weight lifting for shot put and discus throw

Quick tip Friday: Improving Shot Put & Discus Torque with this simple lift


The importance of the little lifts in a strength training program for throwers are significant. Below is a basic bent over Dumbbell row. Basics movements need to be done correctly.

The Thrower on the left is doing it incorrect. The coach on the right is loaded on the legs correctly, and can now better engage scap retraction and facilitate a proper rowing motion.

The thrower on the left is too far forward and can’t engage the scaps correctly to work Retraction, or work the Rhomboids, because as he pulls the weight, he pulls himself forward and he will use too much bicep and anterior delt…

… This is a simple lift, but often done wrong.

Why is it important for throwers?

Rows done properly, help with Scap retraction which opens the chest, improves posture alignment, and thus allows better function of the core. This combo will improve Thoracic rotation. Better Thoracic rotation means you will have better separation/torque in the throw.

Remember, the body is a system, and throwers need to train do specific things to improve as a thrower.

Don’t forget your assistance lifts, and don’t forget that you need to do them right to get the maximum benefit to improve your throwing.

The pre-season has begun and that means training is in full swing.

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Check it out.

shot put discus weight training programs

Too Strong To Throw Far

It’s officially the Off-Season, and I can finally stop traveling to track meets around the country, and get back to more weight room training and being behind the scenes working on all things ARETE, bringing new content to the membership, blog, and online throws coaching courses.

At this time of year, I enjoy focusing on the weight room, breaking down technique, and being able to enjoy the somewhat slower pace before preseason begins.

It’s a time where I could care less how far an athlete is throwing….

… and by that I mean, the off season pace allows us to spend more time in the ring adjusting technique, time in the weight room developing lifting technique, and focusing on correcting gross posture imbalances that can limit performance (or as I have named it GPR, Gross Posture Rebalancing).

What is GPR?…

…It’s a relatively straightforward concept. If an athlete has gross posture imbalances, they have limitations in their ability to throw far. This is something I discuss in detail in our  online program/ Strength Training & Program Design for throwers.

In most strength programs for throwers, one of the biggest mistakes I see is the focus narrows on pure strength development.

That is not to say that we don’t focus on strength development- WE DO!

However, the one thing that is critical to understand is that too much focus on pure strength in a training program results in fatigue. This fatigue will create an adverse reaction to the central nervous system’s requirements in regards to throwing, or in other words-

Too much fatigue in the weight room equals longer technical development times in the ring….

Now in the summer program, or early fall when there’s much less throwing happening, this fatigue will not have as much of an impact, however, once throwing and strength training resumes on a more regular basis, it’s really important to make sure that the body is fresh for throwing, specifically the central nervous system.

When the thrower has, for lack of a better word, “been beat to shit in the weight room”, they’re not going to be developing efficient movement patterns in the ring.

A weight training program for throwers must produce better throws, therefore, a weight training program needs to be designed with the goal to produce faster and more efficient technical development.

Bottomline… your lifting program has to enhance throwing, not get in your way.

Any training that falls victim to the “pure strength” lure, will leave a thrower strong as sh#t, but not throwing to their potential. The best programs focus on a strength-training program that develops the same type of speed and power required in the ring is critical for the success of the thrower!

For example- the deadlift.

In the ATN strength Program, we do NOT do dead lifts.

I know many programs that include those, I know of many elite throwers that use those, but we have not… and here is why.

… It simply is not the most effective movement that translates to the movement of the throws.

Instead, we focus on heavy clean pulls because the object in this lift is to always to be accelerating the weight to keep the CNS focused on fast, ballistic movement….

… as it is in throwing the shot put and the discus.

Sure moving really heavy things (like in the case of the dead lift) will elicit a positive hormone response and will in fact increase your strength, however, the Arete approach achieves better effects by using a slightly lower weight because we’re always training our throwers to be moving at a higher rate of speed.

The bottom line is when you’re in the ring you have to be able to move as fast as you can, and training strength patterns that develop strength and speed is typically the number one focus.

