We love to throw heavy implements, as you probably have noticed if you have been following us for a while. However, amidst all of the benefits of throwing heavy implements, there are considerations to keep in mind that could negatively affect your training if ignored.
Better Feeling in Technique
The greatest advantage of throwing heavy implements is that they increase the feeling of the movement in the circle. The increased load forces the thrower to slow down, making technical changes easier to grasp. Especially in discus, the heavier weight helps to keep the implement stretched back, making it easier to land at the front of the circle with the upper body closed off. Every movement in the circle is going to have more impact on the body, increasing the feedback the nervous system gains from each throw. Increased feedback over and over again means that the body will be able to fine tune and reproduce the movement more efficiently each successive throw. The increased load will also demand more from the body. At each point in the throw where there is acceleration, the body must produce a greater force in order to accelerate at the same rate. This trains the body to be more active and more intentional at each specific position in the throw.
The throwing movement is very unique and difficult to mimic in the weightroom. There are very few sports that incorporate rotation around the vertical axis as throwing does, making most new throwers in the sport incredibly weak at rotational movements, especially in the core. Even most rotational strength exercises lack the explosive and ballistic nature of the throw. One way of getting around this obstacle is to use special strength exercises such as med ball or dumbbell throws that break down and mimic the throw. The other is to throw heavy implements. Whether in the shot put or discus, spin or glide, the most extreme forces are occuring from the point of the non-dominant foot grounding at the front of the circle to the release of the implement. Created by the transfer of energy from the ground, through the body, to the implement, the majority of forces are pulling through the core in a rotational movement. This movement is so unique and so critical to the success of the throw that the only true method of training it is in the full throw. Heavy implements provide a way to strengthen the core at the front of the circle while maintaining the complete feeling of the throw.
Variation in Training
Variation of training applies just as much to light implements as it does to heavy, but nonetheless is an advantage of throwing heavy. Throwing is one of the most repetitive sports out there, and requires an enormous amount of repetition to be successful. Both from a physical and mental standpoint, finding methods to vary training while still being productive and getting in the repetitions is crucial in maintaining the long term health and ambition of a thrower. From a physical perspective, throwing different implements can help break a plateau in distances by changing up the feeling of the throw. Often times, when taking hundreds of throws, it becomes difficult to differentiate feelings and movements. Changing the weight of the implement, though it may seem simple, can trigger completely different feelings in the throw and help the athlete approach their technique from a new perspective. On the mental side, it can be frustrating not seeing the distances improve on a day to day or week to week basis. Using off weighted implements allows the thrower to chase different training PR’s, adding more excitement to training and less comparison to their competition bests.
Losing the Feeling of the Competition Implement
One potential negative aspect of throwing heavy implements is that the thrower could become disconnected with the specific feeling and rhythm of the lighter competition implement. Since throwing heavy does change the feeling of the throw, despite the technical and strength advantages, too much heavy throwing could cause a loss of feeling. There are two main programming considerations to avoid this. The first is to recognize that the further away in weight from the competition weight, the further away the feeling will get as well. Typically the heaviest we will take full throws with is in shot the 10k for men and 6k for women, and in disc the 3k for men and 1.6k for women. Throwing these weights have advantages, as I explained above, but to avoid losing the feeling of the lighter implements, we usually pair a lighter implement in the same session as these heavy weights. The other consideration is to not throw only heavy implements for a long period of time. If one program has a heavy implement, use a lighter implement in the next program.
Greater Impact of Training
The other side of gaining strength by throwing heavy is that the toll on the body is also going to be greater. Typically this impact is more visible in experienced and elite throwers who train at a high intensity rather than younger or newer throwers. Especially on the first day of throwing a heavy implement, the thrower will noticeably get tired after fewer throws in the session. It will take a couple sessions before they can recreate the endurance and intensity of their later throws with the heavier implements. It is important to consider how the heavy implements will impact the weightroom and the overall recovery of the thrower as well. Lifting numbers might be down for a period of time before they are able to adjust, especially if the lifting session is immediately after the throwing session. The thrower might have to eat a little more and get a little extra sleep to recover better for the next day as well.
The last consideration is hand and wrist injuries, and really only applies to shot putters. Discus throwers might find an increased strain on the pec when throwing heavy which should be monitored. First of all, every experience shot putter, especially men, should be wearing a wrist wrap when throwing. Throws add up over times, and the wrist is one of the weakest joints in the body. When throwing heavy, it is a must to have a wrist wrap on, but it is a good idea to use a shot put glove as well. Rodhe Sport is the best place to go to find a shot put glove. If a heavy shot rolls off the fingers, it will cause much more damage than a light shot. Taking these precautions is the smart way to avoid injuring the hand or wrist.