Three Things I Know… Part 2 Mac Wilkins

Three Things I know (No Secrets here)

Part Two : Work a Wide Right Leg from the back to the middle

These three high level concepts will work well as a tune up before the big meets in May and June.  You won’t get bogged down with complex details and “forget how to throw”.   They are also foundation concepts that can and should be mastered from the beginning of your throwing career.

The three moves are good for advanced and beginning throwers as well.  They are easy to grasp and execute.  The trick is executing them well in the whole movement of the throw.

Each of these three concepts have many sub parts or details that can be explored and I will list a few of them.  Primarily, though, I am looking at these as high level movements, positions and rhythm that can be approached with the end result in mind.  Work one idea or all three per throw in training or competition.

1.    See the Horizon to the Target (throw direction)

Slow Down, see the horizon to the target.  Let the eyes and left arm lead the body to the target.

2.    Work a Wide Right Leg from the Back of the circle to the Middle

The Right Leg is your engine for the throw

The wide right leg works/races ahead of the paused or slowed left side to create torque.

Starting too fast in the unwind and first turn with the left side makes the right leg go fast to catch up to the left side.  To go fast it works like a hammer thrower’s right leg, short, fast and close to the left knee.  This narrow and fast right leg has NO POWER in the middle of the circle.  It has a short radius and is trying to catch up to the fast upper body.  It never does in this case.  It is forced to create a fast to slower rhythm.  Longer and slower on the first turn to shorter and faster in the middle is the correct but counter intuitive rhythm for the throw.

“On your mark.  Get Set…”

We are only trying to get down to a powerful start position at the back of the circle like a sprinter in the blocks in the “set” position at the start of a race.  Think about what position will create the most power for you when facing the throw direction in the single leg support phase.  How can you create the most linear AND rotational force with your right leg?  How can you best make your hips rotate as fast as possible in the middle of the circle?  Feet and knees close together is not a powerful starting position.  A wide right leg out the back of the circle with the left thigh vertical (left hip out) providing some unseat to the target just naturally feels powerful.  See the photos below.

Also note the upper body posture.

Ish POst

No, he really isn’t throwing here, just finding the position during a competition.

LJ WS left foot slide and drop 001

LJ Silvester, the Original, First over 60m, First over 70m.

WS Wide RLeg side

 

 

Mac Furth Hang

Throwers start with different timing and different right leg action at the back.  LJ Silvester and Wolfgang Schmidt got their right foot off the ground sooner than anyone in relation to the turning of the left side.  Their right leg swept forward leading with the inside of the thigh.  Others (Lars Reidel below) keep the right foot on the ground longer at the back and lead more with the top of the thigh with a bit of a hitch kick action.

In any case:

1. All who do this effectively will show in the shortened position a right leg with the foot slightly under or behind the knee similar to  a sprinter’s leg position.

2. The key is to not turn the left side too fast so the right leg cannot swing wide before shortening and accelerating ahead of the left side, creating torque.  When you have that down, don’t forget Point #1 about pausing or slowing the left side somewhere while turning on the left leg  to ensure the right leg can get ahead to create torque.

Using the Wide Right Leg DOES NOT require a 600lb squat.  It is a position you move through.

Loly 90 degrees

14 yr. old non weight trained female with wide right leg.

Whatever you do at the back of the circle you must repeat at the front, whether good or bad.  If you want to throw the discus with your right hip ahead of the right shoulder (for right handed throwers) then work the right hip (wide right leg) at the back to the middle of the circle to lead the upper body.  If you lead with your head and shoulders at the start you will lead into  the throw with your head and shoulders first in the delivery.   Good Luck with that one.

Other side notes.

Left Side Drive v Right Leg Engine – Its OK to push with the left leg at the back of the circle.  Just maintain the integrity of the throw rhythm.  You do want to load the left foot as you turn at the back getting into the “set position”.  Getting the left foot down as fast as possible at the front is NOT the goal.  Getting the left foot down AT THE RIGHT TIME  is the goal.

Keep the right foot close to the ground – yes, if you are hopping up in the middle and destroying your rhythm.  But if the right foot is close to the ground all the way, you are losing power by having a shorter right leg radius.  Check out the long right leg on Ms “Seventy Meter Sandy” Perkovic below.  She’s not skimming the ground with the right foot.

Below are More Long, Wide, and Relatively Slower Right Legs waiting to shorten and accelerate the rotation of the hips and discus/shot put.

Guess Who?

rh wide right rear

 

perk wide

 

lars wide

 

DSCN0245

Over 110 video lessons on the shot and discus at

www.the wilkinsreview.com

Anita’s Taxi is Here

Anita’s Taxi is here!