Take Jason Harrell (4th place at the Olympic Trials this year, Discus) for example,

Jason’s collegiate lifting program got him stronger in the squat, dead lift, and bench press; it was a power movement dominant strength program, and Jason’s core strength levels were respectable.

In Jason’s first year with me, we overhauled his strength training and watched his power lifts stay around the same, but his Olympic lifts took a big jump.


Well, Jason stopped dead lifts, and skipped the bench press altogether during the season.

As a result, Jason’s competition average increased by 17 feet!

After training for 1 year with ATN, Jason went from

  • a 55m competition average, to a 60m average in his first season
  • averaging 180ft to 197ft in the discus
  • he added 12 feet to his lifetime best
  • went from never making it to the NCAA championships to top 18 in the entire United States by qualifying and competing at the US championships.

That’s a massive change in a year.

Jason passed all but 3 of the top 24 throwers in the NCAA from the previous year- huge difference!

The block periodization program served Jason exceptionally well.

What if the throwers are high school level? What happens if the programs are changed?

A few years ago, ATN had an athlete who improved 17 feet in the shot put from his sophomore year to his junior year- 45 ft to 62 ft!

The year he improved 17 feet, he switched from the glide to the spin, and we completely changed his weight training program to a Block periodization program with the early focus on GPR.

From the start, we focused on blocks to develop size, blocks that develop strength, and blocks that focused on competition speed development.

When the program was altered, the athlete’s success dropped.

In early January, prior to the season and having just finished football on the same style program that worked his junior year,  this athlete opened 7 inches off his PR. He was on pace to throw 65 to 67 feet!

However, due to some school politics (which really means “go away private coach we’re going to do things our way!”) the program that was giving him success was  taken over and  a different program was implemented.

This other strength program was a much more “general strength only” program, and  focused on pure strength and size. Unfortunately, the thrower ended up getting injured and not throwing father for the entire season.

Even though he did PR slightly in the discus, he never achieved Arete (his maximum potential) in the shot where he excels.

The move to Block periodization lead to huge increases, and the move away from a block periodization to a standard linear periodized program resulted in a decline in throws, a slew of choric injuries, and a finish at the biggest meet of the year that was 4 feet below his opening mark in January.

The other aspect of block periodization is that it creates multiple peaks and trains the body to be ready to peak multiple times. Which in a linear program, if you miss the mark, you are often screwed.

To further illustrate my argument, this athlete’s teammate was put back on an ATN program eight weeks prior to the biggest meet of the year, and this athlete improve steadily each week for the next 7 weeks, finishing the season with 3 consecutive PR’s at the three biggest meets- including the state championship in California, where he won.

So the point of these two stories is to illustrate that a properly designed block program consistently works time and time again.

Remember the role of a strength-training program is to produce better throwers, that throw farther, and that there are more variables than just lifting to get strong.

Make no mistake your weight training is a vital part of the elite throwing performance…

… So before you get sucked in by the lure of putting up MASSIVE NUMBERS, “I’m HUGE!”, or chest pounding animal strength (I get the appeal)…

… don’t forget throwers are throwers first and strength training is just part of the process.

Throwing Strong.

Click the link here to learn more about our upcoming Online Coaches Course: Strength Training and Program Design for throwers course.

olympic lifting for shot put and discus

Olympic Lifting For The Throws

olympic lifts for the throws- Shot Put & DiscusOne of the key elements of the Arete Throws Nation strength training program for the throws are the Olympic Lifts.

I can’t say enough about Olympic Lifts; they are just fantastic lifts! They develop coordination (hell, they require coordination), they stimulate hormone production for building muscle mass, they train the nervous system to be responsive, they work flexibility, and the list goes on and on and on.


Olympic Lifts are pure athletic strength development, and should be a part of any athlete’s program, especially throwers.


erik johnson throwing discus at UCLAPersonally for me, when I was in college at Mt. SAC, UCLA, and then CU Boulder, it was the first time I was exposed to true weight training and Olympic Lifting, especially techniques. This exposure is where I learned how to do cleans and snatches more effectively.

