Tag Archive for: Special Strength

The Litvinov Workout Revisisted

Everyone knows Litvinov's real secret to his success was the headband.

As many of you realized, yesterday’s post was an April Fool’s joke. I have never done the Litvinov workout, but neither has Litvinov. In talking with his son last year, current world-ranked hammer throw Sergej Litvinov Jr., he only heard about the workout in 2007 from another thrower that had tried it. When he explained it to his father “He laughed and said that he had never done it.” I have a lot of respect for Dan John, the person who first wrote about the Litvinov workout. But he never witnessed it first hand which makes me think the story boils down to a case of mistaken identity or a tall tale that has grown over the years. In any event, the workout is out there and a popular choice for many athletes. Just type “Litvinov Workout” into a YouTube search if you want to see some examples.
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Training Talk with Adam Nelson

Perhaps no athlete has had the high level consistency that Adam Nelson has demonstrated over the past 15 years. Since winning the NCAA title in 1997, Nelson went on to win a world championship and take second at three more. He has also captured two Olympic silver medals. Throughout this whole period many other shot putters come and went. Sydney Olympic champion Arsi Harju exited the international scene as quickly as he entered. Athens champion Yuriy Bilonog had a longer career but still failed to maintain form years later. Young talents like Janus Robberts never were able to make it on a podium, while others like CJ Hunter and Kevin Toth were sidelined by positive drug tests. But Nelson has continued to thrill crowds and with his win at last year’s US Championships he showed the world he will still be a contender in London at age 37.

I’ve always looked forward to watching him since I first saw him throw on TV at the 2000 Olympic Trials. His come from behind victory with a final attempt personal best was clutch, and his reaction was even better. He is known for the intensity he brings to the ring, but many people don’t know he brings that same intensity and success to all parts of his life. For example, he was an Ivy League graduate and holds an MBA from Virginia. He has also sought out and trained with the best coaches and was more than willing to share his thoughts with me. If you want to hear more from him, I suggest listening to the recent interview he gave on the Thrower’s Podcast. And be sure to support his sponsor Saucony, who plans to release its first throwing shoe this year.

Martin: Before we get to talk about training and throwing, I am very interested to hear what you are up to in your non-throwing life. In the past I’ve seen you involved with the Workout Source, a frozen yogurt venture, in addition to being a father. Have you been working on any new projects this year?

Adam: Yes, I recently accepted a position as Director of Sports Performance for a new training center in Athens, Georgia. The facility is part of an expansion by team of surgeons, physical therapists, physician assistants, and athletic trainers. The sports performance center will offer elite athletes a complete offering of performance enhancing services and access to world class coaches like Don Babbitt at the University of Georgia. The Athens Orthopedic Sports Performance Center will open in the fall of this year.
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Ask Martin Vol. 16: Grip Strength

I wanted your thoughts on grip strength in throwing the hammer. I’ve been told that it doesn’t matter. But I have seen several hammers “rip” out of hands of throwers this year. -Gary
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An Introduction to Hungarian Hammer Training

The main training rings in Szombathely, Hungary.

I started my international search for hammer throw enlightenment in the fall of 2004. My study abroad program in Vienna took me to the front door of Eastern Europe. After classes finished my first stop was hammer throwing mecca: Szombathely, Hungary. For the two years leading up to my visit I repeatedly heard about hammer throwing in Szombathely. First former European champion Tibor Gecsek came to America to put on a clinic in 2002. Then, in 2003, Harold Connolly visited a hammer seminar in Szombathely and came back sharing lots of video and stories with me. Then, in 2004, Harold arranged for two of the top US junior throwers to do a training camp in Szombathely (their journal can be read here). Before 2002 I had heard little about the small city. And now, everywhere I looked, people were talking about Hungarian training. But I could only hear so many stories about dozens of elementary school kids throwing hammer every afternoon. After a while I wanted to see it for myself.

Coming from an environment where I was considered to have begun early when I picked up the hammer in my late teens, Szombathely was a real eye opener. But it was just the first leg on a trip that also looked into Soviet training methods. By the time I returned home the individuality and periodization of the Soviet system won me over. I immediately began to model my training on Bondarchuk’s teachings and have thought too little about Hungarian training since then.

That was until I heard Zsolt Nemeth’s presentation at the UK Hammer Workshop this month. As the son of the late the Hammer Pope, Nemeth now runs the Szombathely club which has 58 hammer throwers on its roster. His presentation was very similar to Gecsek’s seminar back in 2002. But since I have gained so much experience since then, I processed everything he said in a new way. When I first learned about Hungarian training it seemed to be very different than Soviet methods since I focused a lot on small peripheral aspects of training. But now that I have seen even more styles of training, the Soviet and Hungarian methods actually fall closer to each other on the spectrum of hammer training. Both programs spend the majority of time in the ring. Both programs utilize a large stable of special strength exercises. Both programs have a high overall volume. And both programs have consistently churned out results. While the periodization model still seems quite different, the structure of day-to-day training has many of the same elements.

I am not an expert on Hungarian training methods, but there is actually quite a bit of information available about Hungarian training online. Harold Connolly compiled much of it for his website nearly a decade ago. Below is an overview of all the materials I have indexed on the topic. Hopefully by looking through them you might also get some new ideas for training like I have.

