Over the past few months I’ve contributed to the popular Juggernaut Training Systems webpage with a series of posts on specific strength. I’ve talked about the theory of specific strength, the debate about youth specialization, and how to create specific strength exercises for your sport. My latest post was published today and starts to talk about how to take specific strength exercises and implement them into training.
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.
One of the core concepts at the heart of Bondarchuk’s training methods is his exercise classification scheme. Bondarchuk has written about dozens of different periodization models that can be used for a variety of sports, but all of them make use of his four-category system of classifying exercises from general to specific. The concept is straightforward, but not one that I have spent a lot of time on here talking about.
In my latest article for Juggernaut Training Systems I take a look at how both Bondarchuk and Yuri Verkhoshansky use their own systems to define special strength exercises. By looking at two leaders in the field of special strength, we start to see what common elements special strength exercises need. I also explain my own five tips for selecting a special strength exercise:
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.
Over the last decade, youth sports have undergone a drastic transformation: general athletic development is being replaced with specialized preparation at earlier ages. This transformation began a long time ago, but has been accelerated as people saw the success of Tiger Woods (shown to the right) and the Williams sisters. Now I see more kids choosing to focus on one sport year-round than the three-sport letterman of years past. This is the topic of my most recent article for Juggernaut Training Systems.
This trend is bad, but the common reaction against it is to focus again on only generalized training. As I argue in the article, there doesn’t need to be a choice between specialized and generalized. A combination can work even better and I bring in some examples from the throwing world.
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.
While I spend much of my time on this site talking about the hammer throw and training for the hammer throw, it is important to remember that much of what I talk to is just as applicable to the other throwing events and even other sports. Training principles are fairly uniform. Facts like how the body adapts to stress or the how to increase power output are the same for other sports. The main difference is how they are applied.
With that in mind, Chad Smith asked me to contribute regularly to his site Juggernaut Training Systems. Smith was an elite shot putter before starting the JTS webpage, hitting a personal best of 19.46-meters as a post-collegiate in 2009. Since then he has switched to other strength sports, most recently winning the 2012 North American Strongman championship. He has also worked just as hard on his website as he has in the weight room. The site provides training information for a variety of strength sports, from throwing to strongman to powerlifting to Crossfit and more. Over the past year it has grown tremendously from around 20,000 visitors per month to over 300,000 a month.
Every month or two I will be posting a new article on JTS. The content on this site will not change and I will also post with the same frequency here. My posts for JTS will instead focus on the new topic of applying concepts like special strength to other sports. My first post, found below, indeed talks about special strength, but focuses on a key factor of all training missing in many online training articles: context. Too often articles focus on theory or practice, but they leave out the most important element of context.
Over the past month 8 Weeks Out has released a four-part video introduction to the methods of Anatoli Bondarchuk that I filmed back in July. While Bondarchuk is best known within the world of track and field, his methods can be easily applied to other sports and this video series attempts to give a brief overview of some general concepts that can be applied to other sports. The first three parts, which I discussed two weeks ago, explain the “transfer of trainig” concept, Bondarchuk’s exercise classification system, and some examples of special developmental exercises for the hammer throw and other sports.
In the final episode I take a deeper look at how to put theory into practice by giving a little overview of periodization. Periodization takes elements from the exercise classification system, but also adds in elements from each athlete’s unique characteristics and the demands of their sport. I try to explain this by comparing two basic periodization models: block periodization and complex periodization. Complex periodization is what we use in the hammer throw, but it is important to remember that it is not necessarily what should be used for athletes in other sports, let alone other hammer throwers. Individual needs play a huge role in periodization. This is also why I spend more time writing about other concepts since periodization is the most likely to be taken out of context. Unlike many coaches, Bondarchuk does not prescribe the same thing for every athlete and this is why it is a bit dangerous to look at what we are doing and just copy it. I address this in the second half of the video through an informative Q&A session with 8 Weeks Out founder Joel Jamieson.
When I first started sharing my experiences with Dr. Bondarchuk I wasn’t able to convince many coaches that his methods could be successful in any sport other than the hammer throw. There were even skeptics of its success in the hammer throw without the Soviet sports structure supporting it. But then Dylan Armstrong became the top shot putter in the world and we won over some skeptics. Others, however, held out and attributed Armstrong’s success solely to his freak athletic abilities. Then last year Justin Rodhe finally made the breakthrough from small school champion to world class shot putter after years of training under Bondarchuk. The skeptics got even quieter and even non-track and field people starting looking at how his methods can apply to training for any sport.
Joel Jamieson has been one of those guys since the beginning. And when I stopped by his gym in July he asked me to do a short introductory video series on Bondarchuk for non-throwers. While most of Bondarchuk’s research was specific to track and field, his methods can be easily applied to other sports. Over the past few weeks, Jamieson has posted the first three parts of the series on his homepage which explain Bondarchuk’s exercise classification system and some examples of special developmental exercises for the hammer throw and some other sports.
A favorite topic of mine is special strength, the bridge between throwing and lifting. The point of special strength is to improve your throwing through exercises that closely mimic the movements and muscles used in the hammer throw. I have already outlined some of the classic exercises, like plate twists or kettlebell releases. But I am always looking for new exercises since the body frequently needs something new in order to shock the system and get it to adapt to new, higher levels.
One exercise that is often overlooked are heavy winds, perhaps because the idea is too simple. The exercise is just like it sounds, wind something heavy. This will help develop hammer throw muscles in the winding movement. I highlighted this exercise back in 2009 with a video of Beijing Olympic champion Primož Kozmus doing this exercise in training.