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

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