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Speed Development: Part 3 of 3 Physiology

You have taken 500 throws over the last three weeks but you still feel slow. You still feel like the positions you are hitting aren’t intense enough, there isn’t enough energy going into the shot and the movement is deflating at the front. Is there hope to improve your speed? You have your cues, you have been doing your weight room work but WHEN will it carryover? Will your speed ever hit that top end that is needed to be an elite thrower?

Speed Development: Physiology

Speed is a buzzword. We love to use it, we know WHAT it is, but do we really comprehend how to develop speed? Do we even know how to increase speed? Heck, do we even know the adaptations that occur to enhance speed?

By comprehending the necessary adaptations, we are then able to analyze the training necessary to stimulate an adaptation that will ultimately lead to speed development.

When a thrower is able to coordinate their muscles quicker through an enhanced twitch force, they are able to sequence the muscular firing a bit faster. This means the organism (athlete) needs to learn how to enhance their muscular firing, not only in the weight room but also in the circle. This occurs by changing the mindset of training to become more technically aware in all realms of training. It has been established (in Part 1) that technique ultimately is responsible for speed enhancement inside the circle.

When throwers approach all aspects of training with a technical mindset, SPEED is enhanced dramatically! The throw becomes more fluid and movement becomes snappier.

What does it mean to have a technical mindset?

By approaching every throwing session with 1-2 specific cues and working toward those cues OVER AND OVER AND OVER again, the positions in the circle will become refined. This technical mindset will then achieve various throwing “epiphanies” regarding different positions. As they progress through thousands of throws, the thrower will have hundreds of epiphanies, ultimately leading to a mindset that is entirely based around TECHNICAL AGGRESSION instead of emotional/meathead aggression.

How would this carry over into the weight room? Every major movement should be done with technical literacy. Snatching heavy forces a positive muscular sequencing but it also forces technical literacy. To lift heavier weights in the snatch, the movement must be done with greater precision. The same goes for jerks, cleans and other Olympic lifting variations. This sparks a technical mindset, completely altering the mindset in training.

Finally, the next step is using specific movements in the throw AFTER some big strength movements have been executed. At ThrowsU, we LOVE to use bands, med balls and DB throws to improve speed in the throw. Banded throws at the end of a training session will increase speed and because the nervous system has been potentiated, the feeling and positions will transfer very well to the actual throw!

Ok...from the big picture, as a coach and athlete, what the heck can we do to develop speed on a year to year basis?!?!?

Technical understanding and development is key to developing speed long term in both the weight room AND the circle. By creating greater mind/muscle control, the athlete optimizes every single movement and understands the purpose and method behind each and every point of execution.


10,000 Technically Purposed Throws

It might sound crazy, but the ultimate goal is to get to 10,000 throws. In reality, that number isn’t as crazy as some may think. If you can get 200 throws a week, you should be able to rep 10,000 throws in a little over a years time. I recommend 25-40 throws a session, especially for high school throwers. The more reps a thrower can get, the more “technical epiphanies” they will have and the more efficient and effective their movement will become.

As technical feelings advance, body awareness will improve, consistency will improve and confidence will be at an all-time high! By constantly attacking the movement as a whole, the thrower will make tremendous progress and achieve greatness at a much faster rate. As their body becomes more coordinated in the circle they will be able to recruit their maximal and dynamic strength much more effectively! Get those throws rolling.

Olympic lift for Technical Literacy

I get asked this question quite frequently: “Why do I love Olympic lifting so much for throwers?” Let’s pretend that in a shitty world, the physical benefits of Olympic lifting would be identical to the physical benefits of other methods of training. We know from a physiological perspective that this is indeed not true, BUT let’s play the game. All physical benefits are equal. Why do I love Olympic lifting?

One phrase that everyone neglects to recognize: TECHNICAL LITERACY. What is technical literacy? It’s the ability to comprehend technical movements, learn various technical movements, master these movements and apply the lessons of mastery to other modalities of sport. This is where challenging the body with Olympic lifts and Olympic lifting variations forces the thrower to adapt their mindset. When the mindset changes to focusing on technical precision and movement, the thrower immediately learns how to carry that over to the circle and improve their technical comprehension in the circle. Technique rules in all facets!

Use Various Implements and Forms of Throwing

You go to practice daily and you throw the exact same weight in practice OVER AND OVER again. You take 5-10 stands, 5-10 half turns then 10-12 full throws. Every single day. This can stifle technical improvement, it can lead to a horrible position of monotony and can lessen the adaptation of the thrower!

At Throws University, we recommend throwing various implements. Various weighted implements can alter technique slightly which will lead to constant technical adaptations! Couple this with proper periodization in the weight room and various weighted implements can help tremendously.

By using different “forms,” the thrower finds positions a little differently. However, we recommend using half turns, South Africans, non-reverses, slow throws etc, typically at the END of training to really improve special strength and technical literacy (buzzword).


This seems like a no brainer but throwers still love walking around, stiff as a board! This is yet another example of why Olympic lifts are excellent movements. Not only do they stimulate technical comprehension, they also dramatically improve mobility. If a discus thrower has better thoracic mobility from snatching regularly, they will catch the discus a little deeper, leading to a longer finish and greater period of acceleration.

I recommend using mobility exercises in conjunction with a periodized system of throwing AND lifting to optimize results. Always remember this...Lengthening is strengthening. The longer your muscles are, the stronger and more stable they will be over long periods of time!

Technique Rules

I can’t hound this concept enough. By heading into a training session with 1-2 technical cues and technical focus, not only will the thrower have a strategic goal for practice, but they will also improve their movement and increase their distance thrown. If they do not have any technical cues or technical issues to focus upon, they will be spinning their wheels in the doldrums of throwing. For every single one of the 10,000 throws they take over a 50-55 week time frame, the thrower should have some semblance of technical cues while having a firm understanding of what position they want to hit at each point of the throw!


Speed is an elusive topic but when studied from a macro perspective, the simplicity is quite evident. Throwers and coaches alike need to comprehend that a structured plan is key to long term development. As the plan is devised, throwers need to focus on maximal and dynamic strength, they MUST have technical cues, they need to get to 10,000 throws in a reasonable time frame and continuously work on their mobility for long term gains!

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