THROWING INNOVATIONs from Throwholics

Most everyone who know me has told me I think about Throwing a little too much.  I often thank my wife for putting up with my obsession.  Its good to know that I'm not the only one out there with the same problem.  The people at Throwholics.com run a great blog that covers the throws from a World throwing perspective that is pretty unmatched.  Check out their website here...

Throwholics is posting their top 10 innovations in the throwing world.  And I thought you might like to read/watch them too.  I have added a few more videos and photos to their text for your enjoyment.  Thanks for reading and thanks THROWholics!  Find and follow Throwholics on facebook and twitter.
Coach Frontier

Throws Innovation No 10: 
The Modern Discus Technique
By Timothy Worden on September 1st, 2013


Over the next ten days I will countdown what I believe to be the Top 10 innovations to the track and field throws events. More than anything I hope to spark a load of discussion and discourse so feel free to share your comments, thoughts and concerns as the series plays out. Thankfully I can edit all the articles as needed.

Innovation № 10 began in the early twentieth century with the emergence of the modern discus technique; deviating from the old Nordic swinging technique to skipping and turning before the release. Examples of the emergence of the technique can be seen at the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games (see link below). Although the exact timing of the current technique (beginning facing the back of the circle, and releasing the discus facing the front of the circle) being acquired has been difficult to ascertain, the technique was adopted by the late 1920s by most top throwers.

One of the first Olympic sports, the discus has a strong place in Greek history. Numerous ancient drawings and stories depicting the discus throw can be found. This is what makes the modern-day technique so impressive; that after thousands of years of experimenting with different concepts, we seem to have found a relatively stable technique for throwing. Furthermore, although there are similarities between the discus and rotational shot put footwork, the discus technique preceded that of the shot put footwork by over twenty years.

Of course as I say this, there will always be experimentation with techniques to push the limits of the human body even further when throwing. In 2013 world class throwers Eric Caddee and Julian Wruck are challenging the limits of the modern discus technique by adding an extra 90° in the rotation on the start of the throw (see example below).

Erik Cadee (Ned)

For creating a throwing technique that has withstood the test of time, the modern-day discus technique is the № 10 throwing innovation.

* A special thank you to Norm Z├┐lstra for his contributions to this article.


Throws Innovation No 9: 
The Inclusion of Women in Throws Events
By Timothy Worden on September 6th, 2013

Dani Samuels (Aus)


Throwing innovation № 9 was the inclusion of women in throwing events. It is interesting to reflect back and remember that until the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, women did not participate in hammer throw at the highest profile competition of Athletics. Furthermore, women were included in the other three throwing events at the Olympics after men, as follows: Discus 1928, Javelin 1932 and Shot Put 1948.

Betty Heidler (Ger)



The inclusion of women into the throwing events has definitely improved the profile of throwing sports. The women are top-level athletes, and exhibit highly proficient technique in their events. Even more exciting, due to the recent inclusion of women in hammer throwing, we are seeing world records matched or pressured consistently at the big events. Anytime world records are being set, it spikes the interest of the general public and makes for great storylines leading up to major competitions.

Valerie Adams (NZE)


For these reasons, the inclusion of female throwers is my № 9 throws innovation.



Throws Innovation № 8: Athlete Funding
By Tim Worden on September 10th, 2013
Reese Hoffa


It is quite difficult to follow the progression of the number 8 innovation. Although the exact timing of when throwers first began to be paid (either openly or ‘under the table’) is not easily determined, the inclusion of pay for performance has had a massive impact on the lives of track and field throwers.



Throwers typically do not receive the massive endorsements, which Usain Bolt or Sanya Richards-Ross may obtain, but most top throwers receive enough money in government funding and modest sponsorships to cover at least basic living expenses. The hope is that this financial aid allows the top athletes to focus almost entirely on training, allowing for maximum achievement of sports form while using clean training practices. Furthermore, up and coming athletes in most countries do receive some financial aid, meant to facilitate the growth of these young athletes and hopefully allow them to progress to a world class level.


I would argue that although the current level of funding is helpful, it could certainly be greater. A high percentage of top athletes still live under the poverty line, and many times must work part-time jobs on the side to cover expenses. This greatly handicaps their training and performance progression. Furthermore, the therapies needed to train at a high level (massage, physiotherapy and so on) are expensive, and are therefore often neglected by athletes. This neglect can lead to reduced throw distances, or even worse, injury. The payment of track and field throwers produced large changes in how athletes are able to train, but because payment is common to all sport today, this innovation only makes it to number 8 on this list.



