Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chinese Elite Level Training

In my heart, I am a world traveler. Unfortunately my body hasn’t gotten much farther then Toronto and Tiajuana. Randall Strossen’s Ironmind training hall tapes and the internet has been a great opportunity for guys like me to see how athletes from around the world solve the problems of how to lift the greatest weight over head. We have been able to see the Bulgarians train until they bleed, going to the max in the competitive lifts and not much else multiple times each day, day after day. The Soviets, who use a greater variety of exercises and periodize the volume and intensity over the long range. Their system plans loading over a multiple year cycle.
Anyone who follows lifting at all today cannot help but be impressed with the success of the Chinese. Their women weightlifters have dominated for over a decade and now their men’s team has reached a similar level of performance.

They are strong and they are deep. Obviously they have huge population numbers to support their programs. They are not “inhibited” by moral concerns such as freedom of choice and of course there is always the spector of “medicinal support.” But given all of that, there is still a great deal we can learn from their methods. Below is a nice segment that takes about 30 minutes that is understandable to us who only speak English and Navajo. Lol It shows a wide variety of exercises and also the Warrior Attitude that it takes to compete at the highest levels. Is this the way the rest of should train?
Probably not. Almost certainly not.
As much as we wish we were, most of us are not in the genetically elite category, however, until we have strived over a period of years, even decades, we’ll never know what our ultimate potential is. There is much we can learn from these elite athletes if we keep in mind that we may not be as genetically robust or have the support system, including “recovery medications.” It is my opinion, and mine only, that these athletes would still be winning most of the medals even in a 100% “clean” competition environment.
-Ollie Whaley

Monday, December 28, 2009

Old Shot Put Picture

Here is a picture of my dad throwing the shot put late in his career in 1981. The meet was the EU Cup held in Belgrade on June 6 of that year. My dad got second in this meet, losing to then 19 year old Alessandro Andrei. Andrei as most of us know went on to win and olympic gold medal in 84 and broke the WR throwing over 75' in the shot. I thought this was also a great picture of a good position to have at the "finish" portion of the throw.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Shot Put Training Progression

I love to throw the shot put. But, what I love even more is throwing the shot put using the "glide" technique. To me, no one should throw the shot put unless they glide. From 2005-2007 I lived in Taiwan and my main means of transportation was a bike. I crashed many times on a bike and one time fell hard after being hit by a car and sprained my wrist really bad. I didn't throw the shot put in 2008 because of wrist pain and didn't decide to start throwing it until last indoor season. It had been 3 years since I had thrown the shot put and my technique and strength were way off. I wanted to start out my training correctly. Last year me and my brother Niklas decided to copy some ideas from an article we saw on Ulf Timmermann's shot put training. Since last season I have been using this program once a week. Basically what the training session involves is 7 different exercises using a heavier shot (in my case 18lbs.) The exercises are in order- kneeling put, standing non-reverse, standing reverse, right leg drill, no left leg full throw, full throw non-reverse, and finally a full with reverse. I do 3 throws for each exercise and mark the farthest and record it. I keep a log of my best throws week by week and try and break my pr's each practice. This has helped me a lot with my throwing strength and I have strengthened some key positions in my throw. I still have lots to work on and my technique is still not the best but I feel that his has helped my shot putting a lot and has helped me get to a point in my training and competing that I can build on. I recommend this for all gliders.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pressing: On Your Feet? Or On Your Back?

By Ollie Whaley, CSCS

While the bench press has been enthroned as the King of upper body lifts, I would propose that this King is an imposter. Sure the NFL combine uses the bench press as a measure of upper body strength, but does anyone really believe that max reps with 225 lb. is a valid measure of football or any other athletic potential? Is that the lemming express going by? Sorry, I’m not getting on. Why aren’t we doing more heavy over head work? Believe it or not, when I first started lifting, the question I was asked the most was “How much can you press?” (meaning overhead)

In the past 40 years or so, the bench press has become the standard for measuring upper body strength. In a preceding post I mentioned the advent of Powerlifting as a sport and it’s influence on squatting. The Bench press has a similar history. Prior to the popularity of Powerlifting it was considered as an upper body assistance exercise. While it is certainly a great upperbody movement, it also has it’s limitations. Because it is done lying down, supported by a bench, (which makes it an open kinetic chain activity) the movement of the scapula and supporting muscles is restricted. If the bench press becomes the major focus for upperbody work, it can lead to shoulder imbalances as the shear stresses are focused on the anterior muscles. Over head pressing is a closed kinetic chain activity that involves the entire shoulder complex as well as the trapezius and scapula supporting musculature, not to mention the core, legs, and entire body for stabilization and support.

Back in the mid 90’s The University of Utah used to host a Rocky Mountain Regional Strength and Conditioning Conference. Dwight Daub was the head S&C coach at the time, he has since moved on to the Seattle Supersonics. It was always a great time. Dwight and his wife would host a barbeque at their home following the clinic. Coaches from Idaho, Idaho State, Boise State, Colorado State, Utah State, Weber State, Northern Arizona…etc. (never BYU) usually participated while hosting high school coaches and other interested people from around the mountain west.

I usually attended and traveled together with my friend Rich McClure who was S&C coach at NAU. Prior to the clinic sessions we usually had a roundtable discussion with the presenters and I remember the one year the topic being shoulder injuries. One coach lamented that he was seeing more shoulder injuries than usual, asking the question, “What are you all doing for shoulder work?” Besides the Bench press, most of the participants mentioned doing a variety of rotator cuff exercises, you know, the gamut of adduction, abduction, and rotation exercises with light dumbbells and bands. Some were also doing seated presses with dumbbells. I remember Rich McClure asking, “Isn’t anyone doing any heavy overhead work anymore?” “At NAU we are doing heavy jerks and push jerks along with overhead supports and we have no shoulder problems.” Indeed Rich was a great advocate and teacher of the Olympic style lifts. He also sponsored a weightlifting club on campus which won the collegiate nationals several years in a row. His programs for all his athletes included plenty of heavy overhead work including push presses, jerks, overhead squatting,…etc. He had several football players who regularly used over 180 kg. in jerking from the rack and overhead supports.

While that seemed like it was almost too simple, over the years I have seen the wisdom of his response. Heavy overhead work stimulates the complete shoulder complex keeping the musculature in proper balance and stabilizing the joint. It is not the purpose of this article to delve deeply into the anatomy of the shoulder, but it suffices to say it is a relatively fragile ball and socket joint. The ball of the humerus is held in place in a shallow socket formed by the scapula and clavicle by the small muscles known as the rotator cuff. The deltoid, pectoralis, latissimus, teres major, and even the biceps and triceps to a degree, support and make movement possible. It is important that each of these muscles is strengthened in the proper proportions to one another. Most shoulder pain and chronic injuries result from strength imbalances in these muscles which can lead to over use and impingement syndromes .