Anita Taxi

Here is how to do it right if you really want to be successful.  Pay attention to the details and do what is needed.

For the last four years Anita Wlodarczyk, the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World Championships silver medalist in the women’s hammer throw, comes to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista (San Diego) CA to train.  She is accompanied by her  coach Krzystof Kaliszewski, and physiotherapist Joanna Madajczyk.

Doing drills correctly over and over is a big part of her program.  There is no magic, just a good plan, hard work, good technique and a commitment to doing everything the right way.  For example; delivery work with the weight.  Wind and throw 50 throws right sided, 50 throws left sided.

FYI – In addition to their coaching and physio/massage responsibilities, Joanna pulls the hammers from the ground and loads them in the taxi’s trailer.   Krzystof ‘drives’ the car back to the circle.  Anita throws the hammers back out into the field to complete their continuous round trips.

PS: click on the photo to expand it and get all the detail!

 

 

Three Things I Know by Mac Wilkins

Part 1 of 3

No Secrets here…

These three high level concepts will work well as a tune up focus before the big meets in May and June. You won’t get bogged down with complex details and “forget how to throw”.

They are also concepts that can and should be mastered as part of the foundation of your technique from the beginning of your career.
1. See the Horizon to the Target
2. Work a Wide Right Leg from the Back of the circle to the Middle
3. The Right leg/hip continuously rotate into the left side block from the middle.

The three moves are good for advanced and beginning throwers as well. They are easy to grasp and execute. The trick is executing them well in the whole movement of the throw.

Each of these three concepts have many sub parts or details that can be explored and I will list a few of them. Primarily, though, I am looking at these as high level movements, positions and rhythm that can be approached with the end result in mind. Work one idea or all three per throw in training or competition.

It might be easy to dismiss these concepts as too simple or high level and move on to more detailed trivia. The advanced thrower will find endless subtlety here and increase their power and efficiency.

1. See the Horizon to the Target (throw direction)
If you can’t see the details of the horizon, where the sky meets the earth, then you are turning too fast. Slow Down!  Or get on balance so your head is more centered as you turn.  Or be more upright with your upper body posture.

Let the left side (eyes, left arm, knee and foot) lead to the target

From 10 o’clock on, (with 12 being straight out the back of the circle) the left side is a single vertical plane. (don’t let the foot/knee get ahead of or lag behind the shoulder/arm/head unit)

At the target or in the next 150 degrees, the left side slows or pauses to let the Right Leg Engine catch up and overtake it creating torque. This slowing point varies from thrower to thrower. If the left side doesn’t slow the right leg will never catch up to create torque.

Try to hold your face at the target until the right leg pulls it around to the back of the circle. This is an important key for throwers having trouble getting torque.

The throwers in this video “see the horizon” and “hold their eyes on the target” for a hot second before the right leg turns them to the back of the circle.

 

For over 100 video lessons from Mac Wilkins on shot and discus…  www.thewilkinsreview.com

The Moment of Truth in the Glide Shot Put (by Dan McQuaid)

Valerie Adams of New Zealand, Christina Schwanitz of Germany, and Lijiao Gong of China finished 1-2-3 in the shot in last summer’s Outdoor World Championships.

Yesterday, they finished in the exact same order at the Indoor World Championships.

Coincidence?

I think not.

All three have mastered a vital aspect of the glide technique: the transition from the glide through the power position into the finish of the throw. This transition requires precise timing, and is fraught with potential difficulties.

The key is to get the right heel up and the right knee and hip turning into the throw before the upper body opens or drifts forward. Basically, the athlete needs to create as much distance as possible between their right knee and right elbow.

Doing so establishes a slingshot effect that greatly accelerates the implement. Failure to do so–usually because the athlete begins the arm strike before the lower body has a chance to fire–results in a weak, upper-body-driven throw.

If you want to see what this transition phase should look like, take a gander at the video of Saturday’s competition. Here are some still photos I took from that video:

Schwanitz1

This is Schwanitz just as her right foot touches down following her glide. She’s in great shape here–the shot is back, her eyes are back, her right knee is bent. She is spring-loaded and ready for a powerful finish.

The key will be her ability to create distance between her right knee and right elbow in the instant after the right foot touches down. Let’s see how she did:

Schwanitz2

Notice that her left foot is now much closer to the toeboard while her head and right elbow have barely moved. This is because she is driving into the throw from her right toes through her right knee while keeping her upper body back.

This is an important visual cue. Had Schwanitz initiated the throw with her upper body, her left foot would have plopped down immediately in the spot that you see it hovering over in the first photo. Think of  a teeter-totter. One end pops up, the other end drops. What we see instead is an increasingly wide distance between the feet and–though not so obvious from this angle–an increasing distance between her right knee and right elbow.

