Special strength has been defined and processed for the world of throwing. It’s a detailed idea that can carry over tremendously to MASSIVE results in the circle. But this begs the question...what are the specifics?!!?! What are the exercises? How easy are they to set up?
There are plenty of movements the throwing community has seen. Throwing dumbbells, rotating with medicine balls, twisting with plates, all movements that can be analyzed through the lens of special strength. Creativity can go a LONG way in connecting the weight room with the circle and that’s where many coaches get stuck. Want to find out the BEST special strength exercise for serious gains?!?! Let’s dive deep into the topic.
Say It Again...
Before we go deep into the movement that could BLOW UP your performance in the circle, let’s actually regroup and recognize the key principles behind special strength. To do that, we need to define what special strength actually is and how it can impact training in general.
Special strength is based around movements that emulate the actual competitive throws of the discus, shot put and hammer throw. Not only do the movements mimic the actual competitive movement, the speed and RATE of coordination also closely resemble the coordination process of the competitive movement. This is where the carryover and bridging of the weight room to the circle comes into play. Let’s use the classic example with the shot put.
A fast bench press might be done at about 1-1.5 meters per second. A typical execution of shot putting will be done around 13 meters per second. That leaves a large canyon between the bench press and the shot put. However, if we can bring in a movement like a dumbbell half turn that is executed at 8-10 meters per second, now we have a movement and a coordination speed that can dramatically improve the output from training! That is the key behind special strength.
Give Me Those (Knowledge) BOMBS!
When it comes down to training tools and exercises, every coach should try to look for movements that can help improve technique, strength AND speed. Start off with a rate of coordination. The difference between world class athletes and mid-level athletes is the fact that the world class athlete can COORDINATE faster, leading to a dramatic increase in rate of force development.
Another key step is to find a movement that can enhance strength. When strength is improved, typically joint stability improves and intermuscular coordination is also more effective. Strength improvement can help with integrity and general spatial awareness, two important factors behind throwing.
Add in the speed improvement and all of a sudden the movement has to be something of importance. Speed can be improved through mobility, strength, cocontractions and high rate of coordination. This almost perfectly defines plyometric based training. As athletes utilize more plyometric and reflexive based movements, their body recruits incredibly well by using their senses and natural defense mechanisms for high performance in their respective sport!
Now that we have provided some key background information. It’s time to dive into…..the SHOT SWING! This simple movement can do three impressive factors that will generate a massive increase in the throws.
1. Transfer Forward
The shot swing educates the thrower on what can oftentimes be a foreign concept. Many coaches neglect to teach and cue their throwers on transferring forward. They have repeatedly told their throwers to BLOCK and in turn that has created a massive miscommunication and horribly ineffective verbiage that negates big throws. By teaching the concept of the transfer leg athletes will notice how the show swing teaches them to move into the sector. As the thrower first pushes the swing, they may fall backward or off balance. As they learn proper feeling and coordination, their energy shifts forward very effectively and into the swing which enables the ball to move properly on the pendulum!
2. The Rate of Coordination
We touched on this earlier but this is an idea that MUST be hammered home. The athlete that can coordinate their entire muscular system in an effective pathway will be the athlete that ultimately throws the longest. Not only does it come down to how the body coordinates but also the SPEED and rate at which the coordination occurs.
In the shot circle, there is a finite time period to develop force. As the thrower puts down their gas pedal, it is ideal to have the engine of a Ferrari under the hood. The shot swing cultivates the Ferrari engine! This enables coaches to turn Honda Civics into Ferrari’s, a difficult task with typical training methodology. It’s very important to develop this with proper feeling through the full foot. Make sure the right ankle is plantar flexed while the transfer foot is flat. This helps with proprioception and optimal coordination.
3. Plyometric Training for Throws
Plyometrics are typically thought of as movements that utilize jumping. It’s important to acknowledge that plyometric movements are based around a general definition of muscles exerting a maximal amount of force in a very SHORT period of time. In comes the shot swing. The shot swing can be used to demonstrate how to absorb energy and then reapply that energy very rapidly!
The deceleration portion of the shot swing creates a very active stretch-shortening cycle. This ignites the trunk tremendously and improves rotational strength as well. Over very long periods of time, the shot swing will aid the thrower in learning how to absorb force and then utilize that force through an active trunk!
Utilizing special strength methods is important for increasing and improving overall performance in the circle. The methods seem to be difficult to understand but it’s important to keep the ideas relatively simple! The shot swing is a perfect tool that demonstrates the effectiveness of simplicity. Use the shot swing to help improve thrower's rate of coordination, their ability to transfer energy forward, and finally as a plyometric movement. After years of utilizing this movement, your PR’s will improve dramatically!
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- Dane and Trevor