Hand placement on the shot can be the difference between first place and third place. Do you find yourself missing that big hit on the finish? Does your elbow drop and the shot roll off your hands? Are you struggling to find tension in your upper back while preparing to hit that monster throw? We can’t forget that big throws all start with proprioception and they all end with that big FLICK off the hand. By holding the shot properly, each thrower can add serious distance to their throw!
World of Confusion
For years, throwers have been taught to hold the shot various different ways. Go to any high school track meet and you can see throwers placing the shot on the back of their head, under their throat, and even on their cheek!
The importance of placement and positioning in the shot put is just as important as grip width in sports like Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting. The proper placement can lead to greater tension and overall greater feeling throughout the throw. This improved feeling will lead to better confidence in the throws and gradually grow into a huge standing throw and full throw.
So what are the key elements?
Element #1: Comfort
As coaches and throwers, it’s imperative to recognize the importance of comfort. If an athlete is comfortable setting up for their throw, they will not be distracted by negative feelings. Instead, they will be able to focus on the task at hand and build their movement patterns to execute the throw effectively.
It’s important to recognize that putting a shot put in the neck of a young thrower MAY NOT be comfortable at all in the beginning. But the positioning should come down to overall comfort comparison.
Many throwers will place the neck in specific spots simply because they want to look like their favorite world-class thrower. This works for some but it doesn’t work for a multitude of throwers. Coaches and athletes need to be aware of issues like wrist mobility, thoracic spine mobility, mobility in the tricep, and length of arms when thinking about placement of the implement. These are the key factors behind comfort for most throwers.
Other factors behind comfort are the actual diameter of the implement. High school kids LOVE trying to throw implements that may be a bit too big, just so they can compare to their older training partners. This needs to be addressed and ensure that the diameter of the implement should be specific to the size of the hand and the mobility of the elbow and shoulder.
Element #2: Tension
Feeling the implement in the neck is extremely important. This establishes neural feedback to the brain and enables the athlete to recognize the load more effectively. The tension created in the neck should be triggered by isometric contractions in the wrist, forearm, tricep, and shoulder. The shoulder should be held in a retracted positioning, contributing to the implement behind the dominant side hip.
Not only does tension lead to a more effective position and feeling, it creates a development of contraction that will build to a larger and more rapid concentric contraction on the finish.
It’s important to note how our nervous system operates during a throw. When we establish this tension in the beginning of the throw, the heightened position enables the mind-muscle connection to be more prominent and more aware. This creates a stronger “motor proposition.”
Think of the motor proposition as the moment a sprinter blasts out of the starting blocks. They are cognitively aware of working out of their starting position as effectively as possible. HOWEVER, during the remainder of the sprint, their movements are more determined by the afferent signaling/efferent signaling feedback loop that is monitored by muscle spindles.
This is very much like the world of throwing! A thrower starts a motor proposition at the beginning of the throw by holding the shot properly and then beginning the movement. The actual throw will be executed more so from a reactive proposition monitored by sensory receptors, not force-fed by robotic movements but instead strongly ingrained patterning. The tension created with the placement of the shot can provide a stronger feedback loop and lead to improved positioning.
Element #3: Final Positioning
When a throw is executed optimally, tension is held throughout the movement and the sensory receptors provide strong feedback throughout the circle. This loop is connected by applying all of the generated force into the HAND! It’s important to know that the hand is the final connection of power development to the implement.
During the final portion of the throw, the hand plays an integral part in force application. If the elbow drops, if the hand rotates or the shoulder loses tension, there will be a power leak in the entire chain and the throw will not be as long. The goal during this position is to continue with a strong isometric contraction that will ultimately lead to a tetanic potentiation!
Recommended Glide Placement
Ok, so where the heck do we place the shot? For the glide, there are two MAIN options behind the placement of the ball. Before we dive into this aspect, there are a few crucial concepts to understand.
The shot needs to be held on all four fingers.
The bridge of the palm should support the implement.
The thumb should provide a brace point to hold the shot in position.
Have tension applied from the shoulder and elbow joint into the hand!
Option 1 for placement of the shot is similar to where Ulf Timmerman placed the implement. This leads to the ball being placed closer to the throat with the idea being that there will be minimal rotation into the throw and much more linear movement. This position is comfortable for some but very uncomfortable for many!
The position itself is ok and even past gliders that became rotational such as Ryan Crouser and Leif Arrhenius have held the shot close to this position while spinning BUT they definitely moved the shot back closer to the ear as they began to rotate.
The second position is just under the ear. This is where the VAST majority of throwers will place the implement. It is much more comfortable and more universally accepted. Al Feuerbach held his shot closer to the ear, as does modern-day glider Lucas Warning. The implement still follows a linear path while also engaging the athlete with more comfort in the circle.
Recommended Spin Placement
The placement of the shot for the spin is a bit more traditional. Most shot putters will hold the shot under their ear when executing the rotational technique. There is a slight variation in some throwers to place the shot further behind the ear by about 2-4 inches. This is also widely acceptable and comfortable, especially if the athlete has solid mobility throughout their shoulder girdle.
Randy Barnes and Joe Kovacs tend to place the implement a bit further back on the neck while Tom Walsh holds his implement closer toward the ear. Again, the key elements need to be factored into hand, and neck positioning and COMFORT needs to be the first step in establishing the placement of the implement.
Be sure to focus on the three elements when establishing the holding position for the implement. Find good comfort and a position where tension can be applied accordingly for optimal feeling. This feeling and position must hold throughout the movement when entering into the finish of the throw. The placement of the shot put should be able to be held comfortably at high speeds for optimal delivery of power output!
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- Dane and Trevor