Schwanitz3

Now you can see it. Her right elbow is starting to rotate in the direction of the throw, but look how far ahead she has driven her right knee. The slingshot is stretched, and she is ready to release a powerful throw.

Here is Gong moving through those same positions:

Gong1

Like Schwanitz, she hits an excellent power position. The shot is way back (if, hypothetically, she dropped the shot at this moment it would land behind her right foot–this is a good cue when watching film with your throwers especially if there are not 87 officials scattered around the throwing area blocking everyone’s view) and her right leg is loaded and ready to…

Gong2

…drive into the throw. As with Schwanitz, we can tell that Gong is driving hard with that right leg because her left foot is now near the toeboard while her right elbow has barely moved. If I may harp on the slingshot analogy a bit more, her right knee is like the hand holding the slingshot while her right hand/elbow/shoulder is like the hand holding the little pouch containing the projectile. Driving forward with the right knee while keeping the right elbow back is like stretching the heck out of the slingshot just before letting go of the projectile. Had Gong’s right elbow turned with her knee, she would create much less tension.

Gong3

This is just a couple of frames later.  Her right elbow is still back, her head is still back, her right leg is driving and she is about to knock the crap out of the shot.

With yesterday’s triumph, Valeri Adams has now won 44 consecutive shot competitions including two Olympic gold medals. Let’s see how she transitions from the glide through the power position:

Adams1

She is not as low as the other two medalists, nor is the shot quite so far back so you won’t see the distance between her feet changing too much as she drives into the throw.  But, the shot is far enough behind her right hip that she is able to…

Adams2

…stretch the slingshot. And you know the rest.

USA Hammer Throwing Needs a USA Approach (by John Smith)

I understand the European model of developing hammer throwers. Starting kids at eight years old like they do in the hammer throwing countries is beyond a doubt a proven way of developing the hammer. Unfortunately, even though there are pockets of places training young kids to throw the hammer in this country and that is a big bonus to the event in the USA, it simply doesn’t reach enough talents kids. As much as the former Soviet system was admired for the techniques they developed, their real secret to their success was the 1000’s of talented people, many talented coaches and all the training and hammer data they had collected during that process that pertained to hammer development, specific strength training and special exercises that developed and produced those medal stand guys.

We need a system much like we have now for the shot and discus in the high schools, but this will never happen in our Politically Correct school systems. There is just too much liability, too many lawyers, and too much money to build the cages and fields for many school districts. The NCAA system, then, is our minor league for this event. The best talent ends up in the NCAA system in the throws and it is up to the college coaches to identify good shot and discus guys who might end up being better hammer throwers.

The problem with this event is we won’t be successful taking the European 10-15 year approach. Our kids have to be throwing 70m-75m coming out of college to have a chance to continue. Hammer is great cross training for the discus and the rotational shot and benefits both those events. The more guys we can expose to this event in college the better chance we have of finding a guy with 80m talent. Lance is a good example of this. Excellent discus thrower, good shot putter and world class hammer thrower after he left college.

We do not have the time to start a thrower on a light implement and throw it 75-80m and then the next year hand him a slightly bigger implement and take the year to match the distance from the year before. Also, throwing a light ball far at the young ages is no guarantee that the same athlete will throw the international weight far. Europe is full of athletes that throw fantastic at young ages that never make it with the bigger implements. From what I see we need to train this event 65/70% Overweight, and 65-70% Speed during the college years to accelerant the progress of the event. Some aspects of the event will be neglected, but we don’t have a choice the way our system is set up.

