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Larry Judges new hammer throw book is a long-needed resource for systematic development of

the event. In my three decades of coaching at UCLA, I always marveled at Judges results in the
hammer throw and the weight throw. This book will reveal why he enjoyed such an advantage
over his competition. He synthesizes science, practical experience, and anecdotal knowledge into
a true survival guide for both beginner and advanced coaches. Judges passion for the event is
apparent on every single page.
Art Venegas
USATF Throws Coach
Chula Vista (CA) Olympic Training Center
Larry Judge has covered every aspect of the hammer throw in this bookwhat an amazing resource for any coach.
Larry is truly an educator of this discipline.
John Baumann
Throws Coach
Oklahoma State University
Larry Judge has done it again! His expertise and passion for the throwing events are evident in this outstanding,
comprehensive collection of information on the hammer throw. This landmark publication on the hammer throw is
based on Judges decades of research, practice, and experience. From the beginning coach to the seasoned veteran,
this is a must-have addition to every throws coachs library.
Mike Turk
Head Mens Track and Field and Cross Country Coach
University of Illinois
Finally, the greatest hammer coach in U.S. history has put all his ideas and proven training plans in one place: The
Hammer Throw Handbook. Having been the beneficiary of Larry Judges great hammer throwing mind, I can speak
to the brilliant simplicity of the ideas that he has refined over 20 years of coaching some of the greatest hammer
throwers in history.
Erin Gilreath
Throws Coach
Indiana State University
American Hammer Throw Record Holder (20042012) and 2004 Olympian
This is an outstanding reference for all hammer throwers and coaches. It covers all facets of hammer training in an
easy-to-follow and sequential manner. It is the most in-depth resource on the hammer and weight throw that I have
seen on the market and should be a part of every throwers and coachs library.
Don Babbitt
Throws Coach
The University of Georgia

ISBN 978-1-60679-289-6

54495

$44.95

9 781606 792896

COACHES CHOICE

This book is full of easy-to-understand principles and step-by-step teaching progressions. Larry Judge has long been
my personal resource for training and technique advice. Judges hammer knowledge is above and beyond that of all
other coaches and authors.
Mike Judge
USATF Level 2 Instructor
Founder, Throw 1 Deep Club

THE HAMMER THROW HANDBOOK

Larry Judge is one of the brightest coaches in the sport of track and field. His work with coaching
education has helped shape the development of the hammer throw in the United States. Only the
finest coaches like Judge have the range to help beginning coaches and develop Olympic-caliber
athletes. I often refer to his videos and articles when I need help with coaching the hammer throw.
Scott Cappos
Director of Field Events
University of Iowa

JUDGE/McGILL

THE HAMMER THROW HANDBOOK

THE

HAMMER
THROW
HANDBOOK
Lawrence W. Judge & Kevin McGill

The Hammer
Throw Handbook

Lawrence W. Judge, Ph.D., CSCS


Kevin McGill, J.D.

2014 Coaches Choice. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of Coaches Choice.
Throughout this book, the masculine shall be deemed to include the feminine
and vice versa.
ISBN: 978-1-60679-289-6
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013954528
Cover design: Cheery Sugabo
Book layout: Cheery Sugabo
Front cover photo: AFP/GettyImages
Text photos: Larry Judge (drill photos); Victah Sailer (action photos, unless
otherwise noted); Lisa Coniglio and Kaitlyn Surber (photo editing)
Coaches Choice
P.O. Box 1828
Monterey, CA 93942
www.coacheschoice.com

Dedication

I dedicate this book to my mother, Joan Judge. As a mother and a teacher, she
has always been inspiring, encouraging, and motivating. Through her feedback,
insight, and guidance, she showed me as well as many aspiring young students
how to achieve our full potential. It was because of her inspiration (with the
guiding eye of her assistant coach, my father, Ira, and my best friend and brother,
Mike) that I embarked on my journey into hammer throwing. I could not have
asked for better parents or role models. I want to thank you, mom and dad, for
everything that you did for me. I also want to thank and acknowledge my brother
Mike. Mike has quietly emerged as one of top coaches in the country and is
really making a difference in the grass roots development of the hammer throw
in the United States. The real Coach Judge, my father Ira, would be very proud.
And finally, I would like to dedicate this work to all of my former athletes. The
bond that we all share will never be broken.
Lawrence Judge
Back in 1964, I met Harold Connolly outside the old Randalls Island stadium. He
was going to compete in Olympic Trials, so I walked up and wished him well. He
asked me about myself, and wished me well in my adventures with the javelin.
In the 1980s, we met again, and began a long conversation about the hammer
that lasted over 25 years, until his untimely passing in 2010. Also in the 1980s, I
helped start the USATFs Coaching Education program, along with a group of very
talented coaches. Several years after George Dunn and I had taught the Level II
school, a young coach attended. This fellow followed us around, writing down
what seemed to be everything. He was trying to learn it all, and in the following
years, Larry Judge proved that he was the most outstanding hammer coach in
the United States. One year, his women athletes took five of the top six in the
NCAA weight, and the next day, another of his athletes broke the NCAA hammer
record. Hats off to Harold and Larry!
Kevin McGill