In setting up a program to strengthen this complex joint one can either attack each of the muscles individually with a variety of exercises involving rotation, adduction, abduction,…etc. with relatively light light weights, or one could stress the entire joint complex as a functional unit by over loading the over head position with heavy weights. Choosing the first option is sometimes necessary if there has already been an injury. However with a healthy joint, trying to work each muscle individually usually promotes an imbalance rather than correcting it. I like to use the chain analogy. If a chain could adapt to stress like the human body, you could strengthen it one link at a time, then put the links together. Or, you could stress the entire chain and allow each link to adapt in it’s place. I see the body in the same way. We can either strengthen muscles by isolating them, then attempting to use them in concert when completing tasks; or we can strengthen them by doing full –body, multi-joint exercises where they develop and adapt in harmony and balance. To me, the latter seems both more effective and efficient. Why not strengthen the shoulder complex with overhead work? Stressing the total complex insures balanced development and a functional result.

Heavy overhead rack supports require a total body adaptation from fingernails to toenails. Ivan Abadjiev, the coach of the Bulgarian weight lifting team was asked (by an American) what they do to strengthen their “core.”(an American buzz word) When he stopped laughing he said, “When you can hold nearly triple body weight over your head, you don’t need any extra work for your middle.” Remember the chain concept? Why not stress it all at once and let it adapt as a coordinated unit? I am really not against all core work or isolation exercises. I do believe they have their place, most particularly in rehab or correcting pre-existing strength imbalances. But I would make the argument that too often “strength coaches” have gotten so involved with these little exercises, that they forget the big ones that build real strength and power. It’s called sitting on a whale, fishing for minnows.


Another advantage of overhead work is that heavy push presses and jerks require an explosive leg extension activating the myotatic or stretch reflex. I believe these are as effective and easier on the joints than depth jumping or other plyometric movements, especially for larger athletes. Military presses, done without the leg thrusting is a great start. Progress to push presses which are initiated with a violent, explosive leg drive and allows greater weight to be used. The next step is Push jerks or Split jerks where the same violent extension initiates the movement. The weight driven over head while the legs are rebent or split fore and aft allowing the lifter to drop under and catch the weight. The final phase is over head supports in the rack, which allows one to support 100lb. or more than their best jerks overhead. This teaches the athlete to maintain a tight, rigid body as the weight is supported overhead.

A future article will describe these great exercises in detail.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Determining Volume, Intensity and Load for the "Olympic Lifts" While Training for Other Sports

By Oliver Whaley

I think we sometimes beat ourselves up in the weightroom doing these lifts, not necessarily because of doing the lifts themselves. But more so because we tend to push ourselves to go too heavy, or too heavy too often when doing them. Any lift done too heavy or done too heavy too often will result in some bodily breakdown and eventual injury. Volume, load, and intensity are highly individualized, but I think throwers especially have the tendency to push to the limit more often than not (what can I say we are competitors and its fun).

Here are some suggestions:

It would be better to work in a 60 to 80% (positive gains can be made at these percentages) range and focus on moving the weight quickly when these lifts are performed. Heavy singles can be mixed in periodically, occasionally heavy doubles or triples. But the majority of the time your doubles and triples should be done at lighter percentages and the heavy percentages done with singles. For a thrower there is no real reason to hit a total max single lift or attempt, when doing heavy singles it would be best to keep them in a 85 to 95% range and never miss a lift (it can be hard to control yourself though). Sets should best be kept to no more than six, excluding any warm-up and the repetitions no higher than three. Unless you’re working out of the hang position or doing pulls off the ground. Then going as high as five repetitions can be beneficial. If you’re trying to build a strength base, sets of higher rep pulls can be good.

Primoz Kozmus doing hang snatches at 125K

Mixing up sets between rapid sequence and clusters is also best. The quick lifts are done quickly and we should finish with them quickly also. It really shouldn’t take more than 20 to 25 minutes to finish with this part of your workout. If it takes longer than this, then either the intensity or volume, or both are probably too high.

Here is one last thought to take into consideration.

Most of time people base their percentages for doubles and triples off their single rep max. I think it would be better to base it off your best set of doubles or triples when doing doubles and triples rather than your best single. And if you don't know what that is, then just guesstimate.

How often a week your perform the lifts is highly individual and often comes through trial and error as each person recovers at different rates. I know some throwers that do them every lifting session, as for me, once a week I have found to be sufficient. But often the frequency in which they are performed is another area where people tend to weigh in on the "over doing it" side. Doing them less frequently when combined with all the throwing volume will probably leave you feeling fresher, more explosive, and with more reserve in the tank.

I think keeping these things in mind will help prevent ourselves from becoming overtrained, from over taxing our nervous system in combination with throwing volume, and help keep our bodies feeling fresh and avoid that beat up feeling that can sometimes come as a result of what we do in the weightroom.

Part Two: Discussing common arguments against the “Full Olympic Lifts”

Image result for rio weightlifting images
Weightlifters are some of the world's most amazing athletes.

By Oliver Whaley

This article is based on a more general audience than just the throwing community, but I still think anybody, including throwers can benefit in performance from doing the full lifts and also from just plain old having the ability required to do them. I know there is alot of opinion out there in this area and there have been many people in high levels of performance that have moved away from the lifts, such as Reese Hoffa. But I don't think there is a thrower out there that has reached some high performance level without including these lifts or at least building a good strength and power base with them.

This is the second article to, “A basis for using the Full Olympic Lifts in training.” In it I would like to discuss some of the common arguments in the world of sport training for not using the Olympic lifts in athletic training and why I think they should be a common base for any athletic training program.

I have it heard it been said that it takes too long to teach the full Olympic lifts correctly and an Olympic lift with poor technique isn’t safe or effective. Well I agree that poor technique in any lift isn’t very safe or effective for anyone. That is why we teach correct technique to our athletes from the beginning in anything we have them do (some may think this is a subjective statement, but their is a right way to do things and everything has a purpose and an end goal result). But let us remember that we are dealing with athletes here. Is it really that hard to teach an athlete a very simple, quick precision movement? We can’t seem to teach them how to do a proper clean or snatch but we can teach them how to do a proper deadlift? Or a proper front squat? In simplistic terms, my understanding is that a deadlift done correctly closely parallels a clean pull and the mechanical technique is largely the same. You want the athlete to have a rigid lumbar arch, a tight core, loose arms, and to initiate the movement with the legs, etc. The major difference here is one is done much more explosively than the other and with full hip and leg extension at the top of the lift. Also the deadlift is often done with an alternating grip where pulls and cleans are performed with an overhand grip.

So which is the more athletic movement here and which do you think might transfer more directly to an athletic event or game situation? I mean come on, if an athlete can learn how to rotational spin and throw a shotput, or learn the proper footwork and mechanics of a three step drop pass, then they can learn how to do a full clean or snatch in a shortened period of time. If we think otherwise wouldn’t we be underestimating the ability of our athletes? Or maybe we just underestimate our ability to teach the lifts correctly? I would argue that anyone who is seriously engaged in the strength and conditioning field would have some self mastery (were not all Olympic champions and not everyone comes from an Olympic Lifting background) of the Olympic lifts and would be able to correctly teach them and quickly see results in an athlete’s proficiency in performing them.

