Bondarchuk and Dylan Armstrong. Photo by Kamloops This Week.

Ask Martin Vol. 17: In Defense of Bondarchuk

Question: I know you’ve written in the past about some of Dr. Bondarchuk’s concepts. Let me share two arguments that could be made:

  • For: Bondarchuk understand the science of throwing after decades of coaching and research. The periodization cycles that you discuss of being up, down, etc. are all based experience and data and have been proven through results.
  • Against: The general hammer community gets trickles of Bondarchuk’s wisdom, but it all seems vague and hard to grasp. Fuzzy science. It’s a community of people who have drank the cool aid. His record can’t be argued with, but he doesn’t walk on water as some may say. If I had access to some of the best athletes in the world, I’d look pretty smart too. At the end of the day, sound training theory, good technique, strength training, and special strength, etc. will determine performance. It doesn’t have to be as mysterious as it has been presented.

Discuss. -Coach L

The group at dinner.

Portugal Training Camp: Wrap-up

As my training camp came to a close yesterday, I couldn’t have been happier with the progress I made over 10 days and 16 training sessions. My season plan may have been interrupted by setbacks in May, but now I am in the best shape of my life. In addition to the personal best with the 9-kilogram hammer on Monday I had personal training bests with the competition weight 7.26-kilogram hammer on both Friday and Saturday. First I launched 67.30 meters (video below) and then came back the next day to toss 67.70 meters. I had only thrown over 67 meters twice in training before, but this week I had nearly a dozen throws at or over that distance and am capable of more.


Back to Training

Since I last wrote about my own training, a lot has happened. I got married, took a wonderful honeymoon, and have now returned to my normal training routine.

Honeymoon in Basque Country

After getting married in California, Kate and I quickly traveled back to Zürich before heading to the Basque country in northern Spain and southern France for 10-days on the beach. I wanted to visit a new and unique area for our trip, and we found just that. First off, the food was stunning, especially the pintxos in San Sebastian. I normally lose weight when I take a break from training, but this time that was not the case. But beyond the food, the area was beautiful and full of friendly locals. We were able to relax, catch up on some sleep, and try a little surfing. Before coming home we also got a little taste of local sport by watching a game of jaï alaï, a unique derivative of tennis where the positions of the athletes get into positions that resemble javelin throwers.

Coach Evely with Sophie Hitchon, the UK record holder. Photo used with permission from Jonathan Mulkeen.

Training Talk with Derek Evely (Part 2)

Last week I posted a discussion I had with Derek Evely regarding training theory. Despite it’s length, that was just part one. Part two is below and part three is on the way soon. All of these touch on a common theme: discussing how to implement Bondarchuk’s methods. For those of you unfamiliar with Coach Evely’s background, he is currently the director of the Loughborough (UK) University High Performance Centre. He had the opportunity to learn from Bondarchuk first hand when they worked together in Kamloops, and has been fine tuning his approach ever since. As I mentioned in the last post, to get the most out of this interview it helps to have a little understanding of Bondarchuk’s approach to training. You can learn more about that through this link, or by reading Part I. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.

Part 2: More About Hammer Throw Training

Martin: As I was saying, it might seem strange to some people but I’ve been able to make strength gains despite never lifting at a higher intensity.

Derek: I think that the single most difficult hurdle in describing Dr. B’s methodology is interpretation. I’ve done a number of presentations both with Dr. B. and without him, and I’ve talked to a lot of throws coaches about this because they hear the stories; they hear it about Dylan most of all, how he doesn’t really lift heavy, he doesn’t lift anything over a certain amount of weight, and it really messes with a lot of people’s heads and they really battle with that kind of concept. And I see why, but the biggest problem with it is that people look at it in such black and white terms, and they struggle with getting what the real message is.


Training Talk with Derek Evely (Part 1)

One of the most overlooked names in coaching circles is that of Derek Evely. His coaching career has been going strong for more than fifteen years. After successful stops in Kamloops and Edmonton, he is now the director of the Loughborough (UK) University High Performance Centre, one of the country’s two national training centers as the UK prepares to host the 2012 Olympics.

Evely has been in the U.K. since 2009. While his new role is as an administrator, he has also found time to start coaching the throws again and apply the concepts he learned from Bondarchuk and others. In his first season working with Sophie Hitchon, Evely guided her to a World Junior Championship. Now in their second season together, Hitchon has already broken the U.K. senior record with a throw of 69.43 meters and she is still a teenager.

Since my experience with Bondarchuk has been almost exclusively from an athlete’s point of view, it was great to talk with Derek on Sunday about how he applies the methods as a coach. Below is an abridged version of our conversation.

Ken Goe, one of the nation's best track and field writers (photo courtesy of the Oregonian).

