Typically distance runners have trained via two methods: either putting in the miles or running fast intervals. But, back in the 1930s, Swedish coach Gösta Holmér developed a new method called fartlek training that combined the two. The fartlek – Swedish for speed play – simply combined periods of fast running mixed with periods of slower running. It proved to be a quick success. Read more
Earlier this week we celebrated the 30th birthday of the men’s hammer throw world record. When a record lasts that long, the inevitable question is whether it will ever be broken. The chances do not look good in the near-term future. Pawel Fajdek’s throw of 83.93 meters last year is the only all-time top 10 mark in the last decade and the winning distance at this year’s Olympics was the lowest since 1984. In the long-term many top coaches think a bigger throw is possible, but it will not be easy. It will require the sport to progress in terms of training methods, culture, and more. Below two Olympic champions share their thought on the future of our event. Read more
On Sunday Anita Wlodarczyk broke her world record again, her second time this month and seventh time overall. The women’s record has improved so steadily – eight times over the past eight seasons – that it makes us forget how stagnant the men’s record is. You might not have noticed, but today is the 30th birthday of the men’s world record. On August 30, 1986 Yuri Sedykh watched his hammer sail 86.74 meters. No hammer has sailed that far since. Read more
On this week’s podcast I mentioned some of the stories Nicola Vizzoni told about his competitive experiences at our recent Swiss Hammer training camp. Over dinner one night our discussion moved towards hammer throw technique and Vizzoni slowly laid out the case for why the three turn throw is harder than the four turn throw. By the time I finished dessert he had opened my eyes to the complexity of the seemingly simple technique. Read more
Last month I wrote about how to stay low in the hammer throw. It is important not to let your body rise up along with the hammer during the throw since that prevents effective acceleration of the implement. But there is an extra benefit of staying low: it helps you keep both feet on the ground longer. Staying on the ground, i.e. maximizing the double support phase, is an even more important aspect of accelerating the hammer. This is a topic I cover several times in my new book, The Ball and Chain. Read more
With my book finally being released, I’m dedicated more time posting about hammer throw technique in the coming weeks. One of the first topics I’d like to cover is how to stay low in the hammer throw. Read more
In a major coup for American track and field, a group led by Vin Lananna won a last minute bid to host the 2016 IAAF world Indoor Championships in Portland. This will be only the second time the US has hosted a world championship, the last time being the 1987 World Indoor Championships in Indianapolis. Nearby Eugene will also host the IAAF World Junior Championships next summer. Both American indoor track meets and the hammer throw have been moved to the sport’s fringes over the past few decades. But the World Indoor Championships in Portland presents a great opportunity to add excitement to the meet and help throwers by introducing a new event to the world scene: the weight throw.
Indoor track and field is a dying sport in America. Some of the best meets in the country used to form the indoor circuit. But the number if meets have dwindled, and even the historic Millrose Games has abandoned the Madison Square Garden for the much smaller Armory. Now most top professionals skip the indoor season, which causes the remaining meets to move even further to the fringes of the average person’s attention.
There are some ideas to give some spark to the sport. The indoor 400-meter hurdles has been gaining popularity due to the added drama and lane changes with banked curves. But adding the weight throw to the meet’s program gives a fresh new event and puts Portland’s unique stamp on the championship. The event is raw: it has athletes hurl a hammer-like object that, at 35-pounds, is more than twice the weight and only 16-inches long. An even heavier version of the weight was an Olympic discipline in the early 20th century, so it is more than ripe for a comeback and no place is better for it than on the soil of the event’s adopted country.
The weight throw has been an American sport since the modern Olympic era began and the whole time throwers across the country have wondered if we are naturally great at the sport, or simply the best because we are the only ones left throwing it. At one time we were clearly the best against the world as we won won 4 of the 6 Olympic medals awarded in the event. Now that the rest of the world retired from the event hammer throw Olympic medalist Lance Deal holds the world record, but he only ranks 24th all-time in the hammer and most of those in front of him never even touched the weight. The technique is basically the same, but the different weight and rhythm can make a big difference. Would he have beaten Yuri Sedykh in the weight throw? Throwers debate whether who would win a matchup of historic hammer throwers with the same intensity that track fans argue who would win between Bolt and Mo Farah over 600 meters.
It’s true that I once wrote an article detailing how the weight throw hurts our sport due to its negative training effect. But an event like this I can support. For once the event could bring some benefits to our sport in the form of publicity. Portland was also the host of the successful Hammer Time event in 2012, where 3,000 fans showed up to watch the hammer throw Olympic Trials at the Nike headquarters. That’s 3,000 fans for just one event. The turnout for the last world indoor championships was only double that. If the weight throw can help our sport, more power to it.
It is likely too late to get the bureaucracy to add the weight as an official event for 2016. But nothing is stopping it from being an exhibition or promotional event. It could even be put in the city center at Waterfront Park. Or a block from Niketown at. Pioneer Square. Or even a parking lot in the trendy Pearl district. All optioned would help promote the event in the days leading up to the world championships similar to how Weltklasse Zurich has used the shot put competition as a teaser for the main event and the Karlstad Grand Prix’s use of the river hammer throw event. With the lack of prize money in most hammer throw events, a small purse could entice the top names to try out the new event in an exhibition. We could finally end the debates, get a niche event some great publicity, and showcase some American talent. Kibwé Johnson ranks as the world’s 4th best weight thrower of all-time before giving it up to focus on the hammer. With an opportunity like this perhaps he’d even make comeback too.
Question: Which thrower’s technique do you like watching the most? – Gary
At the beginning of my career I watched video to learn. Now I watch video to help visualize my own throw. While throwers like Balazs Kiss, Igor Nikulin, or even Koji Murofushi have very good technique, their styles are so different than mine that they are lower down my list. Both then and now I tend to watch video that I hope to emulate and I list a few of my favorites below. You might notice that I do not mention any women below and this is for the same reason. Female throwers typically do not have, or need, the same amount of countering in their throw as men. Since I am trying to visualize myself in the throw it is easier to do that with a male thrower. Read more
The first time I was introduced to the Soviet approach to the hammer was not through Bondarchuk, but through world record holder Yuri Sedykh. As a high school student I watched his instructional video and already began to incorporate some of his special-strength exercises into my training. At age 19, in the winter 2003, I had the first chance to meet him in person by attending a clinic in the Bay Area. It was an eye-opener. Read more
At least once a year, world record holder Yuri Sedykh comes to america for a camp or clinic. In December he once again spent four days in South Carolina for the Hurricane Throwers Classic, where he worked hands on with youth, college, elite, and masters throwers.
Last week I stumbled upon a video from that clinic, shown below. Rather than video of a presentation, this was video of Sedykh coaching. Sedykh often gives the same presentations at his clinics, so it was interesting to see him give feedback instead. Feedback always changes depending on the thrower and the specific throw, so I feel that watching a coach at work gives you the best understanding of the approach and application of their technical philosophy.