Much has been written and discussed about the Bondarchuk Methods of training the hammer. His system is awesome and all based on competition length hammers that are heavy down to light. The heavy hammers are the main work of the system and the light lifting is used as the stimulus to drive the heavy hammer work. This stuff works without a doubt but takes many years to build and especially for the masses. Now back to the 65/70% Overweight, 65/70% speed. In order to make up for the years of concentrating on making light implements go far, the hammer has a unique aspect to it by allowing coaches to change wire lengths to affect speed. This allows a heavy implement to become a speed implement at the same time. Hammer training with the use of different length implements can be tweaked to find recipes that will build the specific strength and the speed at the same time by using weights, ½ wire, ¾ wire, or whatever lengths you can put in your hammer training toolbox. Even extra-long implements have a place in the training for addressing certain problems. I have athletes that thrive off of short wires as the main tool of their training, some that thrive off of weights and long hammers, some that thrive off of extra-long hammers and ½ wires etc…Every thrower has what I call their implement recipe to get the desired results. We make the hammer too difficult in this country. This event is all about time and reps. It takes years to build distance with normal length hammers for training. This event is all about ten feet per pound. If you can throw an 18lb 60m and your 14lb is 72m then your 16lb will be around 66m. The light implement is just as important as the heavy to the total outcome of the competition implement. This is simply what the Soviets were doing. Yuri threw the 10k 70m, the 5k 100M (according to Bondarchuk’s book) and the middle ground of that is 85m. If the athlete is a good technician and has speed he will exceed that number by 1- 2 per cent and if he is not he will be down by 1-2 per cent. This is the game of hammer throwing. Finding the recipe to make light and heavy implements go far. If you throw a lot of light only you will get stuck, and if you throw heavy only you will get stuck. In hammer training I have seen time and time again that the heavy ball moves first, then the light ball will move second and then the middle will move. Sometimes the heavy will go far and the light will go far and you won’t see the middle move for 9-12 months and then boom! a 5m jump with the competition weight. Hammer progress is being made as long as something in the throwing is getting better. However, the lifting to hold up to this type of training has to be more intense and certain hammer workouts have to be put on certain days to maintain progress. There are hammer workouts that go very well the day a heavy lift, two days after a heavy lift, and three days after heavy lift and this is all due to how the CNS is recovering and muscular system of the body is recovering. They both recover at different rates.

Now, to end this paper I would like to say that we hurt ourselves also. The hammer is an event where recruiting foreign throwers is a great advantage. A guy entering college with ten years of hammer experience is no match for the junior with three years of experience. The money spent on these guys does little to develop the event in this country. I have heard for 30 years now how having foreign hammer throwers will help American hammer throwing, but the numbers are not there to support this. What it really does is just limit the pool of USA athletes that can receive support for the event. Every NCAA coach in this country is needed to develop this event so we can find that guy with the 80m talent.

How We Adapted in the Shot Post 1995 and Why We Didn’t Adapt in the Discus (by John Smith)

It’s been 20 years now since there was a radical shift in drug testing on the world level. American shot putters adapted to the new conditions by developing a fairly new way of throwing: the rotational technique.  The results of this by the numbers are pretty evident. Over the last 20 years, the US has captured 32/75 world medals (42.6% of Olympic, World Indoor and Outdoor) and 81/200 top ten world ranking spots (40.6%). Over the previous 20 years(1975-1994) the US had earned 9/39 medals (23%) and 61/200 world ranking spots. Clearly, as the spin technique became better America’s medal production and top 10 ranking spots made a significant increase. However, our other rotating event– the discus–did not see the same success.

I am a numbers guy and a history guy. I coach by recording numbers and watching the correlations between the numbers and the training program. I also have done extensive research into training systems around the world. The history of the sport can also show you the mistakes that are made so you don’t do repeat them, and yes, I love the history channel.

Here are the discus numbers for three 20-year time periods.  From 1955-1974 we held 84/200 world ranking spots (42%) much like the spin shot has been for the last 20 years and 10/15 world medals (66.6%) . Over the next 20 years (1975-1994) those numbers dropped dramatically: 42/200 world ranking spots and 5/24 medals (20.8%). During the next 20 years (1995-present) we earned 22/200 ranking spots and 1/45 world medals (2.2%). These numbers have always bothered me, so I started looking for reasons why.

America produces good high school discus throwers at a much higher rate than we did in the past.  Over the past fifteen years, there have been 101 male high school discus throwers in this country who have thrown at least 200 feet. Here is the breakdown:

-3 over 234

-5 over 215

-9 over 210

-25 over 205

-60 over 200

This would indicate that the raw material for good discus throwing at the upper levels exists in the country, and the NCAA system is still the best minor league for track in the world. The big question is, why aren’t we producing more world class discus throwers?  In the last 10 years we earned 7/100 world ranking spots and a big goose egg on medals.

