It may seem counterintuitive, but there is no substitute for experience when using an individualized approach to training. Sure, you start anew in many respects with each athlete, but with experience you start to see certain patterns emerge and can more easily prescribe the best training protocol.
Earlier this week top high school throws coach Nick Garcia explained on his blog about how he determines whether his throwers will use light or heavy implements in training. After researching the practices of the top shot put coaches in the country, the main theme he noticed was that everyone had their own approach. So he created a systematic method to track and test his athletes to determine which combination of implements and what timing of each was best for them.
I love the simplicity and individual nature of Garcia’s approach. But it isn’t the only approach out there. I use a variant of it myself. Bondarchuk has commented on the topic too. And coach Larry Steinke has an interesting approach that he explained at the Canadian National Throws Conference in October. Steinke uses a basic formula to determine whether an athlete should throw heavy or light hammers in training.
My previous two posts (available here and here) discussed the findings from my graduate school thesis when nine of the top American shot put coaches were surveyed. I would now like to address my thoughts on the findings and how I apply the training theory of using multiple weighted implements. First off, each of the coaches surveyed have had extreme success applying their theories to this training method. What they do has obviously worked for them. Furthermore, the fact that each of these coaches have successfully applied this training theory in different ways is proof that there isn’t just one right way in doing it. Therefore, I needed to come up with my own way of applying this training theory.
My first post for HMMR Media laid out how top American shot put coaches choose what weight implements to throw in training. The data came from my master’s thesis on the resistance training methods of elite shot putters, where I asked nine of the top shot put coaches in the USA a wide range of questions. These coaches were chosen based off of the results they had in International Championships, USA National Championships, and NCAA National Championships.
After I asked them what weighted implement they used, the next logical question was to ask how and why they used each one in training. Just as each coach had a different formula for what implements to use, they also had their own approaches to when they would use them.
In Martin’s post from earlier this week he mentioned that coach Jean-Pierre Egger had expanded his rule of not using implement more or less than 10% of the competition weight. With Valerie Adams now uses a range of plus or minus 25%. Larry Judge is one of the few American coaches to write about the topic and he mentions a similar 10% rule, although he noted that it is not uncommon to throw an implement upwards of 20% higher then the competition weight to develop special strength. Is there such a simple rule that can be easily applied to throwing heavy and light implements?
When working on my graduate degree I chose to do my thesis project on just this topic. The final thesis was titled “Resistance Training Methods of Elite Shot Putters” and I asked nine of the top shot put coaches in the USA to participate in the project. These coaches were chosen based off of the results they had in International Championships, USA National Championships, and NCAA National Championships. One of the questions I asked each of these coaches was if they used multiple weighted implements as a means of training. I included this question because using multiple weighted implements for training was widely accepted and at this time there had been very little research done using this training method.
Germany is the top throws country in the world. Other countries may have more depth, but Germany has developed an unmatched elite throws team. Despite being a fraction of the size of rivals like the United States and Russia, it is the only country in the world that has a legitimate medal contender in all eight throwing events.
This past weekend I travelled to the Kienbaum national training center outside of Berlin for the German federation’s annual throwing conference. The training center is already a heaven for throwers. Add in 100 energetic coaches and you start to see why the country has so much success. But as good as thing are, the Germans face the same problems every country does. There was much heated debate about how to get kids started in the sport earlier, retain them longer, and provide better support for elite athletes.
But this debate is also key to their success. Rather than being antagonistic, everyone was on the same page because they were working towards the same goal. That teamwork and structure forms the foundation of their success. Despite being the best they want to improve and learn from the best in Germany and around the world in order to do so.
One chapter of the David Epstein’s The Sports Gene discusses the role of body type in sports and how this has evolved in almost a Darwinian fashion over the last century. At the beginning of the modern Olympic era elite athletes tended to have the same body type. As Epstein explained, in 1925 the average Olympic volleyball player looked similar in stature to an Olympic discus thrower, high jumper, or shot putter. American Robert Garrett was the first modern Olympic discus and shot put champion standing just 6-foot 2-inches and 180-pounds. There is a reason he could easily be mistaken for a high jumper: he also won silver medals in the high jump and long jump. The scientists of the day even had theories of why this was the ideal athlete for each sport. Epstein notes that:
“Anthropometrists felt that human physique distributed along a bell curve, and the peak of the curve-the average- was the perfect form, with everything to the sides deviating by accident or fault.”
Fast forward a hundred years and each of those sorts has developed a distinct type of athlete that works best for it.
Last week I posted part one in an interview with shot putter Nick Garcia. Nick started training again last year after a few years away from training and decided to experiment with creating his own program based on the methods of coach Anatoliy Bondarchuk. After a year with the new program, he provided me with his thoughts and feedback. Part two continues where we left off. First we discuss what he likes and dislikes about the program, as well as how difficult it was to learn about and implement it. We then discuss how he’s started using the training system for his successful high school group. Last week I mentioned Nick has coached 20 boys over 50-feet in just one decade of coaching. In the days since, that total has gone up 23. Before we get started, we had some requests for video of Nick, so I’ve posted two of his best throws from the past year below.
My collegiate career got off to a rocky start. Back in August 2002 I showed up to Cal State-Northridge only to have my coach, the man I had moved more than a thousand miles to work with, resign. The next six months were filled with ups and downs before I decided to transfer a few months before the school year ended. At that point, the recently graduated shot putter Nick Garcia took me under his wing to finish out the season. He helped write a training plan that led to a five-meter improvement. He offered me lifting facilities. And he offered me work as an assistant for his hammer wire making business in John Godina’s garage. I learned a lot about training from him and even more about dedication. With this in mind, I was happy that he called me a year ago to ask a few questions about Bondarchuk. Finally I had a chance to return the favor.
This training talk is also a case study in converting to a training system based on the teachings of coach Anatoliy Bondarchuk. Nick has been training now for one year under this system and I figured it was a good point to get his feedback on the transition and also provide a shot putter’s point of view to counterbalance my hammer throw commentary.
In part one of my interview with throwing coach Don Babbitt, he discussed how he indizidualizes the training plans of his athletes like Adam Nelson and Reese Hoffa. Coach Babbitt continued the discussion by talking about what factors he looks at when tailoring a plan to an athlete how he came about this approach after learning under a quite different system as a thrower at UCLA.
Martin: When you mention what factors you look at before individualizing something and what you adjust, it sounds like most of the adjustments are made to fit an athletes schedule and prevent overtraining. Is that the focus of the individualization, or is it also adjusted to address shortcomings or other aspects of training?
Don: The answer is yes to both…