Each year in the small town of Kayenta, Az. Ollie Whaley, CSCS, gets around 200 new incoming students into his weight training classes at Monument Valley High School. Here they are taught the basic movements of the full Olympic lifts, which is the base of their training as most of these kids play sports. Here they get feedback on correct technique, especially being emphasized is the importance of starting each lift with a rigid low back arch and tight core. They receive help and guidance not only from himself as coach, but also positive feedback and influence from the upper classmen who have been in the program for a few years. Just watching the proficient upper classmen creates a great learning environment and atmosphere for the new students. By the end of the first semester most of these kids can perform the lifts pretty proficiently, getting better and better each year they are in the program. The weight room may be located in a small unknown town on the Navajo Indian reservation, but anyone who steps in it would be amazed at what is being done there. This type of system could be implemented on any level whether collegiate or professional.

I have also heard it been said that most athletes aren’t strong enough in the right places (posterior chain) or have the flexibility to execute the lifts properly. Well of course this would be true if they have never done the lifts before, that’s why we do them! To make them strong in the right places and to develop flexibility. If your athlete could not properly do an overhead squat that would be a good indicator that they have weaknesses that need to be worked on. Some of the biggest causes of injury are inflexibility, joint immobility, muscle and connective tissue weakness, and muscle imbalances. The inability of your athlete to perform the full Olympic lifts would be a good indicator they are lacking in these areas. Your athletes will be far better off for being able to perform the full Olympic lifts proficiently than avoiding them and trying to replace them with other lifts.

I have also heard it been said that the Olympic lifts put a lot of undue strain on the wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Again this would probably be true for an athlete who has never done the lifts before and a very good indicator that they are lacking in necessary flexibility and joint mobility. For a younger athlete the movement and positions of the Olympic lifts come naturally. For an older athlete, some discomfort is natural at first until the flexibility to do them is achieved. But any athlete would benefit from the flexibility and joint mobility it takes to do the lifts. Again if I had an athlete who could not perform an overhead squat correctly I would work with them until they could.

Well what about a college lineman or someone with a lot of upper body mass? Athletes like football lineman are already banging up their bodies on a daily basis and don’t need to place more stress on their joints in the weight room (Really the only time anybody puts undue stress on their joints and body in the weight room is when they lift too heavy, or lift too heavy too often. Any type of lift done heavy and too often will lead to some kind of bodily breakdown or injury eventually. But volume, intensity, and training load are not something I wish to address in this article as this time).

Well let’s take a look into the sport of weightlifting. Serge Reding, the Belgium weightlifter. At five foot eight he weighed close to 140 kilos with arms measuring 52 cm around. I don’t think there have been very many people to have walked this earth with as much mass packed on their frames as he had. And he had no problem hitting rock bottom to catch a snatch or clean.

The list of large mean who could proficiently do the full lifts from Russia’s Vasily Alexeev, to America’s Shane Hamman, to Iran’s Hossein Rezazadeh, goes on and on. (some may argue these guys have been doing it along time and have alot more experience than a college lineman who has never done them. That is true! But if that is your thought process right now you missing the point. The point is that even with as much upper body mass as say a college lineman may have, they can still achieve the flexibility to do the full Olympic lifts and they will be better off for having that flexibility.)

Our own American heavyweight lifter Shane Hamman has a standing vertical jump of 36 inches and at five foot nine can dunk a basketball with two hands. He can also easily touch his toes and even do a standing back flip. How many college or NFL linemen do you think can do that?

So you can’t tell me that a football lineman wouldn’t benefit from being able to do the full Olympic lifts! And for that matter any athlete would be better off for having the ability to do them.

Another great reason for having an athlete do the full Olympic lifts is they teach an athlete how to absorb impact. Which we know is a huge part of any sport, particularly football, and another good reason for a football lineman to be doing the full Olympic lifts.

In reference to power output, the amount of force your body can produce runs directly in correlation to how much force the body can absorb.

Muscle imbalances as stated earlier are another great cause of injury. One that should be avoided and never happen as a result of weight room training. With the correct performance of the full Olympic lifts, there is no chance for an athlete to develop muscle imbalances in the weight room. The Olympic lifts work an individual’s whole body through a full range of motion while both strengthening and stabilizing. Working partial movements, such as partial box squats, can set you up for muscle imbalances. The body was made to move through its full range of motion. While it is detrimental to push beyond the normal range of motion, it is also detrimental to chronically work in a restricted range of motion. Connective tissues shorten, improper firing sequences become ingrained, and strength imbalances develop. To develop optimal strength and mobility, full range training through the natural range of motion is best. The Olympic lifts provide this full affect.

In part one of this article, we already discussed the physiological affects these lifts generate far better than any attempt to duplicate them so we don’t need to touch on those topics again.

So in reality, any attempt to duplicate them another way is really just that. The Olympic lifts are not some intricate and complicated movement; they are simple, precise, and athletic. Any athlete would benefit from their proper performance and use in a training program.

Injuries and other circumstances can lead to reason for adaptation. We also lack greatly in qualified individuals to teach the lifts correctly in all levels of performance. Meg Ritchie Stone, throwing and coaching legend says, “There are no dangerous lifts, only dangerous coaches.” But in an ideal world, these should be the lifts of choice for any athlete in any power sport.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fixing Ripped Calluses

By Leif Arrhenius

As strength athletes, most of us have had the painful experience of ripping calluses on our hands and other parts of our body. I have had many calluses ripped off in my short athletic career and have had to learn how to adapt to and treat these injuries. I have a few steps that will help the healing process move along a little quicker, and allow you to get back to training sooner. I recently tore a callus off of the base of my right pinky finger doing hang snatches, and have used these steps to help get my hand back to shape. In this article I will mainly talk about hand calluses.

Of course it is better to prevent calluses from ripping, so here are some steps to help prevent that from happening-

*The best way to take care of your hands during a workout is to minimize any damage in the first place by finding the best technique available for whatever activity you’re engaged in.
*After every workout wash your hands with soap and water. If used, thoroughly wash off any chalk as soon as possible. Chalk dries the skin and makes it less pliable.
*Apply a moisturizing lotion to the front and back of the hands. Frequently use lotion on your hands.
*Regular use a file or pumice stone will reduce the size of calluses. Don't file too much because your hands still need tough skin there for protection.

But when a tear does happen, (which it frequently does if you are a frequent lifter/thrower/ or athlete) here are some steps and items I have found to help me out-

Supplies needed- Mueller Germa-Tan, Cramer Nitrotan, New-Skin Liquid Bandage- Second Skin Blister Squares, And any type of a knuckle bandage.