Acknowledgments

There have been many defining moments in my coaching career, though most
of them have revolved around forming relationships with people who would
become instrumental to my growth and development as a professional. Much
of my success can be attributed to many great teachers, like John McNichols
and Dr. Tom Sawyer from Indiana State University. These two people have had
a significant Influence on me throughout the years. I have also been influenced
by working with five coaches who have won the NCAA National Championship
(Tom Jones, Greg Kraft, Ralph Spry, J.J. Clark, and Curtis Frye). My coaching
philosophy comes directly from all of the great educators who helped to mold
my theoretical view of the profession. I am a realist who believes that values
are lasting and should be used to build strong frameworks that help ensure
successful futures for our young people. Each throws program must carve out
its own destiny, but athletes and coaches must be given the tools to do so, and
parents, staff, administrators, and alumni must provide the necessary support.
Teaching and coaching are in my blood, and my family has certainly
helped shape my coaching career. My father (Ira) began his career as a
physical education teacher and coach before getting his Ph.D. from Indiana
State University and becoming an athletic administrator. He was inspiring,
encouraging, and motivating to all of the lives he touched. My mother (Joan)
continued to teach reading in the Gary Community Schools, which she had
been doing for the last 40 years and only just retired earlier this year. My
brother (Mike) has one of the most successful high school throwing clubs in
the country. In a recent talk to some coaching students, I told them I credit
my career to both my parents and the lessons they taught me, like First
impressions do count, Its good to be timely, and Bring a skill set to the
table and being visionary are all necessary for success.
I have spent the best 25 years of my life coaching the throwing events in
track and field and training athletes in the ring and the weight room. Coaching
at Indiana State University, University of South Carolina, University of Wyoming,
University of Florida, and now teaching at Ball State University, working with
walk-ons to Olympians and Paralympians, dealing with the struggles, laughter,
triumphs, and tears, have left me with the richest of memories. I have certainly
enjoyed every place coaching has taken me and believe the championships,
record-setting meets, and relationships are the experiences I will treasure most.
The hammer event may be one of the most difficult from a technical
perspective, but it may be the most democratic from a talent standpoint. This
work will follow my adventures of the past and, hopefully, aid the pursuit of
4

future achievements of excellence in the hammer and weight throw. This book
is a labor of many years of hard work and learning from lots of mistakes, but
nonetheless, a labor of love.
Along my journey, I have learned from so many individuals. I want to say
thanks to each and every one of themalmost an impossible task due to the
many people who have shared information and experiences with me. Those
from whom I have learned a great deal in person include (but are not limited
to): my father Ira Judge, my mother Joan Judge, brother Mike Judge, Rob
Roeder, Jim Moody, Lafey Armontrout, Klaus Bartonietz, Rob Bell, Jean Burke,
Bruce Craig, Bernie Dare, John McNichols, Tom Jones, Curtis Frye, Bill Godina,
Greg Kraft, Mike Stone, Meg Stone, Jeff Potteiger, Vern Gambetta, Jud Logan,
Glenn McAtee, Kevin McGill, George Dunn, Dave Pearson, Dan Pfaff, Bud
Rasmussen, Phil Santino, Steve Thomas, Mike Turk, Stuart Tougher, Yuri Syedikh,
Cathy Sellers, Tom Smith, Art Venagas, Tom Sawyer, and Boris Zaitchuk. I have
also learned much from the writings of A.P. Bondarchuk, Eberhard Gaede,
Vern Gambetta, Oleg Kollodiy, Kevin McGill, Jimmy Pedemonte, Mel Siff, Mike
Stone, and V. Petrov. This book is a compilation of the ideas that I have drawn
from my experiences, studies under these people, or from studying their
articles. I take credit only for the errors.
Last but not least, I want to give a special thanks to Dave Bellar, Erin
Gilreath, Kyle Morse, Mike Judge, Jim Petersen, Kevin McGill, Mike Turk, and
Karin Surber for their help in putting this project together.
Lawrence Judge

