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Hammer Throw Technique

Hammer Throw Technique
by Harold Connolly

The Winds

The preliminary swings must be done with a relaxed rhythm just as employed in all the turns of the throw. The essential aspect of the technique is pushing the hammer in the double support phase of the thrower’s rotation and letting the hammer run freely in the single support phase of the rotation. The rhythm is established for the whole throw in the preliminary winds, particularly the second. When executing both winds, the right foot must be straight, never being allowed to open so that the hip axis remains square across the front while the shoulder axis turns right to pick up the hammer at its apex. In the simplest execution of the first wind the head of the hammer is pulled from behind, off the surface of the ring. Some throwers prefer to swing the hammer back to a comfortable point behind the straight right foot before stroking it across the body into wind one. The head of the hammer is an extension from the body through concave shoulders and relaxed, straight arms with the hands being just a connection to the wire.

The first wind is done very relaxed, almost casually with the head and shoulders turned to the right, the left shoulder slightly lower than the right. The hands are pulled from the right side of the body across the front past the center of the body to above the center of the head. As the hammer descends, the hands are close to the right side of the face, the left forearm is close to the thrower’s chest and the right elbow is well back. In the second wind the tempo is increased, but the thrower must be careful not to counter/drop down against the upward pull of the hammer. Again the hammer is pushed across the body to the left and up, with the left shoulder a little lower than the right, hands slightly above and to the left of the top of the thrower’s head, hips squared forward. The thrower must also remain centered with as little sideways sway as possible. As the hammer descends, the thrower drops to increase the speed of the ball. The hips are square across the front with the right foot straight to block the hips from opening to the right. The right elbow does not go as far back as in wind one, and the low point drops to zero with a noticeably more vigorous push or stroke of the hammer across and to the left into the first turn.

In the four-turn technique the second wind and entry into the first turn must not be as fast and as aggressive as it must be in the three-turn technique.

The Entry and Turn One

Going into the entry from wind two, the hands push/stroke the hammer from the high point of the wind down through zero degrees. Going into a four-turn throw, the thrower strokes the hammer with the hands down and past zero more gently, and the plane on the entry into the first turn is flatter than in a three-turn throw. On the entry into the first turn, the thrower drops to a bent legs position, countering back against the pull of the hammer, which is as far out away from the thrower as possible as the hammer passes zero and is stroked well out to the left and around the left foot. On the entry the thrower’s head and shoulder axis must stay aligned with the hammer as the hammer is pushed past zero by the rotating of the right foot and the stroking of the hands. The double support phase is maintained until the hammer is well to the left. The right foot lifts off naturally when the hammer is passing approximately 90 degrees.

Many top throwers and coaches recommend that the thrower not only push the hammer on entry out around the left foot but also around toward 180 degrees but also to keep the right foot turning on the circle after letting the hammer run past 90 degrees and on toward 180 degrees. This strategy can be employed if the thrower’s entry low point is to the right of zero, he’s not pushing the hammer sufficiently out around the left foot, or his throws are dropping to the right of the center of the sector. In actuality in nearly every instance on technically well executed long throws the right foot is off the ground by or before 90 degrees and earlier on the subsequent turns in order to achieve an early right foot landing and a longer double support phase from 250 through 0 degrees.

In the single support phase it is essential that all movement of the upper body turn off. The upper body, hands, arms, shoulders and head should become passive as the hammer and the body move as one around to the back of the rotation. The right foot must be moved very quickly up and over the left heel. As the hammer reaches its apex, the hips drop to a bent left leg in order to get the right foot down quickly to gain a slight lead on the hammer. Maintain the upper body in a relaxed, still position, left shoulder lower than the right with chin up and the head tipped to the left until the right foot lands, at which point most top thrower’s line of vision is behind the hammer. On landing, the right foot and right side of the body rotate instantly as the hammer is pushed/stroked by the hands down and around past the low point at zero degrees, and well out to the left and around to the back as was done entering turn one off the wind.

Turn Two and the Remaining Turn or Turns

Entering turn two, the head and shoulders must remain level and in alignment with the hammer as it rises to its apex. No darting ahead of the hammer with shoulder or head. With the two feet on the ground, the right foot rotates, the spine straightens and the back of the head and shoulders counter back against the pull of the hammer.

The hammer rises into turn 2, against dropping hips and slightly lowered left shoulder, so that the right foot can quickly come down again in order for the hands to push and rotate the hammer down to zero and out around the left foot to the back. This is the rhythm repeated throughout each of the remaining turns.