*The first thing to do is remove the excess skin carefully with clean scissors or even nail clippers.
*Then it is important to clean and disinfect the cut. Soap and water is good.
*When the cut is dry I would then use Germa-tan or Nitrotan on the cut. Germa-tan and Nitrotan are both disinfectants that also contain tannic acid. Tannic acid actually "tans" the skin and helps with stopping bleeding and closing up the wound. The only problem with Nitrotan is that it comes in a yellow color and when used on the skin, it dyes yellow. What I would do is get a small piece of gauze and spray either of the tans until the gauze is loaded. Then I would put that on the cut with a piece of plastic over it and cover with a knuckle bandage. This will keep the liquid on the cut for an extended period of time. I would apply pressure on it every so often so that the liquid is sure to get on the cut. The liquid should cause a stinging feeling, but don't worry that just means it's working. When the cut stops stinging more spray can be added. I like to put these sprays on right after the cut happens and leave it on until night time. The spray can be applied every hour or so depending on what you like.
*During night time I like to leave the cut open or just have a band aid on. When more skin starts to grow I like to put lotion on before I go to bed so my hands and the new skin don't dry out.
*During the day and while doing physical activity, I like to dress my cut in a different way. First I spray the cut with either G-tan or N-tan to disinfect the cut and wait for it to dry. I then apply 1-2 coats of New-Skin Liquid Bandage on the cut and let it dry. I then apply a square of Second Skin blister pads over the area and cover with a knuckle bandage. I like to spray the area around the cut with pre-tape spray or skin tuffner so the band aid stays on better. If I am not working out during the day I leave the bandage like this. This helps with the healing process, stops the skin from being rubbed, and provides protection for the cut from being poked etc. If I am training or working out, I like to tape around my palm with athletic tape ( I like the stretchy kind) so that it covers the band aid and the cut. This allows me to still practice and not have pain or re injury to the cut.
*Once new skin has covered the wound continue using hand lotion as described above. If allowed to dry up, the skin will crack and continue to tear in the same spot.
* I repeat this process everyday until it's not needed. Using these steps I have found that I can have a callus fixed in about a week and can return to normal activity.

Another product that might work is superglue. I know some people that like to use superglue on their callus cuts, but I haven’t found much success in using it.

I believe that these steps can help not only with hand calluses but also calluses found on other parts of the body. The spray works well on all other types of cuts and abrasions and the second skin is grate for blisters. I hope this advice can help you all in your training.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What is Sport Specificity? Do we misapply training principles?

Volleyball athletes often have to hit a "full squat" position.
By Oliver Whaley

What prompted this article was a recent statement from a college professor about training volleyball players that I had heard while in a weight training prescription class at BYU. It got me thinking about the whole sport specificity topic in weight room training. These are my opinions and I am open for feedback and criticism so feel free to post any comments.

Sport specificity has become a huge topic of conversation in sport training. Finding ways to best mimic the specific movement of our sport particularly in the weight room in hopes of achieving some high rate of transfer has become the “Holy Grail”. I like variation, variation is good. It makes things fun, keeps things interesting and prevents us from becoming stale. I like to add exercises into my training that work the large and small muscle groups of my body in ways that mimic the positions of my specific event (such as the hammer drill variations I posted). Instead of doing standard dumbbell rows or bent over rows I may do them standing using a cable machine. Why? Because when I throw the hammer I am on my feet countering the weight of the ball and its fun to add variation to basic strength movements.

But really, how much is too far? And how much really is transferable to the event itself? I firmly believe that the only real sport specific movement is the movement of the sport itself. Although you can mimic the movement, anytime you change position of the movement to adjust to a heavier or lighter weight or when adapting a specific exercise to the movement. The positions of the movement change and the mechanics change also, even if it is just slight. The only real way to train a specific movement is to do the movement itself. So for hammer throwing it would be throwing the hammer. I am not saying there is no benefit to doing other movements that mimic the event and overload specific positions of the event in the weight room. But I think we place far too much emphasis on this whole "sport specific" concept. The foremost purpose of weight room work is to get strong, develop power, and then learn to apply that to our event through practice of the actual event itself.

Efficient transfer of the power into a given movement can only happen through precise technique and in the case of throwing, precision technique at maximal speed. There is a point where strength and power levels become sufficient that they don't really impact the distance of the throws anymore. Then concern should be on maintaining the strength and power levels that have been gained in the weight room over the years and continuing to focus on developing precision technique.

I think it then becomes more of a necessity to add some variation or more sport specific movements in the weight room to keep the body feeling fresh, for fun, and to avoid injury of heavy lifting. And yes they do have their benefits. It is impossible to train at heavy loads without experiencing some bodily breakdown. Generally you can't overload the muscles on more sport specific movements than say heavy squats or cleans. These movements should focus on using lighter weights and moving them quick. I had a professor once talk about training a volley player by having her do squats at 2% under the angle at which she jumped up for a block and never going past parallel. Why? Because of the principle of specificity he said. But why would you do that? Why wouldn't you just develop dynamic strength through the full range of motion?

There are several problems with this professor’s statement. First, it is a gross oversimplification to take one aspect of sport performance, such as a volleyball player blocking at the net, and focus on that one movement. What happens when the opposing player tips the ball back? Then this volleyball player (or one of her teammates) will have to quickly drop into full squat-like position to get under the ball and dig it to keep it in play. I once had a football coach tell me that since football players never get into a full squat position, he only has his players do quarter squats. That is fine until an outside force, like another player (or two or three) makes contact and drives him into a position below a quarter squat.

There are several factors that need to be considered in program design and exercise selection. One of them is injury prevention. ACL injuries among female athletes are a huge concern. There is plenty of research showing that muscle imbalances are a common factor when these injuries happen. Partial movements, such as quarter squats are an excellent way to develop imbalances. The body was made to move through its full range of motion. While it is detrimental to push beyond the normal range of motion (think lumbar spine injuries in female gymnasts), it is also detrimental to chronically work in a restricted range of motion. Connective tissues shorten, improper firing sequences become ingrained, and strength imbalances develop.

To develop optimal leg strength and mobility, full range training through the natural range of motion is best. Of course, at times injury or other factors may call for adaptations, but whenever possible full range movements are preferred. Saying that this sport stance or position only requires this range of motion is like saying my rent, car payment, and grocery bill equals X amount each month. That’s all I need. Does anyone have too much money? Why limit strengthening to a partial range of motion?

Back to the volleyball example, if I were trying to help a player improve his or her blocking strength, I would include push presses in the program. That develops the short quick myotatic reflexive explosion (quickly reversing direction and stimulating the stretch reflex) while simultaneously extending the arms overhead forcefully. I would also include full range squatting and pulling movements, both for injury prevention and for dropping down to get under spikes and tips at the net.

