The difference between a throw in the shot put that is flat or a throw in the shot put that has a proper angle of release could spark a difference of 2-4 feet. For the last decade or more, we have been working through the problems of throwing flat. For years, we have noticed some consistent problems between the throwers that release a flat shot when compared to throwers that throw with considerably more height. Oftentimes the result changes, not because there is height on the throw but instead because of the technical changes that lead to better elevation! Let’s dive into the main issues behind a flat throw.
What is happening?!?!?!
Troubleshooting technical errors is a unique method and every coach must have a few processes to analyze precisely what is going on. When analyzing a flat finish, it’s important to comprehend what causes a flat finish. To decipher this issue, we have to work backward from the front and see if there are any telltale signs showing us the issues. Once we break down each specific problem that may be causing the flat throw, we can break that throwers code and really start to progress forward.
CAUSE AND EFFECT
Throwers love to berate themselves. They love to beat themselves up over poor movement, poor execution, and shorter throws. Sometimes they even think they are BAD people because they aren’t throwing far enough for their liking. We can assure you that having a flat finish does not mean you are a bad person, instead there is a logical aspect that can be improved upon!
One of the major aspects behind technical understanding is comprehending the SIDE/SIDE technical system. When throwers and coaches start to view the throw as a right side around the left side and left side around the right side and then right side around the left side, NOW the coaches and throwers have a greater understanding of the causes and results that each error may cause. The SIDE/SIDE comprehension is KEY!
When it comes to a flat throw, the problems typically arise in the middle of the circle. The position in the middle MIGHT be caused by problems out of the back, it might not. What we have found when analyzing thousands upon thousands of throws in Coaches Eye typically comes back to THREE key problems and almost all of these problems can be fixed by simple cues or one major change in training.
Problem #1: STIFF KNEE IN MIDDLE
When a spinner sweeps their leg to the center, the right leg should be long and as they come off the left leg, the left should be semi-bent. One mistake that occurs comes from a spinner extending the left leg, leading to a grounding point in the middle where the right knee is extended and stiff. This stiff position can drastically slow down rotation and lead to a terrible finish at the front of the circle.
When grounding in the middle, the knee should be bent during the grounding phase with a plantar flexed right ankle. This will enable the left leg to rotate rapidly to the front while the athlete can hold position over the right side in the middle.
The first assessment point should be based around the dominant right side. Is the knee stiff or is the knee bent through the middle? If it is stiff, use very simple cues like, “hold the chest over a bent knee...keep the knee and ankle flexed in the middle as you rotate to the front.”
PROBLEM #2: Late Left Leg
The second problem that we have found as a key point in troubleshooting is based on the left leg. When an athlete is late off their left out of the back, their left leg may ground slower at the front. When the left is late relative to the rest of the throw, this causes an early TRANSFER of weight into the left leg.
An earlier transfer of weight leads to a very flat chest and a throw that is ineffective. It’s important to see how the athlete exits the back of the circle and to see what they're doing in the middle of the circle with their left leg. Is the left very high? Does the foot get above the knee and the torso collapses and delays the left side grounding? All of these issues can lead to a late left and a poor transfer of energy!
To fix this problem, cue the athlete to speed aggressively to the middle and push from their ankle to get their left leg moving to the front. This can help the left side rotate rapidly while they hold the middle position. A more rapid left leg will lead to a greater stretch-shortening cycle across the trunk and ultimately greater high threshold motor unit recruitment on the finish! This concept can be fixed by going back to the SIDE/SIDE idea of technical precision.
Problem #3: Open Left Arm/Shoulder
The left arm is a key indicator of movement throughout a throw. The left-arm can predict where our right leg will rotate and how the thrower will use their energy based off of the left arm lead. When the thrower moves through the middle of the shot put rotational technique, their left arm often becomes an afterthought. This can lead to multiple problems that will arise throughout the movement.
The left arm can be a key component behind the stretch-shortening cycle IF it is used effectively in relation to the left leg. If the left arm is not used appropriately, it can negate force development and ultimately major acceleration of the implement.
The key is to have the left arm holding weight for a split second or “wrapped” period in the middle of the circle. If this wrapped period occurs, energy will transfer well and the thrower will be able to lift the shot with their chest. However, if this position is missed it becomes a problem.
When the left leg lands at the front and the left arm is opened prematurely, the weight will immediately transfer forward early into the left leg. If the load is into the left leg early, the finish of the spin will be incredibly fat and the thrower will lose distance. Not only will the thrower lose the stretch reflex across their trunk, but they will also lose the ability to utilize the left side on the finish! This is a tragedy and will lead to a big drop-off in the result.
The Ultimate Fix….What is it?
Is there a way to fix the problem of throwing flat with minimal cues? It is well documented that feeling and rhythm are key to developing a huge throw. What if we could stay out of the way of our athletes and let them “feel” their way out of the issue. Fortunately, we have found a simple fix to aid in fixing this problem...throwing heavy shots!
Why does a heavy implement help?
Heavy implements help slow down a throw. Because the load is slightly heavier, the non-dominant leg has more “time” to react during the throw and slowly the thrower will learn better positioning.
The heavy shot forces greater proprioception throughout the movement. When this happens, the thrower will have a greater feeling and can alter their movement patterns based on their feelings. This is a quick method used to keep the right knee flexed more in the middle.
The heavy implement essentially FORCES the athlete to keep their shoulder and left arm back longer in the middle. Once this feeling is recognized, the thrower can associate this feeling with the cue accordingly and develop a more technical throw!
To work through this process, I highly recommend picking up our Cues and Corrections book as we dive deep into this process even further. It’s important to work backward with these issues. Recognize what patterns cause which errors and then find those cues to fix those individual errors. This will lead to a faster learning period and a more optimized training session!
"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