The Point of Diminishing Returns

We have all seen those throwers. The dude who has a 450lb bench press but can barely throw a shot 40 feet. They can squat 500lbs but they only take standing throws at 30 feet. They leave the coach bewildered, wondering how they can be so strong and yet throw so poorly.


We call those throwers, powerlifters.


Just kidding.


Maybe not.


Ok, back to the discussion. Those specific athletes bring tons of questions to the surface. How much is too strong? At what point should athletes stop worrying about maximum strength? Is there even a point of diminishing returns?


We have seen the videos of Daniel Stahl deadlifting over 700lbs for REPS! Does that mean we all have to deadlift 700lbs to throw 70 meters? We have seen him hit jerks over 500lbs, does that mean we need to jerk 500lbs for 70 meters? How about the videos of Gerd Kanter power cleaning 190k? Or Kanter front squatting 240k for reps? Are these numbers necessary?

Short answer. NO.


As throwers develop, it is very important to keep throwing and technical progress as the main focus early on in their career. While they learn the spin/glide and master that movement, the various positions and different feelings, they will comprehend their own means of optimal acceleration. This is where things start to get a bit cloudy.



Athletes develop differently, they have different mobility issues based on what they did in their lives growing up. Did they wrestle? Were they powerlifters at a young age (like Stahl)? Did they participate in Olympic lifting at a young age (like Kanter)? Were they gymnasts for a few years? Maybe they were simply couch potatoes?!?!




By understanding the athlete and their background, coaches will better be able to comprehend how “strong” an individual may need to be to elicit a great response from their physiological adaptation. This is definitely getting cloudy but I will try to shed some light on this topic.


Let’s pretend that the baseline for throwing reps is entirely focused on 25-30 throws every single day of training. That means 25-30 throws or 25-30 throwing drills. On top of this, the athlete will get work done in the weight room and then finish their session with 20-30 reps of special strength.


This is where things get complicated. I have seen over the last decade that athletes respond differently to volume and intensity based on their previous athletic development. That means some athletes need VERY HEAVY strength work to respond well to throwing. Other athletes need more volume and less intensity to respond accordingly to throws training. I have included a basic chart that guides us through the proper stimulation needed based on 10 different sports, and then included a couple charts of the absolute HIGHEST number of weight needed to compete at an elite level.




From a snapshot, most American football players are able to handle volume well AND they handle intensity quite well. It is up to the coach to understand where they succeed the most. Athletes with a powerlifting background tend to need heavier lifts to ignite their nervous system while Olympic lifters do well with both volume and intensity. Basketball or Court athletes do quite well with volume work and typically grow tremendously on volume-based programming. Gymnasts have been taught to handle absolutely every method of stimulation. Wrestlers have developed to handle large amounts of volume, similar to soccer and field hockey players. Meanwhile, volleyball players typically do the best training quite heavy. Couch potatoes will need more intensity-based programming to spark a response to training.


Now that we have understood the means needed to ignite each athlete and their nervous system, let’s dive into the maximal lifts needed to be elite. Notice, for this blog’s purpose we are only diving into elite HIGH SCHOOL throwers in the shot put and discus. In a future blog, we will touch on the elite levels needed for optimal performance.


First, let’s dive into the female thrower. To define an elite thrower, they need to be throwing 135’ or further in the discus and over 40’ in the shot put. These numbers are estimated to produce tremendous results. However, some athletes will throw much further while hitting these lifting numbers and other athletes will not throw nearly as far while hitting these numbers. Onto the high school women!


135’/40’ Lifting Numbers


On the High School Men’s side, we will determine elite as:

55’ in the shot put and 175’ in the discus


These two charts are very simple guidelines to use to become an elite thrower at the high school level. Factor in the previous sport that may have been trained and you should be able to comprehend the intensity and volume ranges needed for continued development.


Now, let’s revisit the lifter that squats 600lbs but only throws 40 feet. This athlete would likely excel at powerlifting. If they want to be elite throwers, they need to take 30-35 throws DAILY and they need to engage in more Olympic lifting. In our experience at ThrowsU, when these athletes start clean and snatching on a regular basis, they learn how to recruit motor units FASTER and can thus lead to greater performance inside the ring!


Now, let’s revisit the lifter that squats 600lbs but only throws 40 feet. This athlete would likely excel at powerlifting. If they want to be elite throwers, they need to take 30-35 throws DAILY and they need to engage in more Olympic lifting. In our experience at ThrowsU, when these athletes start clean and snatching on a regular basis, they learn how to recruit motor units FASTER and can thus lead to greater performance inside the ring!


Want to learn more about how we train our elite athletes? Check out our newest resources for coaches: Coaches Corner

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