For Bondarchuk, everything is simple.

Is There a Perfect Technique?

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

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


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30 replies
  1. Dave
    Dave says:

    Great post! Very true, it is much more difficult to teach the athlete how to feel the forces because the coach must first understand the forces him/herself and then be able to relate the information in a usable way for the athlete.

    Reply
  2. w8coach
    w8coach says:

    A couple of things that I’m sure will rattle the cages of a few.

    If a perfect biomechanical model (not style) doesn’t exist, why do we do drills? You make the case for just throwing a letting the body solve its flaws by experiencing and adjusting to unseen forces. I absolutley agree that the body, and associated computer(brain) are extremely efficient sensory organs.

    Secondly, pedigrees are not the measuring rod I like to use. Education, and association seems to be supplanting intelligence and common sense here. I would rather figure the final objective (chanelling forces in the direction of the intended throw) and make associated movments that make this come to fruition.

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      In partial response to your question, we don’t do drills. So far this year, only one of Bondarchuk’s throwers has done something close to a drill, and it was actually a modified throw (winding with one arm before using both hands in the entry and throw). He prefers throws to drills because drills only focus on positions and do not mimic the real rhythm of the throw.

      In regard to your second comment, I’m not sure what you are trying to say. All I can add is that Bondarchuk’s method is the most common sense that I’ve worked with. His lifting is very common sense: do the exercises that correlate the best to the hammer throw. His technique is also common sense: find a way to push the hammer. That’s his final objective and all the other associated movements work towards that. In the end, it produced what biomechanists feel is the “model” of the hammer throw (i.e. Sedych).

      Reply
  3. Nathan
    Nathan says:

    I will first say to w8coach that I AGREE there are different ways to skin a cat, there are various beliefs systems in our event, sport and in any sport for that matter…but that is where my agreement ends.

    First off there is a major difference between “believing” something and “thinking” something – one is based on fact, the other is based on a feeling (not quantifiable)…a chat for another day – point is that it doesn’t necessarily lead you to results just because you believe it works. I believe I can clean 223kg…but I think I’m capable of 150kg.

    Having studied Dr. B’s stuff, thrown with his athletes, listened and observed him coach I think that there are two certainties:

    1. His approach and his record of um-teen world and olympic medallist and champions speaks for itself and …

    2. He believes in one way or another that there are two ways to throw (within the confines of biomechanics and physics)

    – THE BIOMECHANICALLY CORRECT WAY & THE BIOMECHANICALLY INCORRECT WAY. That…is…it.

    If you or any other Ringers want to dispute the work of Sir Isaac Newton – I’m free all day any day for that.

    There are less efficient and more efficient ways to get the same result (e.g. a measurement or performance) HOWEVER – one approach will have a much lower performance ceiling or potential than the other. I think which is which becomes pretty obvious, pretty quickly.

    Reply
  4. w8coach
    w8coach says:

    Well, since you’ve made this personal (my logic ends). Let’s examine this a little deeper. It is a little ridiculous to think that the best way to learn a fine motor skill, especially for the first time, at full speed. How can you expect to feel something if you don’t even know what you are searching for? Is this by the words of a mentor and just keep doing it until it is correct? You can find these feelings associated with the forces that were described in the article? I will say that if he can do that, it is beyond me but seeing is believing.

    As for the record, I am not challenging his record of accomplishments. Who would do that on such decorated people? But when every “best athlete is filtered in your direction, it makes your resume easier to fill. I don’t pretend to know the hammer and am willing to concede that to anyone. I’ve had limited coaching and no throwing experience with the implement. I have read his article on the discus and his statements about no need for the rt foot pivot or pivot in the center. I whole-heatedly disagree with this observation. That is not the issue I’m making here. I’m only suggesting that all coaches make biomechanical judgements on the way the body’s lever system works and not allegiance to a coach’s record. Again, not judging anything (other than the center pivot article) about Coach B, just attempting to challenge throwers to look deeper than the resume to find biomechanical answers.

    ps I’ve seen some biomechanical studies that were so incorrect because the people running them had no idea of the proper tech objectives of the throw in the first place.

