Ask Martin, Volume 1

Happy mother’s day! Like most other throwers I know, my mother has been very supportive of my throwing career as well as my schooling and professional career. Without her support and help I know I wouldn’t be able to pursue as much as I have or even possess the confidence to try.

Despite that introduction, today’s post isn’t just about mothers. One of the best parts about writing on this site is that I get a lot of e-mails from throwers across the world. Whether it is a high school athlete or masters thrower, I try to take the time to answer every question and help people learn about the hammer throw. My mother has reluctantly convinced me over the years that I do not have all the answers, but I do have some unique experience that I think can help others.

Most of the questions I get relate to technique or are follow ups to posts I do. Starting now, I’d like to start posting questions that I think everyone might be interested in hearing. Here are a few to questions from hammer thrower Thomas DiCiaccio to start things off. If you have a question, please send it my way. I’ll answer almost anything, including tax questions if you are so inclined.

It’d be cool to know what Dr. B is like as a person and his coaching style. We all know about his amazing success as an athlete and a coach, but what’s the guy like in every day conversation and what would you say his coaching style is?

Bondarchuk coaching world record holder Yuri Sedych back in the day. Photo by Bob Wagner.

To put it in one word, Dr. B is very blunt in his coaching style. If we are doing something wrong, he tell us. And tell us again. And tell us again like a broken record until we start doing it correctly. He is gentler on the female throwers, but harps on them just the same sometimes. (On a related note, he once had me act as a crash test dummy for Sultana after she banged up her hammer and he wanted someone to take a test throw to see if it was still safe for her to use). His approach is also very hands on and he does not use many cues. While some coaches are quieter, Dr. B has something to say after every throw. Normally his comments relate to whether the flaw we are working on was better or worse. He will then tell us in simple terms (and broken English) what he wants us to do. On the flip side, he is never in the weight room with us and is very hands off in that regard.

Even outside of coaching, Dr. B is still very matter of fact. If he thinks something is stupid, he will tell you. Don’t even get him started on internal Athletics Canada politics or ask him how strong you need to be to throw further. While our training center is great, he is a very resourceful man and could produce the same results with athletes training Rocky style. Growing up in Ukraine, he had to use whatever was available to train. Now he still brings that mentality to our training. One time he showed up to practice with a hunk of metal he found on the side of the road that he intended to turn into hammer handles. That project didn’t turn out so well. Thankfully he is also very funny and can laugh when we call him crazy for doing things like that. If you can get a story from him about back in the day, you’re bound to end up laughing. And while he isn’t always spitting out one-liners, he can have some funny post-throw comments.

Above all else, he loves throwing. He lives and breathes throwing. He will be reading, writing, studying, and learning about the throwing events until the day he dies. He knows he can learn more and share more information with others and doesn’t understand why more coaches aren’t like this. He likes throwing so much, he even coaches when it is not required. For instance at last Sunday’s competition he pulled me aside to give me some shot putting advice even though that was likely a waste of the man’s knowledge. He also helped out one of the master’s throwers. I think it is hard for him to watch us make mistakes when he knows how to fix them. even when we’re just doing another event for fun.

I read both your blog and Kibwe/Crystal’s. Both of you have stressed that you do a lot of special strength exercises. I know you train 10 sessions a week, but can you go into some of the actual numbers that constitute “a lot” of special strength work (i.e. reps per week, etc.)?

As far as volume goes, it varies from training program to training program. Since starting the season, I have done very little special strength work. The highest weekly special strength volume I’ve had came from doing simple plate twists. With one program I would do 6 sets of 10 reps with a 25-kilogram plate at every practice.  Since we do 10 training sessions a week, that mean I did a total of 16.5 tons of volume each week from plate twists alone (60 reps per session x 10 sessions per week x 55 pounds = 33,000 pounds).

Another high volume special strength workout I did in the fall was more throws oriented.  In that training program I would take 8 throws with the 8-kilogram hammer and 8 throws with the 9-kilogram hammer at each training session. After each throw I would do five one-armed hammer releases with the a 16-kilogram kettlebell. With 10 training sessions a week, my volume added up to 80 throws with the 8-kilogram hammer, 80 throws with the 9-kilogram, and 800 kettlebell throws.

However, like I said above, our volume varies. These programs are all at one extreme. A typical program would have a much lower special strength volume. We tend to do higher special strength volume when our volume in the other lifts is lower. A normal training session will have 3 sets of 10-15 reps in a special strength exercise and an occasional kettlebell or medicine ball throw that uses a twisting motion or mimics the hammer release.