So maybe this would be a good time for all of us to evaluate our own weight room use. Maybe we all could benefit from simplifying things a little more in the weight room, spending a little less time there, and working movements through their full range of motion. Because the most important thing a thrower can do is throw. The weightroom is merely a piece in the equation. Work hard, but more importantly, work smart.
It is a very shortsighted oversimplification to say that football players never have to bend their legs beyond a quarter squat position.
Being able to hit these positions prepares your body for a wide range of activities.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Proper Form: Can You Handle It?

Some good advice to remember in our weightroom training, but also in the ring.

by Charles Poliquin

"You can’t handle the truth!" is the famous line Jack Nicholson barks to Tom Cruise in the military classic A Few Good Men. That expression comes to me whenever I see trainees not paying attention to proper form – they just cannot accept the fact that their technique sucks and is holding back their progress as well as putting them at greater risk of injury.

Individuals with low self-esteem refuse to live consciously. I remember this one mediocre bodybuilder who used to train at a top gym in Southern California. The guy insisted on using the full weight stack on every machine he used, and because he wasn’t built like Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman, his workout looked like a slapstick scene in a Jim Carrey comedy. Too bad I didn’t bring a Flip camera to the gym when I trained – that clown would have given me a lot of great material for America’s Funniest Home Videos. What a joke.

Delusional bodybuilders aside, I’ve found that trainees who use proper form usually have high levels of self-esteem. Their form reveals what they believe about bodybuilding and strength training:

1. Their interest is in progression, not theatrics. They’re not concerned about what another person thinks about them using lighter weights. They’re not embarrassed to perform rotator cuff exercises with a 2-1/2 pound weight plate if they believe it will prevent injuries or improve their bench press. I love to have these types of individuals attend my seminars on structural balance, such as my Level I and Level II PICP certifications, because they are willing to set aside their egos and learn the best ways to make continual progress in their training. Remember, it’s not where you start that matters; it’s where you finish that matters.

2. They lift for themselves, not to impress others (not that other people in the gym are going to care how much you can swing to straight arms in a triceps kickback). If performing a front squat with 195 pounds will do more for leg development than slapping on a half-dozen 45-pound plates to a leg press machine, then they will do front squats with 195 pounds.

3. They understand that lifting big loads with improper form will not help you lift big loads with proper form as quickly as lifting with proper form at all times will. Sure, squatting a few inches above parallel will enable you to lift considerably more weight, but the training effects are much greater when you perform the exercise correctly. (A great little device to keep athletes honest about their squat performance is the BFS Safety Squat, which attaches to the upper thigh and beeps when the athlete reaches a position where the tops of their thighs are parallel to the floor. For most trainees, you wouldn’t hear much beeping, judging by the way they squat.)

For those who are willing to open their minds and learn the truth, here are some practical recommendations about exercise performance that will help take your training to the next level.

1. Always look for ways to make an exercise harder, not easier. Weight is not everything. Bouncing the plates off the floor during a deadlift between reps will enable you to perform more weight with heavy weights, but pausing the bar on the floor between reps on the deadlifts creates more overload on the neuromuscular system. Arnold Schwarzenegger used to write about how he would focus on feeling the muscle when he lifted and that he wasn’t as concerned about how much weight he was using. In an article he wrote in 1976 about squats, he said, "...concentration lends its own form of resistance. By thinking I can direct the effort, I can make every movement count..." He was right. There is a very large difference between training for strength and size, and training to lift high loads explosively. These are two different goals; thus two different training methods are used.

2. Never sacrifice style for increased poundage. I know individuals who have increased their bench press by 60 pounds in just one month – seriously! They do this by changing their form, and the result can be proven mathematically, as follows:

(Lifting hips off the bench = 25 pounds) + (Bouncing the bar in the bottom position = 10 pounds) + (Increasing width of grip = 10 pounds) + (Not extending to lockout = 15 pounds) = 60 pounds.

Rather than degrading your lifting technique to use more weight, I recommend changing the exercises you perform approximately every six workouts. The idea is that when you are just about to hit a plateau, it’s time to move on to another exercise. I remember being in New Zealand about 17 years ago, and it seemed that EVERYBODY in the gyms where I trained used 225 pounds on the bar for bench presses – it was like if you did not use that much weight you were not a man. You should have seen the numerous "interpretations" of what constituted a bench press. Those ridiculous exercise variations were more like "Supine Two-Arm Anyhows" or "Spastic Push-Aways." Likewise, I saw one especially interesting pull-up technique in a Copenhagen gym – let’s see...try to imagine an accordion with epilepsy!

3. Lower weights more slowly than you lift them. When weight training, you control the weight; the weight does not control you. Even though you can use more weight during eccentric contractions than during concentric contractions, you only recruit about half the muscle fibers when lowering a load – so the actual tension on the muscles recruited is double. There is also evidence that a slower lowering of the load is associated with greater growth hormone output, thus allowing better tissue adaptation. As a result, you benefit more by maximizing the overload on the eccentric portion of every rep.

During my PICP courses I always have the students perform exercises with long, eccentric tempos so they can experience this type of training firsthand. And because soreness is associated more with eccentric contractions than with concentric, the next day there are a lot of aching muscles!

Soreness never lies. If you aren’t feeling it, it isn’t working. That’s the truth about getting the most from your workouts. Can you handle it?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

72 years old and still throwing far!

Here are 2 recent videos of former 6x world record holder L Jay Silvester throwing the discus. He is 72 years old and still likes to fool around with the 1kg discus every once and a while. I believe he has the world record for age group 70-74. He is throwing on a mondo surface with tennis shoes on...(that would kill my knees :)) He is in great shape for a guy his age and I hear he can still squat some good weight.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Way of the Warrior, A Call to Arms

By Ollie Whaley

More on what it means to be a Warrior!

Every culture that survives has a warrior society of some sort that accepts the charge to protect and provide for their wives and children. Native American tribes almost universally had warrior societies along with many other societies world wide. Such as the Vikings, Samurai, Celts, Saxons, Gaels, Spartans, Huns,…..etc.(more than this humble PE major can remember) These were men (and sometimes women) who dedicated themselves to being prepared to defend their homes against outside threats and to go forth and conquer their enemies. They developed and practiced the skills necessary to do so. Warrior skills were primarily physical as many types of weapons and fighting methods evolved.

It is not hard to see the influence of this warrior culture in many of our modern day athletic activities. What we here in the U.S.A. call “Track and Field” (Athletics to most of you), consists of events that prepared citizens for battle. Running, jumping, clearing barriers, and of course, throwing dangerous object (my favorite) all were warrior skills. It seems that athletics, in many ways, is the modern day warrior training which leads the way in preserving the physical health and strength of our respective societies.

I have spent my entire career of nearly 30 yrs. on the Navajo reservation in Northeastern Arizona. (U.S.A.) The Navajos have survived here in this harsh high country desert for nearly 1,200 years. They not only survived the rugged environment, but also attacks from neighboring tribes, Spanish soldiers, and the U. S. Calvary. It is estimated that there are more Navajos living today than at any other time in history. Adversity did not decimate them, it strengthened them. However today they are facing a new enemy that is at least as deadly as the enemies of the past. This new enemy is relative prosperity and a sedentary lifestyle. Of course the Navajos are not alone in facing this enemy. There seems to be a worldwide attack on real manhood and physical strength.