This is what I think happened in the last 20 years in the discus in America. When the 200-237 foot high schools throwers tried to step up to the 2k something was missing. We can rotate well, because we have all these spin shot putters so what is it? Is it technique like many say, or is it something else? If it was solely technique, then we wouldn’t have all these high school guys throwing so well. What we need to do is to focus on throwers with a large wingspan and specifically train them with under and overweight implements and special throwing tools at higher volumes. This is how we are getting beat in this event. Americans mostly right now throw the 2k and lighter for our training with a low volume of throws.  We need to be throwing heavy discs up to 4k and even heavier devices like the one Perkovic throws that was developed by Jerry Clayton. We need to focus on this area and stick with it. This is a long term approach that pays down the road. When the heavy implement goes further and the light implement goes further than the middle implement, the 2k will go further. Just throwing a 2k or a 2.25k will not get the job done. This is a 10,000 throws a year training regimen that has to be programmed, recorded and monitored for each athlete at the elite levels. The Europeans know if we don’t take that many throws and we don’t throw that heavy as part of the training that we have no chance unless we come up with our own freak of nature. The last part of this is a large amount of discus training has to be centered on non-reverse throwing. This doesn’t mean that I am saying never to use a reverse, but a high amount of throws need to be taken non-reverse for proper leg development. Discus throwers technically need to learn good mechanics working against the ground. This has to be introduced early during a thrower’s high school days as it takes many repetitions to reap the benefits of this approach. This would represent a major philosophy shift in this event, but what we are doing now clearly does not work. When the drugs got scaled back, the Europeans adapted in the discus and we didn’t. We adapted with the rotational shot and they didn’t.

John Smith

IS THE ROTATIONAL SHOT PUT TECHNIQUE THE NEXT STEP FORWARD FOR WOMEN IN THIS COUNTRY? (by John Smith)

In the last two years, I have been conducting a personal case study involving the glide and rotational techniques performed in shot putting. In this personal study, I took a glider with six years of experience that had thrown 17.23m with the technique, and started working a glide/spin combo throwing protocol for all implements for entire practices. My findings, after thousands of throws, showed that using the spin technique averaged 11-11.5% better than the glides taken during the practice sessions. This led me to strongly believe that women shot putters could once again approach the distances achieved by men in the event. The women of this country will simply have to make the same transition the men did roughly twenty years ago.

In the early days, the spin technique emerged when gliders began experimenting with new methods of throwing the shot put. At first, the distance between the two techniques wasn’t great. The majority of throws taken with the spin were the same or no more than two feet farther than the glide. Yet, as testing became stronger, throwers became weaker and more guys started playing with the spin. The result of the experimenting with the new technique was that the distance between the two systems started to expand.

At some point, rumors of guys putting ten feet on top of their standing throw started to surface, which was very hard to believe at the time. Then the next generation of rotational throwers started talking about their full throw as being 12-14 feet further than their standing throws, and ten feet on a standing throw became an accepted number.  This is significant because the glide in the past required certain qualities to throw 70-73 feet. It mainly demanded a large standing throw because a glider could typically only add 4 to 7 feet on top of their standing throw, which required a 72-foot glider to have at least a 65 to 68 foot standing throw to attain that distance.  Although making a standing throw that great seems hard to believe in this day and age, 65 to 68 foot standing throws were commonplace at the world class level during the 80’s and  early 90’s. I have not seen an american 65+ standing throw in 20 years.

The influence of steriods on this era were made clear in a report compiled in the former East Germany. Under a state-supported drug regimine, the average male thrower was expected to improve in a  four year time period 2.5m-4m in the shot, 10m-12m in the disc and 6- 10m in the hammer. The women were expected to improve in four years 4.5m -5m in the shot, 11-20m in the disc, and 8 – 15m in the javelin.These are the former DDR numbers who’s state-supported system developed and tracked these increases to the Stasi. Therefore, men who threw 62 to 65 foot throws clean, could make the jump to 70-73 feet with the glide, and become world class throwers within weeks. However, during the 1990’s when testing became better, the big standing throws went away and so did the big gliders in America. This is what happened, and the USA–maybe unknowingly– made the adjustment to the spin.

Due to the big standing throws falling about 2-2.5m from what it used to be, the men in this country turned to the rotational method to make up the distance lost. Because of that change, American men broke the 22m barrier clean, which many people still refused to believe. In my estimation, there have been six men to throw over 22m clean in this country with the rotational method. It is safe to say that after the rotational technique evolved  in this country, the glide is not what is used to be, even on a world level. All one has to do is look at the amount of world class gliders from the 80’s and early 90’s compared to today. The male 70 foot glider is definitely an endangered species–much like a high jumper still using the western roll was when the flop took over.

Many say this is a different deal with the women, but I say it has not been explored fully enough. The women throw a 4k. So the bodyweight to implement ratio is much different than the men. However, the standing throw to full throw differential is about the same. Just like the men, 115% on standing throw is considered great gliding. Still, the clean 70-foot throw for women most likely has not been done yet. World class gliding for women takes one of two great physical qualities. These characteristics involve a very big tall athletic woman (6.3 to 6.6 and 220 to 300lbs) or a girl with a golden arm  very much like the skinny kid that throws the 95mph fastball. I have seen a couple of golden arms in Terri Cantwell and Michelle Carter in this country. Both these women could stand 59-61 feet without world class strength levels, but these athletes are very rare. The only women we should consider for the glide shot technique are these two types of women. If you do not have a big standing throw, you will have a hard time reaching world class female levels in the shot. Now, question is what do we do with all the women that don’t have huge standing throws or huge levers and mass? Make spinners out of them. Jill Camarena  made the change from a 59-foot glider to a 66-foot spinner. Jill was the one thrower that made me take a very serious look into women with rotational technique.