    Reply
  5. Kibwé
    Kibwé says:

    w8coach, first lets start by saying a lot of the time with Dr. B’s interviews, there is no follow up questions in order to get more in depth answers. Or none is provided by him. In my experience, he just needs to be prodded a little more!

    I assure you if that line of questioning had been taken a bit further, he would have said what is most important concerning the center pivot is in fact the hip. The right foot can turn all day long, and the hip could lag behind. The foot does not produce the separation/force needed in the throw. Depending on the athlete, the right foot may or may not turn as a result. But he does NOT coach it.(I used to coach exactly how you described your contention with this topic. I don’t anymore)

    Another example may be with Yuri. I was apart of a clinic a few years ago and a coach asked him how he thinks about pushing the hammer. Yuri’s answer was of course over simplified leaving the guy with even more questions. He didn’t understand, why wouldn’t you think of this, this, and this when trying to push? Yuri said “when you eat, do you think of your arm, your shoulder and core while you put the fork to your mouth? I only think of hand” This isn’t an exact analogy, but it can relate in that you can’t sweat the small stuff! The arms, feet, knees, etc are all inconsequential when compared to the large muscle groups that actually produce the forces to move the implement.

    Reply
  6. Nathan
    Nathan says:

    1. Just because it’s a study, doesn’t mean it’s credible
    2. Just because it’d different doesn’t make it right
    3. Coaches can make whatever biomechanical decisions on their athletes’ levers that they want, in ANY throwing event they want, but at the end of it all they are STILL bound by the laws of biomechanics/physics regardless of what they want to try and apply.

    Dr. B wasn’t given athletes and by that virtue was good, they were good and became great when they worked with him. You argue that he was good because he was filtered athletes and that we hold allegences to him because of his record…I would rather argue that the success is the result of good technical work with athletes. It’s not a case of him being good because of his athletes’ and then his work being renowned because of his success…his success is a result of his technical prowess.

    If you’re not pretending to know, then don’t. But don’t argue the abstract (belief systems etc.) and then try to talk physics and biomechanics. You can do whatever you want to get to biomechanical goal, but some paths yield better, long tern results than others. So on the way to achieving that goal, try to find the means that will give you the highest possible ceiling of performance.

    I understand that you’re not challenging his record – but you are challenging the information, clearly the information when applied to athletes is working and working well…I don’t know what else to say.

    Reply
  7. JAB
    JAB says:

    As a coach there is always what you see on the outside and what the athlete is actually feeling. One of the reasons that some with less than “perfect technique” throw far is they have great feel for applying forces to the implement. Sometimes throwers have “good technique” but no feel. Reminds me of a person who when talking about musicians said that there were technicians and then there are artists. Artists probably have good technique but it is their feel for the music that separates them from the rest.

    Do any coaches have any tips for teaching athletes to feel the forces being applied to the implement. I sometimes ask shot putters throwing from a stand to throw easy throws with the shot with the shot off and a little bit above the shoulder. This helps them feel the forces building in the shoulder and then react to them. I ask beginning hammer throwers to do turns and throws while holding the hammer in their left hand only. The right hand is held parallel 8-12 inches from the left hand. I ask them to push on the air between the hands to accelerate the hammer.

    Love to hear what other people are doing.

    Reply
  8. thrower
    thrower says:

    Makes it easy to be a ‘great coach’ when you start with the best of the best genetically and athletically…and more on top of it.

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      Dr. B was given great talent, but he nourished it rather than squandering it. But remember that he also coached a lot of athletes their entire career. Other coaches that get talent still haven’t produced as many results. He also produced results in Kuwait (79m 20 year old) and Canada without the Soviet system.

      Coaches that squander talent in the NBA don’t last a year. Don’t you think the Soviet Union would have gotten rid of him quicker than that if he wasn’t doing the best job possible?

      Reply
  9. Ferdinand
    Ferdinand says:

    Some people with a great practical experience (and scientific knowledge), are gifted to translate, all their experience in one or two words. Dr. B. is one of them. I think that only people who had the opportunity to work with him understand this.