Forewords

I have had quite a journey in the world of coaching the hammer and weight
throw, stretching backward in time and geography from my current position with
the Ragin Cajuns of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to the Firebirds of
St. Peter Chanel High School in Bedford, Ohio. Along the way, I have had the
privilege to work with many All-American athletes and coach many more to
qualify for national championships. I know the one key to my success has been
my education, both formal through my studies in exercise science, and informal
through my communication with coaches who, like myself, share a passion for
seeing metal objects travel great distances.
There have been many defining moments in my coaching career, though
most of them have revolved around forming relationships with people who
would become invaluable to my development as a coach. Without question,
the most influential decision in my coaching career came a number of
years ago when as a second-year doctoral student and small college coach
I gathered up enough courage to speak to Larry Judge at a coaching clinic
in Columbus, Ohio. This was a daunting task as Judge had just delivered
a presentation on the hammer throw, which captivated the audience and
reinforced his status as the lead voice in hammer throwing in the United States.
At this particular conference, presentations about the event were being given
by many authorities both from within the United States and by speakers with
great magnitudes of international success; however, as is usually the case,
Judge drew in the crowds. Fortunately, I had the gumption to talk to the coach
that day who stood out among the giants, and now I am honored to call him a
mentor and friend who has been instrumental in my career and a large factor
in my success.
As with his previous work in The Shot Put Handbook, this book contains
a synthesis of Judges personal experience as a coach and his extensive
background in rigorous scientific study of the hammer throw. Judges coaching
credentials are well-known to those who have followed the hammer throw both
in the U.S. and internationally, having produced numerous Olympians, U.S.,
and collegiate national champions and record holders. What is most amazing
is that while achieving all those accolades in the world of coaching, Judge
was performing research that expanded the understanding of the event. The
culmination of excellence in both areas has given the track and field community
a unique authority on the hammer throw, a coach who has attained mastery of
both the art and science of coaching.

Having known Judge for a number of years, I know that every discussion
we have regarding the hammer throw is a learning experience that will help
to enrich my understanding of the event. I truly feel that The Hammer Throw
Handbook is an extension of this phenomenon; there are insights and sport
science covered within this book that will benefit everyone from the beginning
coach to coaches with significant experience. There are few books that are
truly comprehensive enough to be called a handbook; this book is one that is
deserving of the title. I congratulate you on a wise discussion in purchasing The
Hammer Throw Handbook, knowing that it will help any coach, no matter the
level of knowledge or experience, on the journey to mastery in the hammer
throw. In closing, I would offer you one small piece of advice regarding this
book: keep it handy!
David M. Bellar, Ph.D., CSCS, HFI
Track and Field Assistant Coach
Assistant Professor of Kinesiology
Director of the Human Performance Lab
University of Louisiana at Lafayette

I recruited Larry Judge for Indiana State University in 1982, and have been his
friend since. I noted, very quickly, the intensity and commitment he brought to
his throwing. Certainly, this has been equally noticeable in his coaching career
at Indiana State, South Carolina, Wyoming, Florida, and Ball State. Especially at
South Carolina, Wyoming, and Florida, his throwers contributed greatly to the
success of those teams. Whether he is now, as his co-author Kevin McGill has
stated, the best throws coach in the United States, he certainly is among the
handful of coaches of whom that might be said.
What I have most appreciated in his coaching is his approach to the
whole athlete and the holistic approach to training necessary for season-long
and career-long success. Such an approach with the use of periodization and
cycling of training factors is a hallmark of his coaching, as well as an intense
dedication to the success of each athlete.
I have learned greatly from just watching him in practice and meets at
Wyoming, and at the NCAAs while he was at Florida. This was especially true of
his hammer coaching, as the hammer has sparked my interest since watching
a great duel between Yuri Syedikh and Sergey Litvinov at the US vs. USSR
meet in Indianapolis in 1982. Too, when watching his throwers at Wyoming, I
was struck with the camaraderie, perhaps joie de vivre, and dedication to their
throwing as a group, much attributable to their coach. It was quite impressive.
I do not know the co-author Kevin McGill; I only know of him. I have two
well-used editions of The Throws Manual in my library. His involvement with
the throws and education for the throws is exemplary and well-known. Both he
and Judge have contributed much to knowledge and coaching of the throws.
In Judges previous book The Complete Track and Field Coaches Guide
to Conditioning for the Throwing Events, the complete approach is wellnoted from exercise science, strength and speed development, periodization,
injury prevention and treatment, and nutrition among the topics covered. From
where I sit, this book on hammer throwing is equally complete, as well as
complementary to that book and will be a great asset to any coach, athlete,
or old, interested, retired guy. As Larry might say, whether as a necessity to
throwers or a life goal: Think big!
Bernie Dare
Semi-Retired Track and Field Coach
Author, Running and Your Body: Applying Physiology to Track Training

Contents

Dedication
Acknowledgments
Forewords
Preface

3
4
6
13

Chapter 1: History of Hammer Throwing


Womens Hammer Throw
American Hammer Throwing: The Men
Olympic Games
Record Performances: Men
Rules
Technique
Introduction to Basic Technique

19

Chapter 2: Hammer Throw Review


Motor Task Classification
Implement Kinematics
Accessory Factors
Performer Attributes

