Earlier this month, Sergej Litvinov, Jr. posted some insightful comments about hammer technique on Facebook. Litvinov, Jr. is one of the top up and coming throwers in the world. He has a personal best of 78.98m and placed 5th at the 2009 World Championship at a young age of just 23. He’s also had the benefit of learning the event from his father, the former Olympic champion and world record holder of the same name.
Litvinov, Jr. posted a link to this hammer throw instructional video. The video takes a subjective approach to hammer throw technique and says that the position of the low point during the winds should be individual for the athlete. Litvinov, Jr. quickly replied that this is wrong; the low point should never be on the left side for a right-handed thrower.
I had the chance to spend some time training with Litvinov ,Jr. and his father back in 2004. Rather than focusing on footwork or positions like most of the coaches I had met before, Litvinov focused on the orbit of the hammer. If the hammer travels the right path (e.g. a long and balanced one), then the throw will be good. And to get the hammer to go in the right path starts with the proper low point. Once the low point gets off, the orbit will never recover.
On Facebook, Litvinov Jr. shared his thoughts over several posts: “I think the winds are not important, important is in what orbit you bring to the hammer after the winds, if you don’t have the right orbit at the beginning you will have this bad orbit untill the end.” If the low point is too far to the left, then the hammer’s path will be shortened and distance will be reduced not just a little, but by meters. Even more, Litvinov, Jr. says, “If your low point is on the left side in the fourth turn your hammer will be behind your left leg and you will have no time to push it in the field.”
For Litvinov, Jr., the low point should be in the middle, just like you perform squats with the middle of the bar on your back. If you squat with the bar off to one side, it will be more difficult to move the weight. The same goes with the hammer. If the low point is off to the left, then it will be harder to move the hammer and your results will suffer.
For obvious reasons, Litvinov, Jr.’s 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 is physics. If your low point in the left side your orbit will be short and the hammer will not have speed.”