The point I’m driving at is that when I was at the collegiate level, I definitely got strong! I probably achieved my best strength levels in the power lifts, bench press, and squat! Most college throws coaches also spend a great deal of time as strength coaches for their throwers. I was very fortunate to learn from some of the top throws/weight lifting coaches in the nation: Art Venagas (who brought in Coach Bob Takano to teach us Olympic lifting technique at UCLA), Ej “Doc” Kries, and my biggest strength training influence, Tony Ciarelli, USAW level 4 to name a few.


This is when I caught the fever to learn more, and I dedicated myself to learning the science of the throws, the details in the details, and the connection of an elite lifting program for the throws.

2 to 3 years later after my journey through college and post college as a thrower, the Olympic lifts became the emphasis. Tony Ciarelli wrote my programs, and my  Olympic lifting totals were higher than they had ever been, and coincidentally so were my throws! This led me to the finals of the Olympic trials in ’96, and a top 10 us ranking!

erik johnson at the olympic trials

ATTENTION! Let’s state the obvious: Olympic lifts ONLY improve an athlete’s performance when they are coached CORRECTLY!


A coach must understand the proper positions and movements of the Olympic lifts in order for them to be successful for the athlete. To know proper weight load, body positions – i.e. the proper alignment of the back, hips, knees, shoulders, and head, plus the action of the hips, weight distribution through the feet, as well as the most optimum path of the bar.


arete throws nation olympic lifting chart

This is why you should watch out for places that have “classes” for Olympic lifting or call themselves “certified”. If you are looking for places to learn Olympic lifting for throwers…well, we are it. Most places do not know, or understand the intricacy, or the details of proper technical movements of the Olympic Lifts, let alone how they translate to the throws. Olympic lifts take time and training to learn. In order to master these lifts correctly takes patience and constant studying. There are places that offer Olympic lifts, but due to their lack of truly understanding HOW to coach it (or instruct it), they are giving the sport of lifting a reputation for numerous injuries, when in actuality when coached properly, it is ranked lowest in injuries of all sports- except maybe shuffle board.



Olympic lifting at arete throws nation in the A caveIn this blog, I’m not going to dissect the Olympic lifts, but rather touch on the general benefits and correlations to the throws.   By either becoming a member of the Arete Throws Nation, or physically coming to Arete Strength, you will be given in-depth instruction and education on all the details. It’s just too big a topic to quickly blog on here.


At Arete Throws Nation, I coach and provide all my athletes (high school, college, & Pro) with an elite level weight training program, in which we focus on Olympic lifts. I also coach each thrower on every aspect of the lifts- the proper positions, techniques, and always educating how these movements directly impact and benefit the throws.


How Do The Olympic Lifts Improve Throwing Performance?

First of all Olympic Lifting is not a “grip it- and rip it” style of lifting. When performing Olympic lifts, there is a double eccentric load, which is why the lifts are so effective. This means you are going to load at the start (by taking time to set it up the lifting chain reaction), before you can ballistically accelerate the weight. As you complete the first pull, you are  then going to quickly drop back under the bar to catch the weight with the lower body (which is the 2nd eccentric load) its an athletic response… something you see in almost all explosive sports, especially the shot put, discus, and hammer.

The movement of these lifts, to fully extend through a lift by generating the most power from your lower extremities setting up maximum power to your upper extremities in a sequence correlates with the same type of general movement pattern you would have in the throws.

