What’s the quick fix to lead to a monster bomb in the discus? What is something that every single athlete and thrower can do to improve their distance thrown in this event? Are there some hidden gems that can really boost the length thrown for huge PR’s?!?! This question piques the interest of many coaches AND athletes in the world of throwing.
These questions are tremendous and a great jumping off point for truly learning the sport and the event behind discus throwing. It leads to more questions regarding the precise movement in the circle, the precise coordination and the positions that need to be strengthened and improved upon to enhance the overall results. Where should we start when diving into this topic?!?!
What actually happens?
We know that there will be a ton of forces generated, there will be very deep positions that must be hit and very steep joint angles that must be trained. There will be rotational forces and positions that must be mastered through technical precision. From a very broad picture, it’s incredibly important to acknowledge that throwing the discus comes down to recruiting motor units and coordinating as RAPIDLY as possible within the 8 foot circle. Rapid coordination with precise technical control leads to the biggest throws!
In a simple ranking, the throwing of the discus is all about:
Who can coordinate the fastest...
Who has the best technique to be able to coordinate the fastest in optimal positions...
Who can control the power developed in the throw at the finish to enable the energy to optimally transfer into the implement?!?!
When we break down the throw as simply as possible, it enables us to dive deeper into the actual exercises needed to enhance performance. We can look at the throw through the lens of physical attributes needed to throw long. Strength, power and speed can be developed in the weight room, so let’s roll!!!
Exercise #4...The Back Squat
The back squat is one of the absolute best tools in our training arsenal. Squatting in general is an incredible way to improve strength and mobility and power within the individual. 2019 World Championship finalist, Sam Mattis has back squatted nearly 661lbs while 2016 Olympian Alex Rose has back squatted ass to grass with over 600lbs himself! This movement provides various key strength improvements that generate incredible results within the circle as well.
One of the best attributes behind the back squat is the means in which it improves other important exercises. The back squat develops impressive levels of dynamic trunk control, a key factor behind controlling speed and positions throughout the throw. The back squat also develops MASSIVE strength that can then be used throughout the Olympic lifts. Finally, back squatting triggers HUGE hormonal responses that can generate large amounts of lean muscle mass and general strength. This improves muscle gains and ultimately rapid coordination in technical positions.
Exercise #3...The Bench Press!
I can feel the eyes rolling through the computer screen. I can hear the whispers and groans from the “woke” strength and conditioning coaches and throws coaches that think the bench press is archaic and every discus thrower should be doing bosu ball dumbbell benches. So, why the bench press?!!? Is there research to back this up?!?!
Dr. Anatoly Bondarchuk was one of the first Soviet coaches who spent time gathering data while using computer systems to analyze information to correlate results in the weight room with distances thrown. One of the big findings he found was a direct correlation between a 400+lb bench press and its impact on throws all the way up to 62 meters! What’s that mean? It means if you throw 56 meters and bench press 350lbs, you will likely see an improvement in your distance thrown if you continue to improve the maximal strength expressed during the bench press.
There are numerous reasons for the results from the bench press. For starters, the bench improves the strength of the shoulder girdle incredibly. It stabilizes the entire up body which enables a discus thrower to carry the implement more effectively throughout the circle. With a slightly close grip in the bench press, we can also see a VERY steep angle of the humerus bone in relation to the chest. When the humerus bone is on a steeper angle, it closely resembles the deep catch position and stretch position that the implement puts on the pec at the front of the circle.
Exercise #2...Pull Ups
One of the key points we have to remember around throwing the discus is focusing on thoracic extension and thoracic rotation. When the shoulder girdle of a thrower is more stable and more structurally balanced, the thrower is able to hold the discus optimally and is also able to produce a TON of force without compromising the actual structure of the athlete. By lengthening the lats and improving general mobility through a long range of motion, pull ups provide an integral point behind discus throwing.
It is very important to train variations of pull ups from a dead hang position. This dead hang position will continue to provide improved stability while also lengthening the lats. This is where the athlete will be training the antagonistic muscles different from the bench press. As the bench increases, so too must the back mobility and strength! As the back increases in range of motion, the discus will be carried deeper by the upper body, leading to a greater stretch on the pec and a longer throw!
Exercise #1...The Single Leg Squat
Throwing the discus is executed predominantly in unilateral positions. This can put the hip stability and trunk stability in poor positioning if the thrower is not strong in a unilateral positioning. This is precisely where the single leg squat comes into programming. It’s a simple tool that can be used to isolate any movement “leakages” while also enhancing performance in the circle.
The stronger the non-dominant side of the body can become, the more effectively it will decelerate energy developed throughout the circle. This deceleration on the non-dominant side will enable the dominant side to move even faster through a full acceleration pattern! The left leg is the transfer leg and that is when all of the energy at the finish will transfer forward. When the athlete puts their back leg on a roller or elevated position, it creates some sense of unilateral isolation that leads to impressive gains from the posterior chain, through the trunk and into the barbell.
The single leg squat also has a strong carryover to the dominant side. When the discus thrower exits the back of the circle and the right leg grounds in the middle of the circle in a half turn position, this is very similar to the single leg squat position.
Understand the detailed nature behind the discus throw and the qualities that are necessary to improve the distance on the throw. Start off with the basics, make sure you hammer the back squat and bench press to improve the muscle mass and muscular coordination during the throw. Stabilize the shoulder girdle with dead hang pull ups and continue to build trunk stability in a unilateral position with single leg squats. Hit these lifts 2-3 times a week, depending upon your training schedule and constantly make progress toward bigger bombs!
"Our aim is to provide concise and concrete education and training on the throws, helping coaches and athletes learn what they need to do to succeed and become champions."
- Dane and Trevor