The shot put and discus are the two most widely competed in throwing events and have similar technical cues, so I am going to start the technique portion of the Beginner’s Guide with these events. The shot put has two different techniques: the glide and the rotational. The rotational technique is similar to the discus spin, but the glide is a very different movement. The principles and process below will apply to the rotational and glide techniques.
Balance is the first principle that a thrower needs to address when first starting or at the start of the new season. In order to apply the most force to the implement, throwers need to be able to go through the movement smoothly. The two most common balance issues occur when a thrower is transitioning from the back of the circle to the middle and when the athlete is releasing the implement.
Guidelines for Improving Balance
- Head Position is the leading cause of balance issues with most throwers. A thrower’s head/eyes should always be on the horizon and should never lead the body into a movement.
- Repetition is also important to improving balance. Your body is smart enough to correct a lot of balance issues if you give it enough opportunities.
Acceleration is the second principle and should only be addressed after balance. Acceleration is harder to achieve when a thrower is off balance and if it is achieved it can be lost at various points in the throw due to balance issues. When thinking about acceleration, it is important to understand what you are trying to accelerate. A thrower must be able to increase the speed of the implement upon release to throw farther.
Guidelines for Accelerating the Implement
- Focus on the Implement–Have the perspective of accelerating the implement. This may or may not include accelerating the body depending on how the athlete is transferring momentum into the implement.
- Start Slow-This will allow you to stay balanced and give you room to accelerate throughout the throw.
Separation is the last principle and needs to be addressed last for several reasons. If a thrower focuses on separation before grasping the concept of acceleration, most likely they will stall out because most ques regarding separation involve holding the upper body back.
Positions related to separation can help athletes when they are trying to improve their balance; however during the first step the focus should be on balance not the performance benefits of separation.
There are two different types of separation one can create during a throw: upper-lower, right-left.
Guidelines for Creating Separation
- Upper-Lower Separation-is when the feet and hips get ahead of the upper body creating torque, and when executed properly will help increase acceleration of the implement at the end of the throw. Typically people will use cues such as holding the throwing arm or shoulder back, or getting feet down and turning faster.
- Right–Left Separation-is when a thrower creates a stretch reflex across the body. An example of this concept occurs near the release where the athlete will throw their non-throwing arm ahead to create a stretch across the chest and accelerate the throwing arm.
The principles and process for improving a throw laid out above will work for anyone, from beginners to advanced athletes. The only aspect of the process that differs depending on skill level is time; a beginner may work on balance for an entire season, an intermediate thrower may focus on balance for the first few weeks of the season, and an advanced thrower may focus on balance the first couple throws of every practice and may go through this process several times in a single practice fine-tuning a throw.