Olympic Champion Primoz Kozmus

Ask Martin Vol. 4: Push the hammer

Question: What puzzles me is why no one ever gives a definitive 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 just say so plainly!! 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. -Ray

I know you were hoping for a response from Dr. B, but my answer will have to suffice. The reason it is so hard to describe how to accelerate the hammer is because accelerating the hammer isn’t just something that you do. If it were just a few simple steps, then it would be easy to write down and pass along to others. Instead, it is something that you do with the hammer. In this way, accelerating the hammer is very similar to a dance. And you can read as much as you want about dancing, but you will never truly be able to do it until you hear and feel the music (and like dancing, sometimes not even then either). To make matters worse, the hammer actually plays the lead during most of the throw, so it is hard to know what to do until you feel what it is giving you. When we are training, Dr. B will tell us when we are pushing the hammer and when we aren’t. This way we learn the feeling of pushing the hammer and our coach reinforces that feeling by letting us know when we are doing things right.


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14 replies
  1. Joe Burke
    Joe Burke says:

    A COUPLE OF THOUGHTS ON ACCELERATING. PUSHING ALLOWS FOR BALANCED POSITIONS AND A LONG RADIUS FOR THE HAMMER.

    ANOTHER WAY TO LOOK AT A ACCELERATING THE HAMMER IS NOT AS TRYING TO ACCELERATING THE HAMMER HEAD BUT RATHER AS ACCELERATING YOUR OWN BODY WHILE HOLDING ONTO THE HAMMER. IF YOU ACCELERATE YOURSELF THE HAMMER WILL AUTOMATICALLY ACCELERATE.

    FINALLY I BELIEVE YOU CAN ACCELERATE THE HAMMER WELL BEYOND THE LOW POINT. THE KEY IS PUSHING BUT ALSO ALLOWING FOR A LONG ACCELERATION OF THE HAMMER. IMPULSE EQUALS FORCE X TIME. YOU CAN PUSH ON THE HAMMER WITH A LARGE FORCE FOR A SHORT TIME OR YOU CAN PUSH FOR A LONGER TIME WITH LESS FORCE. PUSHING FOR A LONGER TIME ALLOWS FOR SMOOTHER AND MORE IN CONTROL TECHNIQUE AND BECAUSE OF THIS IN THE END GREATER ACCELERATION OF THE HAMMER.PLAY WITH IT AND COME TO YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS!

    Reply
  2. tomsonite
    tomsonite says:

    Informative article, as always, that raises some questions for me, as always…
    1. Didn’t Tamm have incredible general strength levels as well?
    2. What about the school of thought that teaches to push with the whole right side (if you’re a righty)? As in, using the right leg, right arm, and the whole core? While the idea of creating a solid base with the legs and then pushing with the core does make sense to me, the legs are stronger than the core, so why leave them out of the equation? In my experience, the ball is moving so fast by time that the right foot touches down that the only way to keep it moving is to accelerate with the legs, core, and upper body at the same time (which I at least ATTEMPT to do). Maybe its just what I have to do since my general and special strength levels are low?

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      @tomsonite: Tamm was stronger than Sedych, if I remember correctly, but by no means strong compared to the Germans and not in the same ballpark as Logan and some of the Americans. From what I remember Dr. B saying, he was not as naturally coordinated as Sedych, but had pretty good athleticism. On a side note, his father was a pole vaulter despite losing an arm in the war. As far as the legs go, just because the push isn’t initiated with them doesn’t mean that they don’t come into play. They aid in the acceleration of the hammer, but I think much of their help comes from the single support “drop”, which happens almost naturally at the right speeds.

      @Joe Burke: great to hear from you Joe. Hope all is well in Canada, but we could use you back here in Switzerland…the level of competition is really poor now. I completely agree with your thoughts. But one thing to remember is that if you accelerate yourself, the hammer will not always go faster. The hammer will only go faster if you keep the same (or longer) radius. Too many people (myself included) tend to shorten the radius as we go faster, thus defeating the purpose of accelerating. You’re also right that you can accelerate the hammer past the low point; I was just trying to simplify things in the post. In the first turn, you can practically accelerate the hammer the whole turn. After that, you can still accelerate past the low point, but it is difficult since you are fighting gravity (the ball is rising) and ideally the shoulder axis has caught up to the hip axis, and it is hard to accelerate after that point without pulling (but even Sedych never fully caught up to the hip axis until the release…in his second turn he had a differential of 45º when he landed and reduced to to 15º, and the third turn went from 39º to 10º).

      Reply
  3. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    Martin what are your thoughts on the difference in thought between Litvinov and Sedych in regards to pushing the ball? Litvinov is on the record as saying that he has a constant push on the ball through out the throw whereas Sedych is noted for pushing in double support.

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      I think both work. Trying to pushing the ball and actually accelerating it at two different things. Obviously, while Litvinov tried to have a constant push, he did not continuously accelerate the hammer. For some throwers it works better to be more patient on the left side because trying to push can actually lead people to pull the hammer in an attempt to accelerate it. Litvinov was able to keep long during the whole throw, so that wasn’t a problem for him.

