You feel slow in the circle, you feel slow in the weight room. You feel stiff and tight, as though you weren’t meant to move weights fast. You notice it in your full throws, you notice that everyone else just seems to have more pop on their finish, they get to the front and smash, meanwhile you feel like you step through the circle and take a glorified standing throw. Is there SOME WAY you can improve this speed development in the weight room? Maybe there are some movements and tricks that will get you to finally move FAST!
Speed Development in the Weight Room
It’s very important to recognize that throwers can actually improve their speed in the circle by doing direct work in the weight room. This can be a complicated topic but when viewing things from a physiological perspective, it starts to make a bit more sense. As throwers increase their general strength, the goal is to absolutely enhance their dynamic movements. The problem lies in finding the transfer of training that carries over from the weight room, directly into the circle.
As throwers increase their strength in the weight room, they start to get obsessed with maximal strength. They love seeing their bench grow, they love seeing their squats grow and their heavy pulls, neglecting to recognize that these lifts are simply ancillary lifts used to make them MOVE FAST! Because it is EASY to gain brute strength, that is the easiest thing to focus on as an athlete and coach. But there is significantly more to it!
I know what you’re thinking...How can lifting really freaking heavy, actually help you move faster? There are few various methods that we use at Garage Strength and Throws University, many of these methods revolve around neuromuscular potentiation. As the neural drive is potentiated, the twitch force increases and muscle actions happen in a faster manner, the rapid action force an improvement in muscular organization, leading to greater control AND faster force development.
(Dane testing out his theories at the old Barn!)
By recognizing that general strength gains can have a strong impact on lifts that require coordination, we can then improve the lifts that require more coordination. As throwers enhance their coordination, they improve their technical literacy of movement from a mental perspective and from a physical perspective, leading to greater power output. Over longer periods of time, this rapid force development with impressive CONTROL will transfer over to the circle, from a physical and mental output.
By focusing on the right principles in training, the body becomes more coordinated, movement becomes more stable and in turn SPEED is developed.
COOL! Now what the HECK can we do in the weight room to get faster?
Timed Back Squats
The tendo unit. They’re cool right. They’re neat to have in the weight room and all the strength coaches think they’re the greatest thing ever and will solve all of their problems. Hey, if we buy a tendo unit, that means our athletes will get faster and be more explosive. I call STUPIDITY!
One of the BEST ways to improve speed is through back squats. Full depth, ass to grass, high bar back squats. This lift leads to gains in trunk stability, it increases mobility in the lower back, the hips, the quads, and even ankles. As our athletes squat more and more weight, we like to see how quickly they can move specific percentages of their maximum effort. What is the absolute SIMPLEST way to enhance speed in the circle while using a back squat?
TIME THE SET!
Let’s use Sam Mattis as an example. Sam has back squatted 285k. If we can work Sam to 280-285k on the back squat, based on our internal research, we have found that whatever weight he can move 3 reps in 4 seconds will be the weight that carries over to his circle speed. Sam has moved 210k for 3 reps in 4.1 seconds. This has lead to rapid organization of his musculature, it has increased his mobility and stretch reflex and in turn has improved the precision of his dynamic movements in the circle.
Time the squat sets. Start when the knees begin to bend and stop the clock at lockout. This is affordable and easy to implement!
Physiology and results don’t lie. The ridiculous decades of arguing behind the effectiveness of Olympic lifting are long behind us. We have plenty of resources online (including Olifting and Throws) to help us learn how to weightlift properly. It has been well documented that the path of acceleration, the coordination and strength needed to hit Olympic lifts properly will also create an adaptation that in turn will enhance performance in the circle!
Recently, one of the most interesting experiences I have had regarding Olympic lifting is noting the improvement in control of speed. Creating speed is simple but CONTROLLING speed is what makes an individual fast and able to handle their throws. The Olympic lifts teach athletes how to GENERATE speed AND how to control that speed.
As Alex Rose has improved his overhead stability in the snatch and jerks, he has in turn improved his ability to be patient and control his speed on his finish. These movements have dramatically improved as has his throwing result!
Let’s take a look at Sam Mattis hitting a 500lb behind the neck jerk. Not only did Sam generate a tremendous amount of force to hit this massive lift. He also needs TECHNICAL LITERACY to hit the right positions, to hold and control those positions and to ultimately execute the movement effectively. The position Sam hit in the split is almost IDENTICAL to the position he hits at the front of the circle. This transfers over directly to his finish and the ability to sit and hold the front position while he accelerates the discus over a longer time period. This ultimately results in monstrous throws.
What the heck does this mean? One of our favorite things to do in training is based around “drop sets.” As our throwers work heavier in a lift, their neural drive increases and wakes up over multiple sets. As they work heavier and heavier, their body will gradually recruit more motor units. Our goal in the weight room is to recruit satellite cells.
This can be done very simply on the bench press. Let’s use an example of Jeff Kline, a high school shot putter who is peppering the 60 foot line. If Jeff hits a bench at 375lbs, his body recruited high threshold motor units to achieve this physical feat. If we push him even further, his body will begin to recruit satellite cells because he has never displaced this capability before. Now we have ignited the physiological response we are looking for...Jeff ramps up to 385lbs over a few sets, then he drops down to 225 or 275lbs or 315lbs and hits VERY RAPID reps over 3-4 sets. These rapid speed sets can be timed or unbroken and in turn lead to a strong imprint that dramatically improves his performance over time.
Speed in the weight room can be executed relatively simply. By focusing on general strength and using the principles of potentiation, acceleration, and force production, we start to see greater force output from the body. Technical literacy also plays a huge role in how the brain approaches training and will have an immediate positive impact on work within the circle.