Ask Martin Vol. 27: Throwing Injuries

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Do you have any tips on maintaining a heathy back or addressing common back injures while throwing? -Andrew

Believe it or not, this is the first time I have written about injuries in throwing events. I have never thought about writing about it since, to be honest, I haven’t really had any injuries. But maybe that fact is itself worth writing about.
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Ask Martin Vol. 26: Throwing In The Other Direction

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In other throwing events it is common to throw in each direction. How many throws should you take in the opposite direction and how good does technique need to be in that direction? My concern is that training just to one side might provoke scoliosis or other spinal injuries. -Thomas

Throwing in the opposite direction is indeed less common in the hammer throw than in other throwing events. Tony Dziepak has compiled a list of ambidextrous throwing records which include impressive performances like Hank Kraychir putting the shot 20.55-meters with his right hand and also going over 18-meters with his left hand. With the amount of technique involved, it is natural that hammer throwers generally do not throw as much in the other direction. But in looking at the necessity of it, the same rules apply to all throwing events.
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The question of how to divide volume is the similar to the age old tortoise and the hare fable.

Ask Martin Vol. 25: The Tortoise and the Hare

Do you get the same benefit of exercising for 30 minutes a day if that exercise is broken down into shorter segments — for instance, three 10-minute sessions? -New York Times Reader

This question was not directed to me, but it is just as applicable to track and field athletes and throwers as it is to readers of the New York Times health blog. Volume is of the main component of any training plan. But not all volume is created equal. For example, if a thrower takes 180 throws per week, that could be divided up in a number of ways, including three sessions of 60 throws, six sessions of 30 throws, or even twelve sessions of 15 throws. Each option will have a different impact on the body and end up with different results. It is therefore important to know if one way is better than the other when putting together a training plan, even if all the options end up with the same volume in the end.
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Ashton Eaton's unconventional shot put technique uses his strengths to eliminate his liabilities

Ask Martin Vol. 24: More on Strengths and Weaknesses

Question: Is it better to train the implements that the athlete throws best or to train the implements that the athlete struggles with? Try to improve where the athlete already throws well and improve that or attack the weak points (or balls that the athlete does not perform best with)? -Frederick Hannie

I began responding to this question last week by discussing the specific question of whether a throw should focus on throwing implements they are good at, or ones they are bad at. The short answer is that rather than making the decisions based on what hammers they are good at, they should instead focus on what hammers will help them throw further.

But after I finished the question I left open the bigger question: should training focus on strengths or weaknesses. It would be nice to focus on eliminating weaknesses and focusing on strengths, but athletes have limited time and energy and coaches must often make a tough decision between the two. In addition, strengths and weaknesses come into play not just in the training plan, but also in technique where there also might not be the choice of pursuing both paths simultaneously. My approach is to look at the problems in steps by focusing on eliminating liabilities, focusing on the transfer, and then creating your own individual mold that capitalizes on your strengths and uses creative thinking.
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Choosing the right hammer takes effort and experience.

Ask Martin Vol. 23: Strengths and Weaknesses

Question: Is it better to train the implements that the athlete throws best or to train the implements that the athlete struggles with? Try to improve where the athlete already throws well and improve that or attack the weak points (or balls that the athlete does not perform best with)? -Frederick Hannie

Choosing the right weight hammer for training takes effort and experience.

Choosing the right hammer takes effort and experience.

This is quite a complex question, so I will try to break it down into the two core points I see: (1) whether a thrower that focuses their training on weights they can throw the best; and (2) the broader question of whether it is best to design a training plan that leverages the strengths of an athlete or focuses on eliminating weaknesses. Since the questions go in two different directions, I will address only the first one below and get to the second question in another post later this week.
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Ask Martin Vol. 22: Travel Tips

Question: Do you have any suggestions for getting rid of jet lag? -Greg


It’s the traveling time of the year again. Collegiate athletes in America are starting to make trips across the country for the various rounds of the NCAA Championships. The best throwers will then start their international season, demanding trips to Europe. While travel is fun, it can only hurt your performances. In the best case scenario, the travel takes nothing out of you. In the worst case, it can ruin a competition. And jet lag is just one of the things that can affect you. After more than a decade of international competitions I have a few tips that I can share that should reduce its impact.
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Ask Martin Vol. 21: Favorite Technique

Question: Which thrower’s technique do you like watching the most? – Gary

At the beginning of my career I watched video to learn. Now I watch video to help visualize my own throw. While throwers like Balazs Kiss, Igor Nikulin, or even Koji Murofushi have very good technique, their styles are so different than mine that they are lower down my list. Both then and now I tend to watch video that I hope to emulate and I list a few of my favorites below. You might notice that I do not mention any women below and this is for the same reason. Female throwers typically do not have, or need, the same amount of countering in their throw as men. Since I am trying to visualize myself in the throw it is easier to do that with a male thrower. Read more

Drills can be very useful for beginners or illustrating concepts, but for advanced athlete they are less helpful.

Ask Martin Vol. 20: Coaching While Training

Question: I have recently begun coaching a few local throwers that have come out to my training sessions. Do you have any tips on how to balance coaching and training together? – Rich

As I am still in the process of figuring this one out, I am hardly the one to ask for advice. But I know it is possible. Nearly every coach goes through this phase and many already achieve success before retiring as a thrower. Coach Bondarchuk, after all, guided Sedykh to a gold medal in 1976 while he was still training. I think that was his wake up call to focus all of his energy on coaching since he finished two steps down the podium with a bronze around his neck. While he has yet to give me advice on this, I can offer three recommendations from a few years of experience in this area.
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Top recruit Rudy Winkler.

Ask Martin Vol. 19: Recruiting Decisions

Question: One of the athletes I am coaching now is in the process of deciding what university to attend next year. Her parents would like her to attend a local school, but I would prefer she goes a bit further to a school with a good throwing coach. Parents that are not involved in track and field do not seem to realize that not all throwing programs are on the same level. Do you have any arguments to help convince them of this? -Coach K

I agree that that choosing a school is a decision that needs to be left up to the athlete. The athlete needs to find that school that is the best fit for them. Unfortunately the best fit for the athlete is also not always the best fit for the parents. But, and it might surprise you for me to say this, the best fit for the athlete isn’t always the best coach either. Finding a good fit means looking at more than the school’s proximity or athletics program, but also its academics, the future teammates, the city it is located in, and a variety of other factors to see what environment will allow the athlete to succeed both in sports and in life. While many people online have been quick to criticize the recent decision of American high school champion and world junior championship finalist Rudy Winkler to attend Cornell University next year, I think it is a perfect example of making a holistic choice. This young man had his choice of schools, and rather than choosing a school with a storied tradition or all-star coach, he chose a local school renowned for academics with a young coach. I applaud his decision.
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Ask Martin Vol. 18: Throwing Volume

Question: What are people’s thoughts on the number of throws per year? I have heard that Dr. Bondarchuk’s throwers do 25 throws in the morning and 25 in the afternoon, 5 days a week. That’s 12,000 throws a year. Just wondering what people think? – Anon3764 from the Macthrowvideo chatroom

I have to summon the inner lawyer in me and answer this question unequivocally by saying “it depends.” Like every other element of training, the number of throws you take should be individualized to the needs of each thrower. What works for one athlete is not necessarily the best for another athlete. Athletes have different levels of fitness, maturity, time, and strength. Other variables like the weather even come into play. All of these factors affect how much throwing a person should do. But, that being said, there are still a few principles I would recommend to every thrower.
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