      Reply
  4. martin engel
    martin engel says:

    PUSH WITH DS SIDE(FOOT,KNEE,HIP,HAND).
    START WHEN SS HEEL IS GROUNDED.THIS HAPPENS WHEN THE HAMMER IS AT 320 DEGREES +or- 5 DEGREES.
    STOP PUSHING WHEN THE DS FOOT HAS TURNED TO 90 DEGREES AND COMES OFF THE GROUND

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      Thanks for the reply Marty. I guess I’ll never beat you in a brevity contest.

      My only problem with your approach is that it seems like there is no time to accelerate the hammer. Top throwers complete turns in less than a quarter of a second, meaning that there are just hundredths of a second between 320º and the hammer’s low point (after which acceleration is reduced). Can the body respond that quickly? In my experience, if I tell myself to start doing something, it takes more than a few hundredths of a second to do it, and in the case of pushing, that would be too late if I tried to start at 320º.

      Reply
  5. Ray
    Ray says:

    Hello Martin, Thanks for your response to my nieve question. I Realize only too well that there are no easy remedies to any problem,and I appreciate that you took the time and effort to try and clear things up for me. I also want to say how poetic your response was. The music and dance references help quite a bit in fostering the right mental picture(at least for me). I’d also like to thank all of the other folks for thier help as well. Keep up the good work, I enjoy your site very much. Best regards, Ray

    Reply
  6. Martin
    Martin says:

    It was far from a naive question…it made me think a lot and talk to some others about the idea. It is a difficult issue for all throwers, but I hope I could give you a new perspective on it.

    Reply
  7. Brian
    Brian says:

    hey Martin, congrats on the championship! You went to Hungary a few years back right? Would say there is a difference in technique emphasized by the Hungarians versus what Dr. B and other Soviet coaches might have stressed? Your insight is always appreciated.

    Reply
  8. Bryan Kolacz
    Bryan Kolacz says:

    Reading this is extremely interesting about the push. I always believed pushing was from the turning/pushing of the right foot during the turns. After really wanting to understand hammer I reviewed many of the biomechanics analysis, after seeing the results I more greatly believed in the right foot turning. After reading this information on the site I start to change my thoughts and think about my own positive throws during practice and comp. I really believe rhythm of a throw is extremely important and I can see Dr. B believes in this greatly when he says that frame by frame camera viewing is not helpful. I guess two things confuse me right now. An article I found that talks about Dr. B on the hammer, and how to push the hammer properly with the right side of the body.

    1. I found this article and read it, and then I want back to it after reading this material and found something confusing. “Bondarchuk on the other hand believes that the right leg is the most active part of the body both in DSP and SSP, due to its activity during DSP. The more active the right leg the greater the speed of turning.”
    http://members.ozemail.com.au/~b.wagner/Throw/Documents/translationhammer.pdf

    2. The other question is when pushing with the upper body/core I have tried it and failed, I feel I probably went to aggressive with the overall movement. I feel before I was probably pushing extremely hard with my right leg and also my right side causing extreme chaos. When pushing with the right side what would you recommend driving with the right arm? What might be a good thought in the mind, such as push left/extend the right arm long or simple push but do not push too hard? Any thoughts would be great.

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      Hello Bryan,

      (1) Dr. Bondarchuk has refined his approach to coaching and training e times over the past decades. In five years of working with him, he has never told me to do is be more active with my right leg. He may have changed his philosophy since this article. It could be a bad translation. Another possible explanation is that even though the lower body should be active, the best way to do that is focus on the lower body. The lower body cannot be active if you are off balance with the upper body.

      One thing to note is this sentence: “He explained the bending of the right arm as being caused by the bottom half of the body turning ahead of the hammer without keeping the hip and shoulder axis, and pulling the hammer as in discus throwing.” This sounds more like some of things he tells us…moving the lower body too much can have negative consequences.

      (2) Finding what works can be personal. Push the ring with right arm works for some. What has been helping me lately is also focusing on a long orbit. The push does not have to be much, but I think about pushing to make the orbit longer and hammer faster, not necessarily making my body faster. You also need to focus on getting your weight and the hammer to the left every turn since that will temper the right side chaos. Hope that helps.

      Reply
      • Bryan Kolacz
        Bryan Kolacz says:

        Thank you for the response! Had my first competition this weekend which did not go the way I would have wanted, but! that is life and the ups and downs of hammer throwing. I practiced today focusing on a lot of the ideas that I was reading about on the website. It always confused me to think of the engine being the right trunk, but I can finally see that many of the things that I have problems with is because of my active right leg and foot. I felted for the first time in a long time, a strong pull on my body from the hammer on turns 3 and 4, and when I was actually able to “drop” while continuing to drive the system, rather than standing straight up. I am starting to think more of “letting the ball work for me”.

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