Recent data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Navajo Tribe indicate a sharp rise in childhood obesity and the accompanying problems which include diabetes, low self-esteem, and heart disease. Here in the United States, the advent of No Child Left Behind and it’s reliance on standardized testing has increased the seat time for most school children and thereby decreased the activity or movement time, contributing to the obesity problem.

Despite recommendations from the Center for Disease Control, the United States Surgeon General’s office, and other public health organizations that children should have 60 minutes of physical activity daily, many schools are cutting back or eliminating physical education programs and recess.(Center for Disease Control and Prevention) This cutback in physical education programs along with the decreased opportunity for physical activity during the school day is spawning a nationwide increase in childhood obesity with all its attendant problems. Obesity and diabetes are reaching epidemic proportions.

Our children are growing up in a world where almost everything happens instantly. You pull up to a fast food drive-in and get your order right now. Need information? Get on the internet and you can access whatever you need instantly. Need to purchase something? Go online, press a few keys and it’ll be at your door in hours. “Welcome to the 21st century”, we say. It really is an exciting time to be alive.
Well, guess what; our bodies still function and thrive on the types of activity that our ancestors performed since the beginning of time. In spite of all of our technological advances, there is no short cut to physical fitness and strength. Our bodies still crave strenuous physical activity and in spite of the constant stream of infomercials and multi media advertising selling us the contrary, we still cannot get fit in “A few easy minutes a day” or from a bottle or jar of some secret formula.

True fitness and strength can only be won through consistent hard work over an extended period of time. It has always been that way and it always will be. As warriors we understand that. We are the last stronghold to preserve and promote this knowledge and attitude to future generations. When we train hard we are preparing in the same way that our ancestors did in order to pass their genes on to us. Wherever we are (this site has readers from around the world); we are here because our ancestors were strong enough to survive. What will we pass on to our posterity? As always, it is the warriors who defend and perpetuate their culture.

No child should be left on their behind.


Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical activity for everyone: Guidelines children Retrieved from http://www/cdc/gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/children.html

Chesworth, Elaine (1982) The role of the school in physical activity and sport for children, Children and Exercise: Cumberland College, N.S.W, Aus. pp.91-97

Diabetes in American Indians and Alaska Natives: The diabetes epidemic. Retrieved from: www.niddk.nih.gov

Kirkendell, Don R. (1985) Effects of physical activity on intellectual development and academic performance: Effects of Physical Activity on Children; American Academy fo Physical Education Papers No. 19: Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL pp.49-58

NEA Today, March/April 2009, All Work, No Play pp. 15

NHANES data on the Prevalence of Overweight Among Children and Adolescents: United States 2003-2006. CDC National Center for Health Statistics. Health E-Stat.

Rowland, Thomas W. (1990) Exercise and Children’s Health, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL pp.129

Sage, George H. (1984) Motor Learning and Control, A Neuropsychological Approach, Wm. C. Brown Publishers, USA pp.250

Wolfe, Patricia (2001) Brain Matters, Translating Research into Classroom Practice, ASCD, Alexandria, Virginia pp.3-50

Monday, December 7, 2009

Weightroom Hammer Drills for Variation

By Oliver Whaley

Here are a few weightroom throwing drills for all the hammer throwers out there. Most of these you have seen before, just my own twist on it. The goal is to maintain good posture and use your legs, hips, and stomach muscles to initiate the movement and decelerate it on the opposite end too. The big twist here is to keep your arms long and rather than just twisting at the trunk with feet planted. Rotate your lower body using your hips, legs, and stomach like you would in a throw (turning heel to toe also) and learn to feel the muscles involved with accelerating the movement. Try to maintain correct hammer position and keep the weight arms length chest high throughout the drills. You can play with different weights and drill speed. These have really helped me to feel stronger on the right side and to learn to better feel the key muscles involved with pushing the ball on the right side too. It also helps to bring your throwing shoes to the weightroom for these because its hard to turn in weightlifting shoes lol. I have a few more I didn't get a chance to video, but will post them later. Comments, feedback, and discussion is welcomed.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gerd Kanter

Here are 3 random videos of Gerd Kanter training. I was fortunate enough to spend some time working out with him 2 summers ago. One of the throw vids has a throw of his over 70m. He is benching 190kg in the bench press vid. He is not super strong in the weight room like some other world class throwers but he has tremendous throwing strength and excellent technique. Any thoughts??-LHA

Friday, December 4, 2009

What makes a true "WARRIOR"?

By Oliver Whaley

This site is here to bring knowledge to help those in training, but also to bring out the true warrior in each of us. Here's a little bit of thought that may help you in your quest to train like a warrior and perform like one too.

What is a real warrior? What does it mean to be a warrior? As I think about this a story comes to mind. When my mother’s grandfather, Jones Sombrero (Navajo Indian), was in his mid-teens or so, he had been out with his brother away from his family’s camp. While away, they spotted a group of raiding Ute warriors on horseback, they were headed towards the family camp. At the time the U.S army enlisted the help of the Ute’s in the war against the Navajo’s, paying money for each scalp they would bring in. The men of the village had left earlier to hunt wild game, leaving the young men such as Jones and his brother in charge of protecting the family. The boys knew what their responsibility was and weren’t afraid to do it. They waved down the Ute warriors and caught their attention. Upon being spotted they began to be pursued by the Utes. As they ran, leading the Ute’s away from the family camp, Jones was shot in the abdomen (Gun not arrow…lol). Quickly he grabbed a piece of cactus and stuffed it in the wound to stop the blood. After leading away the Utes they approached a cliff they knew was nearby. When they reached the cliff, the two boys jumped, landing in the sand dunes below (it was a pretty high cliff). When the Ute’s came to the edge of the cliff all they could do was throw stones and roll rocks off at the boys who were hiding below. After awhile, they finally left, and the family was safe. The canyon were the cliff is located is now called Jones Canyon after my great grandfather.
My great grandfather and his brother knew what they had to do, they were ready to do it, if they had fear, it didn’t show, because they overcame it, and they performed their duties under pressure when it needed to be done most. My great grandfather and his brother were also smart, they knew they couldn’t fight the Ute warriors, they were outnumbered, but they could divert them away from the family camp. They knew the land, they knew were the cliff was, they knew what was at the bottom of the cliff, so they were able to make a quick decision and carry it out. Even with the pain of my great grandfather being shot, they didn’t give up, but finished their duty. They could have easily let fear overcome them and decided there was nothing they could do for their family and let the Ute’s continue on. Or they could have wasted time trying to figure out what to do, instead of acting quickly on instinct from their knowledge (of the land) and experience (warrior training). Or after being shot, my great grandfather could have rolled over and given up. Thinking he was in too much pain, that he had tried his best, and there was nothing more he could do. Except hope that by begging for mercy the Ute warriors would not slit his throat and take his scalp. But they didn’t do that. They were raised to be warriors, to take some pride in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities as men. And to have courage in doing it, overcoming any fear they might have, while using their knowledge, experience, and instinct to act, and act quickly when needed. And at times overcoming pain and pushing on until the job was done.
Those are warrior qualities. We don’t live in the 1800’s where being a warrior was just a part of surviving everyday (a reason to be thankful for the times we live in). But we all face our own challenges in life and in sport also. It is being able to prepare smart by training smart, both physically and mentally (mental preparation often sets great warriors apart from others). Being able to overcome the temporary pain that is sometimes associated with hard work. And then being able to have confidence in our preparation, to have courage in our ability to perform, and to overcome any fears that we might have, and then going out and being able to perform under pressure, making adjusts and acting on instinct when needed, and then succeeding that makes us a real warrior. A modern-day warrior. Let us all strive to prepare like a warrior and to perform like one too, especially when it counts the most.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Part One: A basis for using the "Full Olympic Lifts" in training