    Reply
  10. John
    John says:

    I love the last paragraph of your post, and look forward to the article. It speaks to the issue I wrestle with, I know the steps, but the dance doesnt go as well as it should. Going to take a lot to unlearn the little I do know…but I look forward to trying

    Reply
  11. james
    james says:

    Martin, I agree with much of what you have written here regarding developing world class throwers. I know Sultana Frizell a little from meets and training in Ottawa, and Dr. B has done an amazing job taking her from North American level to world level. I wonder though… no drills for beginners or intermediate level throwers??? I understand drills might be unnessisary to a veteran thrower who has a base of tens of thousands of throws, but to the high schooler, the newly converted discus thrower in college, or the part time Masters throw (me)I would think drills do benifit performance. Does Dr. B see his training regime extending to everyone?? If not at what point does he abandon drills?

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      At least for the hammer, he doesn’t even have the beginners doing drills. This is much different than what I was used to. When I learned the hammer I did drills upon drills to learn the footwork. I think his approach is that, unless there is a major flaw, it is best to start building that throws base. It is not that drills are useless, I just think he feels that throws are more beneficial. The competitive movement is the best of way to ingrain good habits so long as you have a good coach watching you and making sure you are developing good habits and not learning bad habits.

      In my opinion, drills may be a good tool for someone without a coach because you can slow things down and think on your own. Also, while I don’t have a lot of experience teaching youth hammer throwers, the kids I have worked with all seem to benefit the most from taking as many throws as possible and just getting comfortable with the 3-turn throw. Unless they have a major flaw, I stick to throwing and tweak everything slowly.

      Reply
  12. Dave
    Dave says:

    Does Dr. B take the same approach when coaching shot and discus throwers? Based on the little that I know about his system, I would think that he would consider different weighted implements to be drills, allowing the athlete to feel things differently through the throw.
    I’m anxious to see your beginners article. Would you take the same approach with an 18 year old beginner who has been emphasizing the weight room for the last 4 years, as you would with a 10 year old? I think it is much easier for an athlete to learn to feel the forces of the hammer before they have had much experience in the weight room.

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      Watching him coach Dylan Armstrong (21.04m) and Justin Rodhe (19.44m), it seems that he uses the same approach in the shot put. They don’t really do any drills, but throw a wide variety of implements.

      He doesn’t have as much experience coaching beginning hammer throwers with prior weight room experience, but I don’t think that would change his approach. It is easier to teach a 10-year old, but one of our throwers converted from the discus to the hammer after college and he had her in the ring throwing immediately and switched for from three to four turns within a few months.

      Reply
  13. AxeCoach
    AxeCoach says:

    This amazing stuff for me….I am a high school coach and am starting a Youth Hammer program and am curious about the no drill aspect as I sit somewhere in the middle here. And although Coach B’s sucess cannot be argued and has to be doing everything right, what do you guys consider throwing vs drills? Is it purely full throws Three and four turns or is there one and two turn stuff in there as well? And same with the shot, does he have Dylon do any standing throws or pauses or is it just pure live throwing?? Please keep writing on your training it is great insite!!!!

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      Once an athlete gets to being able to do 3-4 turns, I don’t think there is a place for doing one turn throws. The rhythm and technique are different and it doesn’t help the athlete much to do this. Dr. B is not alone in thinking this way. Harold Connolly has also put together a youth coaching guide that also recommends it: http://hammerthrow.com/technique/guidebook/default.asp. Harold. however, also recommends lots of turn drills, which is something I did a lot when learning and seemed to help me at the time. Dylan will do some stand throws, but mostly as a warm up and strength exercise. I think it is a bit different for the shot put since the throw can be broken up easier.

      Reply
  14. Sergej Litvinov Jr.
    Sergej Litvinov Jr. says:

    This is how we train. Dr B. knows a lot about the right technique and methodic and my father (Sergey Litvinov sen.) learn a lot from him.

