hammers of different lengths and weights. Maybe I’ll dig that up and post about it in the future.

  7. Lynden Reder
    Lynden Reder says:

    Thanks Martin – always stimulating to discuss a topic not everyone agrees on. I agree with 90% of what you post on your blog, so its sorta nice to oppose for once My comments probably have more to do with a defensive mechanism to justify my use of them when I hear an 80m hammer thrower and part of hammer family royalty and the most popular hammer blogger in the world don’t think they are good.

    That said, I think we are pretty darn close on our opinions on the topic… I just see slightly more value to them beyond specific strength. I think the distrust of the implement comes from the fear that if used too often could lead to bad habits of not pushing the ball around the left, etc, etc. I don’t disagree with that. But to defend against that it really comes down to the coach who is watching training, and the athlete having to be disciplined to not throw it crappy then!

    It goes back to my throwing a rubber chicken analogy… I wouldn’t want them to drag the Sh*T out that either.

    My most typically used short hammer is a 1/2 wire 20lb. The reason I like it:

    1- its not TOO heavy, so I believe you can feel it, throw if properly, etc.
    2- its not TOO light, so you can get some specific strength.
    3- a beginner can get some quality reps as it is a little more forgiving … the training wheels mentioned before.

    My furthest throwing current guy (not big or strong) can throw it really well, keep his tech, get good specific strength, etc. I think its a good tool in the toolbox for him. As soon as we have him throw a 25lb with the same length, he can’t repeat his tech. We learned that through trial and error, so we don’t use the 25lb anymore.

    I’ve got a big ole’ 6’5, 280lb hammer/weight guy (both big AND strong) that we do use the 1/2 25lb with sometimes though because its still manageable for him. He’s not the technician the earlier thrower I mentioned is, but a strength of his is his size and strength… so is it wrong to play to that a little, while also working to improve his technique?

    For a good portion of the year my top guys week is pretty simple.
    Monday – regular length hammers, some track training, lift.
    Tuesday – regular length hammer, some short hammers, specific strength, lift
    Wed – recovery day
    Thurs – regular length hammers, some track trainign, lift
    Friday – regular length hammers, tons of specific strength, lift
    Sat – lift
    Sun – off

    Keep in mind this is a college kid so only one tech per day usually. Out of 4 days of throwing, he probably took 10-15 throws with a short hammer. Not a huge part of his week by any stretch. I’d describe my use of it as a bridge into specific strength.

    Side note: Too much lifting in his plan you may say???… well, that is a discussion for another time

    Thanks as always for your blog and we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] My thoughts on short hammers sparked a lively discussion over the weekend. One comment by Tony Dziepak sparked my interest by touching on the science of both heavy and short hammers. Dziepak noted that in order to replicate the body’s counter against the competition hammer, the weight and length should be adjusted proportionally. He also noted that when throwing a short implement, the hammer is closer to the thrower’s body and the transfer of kinetic energy to the hammer therefore happens faster. This latter point is important to me since I find it harder to develop patience with these shorter hammers for this exact reason. […]

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