Tips for Bringing Fans to the Hammer with Ken Goe

Back in February, Oregonian sportswriter Ken Goe wrote a persuasive article about why the USATF needs to switch its focus from the athletes to the fans. Ken has been writing about track and field for more than two decades and is one of the last print journalists in America that continues to cover the sport. In his piece he stated “If track and field ever is going to regain its foothold in the U.S. sports scene, somebody is going to have to care about the people who buy tickets and tune into televised meets.” I couldn’t agree more. It sounds backwards, but if you focus on the fans, the athletes will be better off. More fans means a more exciting competitive environment. And more fans will bring more sponsors and money for the athletes.

Making a meet more fan friendly isn’t that hard either. The formula for entertainment is straightforward: bring in good athletes and cut out all the dead time in the meet. However this same formula often leads to excluding the throwing events. For example, the Diamond League cut out the hammer throw last year partially due to time constraints. When the hammer throw is in a competition it is often either: (a) held outside the stadium, or (b) held inside the stadium but hours before the rest of the competition starts and the fans arrive. Both of these situations make it more difficult to put on an entertaining competition.

Our training group is ready to kick some butt once the season starts.

Offseason Training Recap

My year typically can be broken down into three phases: the offseason, the preseason, and the competitive season. The offseason lasts from September until February and can hardly be thought of as time off. This is the time when I dedicate myself to training and put in the highest amount of volume during the year. The preseason begins in March and lasts until the end of May. During this time my training will remain the same, but I will begin to do a few competitions to test my form. Then, from June until August the big meets begin and I start to back off the training a little to try and reach new bests.

Over the past few weeks, the indoor track and field season has begun. While there is no hammer throw indoors***, the start of the indoor season always reminds me that the outdoor season is near. In fact, this week I am finishing a very intense 9-week training program and will be rewarded with a few weeks of light training. While my amount of throws I take will actually increase during this phase, the weight room volume will plummet and most of my throws will be with lighter hammers. After focusing on heavier hammers for the past few months, the rest and light hammers should allow me to regain some speed and transfer my new strength into the competition hammer. The new program should take me through the end of the offseason and the start of my preseason at the European Cup of Winter Throwing in Sofia, Bulgaria. I’ve posted a tentative schedule for the rest of my season on the Schedule and Results page.

A young Koji Murofushi was featured in a IAAF instructional video at age 10 (click to view). By age 29, he was the Olympic champion.

The Hammer Throw: A Political Cause You Can Believe In

Those of you in America probably woke up this morning and were welcomed by the joyous void created by the absence of non-stop election ads. Well, I hate to be the one to do this, but I’m here to lobby for one more cause before you stop thinking about politics for the year. The USATF Annual Meeting will start on December 4th in Virginia Beach. On the agenda is a rule change (Item 92) that would add the hammer throw to the youth age group for 13 and 14 year old throwers. I encourage you all to reach out to the chair of the USATF Youth Committee, Lionel Leach, in support of this amendment.

As with anything, starting young helps in the hammer throw

Time and time again, the importance of starting young in the hammer throw has shown its benefits. Koji Murofushi, 2004 Olympic Champion, began throwing at age 10. While attending a clinic by Yuri Sedych in 2003, I saw his then nine-year-old daughter Alexia Sedych throwing the hammer. This summer she won the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. Later that year, a 12-year-old Conor McCullough attended the USATF Junior Elite Camp at the USATF Olympic Training Center. Now he is the U.S. junior record holder and the most recent world junior champion. This, along with Walter Henning’s 2008 win, was only America’s second gold medal in a major international competition in more than a half century. The hammer throw is an event centered around rhythm and technique. Both take more than a decade to master and it is essential to start the process young.

2010 Season Review

I was looking back at my review of last season today and it is eerily similar to how I feel about this season. However, the two years were world’s apart. I not only threw three meters further this year, but I was also more consistent and had almost ten meets over my season’s best from last year. But, as always, I want more.

The Good – Like I said above, I threw better than last year. Much better. The highlight of the season was another win at the national championships by a convincing margin. I finished more than fourteen meters ahead of the next Swiss thrower (Björn, a German citizen, also threw great for second place), which by my research is the largest margin of victory at a Swiss Championship. Training has also gone very well. I improved my special strength and set lots of training bests from the 5-kilogram hammer all the way up to the 10-kilogram hammer. If I can get that strength into the throw, I know it will produce something over 70-meters. My technique also improved this year, although it is still not where I want it to be.

Sports Reaction Center

One More Week

I’m back in Seattle for the week before heading to France to open my season at the European Cup-Winter Throwing. The entries for the meet were just released and it will feature an elite field, with over 20 throwers over 70 meters. I’m hoping to gain some experience and approach my best opening result ever (66.47m). Training has been going well, and I think that is possible with the right conditions.

My time in Seattle will be busy working on business for the Evergreen Athletic Fund. I actually attempted to take a few throws at a small local competition on Saturday, but ended up passing most of my attempts due to a sudden hail and wind storm. After the competition, I put on a quick youth clinic for the throwers with Mike Mai, Zack Midles, and Jake Boling. Tomorrow, we will host our annual meeting and I’m excited to see what ideas we have for the future of the organization.