So you have been developing your technique, honing in your movement in the circle, and taking throws upon throws, and yet your distances aren't improving as fast as you would like. You know you could get stronger in the weightroom but you don't know where to start! Building lower body strength is the first step to getting your body in shape physically so that you can start tossing the shot put and breaking PRs.
What are the primary lifts you should focus on to build absolute leg strength? Do these lifts really transfer to throwing farther, or can you throw just as far by only doing medball drills? Yes, if you want to throw far you need to develop your absolute leg strength (the maximum weight you can lift with a given exercise). Medball throws and technique work is crucial, but only a piece of the puzzle. Watch how Joe Kovacs, Ryan Crouser, and Tom Walsh train (the best shot putters in the world). If you want to get better, train like the best! See what exercises the best shot putters in the world train with by reading on.
5. Single Leg Squat
Whether you are a spinner or a glider, there is a significant portion of time during the throw when you are developing force when only on one leg. Being able to have control and the ability to produce as much power as possible in this position is crucial to accelerating the throw. Single leg squats are one of the most challenging exercises for beginners to execute, mainly because they struggle to maintain balance while attempting to produce force. That is exactly what is needed in the throw!
To start, complete 4-5 sets of 6 reps on each leg. As you get more comfortable with the movement, don't be afraid to push the weight heavier with sets of 3 on each leg. If you don't have a roller, you can use dumbells and put your back foot on a bench.
4. Reverse Hyper
Throwers do a ton of exercises that load up the back, compress the spine, and put a lot of stress on the body over time. Keeping the body healthy is essential to throwing far as throwers are notorious for getting injured and having to take crucial time away from training. The reverse hyper not only decompresses the spine, but develops strength in the glutes, spinal erectors, and hamstrings. Isolating the posterior chain while still having good activation through the core will keep you moving well and reduce the risk of injury.
Use reverse hypers at the end of your workout with sets of 3-4 of 15 reps. If you don't have a reverse hyper machine, you can substitute the exercise with the glute ham, back extension (roman chair), or good mornings.
3. Cossack Squats
Groin injuries are one of the most common injuries in throwers, especially with spinners. Shot putters are often especially tight in the hips and ankles. Cossack squats are a great accessory exercise to improve hip and ankle mobility while targeting the adductors and groin that often get overlooked in training.
When performing the cossack squat, make sure to keep your heels down the entire time and go down as deep as possible. If you struggle to squat deep enough, hold onto a pull for assistance. To make the exercise more difficult, hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in the goblet position. To target your adductors even more you can attach a band to your foot and place a slider on your heel! Perform 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps on either side at the end of your workout.
2. Front Squats
Throwers avoid this lift like the plague! Almost every thrower that starts off with us complains that they can't perform front squats because their wrists hurt. However, a) they've never actually front squatted long enough to develop the mobility, and b) by working on wrist, tricep, and lat mobility simultaneously, most throwers can front squat with good mobility in less than a month. If you still cannot grip the bar without serious pain, you can perform the zombie squat instead with your hands out straight. Don't make that an excuse to go light though, we had a high schooler zombie squat 450lbs after he broke his wrist!
Front squats have a high transfer to the throw because the weight is loaded more over the toes with more quad activation, similar to how the shot put is thrown. Although you can't go quite as heavy as our #1 lift, it is a great exercise to improve overall mobility while increasing strength. Perform anywhere from 5 sets of 5-6 for a little more volume to sets of 1, 2, and 3 to push the weight as heavy as you can go!
1. Back Squat
Back squat is the best exercise to improve overall leg strength. One of the best aspects of the back squat is that it forces you to adapt and develop power under an extreme load. When the body is forced to overcome an extreme load, the nervous system is forced to adapt and recruit more motor units in unison. Improving the back squat carries over to all other lifts including the front squat, Olympic lifts, and even the bench press! It teaches throwers to bring the intensity in their lifts as they should in the throw.
When back squatting don't just do little quarter squats so you can load up the bar with twice as much weight. Remember that we want to improve our movement simultaneously as our strength. Increase time under tension and force the body to develop incredible power while in deep ranges of motion by squatting full depth. Tight hips are one of the major inhibitors to improving throwing technique, and by mixing in full depth squats, you can kill two birds with one stone.
Back squats can be performed with the same rep schemes as the front squat. Use 5-6 reps for a little higher volume and singles, doubles, and triples to really push the weight and make those absolute strength gains!
Use these five exercises to increase your absolute strength, keep your body healthy, and transfer your strength gains directly to the throw! If you need a training program where we lay out an entire strength training and throwing plan for you complete with videos, warm ups, and mobility exercises, check out our Elite Shot Put and Discus program!
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