6 replies
  1. Jay
    Jay says:

    Hello Martin,

    I found you through Bondarchuk, you have a great site with good info. I was hoping I could ask a few questions. I’m a cricket fast bowler, was semi-pro, and looking to up my speed. I more or less coach myself since bowling coaches are so far off the ball that it’s not even funny. I learnt by asking Jeff Gorski, the jav coach, as the action is very similar and he has coached a cricketer before. After a lot of work, my technique is sound. So I am looking to optimise my training.
    In terms of special exercises I do skin the cats, reverse trunk twists, overhead medball throws, windmill medball throws, medball sit up throws. I do theses a separate session to my weights work. Is there an advantage to putting my special throws and exercises work with my weights work like you do.

    I noticed you use over/under weight hammers. How could this be applied to bowling. A cricket ball weights 160g, so is there any point in going lighter. In terms of going heavier, since we are throwing with a straight arm, is it safe to do so?

    You are a big advocate of special strength, how do I know if I need more general strength, I squat 115, dead 150, and bench 75 at 75bw. And I can reach the rim at 5”10 height, 6”2 wingspan. I was hoping you could critique my training.

    Mon: Heavy squats, posterior chain work, abs/lowerback
    Tues: Above-mentioned special exercise and medball throws, PNF stretches, and technique work with cricket ball.
    Wed: heavy bench, upper back work, abs/lowerback
    Thurs: Same as Tuesday
    Friday: Plyometric jumps, weighted jumps, posterior chain work, abs/lowerback
    Sat: Same as Tuesday
    Sun: Rest

    In terms of periodisation, it is similar to Westside barbell’s concurrent periodization, but I don’t max out every week, instead I go 5/3/1 reps maxes for the havey lifts within a mesocycle. I assume you use block periodisation, I don’t think that would work well here, since I am not elite, lack the knowledge, and as crickets, we don’t have a set off season.

    I know a lot of questions, so I understand if you don’t get round to answering everything.

    Thanks for your time Martin, really appreciate it.

    Jay

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      From my experience I have a few comments:

      • The main focus of training should be on speed and power, not on strength. Strength is overemphasized in the hammer throw and we just hurl a 16-pound object. A cricket ball weighs 1/3 of a pound, so strength plays even less of a role. It should be all about speed.
      • The exercise selection looks good. You focus on the muscles you need. You might take a look at some of the special strength exercises used in the javelin and baseball for ideas on other exercises.
      • You are pitching not just for speed, but also for accuracy. I am not an expert, but a weighted ball might throw off the later element if you keep switching back and forth. You might incorporate some weight balls into your training in another form, such as by throwing from a stand, or by isolating other parts of the movement.
      • I would cut back the number of exercises you are doing. You have a lot of exercises mixed into the week and the more exercises you use, the longer it takes to adapt to them. I would choose a smaller combination of exercises and then alternate them at regular intervals. Then over the course of the season you are still doing the same type of work, but it is more productive.
      • As far as periodization goes, we do not use block periodization.
      Reply
  2. Jay
    Jay says:

    Hello Martin,

    Thanks so much for getting back to me. About your first bullet point. So are you saying my numbers are sufficient, I know an awkward question. I mean Bondarchuk’s method work because the athletes already have big numbers in the lift, I’m guessing here, may be wrong. Can focusing on specific exercises with my weight room numbers work as well as it would for an athletes working with Bondarchuk.

    Thanks again Martin,

    Jay

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      I’m not saying that your numbers are sufficient. I’m just saying increasing those numbers shouldn’t be the main focus of training.

      Strength plays a big role in the throws and yet it remains a lesser priority (and we aren’t all naturally strong). I’m assuming it plays an even smaller role for you, therefore I would focus on other things first. But just because it isn’t the main focus does not mean that it isn’t a focus. The numbers are pretty low, so whatever program you choose will increase them even without it being the main focus. In addition, special strength exercises will help increase your lifts. For me, I see improved results in the clean when I throw heavier hammers. There is a reverse correlation there.

      Reply
  3. chuck Ceccarelli
    chuck Ceccarelli says:

    ciao, (bello il tuo sito) volevo chiederti se sapevi con certezza qwuanto faceva di squat maximum Sedych e quanto Litvinov. Te lo chiedo perchè sono molto curioso, dal momento che so che avevano corpi differenti e stili diversi. Ho visto Sedych più voluminoso anche di gambe; sicuramente era più forte!

    Reply
  4. chuck Ceccarelli
    chuck Ceccarelli says:

    I try in english, maybe better 4 you.

    I’m very very curios to know haw much had of maximum squat sedych and Litvinov.

    Reply

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