Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lifting for Throwing Far

Oliver Whaley, 64' Weight, 65 m Hammer, Utah's Strongest Man

Below is a copy of an article that appeared in the May 2010 issue of Long and Strong. Unfortunately, this periodical is no longer being published. Glenn Thompson kept it going for many years, but the proliferation of information on the internet and it's immediate realtime coverage made the need for a magazine marginal. I miss the days when a getting a new issue of a magazine in the mail was exciting, but I also enjoy the infinite amount of information, current and historical, available to us now online.
Since a new Track and Field season is upon us, here is an article that should be relevant for throwing athletes.

Balancing Throwing with Strength Training, Avoiding Overtraining
Ollie Whaley, MA, CSCS
Oliver Whaley, Thrower, Brigham Young University
Deezbaa Whaley, Thrower, Brigham Young University

Training for the throwing events is unique in several ways, one being that throwing heavy implements, in and of itself, is a form of resistance training. This factor necessitates a balance between weight room work and throwing practice for effective preparation. Taking the Hammer for example; it has been reported that the force needed to counter an 80 meter throw exceeds 700 lb. Propelling Shots and Discs, and even Javelins all stress the body greatly. Thus a high level throwing session is actually a high volume resistance workout. In an effective program the total volume and intensity of all related work must be considered. If there is not a coherent relationship between the all aspects of training, the result could be poor performance, burnout, or the worst scenario, injury. Dr. Larry Judge, in his fine book on Conditioning for the Throwing Events , points out that poor throwing performances are usually a result of poor training practices. The long range planning of training can become very complex. A Volume Load Formula used in the former Soviet Union sports system quantified throwing stress as follows: Volume load(kg)=Number of throws X Distance (m) X 4.5 (a constant). (Oliveto, 2004) In this system the throwing volume would match the lifting volume as computed by: Kg Lifted X Repetitions.
Many modern strength and conditioning coaches would have us believe that you need a calculator or a computer to design training programs. While it is not our intention to disparage modern technology, it is our contention that if you need a computer to design training programs, you are not a coach, but a technician. We just don’t think it has to be all that complicated. If you have a basic measure of common sense, (maybe better termed UNcommon sense) some experience,(the more the better) and a basic understanding of exercise physiology you can do just fine.
We believe in keeping things simple. Too often we tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. It reminds me of an experience my daughter had as freshman thrower at BYU. She was working on the discus one afternoon when throwing legend LJ Silvestor came by and watched for awhile. As the session finished he asked her, “What is the most important thing for a thrower to remember”? She thought for minute, wanting to say the “right thing.” Having read much of what he has written and published on the subject of throwing; she answered meekly “rhythm?” He laughed and said “Throw far.” It really doesn’t have to be much more complex than that. Throwing greats Al Oerter and Hal Connolly both mentioned that a simple towel was one of their most influential coaches. They put it out on the field as a marker and tried to surpass it. When they did, they moved the towel and until they could surpass it again. While they doubtless also benefited from feedback from others, the bottom line is they learned what worked for them and became very independent and self-reliant athletes. When the athlete is able to understand and participate in the program design process, this is the optimal situation.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to any training problem, there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind.
These include:
Throwing takes priority over lifting in both time and energy.Whenever possible, throw first then lift afterwards. This insures that your full energy and focus are on throwing first. Use whatever time and energy resources you have left for your strength training. Throwing while you as fresh as possible. Throwing under fatigued conditions impairs CNS activity and can adversely affect motor patterns. Throwing is not an endurance activity and technical training in a fatigued state is counter-productive.
Always remember:

