Yuriy Sedykh, the Ukrainian hammer thrower, always said, “Out the back.”
He didn’t mean out the back door, which was a handy escape route for me on various adventures around the globe, as long as you could find the back door. Sometimes you had to create one on the spot. Those are the times you really believe that necessity is the mother of invention. But that’s not relevant here.
What is relevant is Yuriy’s advice. Let’s examine that and do a little inventing ourselves. I should say re-invention for those who are not getting out the back door efficiently.
Yuriy was talking about out of the back of the throwing circle. That’s where everything begins for throwers and what you do there predicts the future in the throw, at least in the circle. It’s sort of a back to the future theory and a method on how to turn into the pathway for the linear approach to the effortless throw. That’s what we search for, the effortless, endless throw that could pierce the sky.
Yuriy was right. His mantra “out the back” worked for him. He had two Olympic gold medals and a world record. It can work for everybody, though there’s no guarantee about getting medals or a world record. But your performance will improve if you work on the initial movement for your throw, dissecting it down to the first half-second.
Let’s discuss Yuriy’s theory and my practical concept of how to initiate the start of the throw. It is the first of the five throwing phases I have developed over the years, the others being the linear or sprint phase; the nirvana phase; the vertical or jump phase; and the re-entry phase.
Sometimes throwers leave their best effort at the back of the circle because they think that all of the effort comes at the front of the circle. But it’s at the back of the circle where your throwing pattern is set up.
Set up is important for your first move. Your feet should be shoulder width apart. You should be facing to the rear. Let’s call that the 12 o’clock position. You should be straddling the imaginary radius from the center of the circle to the 12 o’clock mark. That’s right. It’s high noon for you and you have to be quick on the draw.
You should be in a squat, with your knees bent at about 90 degrees.
The 6 o’clock position is directly behind you, at the front of the circle. If you had eyes in the back of your head you would be looking at the landing area. If you are right handed, your right hand is holding the shot behind your right ear. Your left palm is up as if you are carrying a tray close to your shoulder or doing a behind-the-neck press. This is important.
The shot is held high behind the ear at the base of the skull. The center of gravity of the shots rests just below the apex of the fingers of the throwing hand with the palm up. The shot will have a natural tendency to roll toward the fingers when thrown. The left arm is held up and back with the palm up. You should try to touch your shoulder blades together. The head is held back and the eyes are kept level.
A quick test of one’s starting position and balance is to turn and look over the right shoulder at the landing area, toward 6 o’clock. At this point the athlete can gain the perspective needed to line up their spine toward the target. The spine is the axis of the rotation.
Remember – in the rotation style the starting position is basically the power position and you must be under and in front of the shot, meaning that you are low and carrying the shot behind the ear.
Now you are in position to start your throw. The first thing is to shift your weight to the left foot. The biggest mistake throwers make is to shift to the right foot, which seems more natural. The shift to the left foot doesn’t seem natural because you want to keep your weight on the right foot to push off. But the trick is to free the right foot by shifting to the left. That way the right foot is ready to begin its movement, circumscribing an arc around the left leg. This is a little trick that has to be learned, along with a lot of others for successful throwing.
Next, both feet must shift and point counter-clockwise, adding more dominance to the left leg. The right foot is prepared to lift and begin its movement around an imaginary pole that runs down through the left shoulder, hip, knee and foot, creating the first axis of the rotation.
The right foot will circumscribe an arc around the pole until it lands in the circle and becomes the anchor of the second pole, or axis, one running down through the right shoulder, hip, and knee. That is the first part of what I call the “Big circle-Little Circle-Big Circle” rotation.
Thrower Mike Carter once said he wanted to get the drive and lift I had. Well, getting things right at the back of the circle is how you can do it.
You can practice this with two shots, one in each hand, and throw both at the front of the circle. This will improve your coordination and make you remember to control and stabilize your non-throwing hand.
Another good drill: place a roll of duck tape on your head like a crown and practice until and your movements are smooth and controlled and it stops falling off.
Here’s drill another for balance and getting low: Initiate the throw and when the right foot lands, start sprinting toward what would be the landing area, rather than starting the next phase of the rotation. Take four or five sprint steps. You don’t need a throwing circle to practice this. This drill helps put drive in your throw.
Another is to assume the starting position, and turn 360 degrees maintaining that position with the right foot lifted and circumscribing an arc until you return to the starting point. Mark the spot where your right foot should land. Repeat until perfect. You can do it with weight in one hand, or both hands, or no weight.
Then do it in reverse. Repeat, repeat, repeat until you are a whirling dynamo, ready to go on to the next phase. And remember, “Out the back.” Try some of these drills and let me know if they help your throw.
P.S. Sorry about the long delay since my last blog, but it was such a nice winter, I was able to get out of the house a lot more and couldn’t stand to sit at the computer.
By Brian Oldfield with George Houde
(this blog was originally posted on 3/27/2012)