    Reply
  15. Ray
    Ray says:

    Hi Martin, I am new to your website, having found it navigating youtube to find throwing videos. The discussions are great to read and I would not want to ever be the one to dispute Dr.B’s accomplishments. I believe he is the most knowledgeable coach in the world by virtue of his personal achievements as well as his coaching record. What puzzles me is why no one ever gives a difinitive statement about how to achieve hammer acceleration. If it is pushing with the right hand,driving with the right foot,dropping onto the right foot early,lowering the left shoulder on the entry, etc. why not jus say so plainly!! Surely, this would make it easier to disseminate information in a more practical way. It seems to me that someone needs to step-up to the plate and say: this is how you make the hammer go faster, and this is how you best counter the forces that you produce. I realize that this may be over simplifying the situation greatly but not all of us are scientists or biomechanists. Can’t someone like Dr. B write the most comprehensive work that is possible given the information currently at hand. I understand that just reading something is not the total answer, but at least it is a place to start! Sorry to be so long winded.

    Reply
  16. Disagree
    Disagree says:

    I think there are some very good points made by what Dr. B is teaching. But, I would only like to respond to Dr. B’s history. I think everyone is missing what his record is really saying. Why hasn’t he had another world record thrower since Youri? That’s a long time. Surely, he’s had enough time to train many other throwers. Aren’t they listening to him? The record hasn’t been broken since 1986? That has got to be one of the longest record in track & field history. 25 years? Here’s a question. If he didn’t coach Sedykh, would we even know who he is?

    Unfortunately, unless your an idiot, we all know why nobody has broken that record. And, it has nothing to do with Dr. B’s teaching.

    At best, he is a coach that has some good ideas.

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      Bondarchuk has never coached anyone better than Sedych, but has any other coached had coached someone to beat the record. If Bondarchuk had never coached Sedych, we would still know who he was. He was an Olympic champion, world record holder, a respected scientist, and a well-known author. He has coached other Olympic champions, record holders, and numerous men over 80 meters in the hammer and the current world leader in the shot put. Maybe you think his only accomplishment is Sedych, but that is ignorant. And even though the record was set in the 1980s, Sedych was far and away better than the Americans who were likely doped even more.

      Reply
  17. Nathan G.
    Nathan G. says:

    I know these comments are several months old so the argument has probably since settled. But I digress: Disagree, you might have said the most ignorant thing I have ever read on this forum. I have trained with Sedykh and he had a once in a life time understanding and grasp of the event.

    I would suggest going to ESPN.COM’s track and field page and reading the article they recently published about Sedych’s long standing record. Not only was he a fabulous technician in the event but he also competed for a U.S.S.R (CCCP) team that funded him and Litvinov and Tam literally as if throwing the hammer was their job. They woke up every day and threw hammer….that WAS their job to get good at the hammer. Throwers now a days have to juggle full time jobs and being a full time athlete, this is why we may never see that record fall.

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      I agree, but think technique plays a larger role than lack of support. The best throwers now a days do not juggle jobs. Kozmus is a professional. Pars is a professional. Koji is definitely a professional. Even Kibwe is a professional. Yet all are a good 5 meters under Sedykh’s level now. They don’t have Sedykh’s level of technique. It is possible for them to get it, but they won’t throw 86 meters without it.

      Reply
      • Nathan G.
        Nathan G. says:

        You are very correct. I did know the Kozmus and Koji were pros as well as Tikhon, I didn’t know about Pars. Well I guess now if it’s not so much an issue of funding then why in the world are we so far behind?
        Another depressing observation is that we know worlds more about training nutrition and supplementation than we did back then. And yet we still don’t have anyone consistantly at the level Sedych and Litvinov were, thats impressive and despressing at the same time.
        I think one observation that I always keep coming back to is Sedych and Litvinov’s ball speed. You watch guys like Kozmus and Koji and you say “wow those guys work the ball fast” then you go back and watch a video of Sedych and Litvinov and say “no…THOSE guys worked the ball fast.”

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. [...] I do not believe there is a one-size-fits-all perfect technique, there are certain things that all top throwers have in common and that throwers should strive for. [...]

  2. [...] statements are very much in line with Bondarchuk’s. As I’ve discussed before, technique for Bondarchuk is not about mastering positions, it is about mastering forces. Litvinov, Jr. agrees: “We turn different but the hammer orbit must be always the same. This [...]

  3. Forces vs. Positions…

    My training partner, Martin, already blogged about our discussion from the group and Dr. B on this topic here. So I will paraphrase and add some personal thoughts from my own experiences….

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