47

Chapter 3: Important Concepts in Sport Science


77
Sports Science
A Commitment to Knowledge: Understanding Energy Systems
Quick Overview of the Energy Systems
Types of Muscle in the Body
Review of Muscle Fiber Types
Review of Muscle Architecture
Review of Muscle Architecture
Long Versus Short Fiber Construction and Pennation
Review of the Myotatic and Golgi Tendon Reflexes
Types of Muscular Contractions
Terms of Muscle Motion
Understanding How to Train Muscle Fibers
Considerations for Event-Specific Training in Regard to Energy Systems/
Muscle Physiology
Basic Biomechanics
Important Biomechanics Concepts
Newtons Laws of Motion
Angular Kinematics
Posture
9

Balance and Stability


Stability Preservation
Kinesiological Concerns for Hammer Throwers
Understanding Age-Related Training Variables
Considerations for Strength and Conditioning in Regard to Energy
Systems/Muscle Physiology
Chapter 4: Applied Biomotor Development
Warming Up
Flexibility
Developing General Strength
Medicine Ball
Reactive Strength (Plyometric) Training
Conclusion

123

Chapter 5: Designing Throwing Workouts


Technical Development
Implement Selection
Competition Weights for Masters
Developing Motor Potential
Utilizing Varied Weight Hammers
How Heavy Is Too Heavy? How Light Is Too Light?
Throwing Heavy Hammers
Throwing Light Hammers
Post-Activation Potentiation in Training the Hammer
Practical Application for Hammer Throwers in Training
and in Competition
Balancing the Performance Model
Varying Hammers
Monitoring Throwing Intensity
Number of Throws Per Session
Maximum Effort Throws
Designing the Training Blueprint: Choosing the Weight and
Number of Throws
Program Design
Intensity-Based Training in the Hammer Throw (Range Throwing)
Conclusion

155

Chapter 6: Developing a Resistance Training


Program for the Hammer Throw

Periodization Models
The Importance of Strength in the Hammer Throw
Classification of Strength Training Exercises
Common Questions When Developing a Resistance-Training Routine
Types of Exercises
Thematic Approach to Resistance Training
Testing

10

195

Load
Types of Loading
Intensity and Volume
Rest Interval Between Sets
Rest Interval Between Sessions
Program Design
Recovery
Core Training
Conclusion
Chapter 7: Teaching the Basic
Fundamentals of Hammer Throwing
Getting Started
Guidelines to Teach the Hammer Throw
Case Study: Teaching a 19-Year-Old Beginner
Coaching Strategies for Beginners
Early or Late Specialization in the Hammer Throw
Conclusion

241

Chapter 8: Technical Overview and Teaching


Progression and Drills for the Hammer Throw
Technical Overview
Technical Challenges of the Hammer Throw
Critical Factors
Conclusion
Teaching Progression
Development of Hammer Technique
Teaching the Preliminary Winds
Turns
Teaching the Turns
Wind Drills
Entry Drills
Release Drills
Summary
Special and Specific Strength Exercises
Conclusion

271

Chapter 9: Technical Overview and Teaching


Progression for the Weight Throw
Advantages of Throwing the Weight
Disadvantages
Possible Solution to the Problem
Strength Is the Key to Success in the Weight Throw
Size Does Matter
Analysis of Technique
Practical Application
Training Tips
Selected Drills for the Weight

11

347

Teaching the Turns


Wind Drills
Entry Drills
Conclusion
Chapter 10: Developing a Mental
Game Plan in the Hammer Throw
The Importance of Mental Preparation in the Hammer Throw
Conclusion
Chapter 11: Detecting and Correcting Technical Flaws
in the Hammer Throw
General Problems of Young Hammer Throwers
Problem Areas in the Throws
Tips for Technical Improvement in the Hammer Throw
Conclusion
Chapter 12: Coaches Guide to the Detection,
Treatment, and Prevention of Injuries
The Impact of Coach Certification on Injuries
Coach Responsibilities
Common Athletic Injuries
Treatment
Use of Proper Modalities
Prevention of Athletic Injuries
Catastrophic Injury in the Hammer
Conclusion
Appendix: Sample Training Programs for the Hammer Throw
Glossary of Throws Training Terminology
About the Authors

12

385

399

429

450
453
460
464

Preface

The throwing events are controlled mania: explosion, aggression, and power
combined with technique and precision. Add coordination to the preceding list,
and you have what it takes to be a hammer thrower. The goal of hammer throwing
is simple: throw a heavy metal sphere on a wire as far as possible. Despite this
simple goal, the event is highly nuanced. Coaches and athletes, recognize that
everyone has strengths and weaknesses. This explains the differences coaches
see in the movement patterns of different throwers. Those who have been
coaches or athletes in the sport and those who are just beginning will learn
that coaching and understanding the hammer throw means merging and then
simplifying complicated training principles, philosophies, and techniques all with
a keen psychological and physical knowledge of the athlete. The movements of
the hammer throw occur very quickly in a confined area and are carried out by
some of the strongest, most agile athletes in the world. Over time, the training
and technical development for the event has evolved to the point that it now
requires sophisticated methods for success.

Lawrence Judge with current athlete Jeremy Campbell. Campbell is the world record
holder in the F44 discus throw and won the gold in the recent London Paralympics.