The Training Center

Training Methods


Special Exercises

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Vern Gambetta

Training Talk With Vern Gambetta (Part 2)

Earlier this week I posted part one of my interview with athletic development expert Vern Gambetta. Among other topics, we discussed how throws training stacks up to other events and sports. As we all start up our training for the 2012 season, this last installment discusses a timely topic: what are coach Gambetta’s views on rest periods and Fall training. We both also provide our opinion on what scientific advances we see on the horizon.

If you are interested in learning more about Vern’s ideas, pick up one of his books, read his blog, or follow him on Twitter.

Fall training

Martin: I was talking with Jean-Pierre Egger a few months ago and asked him what he would have done differently with Günthör. He’s had a similar career path as you have, working with various sports after Günthör retired. With all his experience he said we wouldn’t have changed much for the technique, but he would have spent less time building a base in fall training. I’ve heard that from quite a few athletes now.

Vern: We are operating in the wrong paradigm. When I look at an athlete’s program and it says “preparation period” or “general preparation” I see an antiquated model and the USATF and IAAF coaching programs still teach this. You should never get very far away from the competitive implement.

I heard a young American throws coach at a convention a few years ago and he said “We don’t touch an implement for the first 6-8 weeks of training, we just lift really heavy to build a better strength base.” And I’m thinking then it will take you another 6-8 weeks to get back to your technical model. You need to train all elements all the time in different proportions. That is contemporary thought and what the best coaches do in all sports. Dedicated periods of general preparation don’t work; you thread them into the rest of training.

It was interesting to hear Egger say that because it is the same conclusion I came to. Every year with my athletes we would go back in the fall to these periods and I call it dulling the knife. They started razor sharp and we just dulled it for three months. We took away the fine coordination they had.
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Training Talk With Vern Gambetta (Part 1)

Training expert Vern Gambetta

Several months ago I came across an audio interview with coach Vern Gambetta. Vern is not a throwing coach; instead is a training expert that has been called a jack of all trades. He started as a decathlete and multi-event coach, but has since coached athletes in every event group. He was a cofounder of the USATF coaching education program, has written several books, and serves on the editorial board for the IAAF technical journal. But a large chunk of his career was spent outside of track and field as a pioneer in the field of strength and conditioning with several professional teams in baseball, basketball, and other sports.

When I heard Vern talk, nearly everything he was saying rung true to what I have learned from Bondarchuk and others. But, as always, I had some additional questions and finally had the time to speak to him about training last weekend. Part one below discusses where throwers tend to be ahead of or behind other sports in terms of training. Part two will discuss the timely topic of off-season training and what scientific advances he sees on the horizon.

If you are interested in learning more about Vern’s ideas, pick up one of his books, read his blog, or follow him on Twitter.

How do throwers stack up in the training department

Martin: Throughout your career you’ve worked with essentially every major sport and every track and field event. When you look at throwers as a whole, what things do you see that we do well? Where is our training lag behind others?

Vern: The way to get maximal power in training is to release the implement and throwers do well is incorporating releases of various forms into training. Some people have taken to calling this the multi-throw, but it is just ballistic training. If you take a heavy implement like the bench press, you are only accelerating that weight for a short period of time and then you have to decelerate it to stop it even if you are moving it fast. If you don’t release the implement, you won’t achieve maximum power production.
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Training Talk: Shot Put With Justin Rodhe

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.

Shot putter Justin Rodhe

About RhodeThrows.com

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?
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Training Talk With Sergej Litvinov Jr.

As I mentioned last month, I will be posting some question and answers sessions with some of the world’s top throwers and coaches over the next few months. The first is with Sergej Litvinov Jr. Litvinov just threw a personal best of 79.76m last month. After starting the hammer relatively late, he placed 5th at the last world championships at the age of 23. He is trained by his father, the former Olympic champion and world record holder of the same name.

Like many hammer throwers, Sergej is refreshingly outspoken and shared some ideas about why hammer throw technique is not as good as it once was and how the hammer throw can win back fans. He also shared some thoughts on training and technique. I first met Sergej in 2004 when I visited Minsk for a 10 day training camp. It was then that I first began to understand how vastly different the Russian approach to training is and have kept studying it since. While every coach has different points of focus, it is reassuring to read that the main elements of his training match mine. Now I just need to find that extra 10 meters.

The Current State of Throwing

Martin: You’ve said before that most of the current world class hammer throwers do not have good technique. Why do you think technique was better twenty years ago?

Sergej: Twenty years ago people tried to bring new things to hammer throw technique to make it better. Now the people think more about the strength and other ways to throw far. This is the easy and not the perfect way and sometimes its works for winning some titles. But our generation has to bring that back to our sport; we need the progress.
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Ask Martin Vol. 9: Kettlebells

Question: I enjoy your posts and web site very much. I have incorporated a lot of it into our training routines. This is my third year at the school and we are working at building a throws program literally from scratch and we are starting to make a little progress. I have a couple questions for you? Do you incorporate pud (kettlebell throws) in training? If so, what weight ranges do you use, type of throws (1 turn, opposite side throws, left arm, right arm), before or after throwing the hammer, etc.? -Paul
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Ask Martin Vol. 6: Offseason Training

Question: In your opinion, how much time do you take off to rest at the end of the season? I just finished up my season and I’m thinking I will take 4-5 weeks off to let my body recover. –Ben Bishop
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