Throws Innovation № 7: The War on Drugs
By Tim Worden on September 23rd, 2013


My № 7 innovation demonstrates that not all change is for the better. Perhaps no innovation would have such far-reaching ramifications to elite throwers of all disciplines, as the beginning of the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). It is not a new concept for people in competition (not just athletics, any business or entertainment industry also looks for a competitive edge) to strive for an advantage over peers. Within throws events, athletes have experimented within the rules by developing new equipment, new techniques and so on. Outside of the rules (cheating), athletes may try to get away with throwing lighter than regulation implements at local meets, using aiding substances (for example, using a sticky substance on the discus throwing hand, sneaking sand into a circle and so on). However, these methods of cheating are relatively simple to identify, and can be easily controlled in major competition.



The use of performance enhancing drugs is an entirely different problem, and this epidemic is by no means an easy fix. Although these substances have undoubtedly contributed to some of the top performances in track and field history, they are ultimately outside of the rules put forward by the IAAF, IOC and WADA. For those who choose to ignore these rules, it has become a billion dollar industry of cat and mouse (of athletes evading testing methods, and testing agencies developing more sophisticated tests to catch the cheaters). Due to the fact it is very difficult to catch PED users, many constraining rules have been placed on current elite throwers (submission to random drug tests, a large portion of athletic funding provided by countries has to go to anti-doping agencies and so on). Ultimately, this has had a devastating impact on the quality of life of elite athletes across all disciplines, and has hurt the sport image.

In the throws events, the athletes do rely on an impressive combination of speed and strength, which can be greatly aided with using PEDs. This has led to a number of high profile athletes using these drugs…and consequently testing positive. Now, there is a public stigma associated with the throws events that most top-level athletes must be taking some substance (which is of course untrue). I ultimately believe this has had a very detrimental impact on our sport…as sponsors will want to distance themselves from supporting ‘cheaters’. Furthermore, young children may be discouraged from taking up the throws events, as it may be believed that it will lead to a life of PED use, or that without PEDs they have no chance of being successful. Ultimately, PEDs have had a massive impact on the Track and Field throws events, but because I do not like to focus on this aspect of the sport, I will only rank it as the number 7 innovation.



Throws Innovation № 6: Social Media
By Tim Worden on September 25th, 2013

At first glance, this innovation may seem like I have run out of ideas. Is social media really one of the top innovations to Track and Field Throws Events?! I will argue yes, as social media has allowed for vast information sharing between athletes and coaches. As throwers, we participate in some of the less popular track and field events (compared to distance running or sprints). Due to this fact, it is that much harder to find coaching, resources and places to train. This puts us at a significant disadvantage when it comes to training for our sport.



Social media has allowed throwers around the world to connect and share ideas. Many of the top throwers can now be found on twitter, or have blogs that we can follow. Furthermore, Youtube allows us to watch thousands of throwers (from beginners to perennial champions) training. Without social media, a thrower in a community with no throws coach would be stuck; there would be no affordable way to discover the information needed for proper training. Conversely, with the vast amount of information now available through social media, the geographically isolated throwers can sift through thousands of articles and obtain as much information as they would like.


Of course, there are downsides to this method of information sharing. Young throwers may look at the training of top throwers, and attempt to copy their training exactly. This is a bad idea, which will most certainly lead to overtraining and discouragement for the young athlete. Furthermore, some posted information may be unreliable in terms of improving performance for most throwers. Again, trying to emulate these points may cause issues in the young thrower’s progression. Despite these facts, it is better to have access to information, than to be stuck in isolation and not exposed to the vast amount of help available from the great community of throwers. For this reason, social media is the number 6 innovation in track and field throws.


Throws Innovation № 5: The Discus/Hammer Cage
By Tim Worden on October 1st, 2013

My number 5 throws innovation has become a fixture in every major track and field stadium. The throws cage has been vital to the health of the discus and hammer; allowing these events to be included in large stadiums and improving safety for athletes and officials alike. Typically made of large aluminum posts, which support the nylon netting around the throws circle, the throwing cage has become mandatory for all sanctioned track and field competitions.

The design of the cage ensures that the implement can only be launched onto the field of the stadium, in a predictable direction. Without the cage, the implement would be free to travel anywhere in the stadium, which could potentially injure spectators, athletes or officials. It is the nature of the sport that accidents happen (for example a thrower may slip in the circle and release the hammer prematurely), so the cage has been very effective in minimizing hazardous events.

Furthermore, without the cage, I can be sure that the hammer and discus throw  would be excluded from the main track and field stadium, and instead would be performed in a ‘safer’ secluded area where the risk of injuring others would be decreased. In this scenario, the popularity of the discus and hammer events would be greatly diminished, as it would no longer be viewable by the large crowds within the stadium.

The throws cage does not rank higher on the innovations list, because although it does allow fans to watch discus and hammer in the main stadium, the cage does not offer an ideal viewing situation. Fans will often complain that the netting distorts the athlete and makes the event viewing difficult. Furthermore, many lower level track and field meets must exclude the discus and hammer events because many small facilities do not have the monetary resources to build a regulation throws cage.

