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.

2 thoughts on “USA Hammer Throwing Needs a USA Approach (by John Smith)”

  1. Hi John, I’m a senior interested learning to throw the hammer. Hoping you could point me to a coach or clinic. I’m in northern California.I’m willing to travel. Thank you, Rick

  2. Excellent article. I have heard many of my successful hammer coach friends mention the heavy, light, competition sequence in distance jumps. You mentioned the importance of sequencing heavy training with throw training based on recovery. Could you expand on that topic please?

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