13

Lawrence Judge with current athlete, former American Record and


current U.S. national championship record holder Erin Gilreath.

What Is Holding the United States


Back in the Hammer?
Many track and field aficionados have heard it said that the hammer throw is
second only to the pole vault in terms of technical challenges among all the
events in this sport. I believe that this is a fair statement: the hammer is very
technically demanding, both for the athlete and coach. Unfortunately, this notion
has stifled the development of the event worldwide, and especially in the United
States. Many coaches mistakenly believe that the hammer is too complex to
coach, takes too long to learn, or is some mysterious puzzle that only members
of Mensa can unlock. None of these ideas are true. The hammer is a challenge,
but it is one that is being met by coaches and athletes across the country and
around the world. It isnt for everyone, but the coaches and athletes who are up
to the challenge can expect to find a world of reward awaiting them as they work
to master this beautiful event.
Other issues that have limited the development of the hammer are
safety, specialized equipment and facilities, damage to the fields, and limited
competition opportunities. All of these problems can be overcome by
persistence and effort.
Safety in the hammer is no mystery. Proper equipment, proper facilities,
proper instruction, and a clear landing area make this event no more
dangerous than any of the other track and field events. The responsibility for
safety is shared between the athlete and coach. Both parties have to assume
responsibility, but the coach is the person with the ultimate responsibility for
safety. Establish a culture of safety and caution in your own setting, and you
will enjoy years of worry-free throwing.

14

It is true that the hammer, to be safely thrown, requires a proper cage.


Consulting a rule book and spending some time checking your own facility is
an absolute must before the throwing starts. The best and easiest course of
action is to purchase a cage from a reputable manufacturer, and have them
recommend a qualified installer. Unfortunately, best and easiest in this case
is also the most cost-prohibitive. I have seen many cages that were site built
that provide the highest level of safety. Keep your eyes open on your travels,
and you might find a design worth exploring that is affordable in your situation.
Never throw without the proper cage in place: you are risking the entire event
when you do this, not to mention the lives of real people.
Many facilities directors take a dim view of the hammer. It is true that when
the fields are soft and the throws are going far that real damage to the field will
result. If you are lucky enough to have the space, the solution to this problem
is a field dedicated to the throws only. On the throws field, you can do some
repairs to the turf a couple of times a year and keep the field maintained
pretty well. If you do not have the luxury of your own field, then daily repairs
to the field with a bucket of soil and some tapping with the foot at the end of
practice will be a time consuming but a necessary practice. Remember that
many hands make light work.
Limited competition opportunities have plagued the throwing events for
years. A slight improvement in this trend can be observed. Just remember, in the
United States, almost anyone can get a USATF sanction and run a meet. Instead
of sitting around lamenting the problem, why not be part of the solution? Run
some meets for your own throwers, and open them up to area Masters and
unattached athletes. With a little advanced planning, it is not hard to do, and it
is a great service to the event and the sport. Charge an equitable entry fee, and
you could develop a positive income stream for your equipment budget.
So you have your facility, a keen eye for safety, a desire to get started, some
exuberant young people to coach, and meets that they can compete in. How
do you get started? Attending USATF Level I school is a great place to learn the
basics, but you certainly cant become an expert coach in the hammer from a
45-minute presentation, or even by reading all the literature that is out there.
You should certainly talk to every hammer thrower, ex-hammer thrower, coach,
and official who will talk to you, but that will not be enough, either. The real
secret to mastering hammer coaching is the same as the secret to mastering
hammer throwing itself: practice, practice, and more practice. The only way to
learn to coach the throwing events is to get out there and coach them. You
will make mistakes when you first start, but there is no other way to learn. The
more you do it, the better you will get at doing itjust like everything else in
life. Dont wait. Get out and get started as soon as you are able.

The Solution?
So who has time for this? A successful throws coach must be a sport
psychologist, exercise physiologist, strength coach, and applied biomechanist.

