This is the time when you rebuild your dreams, when you work on all those promises you made to yourself last season.

You know the promises I’m talking about. The promise to train harder, to be lean and mean, to come back looking better than when you left, to increase your strength, and to further your throwing career by throwing farther.

Promises. I made a promise to myself when I had my first knee surgery to stop smoking. Every time I wanted a cigarette I thought of that painful surgery and I would do push-ups, sometimes 50 at a crack. This was effective.

The knee surgery had nothing to do with smoking, but it was my way of dissuading myself from smoking by associating smoking with pain, and it worked. I stopped smoking. I quit for as long as I had an active throwing career. After that, I just mooched cigarettes.

It was a tough thing to do back then, in the last century, to quit smoking, because they used to give cigarettes to everybody. They would hand out samples of cigarettes. Airlines used to hand them out. If you didn’t smoke, you were almost forced to smoke. Pilots smoked in the cockpit of aircraft. Can you imagine? How could they see anything?

You could smoke in hospitals. In patient rooms, in the waiting areas, everywhere. Doctors smoked. Now you would be given the boot. I guess when Ireland banned smoking in pubs, it was the sign of the anti-smoking revolution. God bless the Irish.

I tried to quit swearing, but it didn’t work, damn it. It was an unrealistic goal.

That promise you made to yourself to track your progress. I took detailed notes of my gains in lifting and throwing. Notes are important; they’re your past and your future. Review your notes. If you don’t have notes or a training diary, you are wrong. Study yourself, but not in the mirror.

Training notes don’t have to be complicated. Just something to remind yourself about the weekly goal, the monthly goal and the yearly goal. I bought a calendar, the kind with big squares, and I would plot what I aspired to do and what I actually did. If I had a meet coming up I would note what I wanted to throw; or if I wanted to bench press 365 next week, I would note that. Then if I met or exceeded that goal, I would outline that square in red.

After a while, I had a lot of red squares. Every time I looked at the calendar it would remind me of the promises I made to myself. That would trigger the drive to excel and the drive to train to excel. I could use the calendar to set goals and gauge what was possible to achieve.

For instance, I would start my squat program at this time of year. Let’s say I wanted to be a 500 pound squatter. I would start with 400 pounds and do a six-week program to get up to 500. There are several formulas to do this but generally you start with 20 percent less than your goal and do six sets of two on Monday, six sets of three on Wednesday and so on. You can get these formulas on line. Or email me. I like to get mail.

I did front squats, too, which people told me were bad. But I became a believer in front squats for throwing. They are more dynamic and can improve the power of your throw. If you’re not doing front squats, promise yourself to do front squats. People don’t like them because they’re uncomfortable, but they kick butt for throwing.

Your lifting should be as specific for throwing as you can make it. Front squats are in that category. The overhead press is specific. I could do an overhead press of 500 pounds, which meant a lot more for my throwing than being able to do a bench press of 500 pounds. If you’re not doing the overhead press, promise yourself to start doing them.

But promise yourself you won’t have a program that leads to a one repetition max. That’s when you hurt yourself. You always want to be able to do more than one rep. I could do three reps of overhead press at 450 pounds. I knew I could do 535 for one rep, but that is when injuries occur, in the one rep maximum. So promise yourself not to hurt yourself in training.

Some of these lifts were not popular when I was coming up through the ranks, but I tried to do what other people weren’t doing and that made a big difference in my throwing.

Another promise: Set attainable goals. This relates back to keeping track of where you came from and where you are and where you want to be.  If you’re a 20 meter thrower with a 16-pound shot, then next year you want to throw 20 meters with an 18- pound shot. Then the next year you want to throw with a 20-pound shot.

I also would measure myself against who I thought was my major opposition. I would take their weight and divide it by their height in inches and get a sort of comparative analysis. I was about 3.6 pounds per linear inch. George Woods was about 4.2 pounds per linear. Al Feuerbach was about 3.75.

The three of us worked out on the Olympic team together. I had a standing throw of 64 feet. Feuerbach had a standing throw of 65 and Woods had one of 66 feet. I could see where their mass was greater than mine by their standing throw.

You can use this to tailor your training program in terms of weight lifting, running and throwing. What do you need to match Woods’ throwing if you don’t have his mass? You need speed, since M x S = D, where D is distance. Obviously, this is not a sophisticated type of measurement and equation, but it can be useful to reach your goals.

The other thing I always worked on was my biorhythms.  This is just stopping the training and listening to your body and mind, writing your observations in your notes. Track those. They can help you in scheduling training or days off. Never forget to take goof off days here and there. I think I took quite a few of those.

