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Universal Drills for Throwers

by Byron Collyer

Here are three simple, but very effective, drills that can be applied to any thrower in track and field. They work for beginners or experienced throwers, and for javelin throwers, as well as for shot putters, discus throwers and hammer throwers.

Drill #1: Easy Distance
The easy distance drill helps throwers use the major muscle groups in their body. This is achieved by getting the athlete to focus on throwing a given distance as easily and with as minimal effort, as possible. It works by forcing the athlete to recruit bigger muscle groups, since they are more powerful and thus will create less of a sensation of effort to the athlete than smaller groups would if they were recruited. The drill should be performed at distances between 60–80% of maximal effort.

Note that a specific distance must be chosen while the athlete is practicing this drill. For example, if the athlete is practicing this drill at 60% of maximal effort, the goal is to throw exactly that distance with as minimal effort as possible. The athlete is not trying to work up to 65% eventually. The goal is strictly to focus on the 60% of maximal effort distance while using the least amount of effort possible.

This drill is very effective for improving overall throwing technique and for use of the thrower’s entire body during a given throwing motion. It also breaks the common pattern of always throwing for distance during practice, which is actually a comparatively ineffective way to improve throwing technique.

The basic skill progression for this drill would be to start at approximately 60% of maximal effort and move the athlete up to 80% of maximal effort over a period of one to two months. In addition, when you’re working with an athlete to introduce new wrinkles in technique and to integrate them into his or her throwing motion, you can get results by returning the athlete to lower percentages of maximal throwing effort.

Easy Distance Drill Summary

  • This drill should be done at the beginning of the practice.
  • The athlete can perform 15–30 throws depending on the skill level (more advanced athletes may perform more throws).
  • This drill can also be used during competition warm-up using, of course, fewer throws than in practice.
  • Drill #2: Visualize It and Become It
    Visualization can be an effective training tool for all sports including track and field. But here’s the catch: Many visualization articles leave out one key aspect of this training technique. You’ve got to teach your athletes to visualize through their own eyes. This means that when Joe Thrower is practicing in his mind— visualizing—he has to be doing so seeing out from inside of his own body, just as he would during a throw in real life.

    Tell your athlete, “You have to be in your own head visualizing what would occur in a perfect throw—and feeling it in your body—for visualization to be effective. You are practicing making the throw in your mind. Visualizing watching yourself performing the perfect throw from the sidelines won’t get the job done.”

    Teach your throwers to focus on the sensations in their arms, lower body and mind, and get them to focus on feeling various techniques that you and they have discussed during practice.

    Visualization is so powerful that an athlete can improve almost as quickly as he or she would if they were actually physically practicing. This is an incredible tool you can teach your athletes to use when they’re traveling, fatigued or otherwise unable to practice. Visualization can also be used to supplement your athletes’ regular training to help them improve more quickly than they would be able to using only real-life practice sessions.

    A final benefit of visualization is that it allows your athlete to perform the perfect motion over and over flawlessly. When you visualize, you don’t make mistakes or get distracted by the sun or other miscellaneous factors. Thus, your athlete can repeatedly practice perfection, which, after all, is the ultimate objective of training.

    Visualize It and Become It
    Drill Summary

  • Visualization can be practiced for from 5–20 minutes.
  • Visualization should be used only once daily.
  • Visualization is best practiced in a quiet and controlled atmosphere.
  • Drill #3: Joint Order Law Training Drill
    Joint Order Law is defined by the gods of physics as the appropriate order of joints to produce the most power. Conveniently, Joint Order Law almost always remains the same for all the throwing disciplines in track and field, as follows: hips, torso, shoulder, elbow, wrist, then fingers. Now that you’ve got the order, all you have to do is help your athlete refine and speed up their motion and, believe it or not, improving joint order law and achieving just that is best done by…not throwing anything at all.

    Take your athlete to some green space and have them move through their throwing motion (mainly the delivery phase) with appropriate joint order. Have your athlete begin with a slow-motion throwing that they speed up to about 80% of maximal effort toward the end of about 20–30 throws.

    By consistently helping them re-affirm the appropriate joint order, you can instill the proper throwing motion foundation within your athlete’s mind and body. This works well even if the athlete you're working with already has a well-established throwing motion. This drill should enhance your athlete’s throwing motion and fine tune it. This should also translate into fewer injuries, farther throws and faster improvements for your athlete.

    Joint Order Law Training
    Drill Summary

  • Get your athlete to practice proper joint order law in front of you in slow motion.
  • The athlete should complete 20–30 proper joint order law slow-motion to 80% full speed throws (without an implement) minimum.
  • The athlete should practice these motions at the beginning of every practice for 5–10 minutes or on non-throwing days.
  • The athlete should not practice this drill at the end of practice, during competition or directly after other parts of their training programs such as weight lifting, sprinting or plyometric sessions.
  • Teach your athletes to use these three simple-to-do, yet universal, throwing drills, and you’ll both reap the benefits —in better technique and longer throws.

    Byron Collyer is a throws coach who specializes in javelin throwing. For more information on the javelin or the training log, visit his site: www.throwjavelin.com.