Now the throws, of course, add an additional component of rotation (transverse plane) and transfer of momentum forward into the throwing sector, which clearly you don’t do in the Olympic Lifts as these lifts are movements that are done on the frontal and sagittal plane, moving up and down with 2 feet on the ground straight up- and that is clearly different.

rocky fenton, discus arete throws nation

The action of facilitating drive (pushing the legs and driving the heels into the ground), creating power from the ground, extending the hips up in this very short time window, to optimally sequence the path of the bar for the second pull in both snatch and clean is absolutely fantastic for creating explosive strength for the throws!

dotun ogundeji olympic liftMany people out there will incorporate dead lifts. From my reading and research, and from the best sports science coaches in history collectively do not focus on the dead lifts. I therefore do not have my athletes do the dead lift. Heavy pulls, yes ( both clean and snatch pulls), but no dead lifts… I do not like dead lifts.. in a box, with a fox… Sam I Am!


Now there will be power lifters out there who will say, “ You are wrong… dead lifts make you strong.” and a heck of a lot more… And to them I say, “It’s great, for a power lifter, but throwers are not power lifters, so can you explain the science, and back it all up with proof of how it transfers into the throws?”


I’ve had some incredible PRs every single year with my athletes, and the best throwers in the world use the Olympic lifts, further focusing on the maximum velocity, or more specifically, focusing on the meters per second in which the bar moves. The focus is on training the body to move as fast as possible, don’t hate those pesky scientific details of physics- embrace them!


When we look at the number of throwers that have excelled in my program, or those of my mentor Tony Ciarelli, or of my good friend Doug Reynolds at the University of Alabama- (he has produced 39 NCAA  All- Americans and counting), and many, many others, the performance gains and the empirical data supports my argument. [ and the microphone drops!]


nick ponzio Shot Put drill in the "A"- caveNow the other key Olympic lift is the Jerk. Now the jerk is by far an excellent movement for the throws, especially for shot putters.


The jerk is where the bar is on your shoulders, and you have to dip the hips and drive the bar overhead via the proper action of the legs to set up maximum drive.( This is of course very simplified) If you don’t facilitate the movements correctly, you’re likely going to try to muscle the weight overhead with the upper body instead of the legs, and that will limit the amount of weight you can move. Kinda like throwing the shot… you must sequence the legs before the upper body strike.


If you time it wrong, you will try to muscle the shot with the upper body,  and you simply won’t throw far!

Olympic lifts are about moving the weight as fast as possible; moderate to heavy weight that is, as fast as possible. Again initiating from the ground, through the legs,  hips, to set up the upper body pull where you move even faster; just like the finish on a throw!

 That split second sequencing is what you are training the body to do which again becomes very similar to the throws.


weight lifting program for the throwsLike I said before, the jerk is phenomenal for the shot putters. Case in point, one season I was working with a coach, and his athletes, and one of his athletes had PR’d 17ft that year in the shot put- he had gone from 45ft to 62 ft as a junior! This coach all season had asked me to write the weight training programs, structure the practices in the ring, coordinate the drills, and basically coach his throwers.


Throughout this season he did asked a lot of questions, because he was trying to learn which is great thing for the school’s program, and the sport in general; however, at the very end of the season, he asked me,


 “Don’t you think he would have thrown even farther if he had done more bench-press?”


I shook my head and all I could do was sigh. Here we are… we had a 17 ft PR- that is pretty unprecedented for a shot putter for his age and for a single season. Not to mention this athlete wasn’t 6’4” and 300 lbs; this athlete was 5’10” and weighted 205!


He was fast as snot and could strike the crap out of it! The base of his lifting program the entire season had been the Arete Strength program for the throws: lots of Cleans, Snatches and Jerks, with variations of each of those movements. That was the dominant change in the training program, and a big reason he became a nationally ranked thrower! [ microphone drop #2]


So if you are not doing Olympic lifts, by all means you need to understand it is something that will absolutely enhance your throwing.

It’s constantly training you to be fast and explosive!



Throw Far My Friends!

Coach Erik Johnson

strength training for shot put and discus throw

Strength For The Shot Put and Discus Throw

strength training for the shot put and discus throw

Throwing is a strength sport, so by default you need to be strong in order to perform the shot put and discus at the optimum level. At least 50% of your throws training is likely going to be spent in the weight room. When you are at the collegiate level, you figure you are spending about 4 to 5 hours daily training, and of that, you are spending at least half of that time on strength related work.