15

Years of experience and learning the hard way are often typical of thriving
hammer throw coaches. And on top of learning and living it all, how does the
throws coach then have time to decide exactly what ideas from training and
science are the most important? The truth is that no one person does have time
for this. Is there an easier way?
Two of the worlds leading experts on the hammer throw hope this book
will be the answer. They wrote it because, despite the fact that considerable
research and coaching literature has been written on the hammer throw,
no previous attempts have been made to meld the two fields in to one allinclusive guide that brings all previous research on the hammer throw together
with a field-proven and applied approach to the technical and physical training
of athletes competing in the event. They identified that existing literature on
the event was either/or in nature, which left much to be desired. In other
words, previous literature on the topic focused on biomechanics of the event
or coaching techniques, but never both. Existing hammer throw books focused
on the art of coaching the hammer throw, and they do well at that task, but
combining the art and the science of coaching the hammer throw is unique
and deserving of separate, more in-depth work.
This book is a comprehensive guide to the hammer throw for athletes,
coaches, and the strength professionals who work with them. Competing at a
top level is considered by many to be a daunting challenge. The information in
this book should help coaches and athletes become more technically efficient
as well as help them to understand what it takes to compete at the highest
levels. Doing the right things technically and in training can make the difference
for an athlete looking to reach their greatest potential.
Judge and McGill bring a unique perspective to the book. They are former
athletes, noted coaches, academicians, and researchers. This perspective has
allowed them to first recognize the need for a comprehensive approach to
coaching and training the hammer throw, and second, to have the know-how
to integrate research-based science with field-proven coaching experience.
While very similar in their general backgrounds as coaches, teachers, and
researchers, they bring different but complementary expertise to this work.
Larry Judge is one of the most respected and knowledgeable throws coaches
in the world. He brings experience and expertise as a world-renowned coach
of elite throwers to this book. Complementing Judge is Kevin McGill, who has
served as the editor of Track Technique magazine and was the author of The
Throws Manual and Hammer Notes. He has studied the event extensively
and performed research on and provided feedback to all of the best American
throwers of the past decade.
I first met Larry Judge as I matriculated to the University of South Carolina
as a student-athlete. He was my coach in the mid-1990s, and I have worked
with him as an instructor in the USATF Coaches Education program since
2003. During that time, I have been fortunate to be the beneficiary of his
knowledge, skills, experience, and passion for the hammer throw. He is not
just a fan, but a fanatic.

16

I first met Kevin McGill at the USATF Level 2 Coaching Education School
at University of Washington in 1999. We continued to cross paths in USATF
coachs education program meetings and would often collaborate to enhance
research efforts on the hammer throw and examine the athletes whom
Judge had coached to the elite level. The first discussion Larry Judge had with
me about putting this book together occurred at the 2009 USATF Coaches
Education Level II School. From this first discussion came many hours of work
to produce a book that combines all of the up-to-date biomechanical research
as well as elite practical coaching information under one cover. I was flattered
when they asked me to write the preface for The Hammer Throw Handbook,
and I am happy to be a part of this project.
When Judge and McGill first started writing the book, they were interested
in augmenting the existing literature on the hammer throw with a more detailed
and comprehensive examination of the event. Their goal was to make the book
comprehensive and, thereby, completely integrate sport science with worldclass coaching information. This task was time-consuming, and collaboration
was difficult due to the physical distance between them and their very different,
busy schedules. Despite the challenges, and several years of taking small steps,
they believe they have finally achieved their goal.
The Hammer Throw Handbook presents information in a clear, readable
manner. The book reviews all of the related literature on the hammer throw, and
discusses basic training systems and program prescriptions designed to enhance
strength and power. The emphasis in The Hammer Throw Handbook is on
using scientific knowledge to develop effective, personalized training programs.
This book contains the expertise of over 40 years of combined elite coaching
experience into one comprehensive manual. The goal of the book is to combine
hammer throw science and field-proven knowledge in a user-friendly coaching
guide on all aspects of hammer throwing. The coach who reads this book and
commits to the knowledge presented will have a firm understanding of the
underlying mechanics of the event as well as the practical knowledge to apply
them through effective coaching cues and training methodology.
Whether you are reading this book as a professor preparing a class in
biomechanics of the hammer throw, a coach trying to teach a group of athletes
who have never thrown the hammer throw, or a parent or fan just seeking to
learn more about the event, this book will provide you with new information
and insights.
Glenn McAtee
USATF Level III Coach
Former Throws Coach California State University Northridge and
Clemson University

17

18

1
History of
Hammer Throwing
Throwing heavy objects is one of the oldest forms of competitive sport. In fact,
Homer makes mention of rock throwing between soldiers during the siege of
Troy (Homer, 1984). In The Iliad, Homer documents that throwing stones and
rocks were an integral part of Achaean sport. The hammer has a long history,
all the way to about 2000 B.C. Historians record the throwing of stones, sledge
hammers, and even chariot wheels with a single spoke attached. Hammer
throwing, one of the throwing events in track and field, was developed into a
sport centuries ago in Ireland, Scotland, and England. Legends trace it to the
Tailteann Games held in Tara, Ireland, about 2000 B.C., and tell of the Celtic hero
Cuchulainn, who gripped a chariot wheel by its axle, whirled it around his head,
and threw it farther than did any other mortal. Wheel hurling was later replaced by
throwing a boulder attached to the end of the wooden handle. Forms of hammer
throwing were practiced among the ancient Teutonic tribes at religious festivals
honoring the God Thor (Connolly, 2006).
The event was popularly contested throughout the Middle Ages, as
evidenced by a statue of Joseph OHanrahan that portrays a half-clad Irish giant
hurling the hammer. A 16th century drawing shows King Henry VIII throwing a
blacksmiths sledgehammer, the implement from which the event derived its
name. Modem British royalty has stuck to swinging a polo mallet, which does
slightly resemble the hammer used in the Scottish Highland Games: a wooden
stick with a shot attached to the end.
Since 1866, the hammer throw has been a regular part of track and field
competitions in England, Scotland, and Ireland. The hammers were made
of forged iron, had no prescribed weight, and their handles varied in length
between 3 and 3.5 ft. The athlete swung the hammer around his head and
threw from a standing position to a distance measured from his forward foot.
Later the hammer was thrown from a line and then marked on the field. The
best distances achieved were between 130 and 140 ft.
19

