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.

How?

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.

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