All it will take is 1000’s of girls working at it from a young age, and it will happen. If guys can go 12-15 feet on standing throw, there is no valid reason why women can’t do this also. It’s just going to take one girl to break through like the men did years ago. The first step to this process is getting high school girls throwing a 3k shot to develop the CNS pathways to throw a shot  far. Training for the 3k would require work with a 2k, which would also further teach our girls how to throw something far.  So when the young girls are ready step up to the 4k, it’s just a matter of building physical and specific strength through lifting and throwing  heavy implements before they are able to match the collegiate men. We need high school girls throwing 20m with the 3k. The more girls that can accomplish this the more likely we will produce better marks at the next level.

The main concern with the execution of this theory would be establishing a throwing system that teaches high school coaches how to coach and teach the rotational method before the girls reach the college ranks. Then the  cream will rise to the top and a 70-footer will emerge years later from the system.

With the rotational shot technique, women should follow what the men have accomplished with the spin in the last 20 years. The glide for the men in this country has became obsolete with the explosion of male rotational throwers who reach “drug era” distances without using drugs. The same will happen for the women if the necessary steps are taken. I am convinced that a 21m throw could spring out of the hands of a female spin shot putter someday in this decade. Who will be the first is an unknown at this point, but it can be done.

Make no mistake about it, and as much as the Europeans like to point to one or two guys throwing far with the glide, our NCAA system produces 19m, 20m, 21m throwers like a machine. This we are doing right; however, my next article will be on what we are not doing and need to do in the disc. How to make up those 80’s and early 90’s discus differentials.

John Smith

#*it Happens even at Nationals!

If you throw long enough you will lose a few legal throws and gain a few that were foul because of bad calls by the officials.
I saw a missed call similar to this W-Hep Shot in the Open Men’s Shot Put with a different judge.
Fortunately, neither judgement error impacted the final results.

The real travesty was that they couldn’t slow down the circle so the speed gliders could throw.
At the US Nationals, that was embarrassing, especially since our Women’s Champion is a speed glider.  We can’t even make it right for our Champion who is an international contender.

We just don’t care enough to do it right.

In Praise of the Full Olympic Lifts (by Dan McQuaid)

First, let me hedge on that a little bit. I’m going to leave the jerk out of this discussion for the moment and focus on convincing you that teaching young athletes the full clean and full snatch is absolutely to their benefit.

Here’s what I call a “full clean.”clean sequence

As you can see, the athlete begins the lift by raising the bar from the floor and ends up dropping into a full squat while receiving it. Here’s a vid of a full clean.

fallwinter2006 138

Here’s what I call a “full snatch.”

snatch sequence

Once again, the lifter begins by raising the bar from the floor and sinks into a full squat while receiving it.

(Okay, there should be one more photo at the beginning of this sequence, but trust me, this was the Olympics–he took it from the floor.)

Here’s a vid of a full snatch.

fallwinter2006 166

If you have visited a high school or college weight room recently, you know that the Olympic lifts are considered an essential part of training young athletes. We had a track meet at a nearby school this weekend, and their new weight room contained ten lifting platforms with plenty of Olympic bars and bumper plates. I assume the school would not have spent the money to buy all of that equipment just to make me envious (we have four platforms).  They clearly intend for their athletes to be trained in the Olympic lifts.

And here’s why:

snatch extension

This is the top of the second pull in the snatch. The lifter has executed an explosive “triple extension” launching herself upwards with a coordinated hip, knee, and ankle extension.  This is a movement demanded of athletes in many sports. From the waist down, she could be a volleyball player leaping for a spike, a discus thrower blasting out of the power position, a defensive lineman elevating to knock down a pass, or a basketball player extending for a rebound.

That’s why the school I visited this weekend has–like schools all across the country–devoted a bunch of money and space to establish a proper training area for the Olympic lifts. The idea that these lifts can improve performance in a variety of sports is now widely accepted.

And I could not agree more.

But teaching kids how to properly execute the full lifts takes a lot of time and effort. A coach cannot bring his kids to the weight room, turn up the heavy metal music, and then sit down and play Angry Birds while the athletes manage themselves. Coaching the Olympic lifts is just like coaching the discus, or tackling, or a pickoff move. The athletes must be drilled in proper form and given regular, guided practice by a knowledgeable coach.