Remember the thrower’s hips should already be dropping to a bent left leg as the hammer reaches its apex. The right foot strikes and the rotating right foot and the stroking hands become the pushing motor as the hammer goes down and across the front past zero to the left, around and up to the back. The greatest danger of violating the principle of keeping the upper body passive and the head and shoulder axis aligned with the hammer occurs when the right foot comes down after the single support. At this point poor throwers anticipate the next turn or the release and in their quest for sudden speed, they erroneously accelerate their left shoulder or head and jerk or drag the hammer actually slowing the hammer instead of more effectively relaxing their arms and shoulders and using their countering body, larger effective radius, pushing hands and rotating right foot and hips to push and progressively accelerate the hammer for each successive turn all the way through the release.

The Release

Technically the release should be performed the same as the correctly executed double support phase in the turns. It is the culmination of incrementally increased acceleration of the hammer.

The movement of the hammerhead dictates the movement of the entire rotating system from the soles of your shoes to the ends of your hair. The feeling of the hammer moving continuously faster from the moment you begin the preliminary winds throughout all of the turns with no feeling of breaks or interruptions in its movement is essential. This is the reason once the turns have begun the upper body must remain fixed and still. The only time the thrower can significantly add to the speed of the hammer is after he drops to a bent left leg and a quick right foot contact. Then pushes the hammer down to zero, across the front, well out to the left and around to the back using the push/stroke of his hands, his rotating right foot and hips, and his countering as the motor. Increasing the acceleration of the hammer can only be done from the time the right foot hits the circle when the thrower has both feet on the ground. Therefore, the sooner the right foot hits the ground and the longer both feet are on the ground into the first quadrant of the circle after zero degrees, the longer the thrower can actively accelerate the hammer and maintain the acceleration as the hammer rises against gravity after zero degrees.

As the hammer increases speed, particularly in the last two turns, if the thrower actively counters against the pull of the hammer with the back of his shoulders and the back of his head, he can contribute even greater speed to the hammer. It is essential, however, to maintain completely relaxed arms from relaxed shoulders out to the hammerhead and a still upper body in the single support phases of the turns. During the final two turns the thrower should be attempting to greater lengthen the distance between the back of his head and the bottom of the hammer. In order to accomplish this, it is critically important to counter back toward the direction of the throw when the hammer reaches zero and to maintain long, relaxed shoulders and straight-arms throughout the entire throw.

The most easily discerned index of highly effective hammer technique, which is evident in all the top throwers, is the following: In viewing the throw from the front, note the relationship of the thrower’s head to a fixed object in the background or foreground e.g. a fence post, building, stadium stands, tree, etc. As the thrower turns, note the position of his head in relation to the fixed object when the hammer is to his left, then when his right foot comes down and the hammer descends to his right. The better the thrower counters against the pull of the hammer particularly in the last two turns, the more his head will been seen to go from one side and then the other side of the fixed object. If you were looking from directly above at an elite thrower’s head, you would see his head inscribe increasingly larger circles while the poorer countering thrower’s head would not inscribe increasingly larger circles. The poor thrower has very limited left, right movement of his head when viewed from the front which is a clear indicator of poor countering and slower hammer speed. Unless the thrower’s head when viewed from the front goes increasingly from side to side of a fixed object in the scene, he is not countering effectively and thus does not add significantly to the speed of the hammer.

As the hammer increases speed, particularly in the last two turns, if the thrower actively counters against the pull of the hammer with the back of his shoulders and the back of his head, he can contribute even greater speed to the hammer. It is essential, however, to maintain completely relaxed arms from relaxed shoulders out to the hammerhead and a still upper body in the single support phases of the turns. During the final two turns the thrower should be attempting to greater lengthen the distance between the back of his head and the bottom of the hammer. In order to accomplish this, it is critically important to counter back toward the direction of the throw when the hammer reaches zero and to maintain long, relaxed shoulders and straight-arms throughout the entire throw.

The rhythm of the throw can be verbalized in the following manner: From the high point of the second wind actively push the hammer to zero, sit back, relax the shoulders and arms and turn off the upper body on the left side. As the hammer rises to its apex, drop the hips to an overloaded bent left leg and a quick right foot landing. Keeping the shoulders and arms relaxed and long, rotate the right foot and with the hands and a countering back against the pull of the hammer, push/stroke the hammer to zero. Repeat 2 or 3 times into the release.


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