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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The Mental Game

I’ve always thought that the best tool for sports psychology is a good training program. A good training program won’t solve all of an athlete’s problems, but when training is going well, it is hard to convince an athlete that they will not succeed. Throwers even have a unique advantage in this department. We get to practice every day like it’s a competition and are truly able know what shape we are in; all we have to do is pull out the tape measure and measure our results. Distance runners, on the other hand, do not have this advantage. An article in last month’s Runner’s World talked about how Kara Goucher has worked with a sports psychologist to overcome her mental hurdles. Unlike throwers, it is harder for runners to know exactly what shape they are in. They obviously run in practice, but they don’t replicate an entire race at competitive speeds. Even if they do, they cannot replicate race tactics in training. When the distance runner toes the line, they often aren’t quite sure what to expect and that is where doubt can enter the mind.
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Kibwé and Crystal’s New Website

My training partners Crystal Smith and Kibwé Johnson

I helped my training partners Kibwé Johnson and Crystal Smith launch a website on Friday.  Check it out if at if you get a chance.  Both of them are very accomplished throwers. In 2007, Kibwé won the silver medal in the 2007 Pan American Games and competed at the World Championships.  He also holds the collegiate record in the weight throw. Crystal, a native of British Columbia, is the former Canadian national record holder.

Kibwé and Crystal moved to Kamloops after the 2008 season and have slowly transitioned to a new style of training.  Their old style of training was very strength-based.  The new style of training is, in many ways, the exact opposite.  We have ten throwing sessions every week and never lift heavy weights.  It’ll be interesting to follow their website as they discuss their training, their progress, and the transition to this new system.  For example, in one of the first posts, Kibwé compares the two styles of training:

Where most coaches and athletes train for the “fast track” to achieve distance, Dr. B’s system takes time … He said if you take two groups: one group lifts heavy, and the other group is his system, the lifters will grow faster at first and achieve better results. However, after about 4 years, according to his studies, the hammer inclined group always passes the lifting group.

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Is There a Perfect Technique?

There is an interesting discussion on The Ring this week. The topic is whether or not there is a “perfect technique” in the throwing events. In some sports, like diving, athletes are judged on whether or not they hit certain positions.  In those sports, there is a perfect technique.

In throwing, however, we aren’t judged by whether we hit positions.  We win or lose based on how far we throw.  Asking about the “perfect technique” is part of the reason Americans have struggled in the hammer (I’ve detailed some other reasons in previous posts).  Technique in the hammer throw is not about mastering positions, it is about mastering forces.  While I know some coaches in America understand this, many more don’t and even I didn’t even grasp this until recently.
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January Training Update

Sometimes I get jealous of distance runners.  While runners need a coach, they can also train alone easier.  This comes in handy when traveling home for the holidays.  In hammer throwing, there is no replacement for the eye of your coach, critiquing your every move at practice.  I was back in Seattle for less than a month over Christmas, but it was enough time for my technique to acquire some rust.  Since arriving back in Kamloops two weeks ago, I’ve been busy fixing it up again.

As was the case in the fall, Dr. Bondacrhuk has been focusing on the start of the throw.  Read more

Mixing Up My Training Again (+Video)

If you’ve been following my training, you’ll know that I started off the Fall with some high volume intense special strength work. Since then, I have been working to transfer that new strength into the hammer.  My coach, Dr. B, estimated that this would take a month or two.  It’s been two months and, right on cue, he’s correct again.  Take a look at this video from this morning’s training.  Both my technique and power are progressing quite nicely. I am pushing the ball much better on every turn. That is something I struggled with earlier this year, especially in the final turn.
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November Training Update

I received a new training program last week. For the month prior I had been doing a high volume of work focusing on what we call “special strength” (e.g. working the core muscles used to accelerate the hammer). Coach Bondarchuk told me that the prior program would wear me down and it would take me another training program or two to transfer the new strength into my actual throw.
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Fall Training: Video Update

Since returning from Europe, I have returned to training twice a day. While I have taken an extra day off here and there, I’ve let my body rest in other ways. For instance, I’ve only been throwing light hammers (6.5 and 5.5 kilograms) and have done basically no weightlifting over the past six weeks. My strength training has been limited to simple exercises such as sit ups, vertical jumps, and overhead shot put throws. This has allowed me to rest up and correct some bad habits that emerged during the season.
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Beauty and the Hammer Throw

The basic mousetrap may be simple, but it is an engineering feat (bear with me, this post is actually about hammer throwing). With just three parts, it is able to accomplish its task for hundreds as years while more complex versions have tried and failed to be more efficient. But if one part is removed, and it no longer works. There is the beauty, not just in its simplicity, but in the relationship between its parts.
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