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Learning the Hammer Throw

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In the last issue of Track Coach, my training partner Ryan Jensen and I published a short article about learning to throw the hammer. Our approach is simple: get kids throwing as fast as possible and then start to refine their technique. The article is built on our experiences in coaching, watching Dr. Bondarchuk coach, and learning to throw ourselves.

I actually learned to throw the hammer twice and the first time I was unsuccessful. I first threw the hammer at at age 15 and began to coach myself. Even after three years of training once a month, I was still just using one or two turns in competition and had no concept of what the event is about.

When I was 18, I met Harold Connolly and began learning all over again. This time, I had a plan. For weeks I did drill after drill, but not one throw. Harold’s theory was to perfect the basics of technique before ever entering the ring. Even after I began throwing, drills took up a significant part of my training for the next four years. My footwork was great, but in hindsight that isn’t where my focus should have been. My footwork has never been a problem, but I still have issue with my balance and rhythm. Drills can’t replicate the true rhythm of a throw. Only a throw can, and that should have been my focus from the beginning. Read more

Ask Martin Vol. 10: The Winds and Entry

Question: My question is prefaced by two different wind and entry techniques. A few years ago at the NTCA, one coach spoke about keeping your shoulders facing forward in the winds and winding around your head and getting your hands down as the hammer comes to 0º, before entry into the first turn. Others at the conference felt that you should turn your shoulders to the right, catching the ball at 270º, still getting your hands down by 0º and pushing into the entry. -Bill
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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.

Sergej Litvinov Jr.

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.
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The Paradoxical Nature of the Hammer Throw

When I wrote about my training last month, things were going quite well. Distances were at an all time best, but my technique was mediocre. This month has seen the reverse. My results have declined, but my technique is progressing. This reversal often happens in my training and is one of the many paradoxes in the hammer throw. You would think that my best results would occur when I had the best technique, but it doesn’t always work that way. This time the cause of the apparent paradox is the intense special-strength oriented training program I began in November. I would complain about the crazy amount of volume, but I think Kibwé‘s new program has me beat. Nevertheless, my energy level has plummeted and my results have slowly gone with it.
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An Introduction to Biomechanics

I recently came across a biomechanical analysis of the hammer throw at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. While the report is brief, it perfectly illustrates a few points that all hammer throwers need to know.

2009 World Champion Primož Kozmus showing a solid hammer position.

Basic physics tells us that there are three main variables that impact the distance of the throw: (1) the velocity of the hammer at the time of release; (2) the angle of release; (3) and the height of release. Obviously other factors also come into play, such as the wind, the density of the air, and so on, but these factors are the same for everyone and cannot be influenced by the throw. The height of release also plays a relatively small role since it remains fairly constant despite attempts by Harold Connolly in his prime to try to throw will taller shoes.
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Ask Martin Vol. 7: Technique

Question: I just read this interview with Dr. Bondarchuk. In it, he says the two reasons U.S. hammer throwing lags behind is because of the way we train (lack of special strength) and technique issues. You have talked a lot about how to train special strength, I would like to know what you think some of the major flaws in the U.S. style of technique is compared to what Dr. B teaches. -Jeff
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Ask Martin Vol. 5: How and Why to Throw Heavy Hammers

Question: I understand throwing 8- and 9-kilogram hammers, but why do you throw full length 10-kilogram hammers in training? -Robert

Many people are surprised when I tell them we throw the 10-kilogram hammer in training. Their jaw then starts to drop when I tell them we throw it on a full-length wire. For some, deviating too far from the competition weight hammer is a big no-no. But for us, it is just another tool to use in our arsenal. The more tools you have, the better chance that one of them will help you improve. Heavy hammers play an essential role in developing special strength, which is more useful and important than general strength for hammer throwers.
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Olympic Champion Primoz Kozmus

Ask Martin Vol. 4: Push the hammer

Question: What puzzles me is why no one ever gives a definitive statement about how to achieve hammer acceleration. If it is pushing with the right hand, driving with the right foot, dropping onto the right foot early, lowering the left shoulder on the entry, etc. Why not just say so plainly!! It seems to me that someone needs to step-up to the plate and say: this is how you make the hammer go faster, and this is how you best counter the forces that you produce. –Ray
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Ask Martin, Volume 2

Training has been going poorly this week, so instead of talking about that I’ll answer a few more questions I’ve received this month.

Question: What are some of the more important things that need to be done at the beginning of the throw in order to stay on balance during the throw?
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April Training Update

According to Dr. Bondarhcuk, hammer throwers can be divided into three groups.  The first type of thrower has slow winds, but accelerates sharply in each turn.  An example of this type of athlete would be Lance Deal. The second type begins with fast winds, but accelerates insignificantly during the turns.  A good example of this type of athlete is Sergey Litvinov.  The third type of athlete winds at an average speed and accelerates moderately during each turn.  According to Bondarchuk, one type is not better than any other type.  As he notes:

Membership in one or another group depends first of all on this athlete’s individual peculiarities, as well as on the number of turns used.  It is very important that the observed difference in the structure of the rhythm of throwing not only does not prevent the athlete from showing a high level of athletic achievement, but also, on the contrary, in all cases facilitates this.

Rather than forcing an athlete to throw one way, a coach should find out what way is best for the athlete and build upon it.
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