And, as with any sport, it takes passionate commitment to become an effective coach of the Olympic lifts.

But, if your passions are already focused on becoming a great football, volleyball or basketball coach, will you have the time and energy to pursue the training necessary to become a great lifting coach?

Or, is there a way for your athletes to garner the benefits of Olympic lifting without having to go to the trouble of teaching them the full movements?

Might partial versions of the Olympic lifts be the answer? If it is the middle portion of the clean and snatch (the “second pull”) that makes athletes more explosive can’t we just focus on that and forget about having to teach our athletes to raise the bar from the floor and to receive it by sinking into a full squat? After all, that stuff seems a bit complicated.

Let’s take a look.

Here is an athlete demonstrating a “power clean from the hang position.”

hang-power-clean

She begins the movement not from the floor but with the bar just above her knees, she blasts through triple extension, and she finishes by receiving the bar without dropping into a full squat. Based on that middle photo, it sure looks like she is getting the full benefit of performing an Olympic lift without having to go to the trouble of learning how to raise the bar from the floor to the hang position (no easy matter for many young athletes) or to sink into a stable front squat while receiving the bar (also not a simple matter for young athletes).

And the same approach can be taken with the snatch.

fallwinter2006 170

Problem solved, right? Just teach your athletes these simple variations of the Olympic lifts and you can go back to playing Angry Birds while they reap the benefits of the full Olympic lifts without having to…well…perform the full lifts.

Hold on one second there, mon frere.

I’m ready to argue that taking the time and effort to teach your athletes the full Olympic lifts is absolutely worth it. Here’s why:

Reason #1  Training kids to lift the bar from the floor to the hang position strengthens their back, butt, and hamstrings in a very healthy way.

Ask most kids to pick up something from the floor–a weighted bar, their dirty laundry, the burrito they just dropped on the carpet, whatever–and they will immediately go into hunchback mode, rounding their shoulders and spine rather than bending at the knees and hinging at the hips with a set back. This is not a safe way to pick up a weight, but many young athletes lack the strength in their back, butt, and hamstrings to keep their back set while bending forward. Is it unreasonable to suggest that this weakness might negatively effect their performance in their chosen sport ?

Olympic lifters cannot tolerate weakness in those areas. They have to be able to raise a loaded bar from the floor to the hang position in a mechanically sound way…

snatch liftofffirst pull clean

…or they would not be able to manage heavy loads.

You tell me, would your athletes benefit from developing the back, butt, and hamstring strength it takes to raise the bar from the floor in the manner demonstrated by this lifter?

Yes, it takes time and great care to train beginners how to perform this movement, but the potential benefits…

back muscles

…are worth the trouble.

Reason #2 Teaching kids to sink into a squat when receiving the bar develops leg strength, flexibility, and stability.

Simply put,  you must have all three in order to hit these positions…

front squat

snatch squat

…and then rise up from them without dumping the weight.

It takes time to train even the most gifted athletes to do this with heavy loads. Kids need to start out with PVC pipes and light bars and build from there. Some need a lot of stretching to remediate tightness in their hips, shoulders, and wrists,  but again, wouldn’t increasing flexibility in these areas have a beneficial effect on their overall athletic performance?

Reason #3 Kids who are only taught the partial lifts often lose their form (and many of the benefits inherent to Olympic lifting) as they increase their loads.

There are many examples of this on Youtube.

Challenged to attempt a heavy load from the hang position, kids will often get the weight moving by swinging their hips into it and then splaying their feet awkwardly as they receive the bar. What was meant to be an athletic movement focused on an explosive triple extension degenerates (in the case of a clean) into a hip-assisted reverse curl with little or no extension of the ankles, knees, and hips or (in the case of the snatch) into essentially a straight-armed, overhead weight toss likely ending with the bar crashing to the floor behind the lifter.

Yes, the athlete in one of the videos above performed a very crisp, athletic, and technically sound hang snatch without dropping into a squat as he received the bar, but he was not maxing out. Like many Olympic lifters, he was using this partial lift to train a segment of the full lift.

Clearly, athletes need to challenge themselves with increasingly heavy loads in order to gain strength. It would be tremendously boring–not to mention a waste of time–to spend month after month executing your lifts with the same weight.

But, asking young lifters to attempt near-maximum weights in the Olympic lifts without training them in the correct methods of lifting the bar from the floor and of receiving the weight in a solid, stable position is a mistake.

If we are going to encourage kids to put up big numbers, we owe it to them to train them to do so in the safest and most effective manner possible. And in the case of the Olympic lifts, that is the full version.

Allow me to close with a rather major qualifier.