Strength training is secondary. It’s purpose is to support throwing.
If your weight room work is leaving you too sore or stiff to throw your best, then you need to reevaluate and adjust your volume and/or intensity. Strength training should be a stimulant to your throwing efforts. It is tempting to let numbers drive your strength training as it is so measurable. More reps and/or more weight = progress. The only progress that matters for a thrower is determined by a tape measure. Once a sufficient strength base is built, higher weight room numbers do not automatically lead to farther throws. In fact, maximal effort too often in the weight room is also counter-productive.
Of course the maturity and experience of the thrower must be taken into account. Younger scholastic age-level throwers need a lot of time throwing as they generally are still developing their technical skills. Their potential for improved performance by improving their technical skills is great. These beginning athletes are also in the midst of a growth spurt and are awash in growth hormones. Their strength levels are relatively low and for the most part they are not yet capable of real high intensity training. At this entry level, they can usually both throw and lift as hard as they are capable of without overtraining becoming a factor. (Of course there are notable exceptions, usually among those who will progress to the collegiate level.) Collegiate level throwers are comprised of the cream of the scholastic crop. These are athletes who have developed a more advanced technical mastery and higher strength levels. At this level greater care must be taken to coordinate both aspects of training. Generally at this level, throwing has become a year-around pursuit. Technical skills are being refined and strength increases are needed, especially for the men who are now progress to throwing heavier implements. There must be a connection and balance between the throwing and strength training workouts at this level. The ideal situation is to have the throws coach also designing the strength workouts. However, in the current collegiate environment many throwers are forced to work under the “Strength and Conditioning Staff.” In some instances there is open communication and it is a smooth and productive process. We have learned from sad experience that in other cases this can be an obstacle and a battle. Monitoring this can be as simple as coaches asking, “How do you feel today?” Simple observation can tell when an athlete is dragging and needs to back off on their lifting. Lower practice performance and competitive results are the final, indisputable indicator that an adjustment is needed. The Strength and Conditioning coach must communicate with and observe throwers while being constantly aware of their throwing results.
Post collegiate throwers are the most elite level. They are more technically mature and may not need as many throws, but the emphasis in on quality. Generally their strength levels are also highly developed. By this time they usually know their bodies well are able to organize and regulate their own training with feedback by invitation from trusted sources.
Bottom line:
You cannot ignore the physiological stress (neural and muscular) of throwing.
The total training stress can be numerically quantified and measured. However, quantifying the stresses does not insure that they will be managed correctly.The best results occur when the coach and athlete can communicate, observe, and adjust as needed. You don’t need a calculator to do that. In fact, overuse of the calculator or the computer to design programs only inhibits the process in our opinion. Effective coaching is an art that is practiced best when backed up by science. Relying on science alone is missing the true essence of coaching.
If an adjustment is needed, how does one effectively adjust their training? Again, there is no solution that is foolproof for all situations, but there are some general guidelines.
1. Do not practice full throws in a fatigued state. When the athlete is showing technical break down, it is time to stop throwing for the session. Continuing to throw under fatigued conditions usually results in ingraining bad habits and motor patterns.
2. Reduce lifting volume first. This can be accomplished by either reducing the number of sets, lowering the number reps, or dropping exercises. The right answer will depend on the situation. Generally during the competitive season the reps should be low. We like 3 or less. Only one set at the top weight is needed. Cut the exercises to the bare bones. Generally we like 2-3 exercises per workout with maybe a little stomach work.
3. Reduce lifting intensity next. If the athlete is still dragging reduce the intensity. Remember; 70-80% of 1RM is sufficient as a strength stimulus. Forcing your body to max in the weight room while maxing in your throwing will eventually lead to breakdown and the neuromuscular recovery process is slow. In the words of lifting legend Tommy Kono, “It is better to be under trained than even slightly over trained.”
Pretty simple really. Train hard, but train smart. Stay strong, healthy, and throw far.
Oliveto, Nils MS, CSCS (Oct. 2004) Establishing Volume Load Parameters: A Different Look in Designing a Strength Training Periodization for Throwing Events, Strength and Conditioning Journal pp. 52-55

Deezbaa Whaley 63' Weight, 190' Hammer, 160' Discus, Bodyweight 158 lb.

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