The Hammer Throw Handbook


The English standardized the event in 1875 by establishing the weight of
the hammer at 16 lb and its length at 3.5 ft and by requiring that it be thrown
from a circle 7 ft in diameter. For a decade, these restrictions reduced the
distances, but slowly gave rise to at technique utilizing one or two body turns
before the delivery. In 1887, the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States
adopted the 7 ft circle and the 16 lb hammer, but set its overall length at 4 ft.
In 1895, A.J. Flanagan of Ireland, using three jumping rotations on the
ball of his left foot, originated a new school of hammer throwing. In 1896, he
immigrated to the United States and proceeded to improve his world record
over the next 13 years from 147 ft to 184 ft 4 in. By then, the implement had
undergone changes, resulting in the replacement of the wooden handle by a
steel wire connecting the eye and ball with a pair of grips.

Keystone Pictures USA/ZUMAPRESS.com

The event has been included in the Olympic Games since 1900 and has
seen tremendous improvements throughout the years. During the last half of
the 20th century, performances all over the world improved remarkably with
distances climbing from 196 ft 5.5 in in 1950 as American Harold Connolly
(Figure 1-1) became the first American to throw in excess of 200 ft to a record
of 280 ft in the late 1980s. Many factors had an impact on these performance
improvements. First, abandonment of the jumping toe turn in favor of the heeltoe turning conceived by German coach Sepp Christmann and introduced by
Karl Hein (Germany), Pat OCallaghan (Ireland), and Donn Quinn (United States)
around 1927 improved the athletes ability to create force. Second, scientific
application of the laws of mechanics to the event by the Germans, Hungarians,
and Russians made exponential performance improvement possible. Third, the
use of faster spinning smooth-soled shoes on cement-surfaced throwing rings
beginning in the middle 1950s instead of the old spiked shoes on dirt circles
decreased friction and enabled easier movement and faster spinning. And finally,
the use of a single grip and precision manufactured hammers allowed more
consistent performance and delivery.

Figure 1-1. Harold Connolly (left), pictured with a training coach


in 1957, was the 1956 gold medalist in the hammer throw
and later became instrumental in the resurgence in the youth
hammer throw in the United States.
20

Chapter One

History of Hammer Throwing

As a result of all these factors, Hammer throwing distances increased


steadily from the 1950s through the 1980s. The first Olympic 60 m throw
occurred in 1952, the first 70 m toss in 1968 and the first 80 m throw in
1980. Yuri Syedikh, during the 1978 European Championships, was the first
Olympic champion to top 80 m with an 81.80 m winning throw in 1980.
Reasons for the increase in distances include equipment changessuch as
more precisely-manufactured hammers and smooth-soled shoes that permit
faster spinningas well as improved training methods, improved nutrition, the
discovery of performance-enhancing substances, and pharmaceuticals (legal
and illegal). In Olympic competition, Irish-Americans dominated hammer
throwing in the early 20th Century, then East Europeans won almost all the
Olympic gold medals after World War II. But Asia entered the hammer-throwing
picture when Japans Koji Murofushi captured the gold in 2004.

Womens Hammer Throw


While the men have been throwing the hammer for centuries, women have
a relatively short history in the event. The first recorded womens marks date
back to 1931 in Spain, but it was only as recently as 1982 that anyone threw
over 40 m. Several women began to throw the hammer in the 1980s. The first
female over 60 m was Aya Suzuki (61.20 m) from Japan in 1989, and the
first female over 65 m was Olga Kusenkova in 1992. Beginning in 1995, the
IAAF officially ratified world records. Womens hammer throw was added to the
World Championships in 1999, where Mihaela Melinte of Romania took the
gold, Olga Kuzenkova of Russia took the silver, and Lisa Misipeka of American
Samoa (Figure 1-2) took the bronze medal. Women finally entered Olympic

Figure 1-2. Lisa Misipeka, a two-time NCAA champion


while at the University of South Carolina, was the first
athlete from the tiny island of American Samoa to
medal in a major championship.
21

