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Range Throwing

Range Throwing
By Jud Logan, December 13, 1999

In 1989, I had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand to attend a conference with Iouri Sedykh and his coach, Anatoli Bondarchuk. Having previously met and trained with Sedykh, I understood his technical philosophies, but had never met the mastermind Bondarchuk. It was apparent from the beginning of his presentation that he was a believer in a yearly-periodized program. In addition, he emphasized repeatedly that while weight training was important, it must never interrupt or detract from the technique work trying to be accomplished, and it should be kept to no more than 4-5 exercises. The former Olympian also talked about the value of general work such as kettle-bell or pud throws, plate twists and different forms of jumps or plyometrics and the importance, in the specific, phase of what weight hammers and when.

The eye opener for me was his talk on “Range Throwing”. One of the age-old questions for coaches and athletes is, “how many throws per practice and more importantly at what intensity?” Bondarchuk used the example of training a 70-meter thrower. However, the formula he presented works regardless of your current best. He went on to explain the body learns technique in the values of 85%-92.5% of your maximum. In the example of the 70-meter thrower- his best training range is 60-65 meters. He believes that any distance under 60 meters is too slow to re-enforce technique. Anything over 65 meters is a range buster, and although they have a place in training, too many throws over the values will stall the advancement of learning and produce an over-training effect.

In a typical 30 throw practice, his athletes use anywhere from 2-3 different hammers. For this discussion the model was 10 throws with the 6 Kilo, 10 with the 7.26K and 10 with the 8K. He explained that the 6K was used to warm up and gradually build speed and rhythm. By the time the athlete gets to the 16, he is ready to put his first throw in the range of 60-65 meters. This “Range Throwing” training procedure may take patience in learning, if the athlete’s previous training experience has been primarily throwing hard for maximum distance. At some point during the workout, the thrower will hit one “over” the range. At this point he or she should attempt 2 more harder throws at near maximum for the day. Assuming those throws were 66-68-67, they are recorded and used for charting purposes to follow what training stimulus produced these marks. If the athlete has 3 throws remaining in the series of 10, he is instructed to bring them back within the range and feel the technique, what Bondarchuk called throwing with “rhythm”. Some days the range buster may come on the first throw, or when the trainee is tired, he may need to really turn it up to break range on throws 8-9 and 10. The harder throws were called “Tempo” throws- and he used the phrase, “Up tempo”, for what happens in competition. The 8K was then employed to help with “hammer specific strength.” Again, the rhythm method was the goal. If it is the aim to bring another ball up in distance other than the 16- the same philosophy is used. If the best for the 70-meter thrower with the 6K is 75 meters, than the range values are 64-70 and 3 harder throw are encouraged at some point. If on that given day he hits a best of 76 meters, than the next practice starts with new ranges.

Bondarchuk said the Russians use the winter championships in January (somewhere warm) to establish training ranges. Ranges are often not moved up until the first early spring meet. In his example, if the 70-meter thrower achieves 73 meters, Bondarchuk then re-assigns values of 62-67 and they often go back into a 6-9 week training block, coming out in early summer for the season, with hopes of 75 meters.

Bondarchuk mentioned the cycling of light hammers per 3-week training blocks, between the 5K, 6K and 6.25K/14 lb., keeping the 16 the standard and cycling the heavy balls between the 8K, 9K and 10K- 2-3 inches shorter than normal.

His final point was that if throwing volume changed, so did the range busters. Only 3 or 30% of your training throws should be over the range in the 10 throw model for 16’s. If you do 18 throws, 6 light, 6 normal, and 6 heavy, then the thrower makes only 2 harder throws. If the thrower is in a period of 45 throws (15-15-15), then he is allowed 4-5 range busters with the 16.

My analysis of this summit was that many athletes throw too hard in practice. Bondarchuk called this, “Committing to a technique too soon”.

This is the current system I use with all my throwers in coaching @ Ashland University, where in 6 years we have had 34 All-Americans and 9 National Champions in the throwing disciplines. It is also the basis for my systematic progression for the 2000 Olympic Trials, in an attempt to make my fourth Olympic Team at the age of 41.