Hammer Throwing Basics

The hammer and weight throw are enjoying a resurgence in American Track and Field. The USATF recently added the hammer to its youth schedule, and there is more and more interest among high school programs to include the hammer. Hal Connolly, the 1956 Olympic gold medalist in the hammer, is making major strides in promoting a grass roots effort to popularize the event in this country once again.

There was a time when American hammer throwers were the envy of the world. There were few others in the world that could compete with US hammer throwers at the early Olympic Games. As the event shifted from a strength event to more of a technical event, American throwers have slipped from their dominant standing. In fact, Hal Connolly (1956) and Lance Deal (1992), are the only two Americans to medal at the Olympic Games in the past 50 years.

Anatoli Bondarchunk of the former Soviet Union, has revolutionized the event with his technical philosophy and training methods. Even though he has been coaching for over 30 years now, his methods are still neglected in this country. The primary tenets of his technical philosophy include maintaining good posture, and pushing the ball. Too many beginning hammer throwers are still taught the old "grip it and rip it" method of hammer throwing, which can offer them short term gains, only leads to long term frustration and even injury.

In order for hammer throwers to develop the best of their potential, it is important for them to focus on the winds and entry of the throw above all else. The drawer must set up a properly balanced drawer-implement system. If the system is not set up properly from the entry, it is impossible to correct through the course of the throw. Classic illustrations of setting the system up correctly can be seen by Bondarchunk's star pupils, Sergi Litvinov and Yuri Sedych. Some of the top hammer throwers of today have refined the entry even further as can be seen by Ivan Tikhan of Belarus (now coached by Sergi Litvinov).

If the drawer sets the system up correctly from the entry, it is then a matter of "pushing the ball" and maintaining proper posture. Throughout each successful turn, the thrower should aggressively drive and turn the right foot, knee, and hand through each double support phase. As the tangential force of the ball increases due to its speed, the thrower must continue to lift his chin, or the crown of his head to maintain proper posture and prevent "breaking at the waist," or crashing down on the right side.

The time has come for American hammer throwers to regain their prominence on the Olympic medal stands. Continue developing your coaching knowledge and actively working with young athletes to advance our sport.