Updated: Apr 23, 2020
You are a high school thrower, BEGGING to find some extra speed. You have all the strength you could ever want for the shot put and discus but there is still a slight lack of speed. This could be the missing link that gets you over the hump, it gets you that big PR throw, the throw that wins the district title, you beat your nemesis, maybe even the state title! But how can you achieve more speed inside the ring to conquer your goals?
I think it’s important to identify and define “speed” prior to diving into the full topic. Speed in its basic terms is the rate in which someone can accomplish something. For instance, in the shot put or discus, two to three seconds is standard for most throwers, depending upon when the measurement will be taken based around the winding portion in the back of the throw. As throwers become more and more elite, the throw will shift closer to 2 seconds AND they will be able to accelerate the implement on the finish. This is where speed develops over time. The throw happens faster AND the individual has a faster speed of release!
Alex Rose 65m vs 59m throw:
In the image above, Alex shows that he has improved his speed throughout the throw even while gaining nearly 30 pounds. Alex also dramatically increased his speed of release, being clocked at 25.2 meters per second. This speed development can mainly be attributed to work inside the circle.
Biologically, as humans enhance their speed, they tend to have greater coordination of how their nervous system is firing. Their nervous system is able to recruit more high threshold motor units over time and develop greater muscular coordination. By focusing on the right principles in training, the body becomes more coordinated, movement becomes more stable, and in turn SPEED is developed.
But what SPECIFICALLY can throwers focus on in the circle to enhance that speed?
For starters, I believe that technical consistency is nearly as important long term as a specific technical model. As throwers age and develop, they become infatuated with hundreds of different alterations that they can test inside their own movement. This may delay consistency and ultimately delay speed development. Throwers that follow consistent guidelines and movement and constantly strive toward a specific technical model will be the throwers that engage in technical consistency.
Consistency will lead to high levels of confidence inside the circle. This will enable throwers to move as smoothly as they possibly can when peaked for major competitions. This level of confidence will enable intensity to recruit even more motor units during a big throw, creating massive results and an incredible rate of force production.
Let’s briefly dive into Joe Kovacs. Joe won the biggest shot put competition in the history of the sport. I believe Kovacs has excellent movement out of the back of the circle and through the middle. From a pure perspective, I would suggest that Kovacs “jumps” slightly prematurely on his finish. He leaves the ground while the shot is still in his hand, preventing him from having the longest possible means of acceleration. NOW, in reality that DOESN’T MATTER. Kovacs is incredibly consistent in his movement and he is also incredibly intense. When Kovacs is ready to smash a throw, he holds consistent technique, leading to incredible confidence and MASSIVE throws. Does he jump slightly? For sure. Do I think that really matters? Not really.
You might be thinking, “Dane, you just told us that consistency is just as important as proper mechanics...now you are talking about proper mechanics!”
Yes, this is true (as I grin ear to ear). Proper mechanics establishes more efficient movement. Let’s dive into the sprinting world. If a sprinter has poor trunk stability, they will lose energy in a side to side manner, they may shorten their stride length and decrease their ability to accelerate during the drive phase because their mechanics are so poor.
The same holds true for throwers! If we are focused on speed and acceleration then we need to use mechanics that foster speed and acceleration. Think about the glide, if a glider jumps UP out of the back of the circle, they will be delayed grounding at the front of the circle and if they jump OFF the concrete while the shot is in their hand, they will no longer be able to accelerate the implement. This is very simple biomechanics. In comparison, if they drive low out of the back and their feet ground rapidly at the front, they land in double support faster and having a longer acceleration period on the finish.
This is similar to the spin in the shot put and discus. If we are concerned about jumping out of the back into the middle, we will delay grounding in double support. It will take us longer to get into double support AND we will not have as long of a phase to accelerate the implement.
Let’s revert back to Alex’s comparison videos. Notice that he has gained over 30lbs and is significantly faster. This is because he stopped jumping out of the back and continues to have a long period of acceleration at the front!
This is something completely new to the throwing world. The holding points here refer predominantly to the spin in the shot put and discus. At ThrowsU, we believe there are three specific holding points. The holding points occur to enable the prime mover to accelerate the throw. At each holding point, speed increases gradually until we get to the holding point on the finish.
First holding point (right-handed thrower): As the right leg sweeps AROUND the left side, the left knee will hold, enabling the right leg to sweep rapidly to the center. This delay of the left side helps energy be transferred to the prime mover.
Second holding point: As the right foot grounds, the left arm will HOLD slightly in the middle, some throwers even wrap the left arm entirely. This holding of the left side enables the LEFT leg to sweep to the front, accelerating the speed through the middle.
Third holding point: As the left foot grounds, the left foot ideally will hold flat or with slight elevation of the left heel. This holding point enables the right side to accelerate even faster AROUND the left side on the finish. The left side will post and hold, the right side hammers forward. This speed will transfer to massive throws!
These three key points are crucial for speed development. By establishing technical consistency with proper mechanics and holding points, the thrower will gradually work toward major improvements in speed and acceleration. In throwing, the rate of force development is the name of the game and these three points are the absolute foundation to optimizing force development. Pick 2-3 aspects to focus on regularly in training and continuously build toward rapid improvements in your throws today!