My brother Orrin performing a snatch at the Utah State Championships a few years ago.

This is part one of a two part article based on my opinions advocating the use of the full olympic lifts, not only in training for the throwing events, but in any power sport. This is sort of a follow-up to the previous post on weight training for the throws. Comments, ideas, contradictions are welcomed from either post. Either post it in the comment section, to the shout chat box, or feel free to email me @ oliverwhaley@yahoo.com.....also stay tuned...we hope to post more training ideas, videos on training, throwing drills, etc in the future...keep checking back.....thanks

By Oliver Whaley

Lately, I have been reading many interesting articles and points of views pertaining to the Olympic lifts and their use in training athletes. A lot of people say that the lifts are nothing more than a means to reach triple extension and that there are other ways to achieve this such as jumping, bounding, squat jumps, box squats, kettle bell swings, tire flips, etc.

People have various opinions and stances on training, but I think the biggest factor is to find what works best for you in your given event and in your own personal goals. There are so many different ideas and principles in the world of strength for training athletes in power sports, from Louie Simmon’s Westside philosophy to the whole stability ball, “functional strength”, and sport specific movement… etc.

As for myself, I am a huge advocate of the Olympic Lifts. They’re athletic, they’re powerful, they’re precise and yet each lift is really one simple movement that activates everything between your fingernails and your toenails. They can be very addicting too. It just feels good to hit rock bottom and catch a snatch over head or stand up with a heavy clean and stick the jerk. And they just plain ol’ work! I’m not talking about power cleans or power snatches, but the lifts in their full form. I think they’re an excellent exercise not just for athletes, but for anyone, including your grandma. I remember watching 85 year old Mel Katz compete while a member of Peaks Weightlifting Club in Flagstaff, Arizona. Most 85 year olds are just trying to get out of bed. By the time you hit 25 years old, if you haven’t regularly used or overloaded your fast twitch muscle fibers they begin atrophy. They continue to atrophy if not overloaded, more and more each year until finally you can’t even get yourself up out of your favorite TV chair. Then before you know it, you’re 85 years old, stuck in a nursing home bed being spoon fed jello.

The physiological workings of the human body are truly quite amazing.

We know that strength is the ability to exert a force. Force is equal to mass times acceleration. The basis of all motion is force. All activities in life require the movement of an individual or the ability of an individual to set a given piece of equipment in motion. Like getting up out of our favorite TV chair or the ability to pick up a hammer and drive a nail into the wall, or better yet with your bare hands!

And then you have power, which is equal to force times velocity. Power is the rate of work we are able to accomplish in a given unit of time. By increasing a person’s power output you can increase the probability of athletic success in any given event. A 60’ foot shot putter is now able to throw 65’ feet. An 11 second hundred meter sprinter is now able to run 10.5 seconds. The greater we can manipulate power output the bigger results in improvement will be.

It would be nice if increasing power was as easy as it looks on paper. We would all be Christian Cantwells or Usain Bolts, winning medals and breaking records. But every athlete has his or her own genetic capabilities and limits. What makes a successful training program is being able to help each athlete reach their maximal potential, even going beyond it, while avoiding injury and enjoying the journey. So what we choose to do in any allotted training time, i.e. types of lifts, volume, intensity, etc., is of optimal concern. We want to choose the things that will help us to safely achieve the best results with the least amount of effort and/or time.

There are only two ways to increase an athlete’s ability to generate power. Increase the strength of the muscles that exert the force or increase the velocity of the movement being made.

While the exact physiological cause of increased strength is not known, we do know where the possible sites of adaptation can take place.

In the nervous tissue, changes in the nervous system can result from the effects of a proper stimulus. As a result of neural adaptation, an increased neural drive to the muscles, an increase in the synchronization of motor units or an inhibition of the protective mechanism of the Golgi tendon organs can occur. All of which would allow your body to react faster and produce more power over time.

In the muscle tissue, hypertrophy (the increase in cell size) or hyperplasia (the splitting of the cell) can occur. When we strength train, we stretch the muscle which then signals the body to release the hormones that lead to hypertrophy (muscle growth).

In the connective tissue (the transmitter of force), as a result of a heavy stimulus overload, adaptations can lead to an increase in collagenous fibrils, making your connective tissue stronger.

In the skeletal tissue, an increase in the density of the bone can result from strength training due to an increased deposition of mineral salts in the skeletal tissue. Bone modeling is a response to mechanical loading by application of a weight-bearing force which causes the bone to bend, thus creating a stimulus for new bone formation at the regions experiencing the greatest deformation.

The Sports Science Exchange gives these qualifying characteristics of a bone-building exercise:

It should involve faster, rather than slower, movement

It should exceed 70% of maximal capacity

It should involve some type of impact

It should involve a variety of muscle groups and movement direction.

It should be closed kinetic chain activity. (standing on your feet)

And then there are the factors that can affect speed. You can improve the power to weight ratio. You can develop better mechanically advantageous techniques in your given event (good technique is important in anything we do!). You can decrease resistances to movement by losing fat, improving joint mobility, increasing flexibility, etc. You can train the central processing mechanisms of the stimulus-response component (fast twitch muscle fibers) to react faster. Or you can maximize the awareness of signals (cues to attend to).

Now, after examining the physiological properties of the body and how adaptations take place, we can ask ourselves, what movement in sport best facilitates these factors in promoting the generation and production of power as well as the positive adaptations we seek in performance and body composition?

Yes, I would say the Olympic lifts are an amazing fit. There is a reason why Olympic weightlifters are some of the most powerful and amazing athletes on the planet.