I write this because if you don’t improve, nine people will get ahead of you and you’ll be 20th next year. Or maybe 30th.  Then how will you get that scholarship? I want to see you improve, damn it.

By Brian Oldfield with George Houde


  1. You said, “There are several formulas to do this but generally you start with 20 percent less than your goal and do six sets of two on Monday, six sets of three on Wednesday and so on.”

    I want to show you why this is incorrect, and to do it, I will use an analogy.
    If I can sprint the 100 meters in 10.5 seconds for 3 sets on Monday and on Wednesday I can sprint the 100 meters in 10.5 seconds for 6 sets, did I get any faster? How fast am I? The answer is, I am a 10.5 100 meter sprinter. I don’t care if I do it 1000 times. That only means that I have great endurance. I did not do anything that works on the muscle fibers and motor neurons that would make me run faster than 10.5.

    The same goes for weight lifting. If I can do 400 x 1 on Monday, and then next week I can do 400 x 3, I didn’t get stronger. I just got more endurance. We have different muscle fibers and the fibers doing the reps are not the fibers doing the 1 rep max lifts. You said that we should never do one rep max lifts. What would you correlate a throw to? It’s the same thing as a one rep max. You must train the fibers and neurons that you use when you throw.

    If I run the 100 meters in 10.5 seconds on Monday, and then next week I can run that same 100 meters in 10.5 seconds with a 10 pound weight vest on, that’s an increase that I desire. The muscle fibers and neurons that I use to run the 100 meters were using greater force than last week. That’s what I want, not more endurance. Also, if I can run the 100 meters in 10.5 up a 5 degree hill, that also is an increase that I can use.

    If I can parallel squat 400 x 1 on Monday and next week I do 450 x 1, and 465 x 1 at a depth of 3″ above parallel, that is a benefit to my strength training. Some of the same fibers and neurons that I used last week at 400 lbs. are now pushing 465 lbs. More force equals strength gains, not more reps.

    Also, most people get injured when their technique breaks down. Whether I am maxing for one rep or 5 reps, I am still pushing my body to do what it has never done before. On that fifth rep my technique is at it’s worst, so I have just as much of a chance of getting injured on that rep that I have on a one rep max. And in my case, I have always had a greater technical breakdown on higher rep lifts than on lower rep lifts. That’s why I stopped doing sets over 3 reps a long time ago. I started cycling for one and two rep maxes and my injuries decrease dramatically. My technique on those lifts is incredibly better than my technique on the fifth rep of a five rep max.

    I have a very technical set of weight training cycles that takes full advantage of all that I discussed. I don’t train for more than two reps, and I don’t over train, because my cycles are designed properly. Everything is based on getting as strong as possible for one rep. It’s worked on me and hundreds of others for over 35 years. And, it’s always been totally drug free.

    In summary, I think you are a great asset to the throwing community, and so much of what you say is exactly what I believe. But, on this issue, I do disagree with you.


    • Your position is not unique and is not clearly correct either, nor is your analogy of sprinting. This approach to lifting is widely debated in the weightlifting community. It worked for Brian.


  2. Another great article from Brian with excellent advice and insite. I’ve been a fan since “71” and loved the pro tour meets on tv. Thanks Big O.

  3. I would think more fiber pathways are being recruited on short heavy reps to near failure correct ? This is of interest to me as squats are of great benefit to runners but dangerous if dealing with near max weight. Thanks .

  4. To the Oldfield Family & Friends.
    I first met Brian at the Ohio Relays when I was a student and a discus thrower on the Ohio State University Track Team in 1968. I remember him whipping the javelin into the sky but don’t remember much, except the crowd doing that momentary moan. I had heard of Brian being in the Decathlon,but what year I don’t know. I switched to Olympic Style weightlifting and occasionally threw at all-comers meets and also ran into other thrower-lifters like Al Feurbach, the Stuart Brothers, Gary Gubner, Ken Patera and the rest of ‘the tribe’ .

    At this time I am finishing a book covering the network of various sports and the interactions of other networks that big athletes step into for careers or even survival modes. I hadn’t been able to reconnect with Brian until one year ago and now realize that I am too late after his recent death. He was indeed a great sports legend and his stories must be told. When I watched the Movie about Ty Cobb, I realized that the format and manner in which it was told would have done Big ‘O’ justice,

    Again, I wish the members of Brian’s Family my condolences and prayers for a great man who shared a common struggle against all odds !

    John C. Kovach M.T.
    Tempe, Arizona

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