Throws Innovation № 4: The Concept of Pushing the Hammer
By Tim Worden on October 6th, 2013

The number 4 throwing innovation is the placement of the hammer head in relation to the athlete’s body. In terms of breaking the 80 m barrier in the hammer throw (which Boris Zaitchouk achieved in 1978), this was most likely the technical change which contributed to these farther distances. The idea that the hammer needs to be ‘pushed’ by the athlete was once a foreign concept, however, it is now adopted as a definite rule of technique.



Top researchers such as Bondarchuk and Bartonietz have commented on this concept. The correct positioning of the hammer head relative to the body is vital for maximal acceleration of the hammer (leading to a further throw). When Zaitchouk threw over 80 m for the first time, we could see that he was able to keep his arms long and relaxed, with the hammer wire perpendicular to his shoulders. Many top throwers who have continued to employ this technique, with superior results to those athletes who drag the hammer behind them. Although the concept is relatively easy to understand, for novice throwers it can be extremely difficult to master (dragging the hammer can manifest itself as bent arms, or turning the body ahead of the hammer). It is one of the major technical points, which separates the low-level athletes from the top hammer throwers. Since this point is so important to the proper performance of the hammer throw, and produces a dichotomy between levels of throwing quality, it is the number 4 throws innovation.

Throws Innovation № 3: The New Men’s Javelin
By Tim Worden on October 7th, 2013

My number 3 innovation is the new style javelin. In 1986 the sport of javelin was changed forever. Before this time, a javelin was used which flew tremendously far (World Record of 104.80 m (343’10’’) held by Uwe Hohn), but was associated with numerous negative incidents. Issues were arising due to the distance the javelin traveled and the way it was landing. The javelin was getting perilously close to reaching the track on the other end of the stadium, making it dangerous to throw at the same time as track events occurred. Furthermore, due to the center of gravity location of the old javelin, it was typical for the javelin to land flat, and not stick into the ground. This made obtaining accurate distance marks nearly impossible for the judges.



The solution? The IAAF would keep the weight the same but tweak the location of the centre of gravity of the javelin (the centre of gravity was moved forward 4 cm), such that the flight path of the javelin would be changed forever. The new javelin does travel a shorter distance than the old javelin (World record of 98.48 m (323’1’’) held by Jen Zelezny), however, the tip now sticks into the ground instead of landing and skipping along the grass. This has allowed for the javelin to maintain its location in the stadium, where it can be safely performed during other events. Furthermore, with the tip of the javelin now consistently sticking into the ground, judges can record accurate distances. Due to the drastic change to the throwing implement enacted by the IAAF, the new men’s javelin is the number 3 throwing innovation.


Throws Innovation № 2: The Glide and Rotational Shot Put Techniques
By Tim Worden on October 8th, 2013

This number 2 innovation may be viewed as a cheat by me, since really it encompasses two major technical advances to the sport of shot put. The first technical enhancement to shot put was the inclusion of a glide before the release of the shot put. Introduced by Parry O’Brien in the 1950s, he was the first the first person to begin the throw facing the back of the circle. Using this technique, Parry broke the world record numerous times, and was the first person to throw the shot over 60 feet (18.29 m). The glide technique has maintained its popularity, with many of the world’s top marks in the last decade coming from this technique.



In the 50s and 60s we saw the development of the rotational throw as well. Again, earlier throwers with this technique (Chandler, Ward, Malek, Oldfield and so on) achieved outstanding results with this technique (Bartonietz). The biomechanics behind this technique are generally accepted to be more complex than that of the glide, and so learning this technique requires a more complex set of instructions to athletes (Bartonietz).



Also, the introduction of two unique techniques has created a sub-plot to world-class competitions. Undoubtedly, at every competition you will have members of the unofficial ‘glide team’ competing against the ‘rotational team’. Furthermore, if you talk to enough coaches, you will find people who love one technique over the other, and will get into debates about which technique is superior. Finally, it is easy for the general public to decipher the difference between the two techniques…and to choose a favorite technique to cheer for. Because these two very different techniques, produced around the same time, are able to both produce world championship winning throws, the shot put techniques are the number 2 throwing innovation.


Throws Innovation № 1: The Use of Heavy and Light Throwing Implements
By Tim Worden on October 11th, 2013

And now, the number 1 throws innovation. When I search the literature on throws training, one means of training stands out above all others in terms of efficacy and popularity: training with heavier and lighter than competition implements. Many top coaches such as Babbitt and Bondarchuk have advocated for the effectiveness of including different weighted implements in training.



It is widely accepted that heavy implements increase the athlete’s strength for the throwing movement. Conversely, the lighter implements are used to increase speed during the throwing movement. Some critics may advocate that the use of heavy and light implements negatively affect the rhythm of throwing movements. However, the outstanding distances athletes throw using this training means cannot be ignored. Because throwers of all levels and disciplines can benefit from the use of heavy and light implements, this training means is the number 1 throws innovation.