At Arete Strength, our weight-training program for throwers has our athletes lifting 4 to 5 days a week; it’s intense and designed specifically for throwers. The workouts are an hour on a short day and usually at least 2 hours in length. As we move along the season, it changes, but the focus is always on the throws specific strength levels.

Drills are one of the ways a throwers strength levels are exposed; simply holding the positions and performing the drills will be a challenge for those that lack adequate strength levels.

Nick_Lifting1In the off season, at Arete Throws Nation, our throwers will do 2+ hours a day of weight training for the throws, and 1 hour of drills because we are getting bigger and stronger for the next year, and we are working on footwork and breaking down the throws technique. We will add light throwing in to keep in touch with the technique, and apply what we learn with the drills, but we will not be constantly throwing in the ring. There is no point to constantly throw in the ring if the athlete’s strength levels are not even capable to do drills and this is where I see the caveat of most high school programs

Why the hell would you practice throwing in the ring using the wrong positions, and at half of your strength levels?  Strength training for the throws MUST be a focus all year round.

In our Arete Throws Nation Throwing Chain Reaction camps, I can clearly see who has the horsepower and who doesn’t. If you can’t get into a position doing the drills due to your strength weaknesses or imbalances, you most definitely are not going to get into position in the ring, or in competition. THIS WILL HOLD YOU BACK FROM THROWING FAR!

discus camp drill 1, 2014

Discus throwers and Shot Putters that do not have basic strength levels to hold their own bodyweight in the PROPER drill positions, will ALWAYS be too weak to throw in the proper position in the ring, and will fail to throw big, because they will always be compensating and thus compromising their ability to do the throw correctly.

Without a well-designed weight lifting program for throwing, you will cap a throwers ability to throw far. If a thrower cannot create the angles, the loading on the legs, and the proper trunk activation they are automatically at a deficit. With that being said, an elite weight training program for throwers is NOT about getting a thrower to look aesthetically big, or how big the numbers are in the weight room! It’s about how strong the athlete is for the actual sport; how the lifting translates into the ring. Therefore the weight programs end goal is to throw far, not just put up big numbers in the weight room.

weight lifting program for the throws

This is a huge deficit at most high school level programs.

There is a lack of structure, knowledge in the weight room, and how to create a program specifically for throwers.

This is why I offer throws coach training for coaches, so they can dominate in the sport, and create America’s next big throwers!

Some people argue that “some strength training is better than no strength training”, and to some degree I would agree with that, but an improper weight program sets up an athlete to get injured too. I saw this happen twice last year from a high school, and I had to repair and rebuild a thrower, and thankfully he had an outstanding season.


 At Arete Throws Nation, our weight lifting program for the throws is truly an elite program on par with the many of the best Division 1 programs, and all of my throwers that go on to a D1 throws programs have a seamless transition. Its not Bragging, its confidence in what I do.


I always get the feedback about Arete Throws Nation athletes from these college coaches, and they really appreciate the work ethic, the lifting knowledge, and the skill level of these freshman throwers.

Remember, when a high school thrower goes to the collegiate level for boys, the implements are 30% heavier, and strength becomes paramount. Due to this fact, all my graduating senior throwers will begin an adjustment to their weight training and drills to better prepare them for the transition to the heavier implement.


The Arete Throws Nation’s weight training program for Shot Putters and Discus Throws is always about programming the nervous system. We do weight lifting to be come a better Thrower, and not just better in the weight room.

You don’t go to a meet and bench in the ring, you throw!!

If you are interesetd in more information about strength training for throws and you live in Southern California:

In Person Training For Coaches and Throwers:

Arete Throws Nation Coaching In So. Calif

Online Coaching For Coaches and Throwers:

Arete Throws Nation Online Program

If you want more information about our FALL preseason Throws Camps- Throwing Chain Reaction-  CLICK HERE!

Throw Far!

– Coach Erik Johnson