Mike Mai instructing an athlete at the October hammer clinic

Learning the Hammer Throw

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In the last issue of Track Coach, my training partner Ryan Jensen and I published a short article about learning to throw the hammer. Our approach is simple: get kids throwing as fast as possible and then start to refine their technique. The article is built on our experiences in coaching, watching Dr. Bondarchuk coach, and learning to throw ourselves.

I actually learned to throw the hammer twice and the first time I was unsuccessful. I first threw the hammer at at age 15 and began to coach myself. Even after three years of training once a month, I was still just using one or two turns in competition and had no concept of what the event is about.

When I was 18, I met Harold Connolly and began learning all over again. This time, I had a plan. For weeks I did drill after drill, but not one throw. Harold’s theory was to perfect the basics of technique before ever entering the ring. Even after I began throwing, drills took up a significant part of my training for the next four years. My footwork was great, but in hindsight that isn’t where my focus should have been. My footwork has never been a problem, but I still have issue with my balance and rhythm. Drills can’t replicate the true rhythm of a throw. Only a throw can, and that should have been my focus from the beginning.

This is why our approach focuses on getting an athlete to throw as quickly as possible. My longtime friend and current throws coach at Pacific Lutheran University Dan Haakeson provided the best summary of this approach on the popular forum The Ring last autumn. One user suggested that a thrower cannot learn the event without first perfect all of the individual parts and then learning how to put them together. Dan replied by saying “I would venture to say exactly the opposite. Only after someone has begun to understand what a good throw feels like can they grasp the concept of the importance of winding and footwork.” When working with young children, our approach also has the added benefit of keeping their interest in the event. Convincing a young kid to try an event for weeks without throwing is a bit unrealistic. Even if you can maintain their attention for that long, the process makes it harder for them to fall in love with the event. The faster you get them to throw, the faster they’ll become addicted.

A copy of the article is below. The article is very short and is written for beginning coaches. With youth hammer throw growing across the country, more and more coaches are being asked to coach an event they know nothing about. This is controversial topic, so we look forward to your feedback. We have also finished a follow up that will discuss how to start refining technique. That will be published in the June issue. [Note: the follow-up article has since been published and can be viewed here.]

11 replies
  1. Althea
    Althea says:

    Hi Martin. Great blog. Have you perhaps published the follow-up article yet (about the most common errors)? Apologies if you have – I just cannot see it!

    Reply
  2. Eva
    Eva says:

    Hi! im a beginner hammerthrower and I have just started doing three turns and my problem is my left foot won`t turn to 180 degrees is there an excercise you can reccomend so it will work out? and any tips on how to not be afraid of the hammer when throwing and turning? also how do i bring my hammer up?

    Reply
    • Martin
      Martin says:

      I think one thing that may help your first and last problem is just to keep throwing and keep thinking of pushing the ball. It will take a while to develop the rhythm and be comfortable with accelerating the hammer, but this will come naturally and when it does the turn should complete itself automatically and the ball will rise on its own. As far as how to not be afraid of the hammer, could you be more specific? Are you afraid of falling, getting hit, what exactly???

      Reply
  3. Eva
    Eva says:

    Im mostly afraid of falling over with the hammer, which I want to somehow get my mind over that I won`t fall but its a last minute panic

    Reply
  4. Rick Barrieau
    Rick Barrieau says:

    I’m interested in some hammer throw lessons. I’m in northern California. Any suggestions? Thank you Rick

    Reply
  5. Vincent N. Gattullo
    Vincent N. Gattullo says:

    Marty, I am the last living sole that beat you when your were at NYU and I was at St. John’s.
    I won the 12lb hammer as a freshman and the 35 lb weight throw in the Metropolitan
    Interco legates Championships and the 16lb hammer throw and 35lb weight throw as a sophomore. I didn’t go to the 52 Olympic trails in Ohio because the NYAC won’t pay
    my loss of salary. I was supporting my mother and 2 brothers while I was in College.
    Hope your 0k
    Vin Gattullo

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] I’ve written about before, the method I use for teaching beginners is simple and gets them throwing fast. I start teaching a with a heal turn. So does every other coach I know. But that doesn’t make […]

  2. […] old training partner Ryan Jensen and I published a short article in Track Coach last winter about coaching beginners. Ryan coaches the youth throwers at the Kamloops Track and Field Club, and we worked together to […]

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