Coaching 101: Warm Up & Cool Down for Throwers
by Roy Stevenson
Warming up for the throwing events has a similar goal to the sprinter's warm up. We want to increase the force of the thrower's muscle contractions and speed up their muscle contraction rate, to maximize their power and speed. The big difference is that we are focusing on different muscles groups for the throws. The warm up also helps your throwers stabilize their pre competition adrenalin rush, making them less nervous.
Here are some guidelines for warming up for the throws.
Phases One: warm up jogging. No matter how much your throwers dislike this, they need to do 5-10 minutes of jogging to warm up their muscle tissue and body temperature. The big difference between the track sprinters' warm up jogging and thrower's jogging is that the throwers will be a lot slower. If your throwers are too big to jog, you can have them do some stationary cycling, with fast bursts.
Phase Two: stretching exercises. Stretching should follow immediately after warm up jogging, before the muscles can cool down. Start with static stretching and proceed to dynamic, active stretches, focusing on upper body, shoulders, chest, arms, trunk and legs. Given the biomechanics of throws--that the thrower is trying to exert maximal force through a wide range of motion--your throwers should always be striving to improve their flexibility.
Kara Patterson, 2011 Worlds, photo by PhotoRun.net
The top throwers are highly flexible in the few movements that their event calls for. A lack of flexibility prevents many throwers from reaching their full potential, and because inflexible throwers are still throwing trying to throw through the full range of motion, they are more easily injured. U.S. Olympic Games javelin thrower, Duncan Atwood, recommends hanging from a bar or fence to improve flexibility in the scapula and torso. Three 20-second hanging sessions work fine. And javelin throwers should use the javelin as a stretching stick for a host of stretches.
Phase Three: accelerations and drills: All throws have an acceleration phase using the legs, so your throwers need some acceleration sprints, albeit over very short distances. These can range from 10-20 meters for shot and discus, to 20-40 meters for javelin throwers. Repetitions can number from 4-10. Allow good recovery between these drills.
After acceleration drills, many coaches have their throwers do a series of general practice drills. With these drills, the coach is limited only by his imagination and the plethora of books on this subject. Here are a few examples of general drills: sideways walking or running crossovers (without legs crossing over behind each other), backwards running, quick foot turnover in ladders and other ladder drills, cone running for agility, forward lunge walking, side lunges, calf walking, hopping, bounding, plyometrics, calisthenics like squat thrusts, etc--you get the idea!
The number of repetitions of each of these drills will vary according to how long each drill takes and its complexity. Generally you would expect your throwers to do 5-10 repetitions of each drill before moving on to the next one.
Throwers should then proceed to more specific throwing drills using basketballs, weighted balls, medicine balls, kettle bells, the shot or discus. There are dozens of these drills available in coaching manuals, ranging from one armed throws to two arm throws, and many others. It is not necessary to do all of these drills in every warm up--in fact it would be impossible! So just select a few different drills for each warm up to keep it varied, interesting, and fun.
Use your more skilled athletes to demonstrate each drill to the rest of the throwers before they try them. The drills should eventually transition to the specific skills for each throwing, starting with movements that make up part of the whole throwing action, and then proceeding to the whole throwing movement. The total drill phase of the thrower's warm up should take 15-25 minutes, longer at the beginning of the season.
Former U.S. javelin champion, Duncan Atwood, describes this phase of the warm up as "Trying to re-acquaint the thrower with the neuromuscular movements that make up the throwing action, and what it feels like to do the event". Simple actions such as standing throws help the thrower make this transition, followed by throws with a short run up, or in the case of shot and discus, reduced turns. "But" cautions Atwood, "the big mistake many high school athletes make in this phase is trying to throw too hard. Emphasize throwing far with the least effort possible".
A final note: before competition throwers should do not do as many drills or repetitions as before their track workouts. You are trying to do just enough drills to facilitate their neuromuscular coordination, without causing fatigue.
Post competition, serious throwers will often have a moderate weightlifting session, then take the next day off, then throw fresh the following day, then lift or do drills after this.