What other lift or movement in sport overloads and stretches the whole bodies muscular system (not only forcing the large muscle groups to fire but sending a chain reaction throughout the body to every muscle) to the point of hypertrophy, while also promoting an increase in the collagenous fibrils of the connective tissue, while also meeting the criteria for a bone-building exercise, while also training the nervous system for optimal response along with training the body to move in precision at maximum speed (mechanically advantageous techniques), at the same time requiring enormous flexibility and joint mobility while being safe (if done correctly with good technique) and able to produce results in the least amount of time and with less effort than combining a bunch of exercises in hopes of manipulating the same results?

And in what sport do athletes have a greater power to weight ratio than Olympic lifters?

So why would we not incorporate these lifts into our training programs?

In the next article I am going to play the role of antagonist to many of these common arguments against the use of the "Full Olympic Lifts" for training athletes of all levels of performance.

Al Feurbach world record holder in the Shotput and National Weightlifting champion.
Smart athletes like my sister Deezbaa use the lifts as big part of their performance enhancing toolbox.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Weight Training for Throwing

By Ollie Whaley, CSCS

For the modern day thrower, resistance training, or lifting weights, is a major component of training. At the post high school level any competent thrower who doesn’t lift would surely be a rare exception. A statement that we hear often is, “We want to develop throwers, not weightlifters”. Fair enough, training throwers exactly like weightlifters wouldn’t be optimal. However, weightlifters and throwers do have a lot in common.
There are some important similarities in the two sports. Both require maximum explosiveness combined with some specific flexibility and ability to move quickly with precision. Weightlifting consists of two lifts, the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk which are done for 3 attempts each. So a weightlifting competition consists of 6 single attempts of maximum effort. Of course a throwing event follows that same pattern. It makes sense that throwers and weightlifters would share a great deal of training commonalities.
That being the case, there are a few select athletes who have excelled in both sports. Al Feuerbach may be the foremost example as a world record thrower who won a national championship in weightlifting also. But others who reached high levels competing in both sports include Ken Patera, Bruce Wilhelm, Gary Gubner, Kevin Coleman, and others of whom I may have forgotten or am unaware of. It is also not at all uncommon for competitive lifters and throwers to train together as the demands of their sports are so similar. I have a picture in my weight room of George Frenn (hammer thrower)spotting Phil Grippaldi (weightlifter) as he squats in Munich prior to the 1972 Olympics which they were both competing in.(as shown below) Harold Connolly also mentions training with the weightlifters at Olympic and Pan-Am championships. The two sports are closely knit.

On the other hand there are important differences as well. In weightlifting the objective is to lift the maximum amount possible, while in throwing the objective is to throw a relatively light weight for maximum distance. It is not who can throw the heaviest weight a fixed distance.

With these similarities and differences in mind, we would like to offer some guidelines for effective weight room training for throwing.

Here are some concise, basic guidelines I would recommend.

1. Once a basic strength foundation is built, power, not strength, is the highest priority. Since the competition is not to see who can throw the heaviest weight a set distance, but who can throw a set (and relatively light) weight the farthest; speed of release is the major component that can be affected by weight training. (Women’s implements are even lighter and therefore more speed driven) While it is true that an increase in force production (strength) is a big factor in increase rate of force production (power), there must consistently be a focus on moving the weights quickly.
2. Power is best achieved with olympic style lifts and their variations. Variations can include lifts from the hang above the knee, hang below the knee, pulls from the floor or blocks,…etc. Repetitions in the quick lifts should rarely exceed 3 and never exceed 5. Singles and doubles should be used often. The reason for the lower repetition range is that these explosive lifts tax the neuromuscular system and both speed and technique break down with higher reps. The result is counterproductive in terms of performance and dangerous in terms of safety. I cringe when I see high repetition (6 reps or more) sets of snatches or cleans. If the goal is to build endurance,(which is not really what throwing is about) then other movements are more appropriate.
3. Throwing is done in single attempt fashion with breaks in between. Sometimes the breaks can be long. Training with “clusters” or sets of single attempts should be a part of the training program. This develops that ability to exert maximum effort repetitively with breaks in between. Throwing is performed one throw at a time, not in sets of multiple throws one after the other in rapid fire fashion. Train to develop the qualities you need in competition.

4. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” program. The program needs to be tailored to the needs of each individual, taking into consideration the training backround, body proportions, recovery ability, past injuries, inherent strengths and weaknesses, work and school schedule…etc. Once a program is formulated, then continual adjustments need to be made according to the immediate circumstances.

5. Listen to every one, worship no one. There are so many “gurus” out there. I have learned a great deal from many other coaches, but I never buy completely into any “system”. The art of training and coaching is being able to understand basic principles and apply them to individual situations. You cannot copy success out of a single book or find it in a bottle. Become your own coach.

6. Coach technique, not just effort. Throwers (or any athlete) should be as fanatical about lifting technique as they are about the technical aspects of their event. Good lifting technique maximizes results and prevents injury. Learning to always keep a rigid lumbar arch and a tight core is vital to success in lifting and throwing. Sufficient flexibility in wrists, shoulders, and ankles is also a necessity in lifting and a plus in throwing. Being able to perform a full overhead squat with flat feet is a good flexibility screen. If I had an athlete who could not perform an overhead squat properly, I would work with them until they could.

7. Weight training needs to be balanced with the throwing workouts as power training and throwing are both stressful to the CNS and Endocrine systems. Don’t overdo heavy structural exercises like squats. Less can be more when combined with throwing. This takes both knowledge and experience to manage proficiently. This is why the ideal situation is to have a throwing coach designing the strength training programs. The amount of work that can be handled will vary greatly from individual to individual. Quality of work is more important than volume of work. Avoid overtraining and injury at all costs. It is better to be slightly undertrained than even slightly over-trained. If your weight room workouts leave you stiff and/or sore when it comes time to throw, you need to make some adjustments.

8. Training exercises and/or sets and reps need to be changed every 2-3 weeks. Everything works for awhile, nothing works forever. Variation keeps you mentally and physically fresh. Changes in exercises, sets and reps, and training times all add variation.

9. Recovery is a component of training. Make it part of your plan. Training is a three sided affair. The workout is a stressor that has the immediate effect of making your weaker. Our miraculous human bodies will rebuild and regenerate stronger than before IF it has sufficient building materials (nutrients) and time (rest, particularly sleep). All the hard work will be for nothing without adequate nutrition and rest.

10. Training should lead to improvement in distance. Never lose sight of that. If you are not throwing farther with less effort, then your training should be adjusted. If you are throwing farther, then resist the temptation to increase your training. It is too easy to get caught up in the weight room numbers. One advantage of adjustable barbells as resistance exercise is that they are so measurable, but one should never become a slave to the numbers. Having said that, it is a good practice to keep a training log of both lifting and throwing. That way you can evaluate and see patterns over time. You can more readily identify what is effective and what isn’t.

-Ollie Whaley, CSCS
Hammer thrower George Frenn spotting for weightlifter Phil Grippaldi in training hall at the 1972 Olympics.

Al Feurbach, world record holder in the Shot, won a national championship in weightlifting in about 1974.