You have seen the monster lifts from Daniel Stahl. His push presses at 120k like baby weight. You have seen Sam Mattis smash a 190k push press. The “functional” world is claiming, “but why, this has no transfer to the discus!?!?” Is that true? Is that an accurate statement? Find out today why push pressing is done by the best discus throwers in the world!
Understanding Strength Transfer
Take a deep breath. Strength transfer isn’t all about the exact same joint angles. From a physiological perspective, it is important to understand things like Twitch Force (GS blog on it), myofibrillar hypertrophy, intramuscular coordination than actual competitive movement. Strength application to sport will vary from improving general strength to improving technical literacy and explosive strength to direct “special strength.”
Confused? Let’s try this for explanation. Take the back squat for example. Science has shown that using a back squat can increase the potentiation for a vertical jump, thus leading to greater performance in the vertical jump. This is likely due to the ability to recruit higher threshold motor units more effectively, the twitch force or means of recruitment is stronger and more rapid and the overall proprioception and limb control improves in the individual.
This tells us that lifting heavier weights can increase very light load movements.
It is also important to understand that strength adaptations from one lift can carry over to other global movements which in turn can have a greater response on competitive application.
Let’s go back to the back squat. Many of our best throwers and athletes at Garage Strength and ThrowsU have seen a direct correlation between the back squat improving and their bench press. Why? This lift sparks a ton of coordination, increases muscle protein synthesis, and improves coordination. This leads to a bigger bench press which has a direct carryover to the throws! Lifts are much more than just “same joint angles, same speeds, etc…”.
Back to the Push Press
So why the push press? Why are we seeing Daniel Stahl smash this lift like a feather and Sam Mattis driving 420lbs overhead like it’s a toy?
1. Improved thoracic extension.
One of the biggest keys to throwing a monster bomb in the discus is based around thoracic extension. The Push Press was done from behind the neck with Stahl and Mattis, I believe this is a key aspect behind having a stable and mobile upper back position.
The tension and coordination needed to hold the bar overhead leads to greater mobility in the thoracic spine. Not only does this coordination enable the athlete to hold the discus deeper, it also helps with other overhead movements like snatches or jerks!
2. Coordination of strength from the ground to the hands.
One of the major benefits of using the push press is the coordination of ground force production to the implement. The implement in this case is the barbell! This shows the coach or athlete any points of leakage in the chain that passes force from the ground to the barbell. If the athlete has a weak trunk, poor mobility, and weak legs, it will be quite evident with the execution of the push press.
3. Carryover to behind the neck jerk for Mattis
The carryover of the push press to the behind the neck jerk is phenomenal. As for Stahl’s training, I am not sure if they utilize jerks but we know that the behind the neck jerk is one of the best movements for Sam and we know it forces him to make technical corrections at very high speeds. The push press teaches Sam to drive long and be patient through his finish.
That patience not only carries over to the behind the neck jerk, it also carries over to the discus. The longer the thrower learns how to apply force through the ground, the longer they will throw!
4. Strength in the triceps...blow up the bench
Going back to lifts and how they carry over to other lifts, the push press does a great job of organizing and coordinating the triceps. The triceps get severely overloaded during the push press and this leads to incredible twitch force through the extension of the push press. The triceps are often the limiting factor on lifts like the bench press.
We have seen research from Dr. Bondarchuk and research from ourselves at Garage Strength and ThrowsU that the bench press has a very positive relationship with discus throwing, particularly because of the firing of the pec major. By improving the strength of the triceps in an overhead position, they learn how to fire rapidly with the bench press, improving the lockout and ultimately building a massive bench press!
There are many different positives behind the neck push press. It transfers over to many different lifts, improves mobility AND stability and also coordinates the legs with the upper body! This movement works wonders for enhancing thrower coordination and it does a great job of teaching patience through the full lift which carries over to the finish of the throw. These discus throwers are incredible and some of the best in the world.
Which lift was more impressive? Mattis hitting 190k or Stahl toying with 120k? Comment below
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