Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Random Hammer Thoughts

I am thankful for all those who have given me input and training suggestions. This was a letter I got from Robert Willmott (Hammer Coach) and that I have posted with his permission. There is a wealth of knowledge out there and great stories such as those told in this letter that many people will benefit from reading. If anyone would like to share any stories or training information please feel free to contact us at oliverwhaley@yahoo.com or leifhildingarrhenius@hotmail.com and we can either post it or set you up to post yourself. We are in the process of expanding and trying to find new informative information. Thanks for visiting our site and please continue to support us as we continue to grow. Thanks!

Dear Oliver,

I would like to be as helpful as I can, but I find myself with a question as to where to start? I figure a few stories might be helpful, all of which I have told to my athletes.

I began my collegiate career as a walk on red shirt to the Emporia State University Track and Field team. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Does it speak to anything that I can not for the life of me remember my PR’s in the shot, discus and javelin from high school? All I remember was that I was not all that good. But I loved to throw. And it was that love that had set my sights on throwing in college.

A few weeks into the season, after the beating of 2 to 2.5 mile warm-up jogs, and lifting, and 4 hour practices, it was apparent I was not in shape for this. I was also not meant to be a shot putter or a discus thrower. My technique was simply horrible, with far too many mistakes. So my coach urged me to give the hammer a try. Less than a week after picking it up the first time, I went to a 3 day clinic held by the Mjolnir Throwing Club at Wichita State featuring Yuri Sedyhk and Peter Farmer. Those 3 days was the start of journey for me. I fell in love with the hammer. The way that it essentially throws itself, you are simply a pivot point. The forces involved, that I was the center of, had me hooked!

It was at that first clinic, as well as the next 2, each around the same fall time, at the same place, that I heard, and witnessed some interesting things.

Firstly, I heard from the other side of the cage, directly in front of me, “Push the Ball”, “Push out Left!!.” It was a distinct sound. It was unnerving throwing in front of Yuri the first time. You don’t want to mess up. You want to do your very best. It’s like meeting your in-laws for the first time. You are nervous and screaming in your head,” Don’t F**k up!”

But that week I learned a foundation of understanding. About what the correct “feel” was, how to achieve it, and a goal for the future.

I also learned some of the crazy levels Yuri had in terms of body awareness and strength.

He was asked what he thought of the throwing circle at WSU. He went on to describe exactly what he felt through his feet. How it was smooth and fast at the back, rough in the middle, and slanted downward at the front. That is some kind of focus. To be able to forget everything else and focus on the feeling of the ring through your feet. To be able to not worry about pushing with the right, or staying left, or the correct tempo of the winds, or the spacing of the feet on the landing. To be so far beyond those thoughts that you are feeling the circle through your feet. To this day, I wonder what that is like!

He also spoke on the ways in which he lifted. It was not standard at the very least. He said “Lift to Throw.” Meaning, your time in the weight room is not to get big and strong, but to improve your throw. What is useful about a high lift if you have no range of motion, no flexibility, no explosiveness, and no specific strength? Whatever sport or event you do, your lifting should compliment it. In regards to the squats or dead lift, he said that the stance, or foot width, should be the same as your stance for your event. If you are a football lineman, with a wide stance in the down position, it made no sense, to use a narrow stance in a squat. Always look to Lift to Throw!

I have my athletes do what I call Russian Twists, where you start with a 35lb plate at arms length and at 0 degrees, between your legs. Then you simply go to the high point of the hammer throw, like in a release, swinging the weight back and forth for sets of 10 or 15. Peter Farmer told us Yuri used to do this with 3-45lb welded together. When you look at Yuri, look at how his torso, goes from his hips straight into the line of his chest and shoulders. That was not fat, that was obliques!

As I look back on my training I have only one regret. That the progression that I learned to do 3 turns with was done incorrectly. I spent an entire year on doing only 1 turn, then one year on 2 turns, then finally 3 turns my 3rd year. I was never taught to do more than 3 turns, even in drills. I feel this caused me to have artificial road-blocks to my training. It did not give me confidence in my performance, and left me stuck at the 188’ I finished my career at.

So, all my athletes are taught 2/3rd of the complete throw in the first session, the winds and the release. I emphasize both. If the winds are not done fluidly and progressively higher in tempo, than a correct first turn entry is not possible. If the release is not correct in the timing and the hips are not in what I call a “closed” position, then the full force of the throw will not be imparted on the hammer.

I then teach them how to 3 turn within the first week, even if the timing is off, while trying to teach turning the left foot to 180 and the right foot to step through smoothly and with proper foot spacing.

My 5 most common statements to my athletes are the following.

1) I don’t care how far it goes, I care how well it got there!
Meaning, throwing hard with bad technique will never be as good as throwing relaxed and with proper form. Something is always lost if the focus is just on distance.

2) The pacing of the throw should be Long, Short.
Meaning, the double support phase is longer in time than the short single support phase. Step through with purpose, not lazy!
3) The beginning of the throw sets the Tone.
4) At the end of a throw, regardless of what happened, ask yourself, what went Correct.
5) Push the Ball!!

While I was not a national champion, or All-American, or an Olympic try out, I worked side by side with people that were. I was left with memories of what things should look and feel like. I still love to throw. Still love to hear the sound of the wire whooshing through the air. And I still throw with my athletes. Just to show them what an older, achy body can manage. Any info I could give you, help I could share, or words of encouragement, I am happy to do so.

Robert Willmott

1 comment:

  1. i love it.....great stuff...i feel like going and throwing the hammer