Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Many throwers and throws coaches have heard the usage of the term “special strength.” This is a term that gets thrown around frequently, some individuals understand it’s usage, some individuals don’t. Because the term is peculiar, it sparks an interesting response. Throwers want to know what it is, they want to know how it can help their distances and ultimately their career.
But that is about as far as we make it. No one spends time defining special strength. Instead, the waters remain muddied, the idea remains confusing and the process behind special strength training is foreign. So what the heck is special strength and how can it be applied?
What is it?!?!
Let’s start right off with where the term stems from. In 2007-2008, I was fortunate enough to train under one of the greatest throws coaches of all time, Dr. Anatoly Bondarchuk. Dr. B used the ideas and principles of special strength, every single day in training. He pioneered this area and experimented OVER and OVER again in training to find unique methods to enhance throwing results!
The secret of special strength is a concept that can dramatically improve throwers' movement capacity and ultimately the distance on their throws.
Definition: It is a strength movement that emulates the competitive movement! This is anything that resembles the actual competitive throw while utilizing various forms of resistance.
The main goal is to take the weight room strength being developed and UNITE that strength with the actual competitive exercise.
How does it work?
Special strength works by enhancing the Rate of Coordination! The ultimate goal behind throwing is to recruit and coordinate the muscular system to fire as rapidly as possible. The thrower that coordinates the fastest and the most precise, is the thrower that will likely throw the farthest!
Science shows us that the rate of coordination has a tremendous carryover to competitive athletics. Take the bench press for example. The bench press might be done around 1 meter per second. The snatch can be executed around 2 meters per second or slightly higher. The actual competitive shot put is performed around 13 meters per second. This leaves a rather large disparity between coordination patterns of speed in meters per second. In comes special strength. If a bench press is done at 1 meter per second, a full shot put throw is executed at 13 meters per second BUT a half turn with a heavy dumbbell can be done at 10 meters per second...NOW we can find the bridge to unite these two worlds of physiology.
With a faster level of coordination, the twitch force becomes more potent and this is an aspect that is DIFFICULT and must be trained. By teaching the body the rapid means of recruitment, the thrower learns how to move more effectively while improving the speed of coordination.
This is...Transfer of Training?!?!!?!
If we have throwers that are incredibly strong but don’t throw as far as their weight room numbers allow, they could be lacking significantly in regards to various aspects of special strength. This is something that will tremendously enhance the transfer of training. As the thrower coordinates more effectively, they MAY start to see results in the weight room improve AND also see those distances start to climb, simply because they are learning how to transfer their training more effectively to the competitive sport.
Use special strength 4-5 days a week for 30-60 reps. The movement should mimic the competitive movement but the resistance will be of a variable point. The twitch force and rate of coordination needed to execute special strength exercises are SKILLS that the body MUST learn. By training this regularly, the thrower will make more progress and achieve greater distances.
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