Every kid is different. You cannot expect all of your athletes to fit a single training template. In spite of your best efforts at remediation, you may find certain athletes whose shoulder tightness will never allow them to safely rack a snatch overhead. Very tall athletes sometimes need to begin their Olympic lifts from blocks as their height does not allow them to set up in a solid starting position when lifting from the floor. Here is a vid of the fine shot putter Jordan Clarke lifting from blocks:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sH4gblO6w84

So as you lead your athletes down the path towards executing the full lifts, you will have to take the occasional detour.

Yes, this approach can get a bit complicated. Yes, it takes a lot work.

But the payoff is that you will help your athletes improve their stability, balance, explosiveness, and flexibility. To me, that makes it worth the effort.

My advice to any coach who wants his athletes to reap the many benefits of training with the Olympic lifts is to take a coaching course from USA Weightlifting. They offer these two-day seminars all over the country, and it is time well spent.

Harting v. Perkovic: Part 1 (by Dan McQuaid)

I ask you, is there a better way to ward off the winter blues than to spend an afternoon dissecting great discus technique?

Okay, there probably are better ways, but this one is cheap, fat free,  perfectly legal and will help me  forget about that three-foot snow drift covering our discus ring. So, here goes.

It seems to me that the key to great discus throwing is finding a reliable way to get from here…

casanas wind

 

To here…

casanas wide right

From here…

malone wind

To here…

malone wide

From here…

alekna close 1

To here…

alekna close 2

Warning: If you can identify the owner of these legs you probably spend way too much time watching throws videos and are in danger of being called a “super dweeb” by your long-suffering wife. Trust me, I have experience in this matter.

Anyway, these pairs of photos illustrate two important stations along the path to a fine throw. The athlete must begin with a balanced windup: right foot flat, left heel up, left big toe in contact with the ground. The second photo in each set depicts the athlete in an excellent position to run the ring: right leg wide, weight balanced on the ball of the left foot, discus trailing behind the right hip.

If you watch these throwers (Frank Casanas, Casey Malone and…..???) on film or in person they make moving through these positions seem perfectly natural, but if you coach young athletes you know how difficult this transition can be. Beginning throwers tend to unwind by pulling with their head and left arm. This causes the discus to jump ahead of the thrower and makes it impossible to get the right leg out wide because the thrower will feel (quite correctly) that he will fall down if he doesn’t get that right foot back on the ground quickly.

It seems that among the best discus throwers there are two approaches to moving from the windup to the balanced, “ready to run the ring” position.

Some throwers try to get their right foot off the ground and sweeping ahead of the discus as soon as possible. When the left foot pivots 90 degrees to the left, they want that right foot up and moving.

Here is an example.

vikas wide rear

This is Vikas Gowda. As you can see, his left foot has turned 90 degrees and his right toes are leaving the ground.

By the time his left foot has turned to where it is pointing down the right sector line, his right leg is already sweeping past it.

vikas right passes left

The right leg then continues to sweep out wide with the disc lagging behind.

vikas wide rear 2

At this point, he is in great shape to run the ring.

Here is Casey Malone, demonstrating the same “get the right leg moving early” approach.

malone wind

malone left

malone wide

The other method of transitioning from the wind to the “ready to run the ring” position is to leave the right foot on the ground longer while turning and getting way out over the left foot.

weir close 1

weir close 2

weir close 3

If you can identify the owner of these legs,  you are a bigger dork than me even, but you won’t have to worry about your wife getting mad at you because you likely will never have a wife.

As you can see in the middle photo, this thrower keeps his right foot grounded much longer than the throwers in those earlier photos–beginning his right leg sweep only after his left foot turns to point down the right foul line.

Interestingly, this is the approach used by the two current Olympic champions,

Robert Harting…

rh wind

harting left

rh wide rear

…and Sondra Perkovic.

perk wind

perk left

perk wide

I suspect that the advantage of leaving the right foot on the ground longer is twofold. First, it may make it easier to remain on balance while the thrower shifts his/her weight far to the left–a shift that is essential to getting in position to run the ring.

Second, leaving the right grounded while shifting way out over the left leg may create some elastic tension in the right leg that, when released, adds extra impetus to the right leg sweep.

I have experimented with this style the past couple of years, and some of my athletes have become quite comfortable with it. One warning though. If you attempt to teach this method, you must constantly drill your athletes to keep the discus back as they shift out over their left leg because with the right foot staying grounded longer it is very easy to let the disc sneak ahead.

We are due for another snow storm this week, so stay tuned for part two of Harting v. Perkovic.

Any guesses on the owners of those legs?

by Dan McQuaid & friends