The Hammer Throw Handbook


hammer throwing competition in 2000. Polands Kamila Skolimowska was the
first Olympic womens hammer throw gold medalist, throwing the hammer
71.16 m (233.5 ft) at age 17. Despite the events short history, several stars
have emerged in the sport. Mihaela Melinte and Olga Kuzenkova were the early
pioneers of the sport. Between them, they set the first 14 world records (six for
Kuzenkova, eight for Melinte). Kuzenkova was also a world champion and 2004
Olympic champion.
Most recently, Polands Anita Wodarczyk has emerged as a star. She set her
first world record en route to the 2009 World Championship and bettered it
again in 2010. Her current best of 78.30 m (256 ft 10 in) leads many to believe
she can be the first woman to surpass 80 m. But the German throwers are on
the rise as well. Betty Heidler of Germany set a world record in the hammer
throw in May of 2011 with an effort of 79.42 m, or 260 ft, 6.75 in. Tatyana
Lysenko of Russia won the 2013 World Championships in Moscow with a
championship record throw of 78.80 m.
Womens World Record Progression
Current World Record: 79.42 m
Current World Record Holder: Betty Heidler (GER)
Mark

Athlete

Date

66.84

Olga Kuzenkova (RUS)

23 February 1994

66.86

Mihaela Melinte (ROM)

4 March 1995

Bucharest, Romania

67.00

Olga Kuzenkova (RUS)

24 May 1995

Moscow, Russia

68.14

Olga Kuzenkova (RUS)

5 June 1995

Moscow, Russia

68.16

Olga Kuzenkova (RUS)

5 June 1995

Moscow, Russia

69.42

Mihaela Melinte (ROM)

12 May 1996

Bucharest, Romania

69.58

Mihaela Melinte (ROM)

8 March 1997

Bucharest, Romania

71.22

Olga Kuzenkova (RUS)

22 June 1997

Munich, Germany

73.10

Olga Kuzenkova (RUS)

22 June 1997

Munich, Germany

73.14

Mihaela Melinte (ROM)

16 July 1998

Poiana Brasov, Romania

75.29

Mihaela Melinte (ROM)

13 May 1999

Clermont-Ferrand, France

75.97

Mihaela Melinte (ROM)

13 May 1999

Clermont-Ferrand, France

76.05

Mihaela Melinte (ROM)

29 August 1999

Rdlingen, Switzerland

76.07

Mihaela Melinte (ROM)

29 August 1999

Rdlingen, Switzerland

77.06

Tatyana Lysenko (RUS)

15 July 2005

77.26

Gulfiya Khanafeyeva (RUS)

12 June 2006

Tula, Russia

77.41

Tatyana Lysenko (RUS)

24 June 2006

Zhukovskiy, Russia

77.80

Tatyana Lysenko (RUS)

15 August 2006

Tallinn, Estonia

77.96

Anita Wodarczyk (POL)

22 August 2009

Berlin, Germany

78.30

Anita Wodarczyk (POL)

6 June 2010

79.42

Betty Heidler (GER)

Table 1-1
22

21 May 2011

Location
Adler, Russia

Moscow, Russia

Bydgoszcz, Poland
Halle/Saale, Germany

Chapter One

History of Hammer Throwing

Development of the Womens Hammer in the United States


The womens hammer movement in the United States got off to a fast start
in the 2000 Summer Olympics where Dawn Ellerbe (Figure 1-3) finished in
seventh place in the womens hammer throw competition with a distance of
66.80 m and USA teammate Amy Palmer finished eighth. Ellerbe was the
first American female to throw over 70 m and established the American
record of 231 ft 0.5 in on her way to winning the gold medal at the 1999
Pan American Games. Ellerbe dominated the event in the mid to late 1990s.
Ana Mahon was the first American over 72 m and finished eighth in the 2003
World Championships in Paris. Erin Gilreath broke the American record in
2004 (72.12 m). Gilreath finished 10th in the 2005 World Championships
in Helsinki and sixth in the 2006 World Cup in Athens. Gilreath, competing for
the New York Athletic Club, was the first U.S. female to top 240 ft and held the
American record for eight years (from 2004 to 2012). Gilreath still holds the
national championship meet record with her AR throw of 73.87 m. In 2009,
the United States had perhaps its strongest trio of hammer throwers in Jessica
Cosby, Amber Campbell, and Erin Gilreath in the Berlin World Championships.
Cosby led the American team with a sixth-place finish in 2009 and went on
to better Gilreaths American record with a throw of 74.19 m at the 2012
Prefontaine Classic. In 2012, none of the U.S. female throwers advanced to
the final in the London Olympic Games. In 2013, Amanda Bingson shattered
the American record with a throw of 75.73 m (2485) at the USATF
Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. None of the U.S. throwers finished in the
top eight at the 2013 IAFF World Championships held in Moscow.

Figure 1-3. Dawn Ellerbe, a four-time NCAA champion


at the University of South Carolina, was the first
American female to break the 70 m barrier.
23

The Hammer Throw Handbook


Today, like the javelin, hammer throwing is not as common as the shot
put or discus among youth competitors, for obvious safety reasons. As a
result, many Americans arent familiar with this sport. Indeed, for those whove
attended a local Highland Games event, the only hammer throwing theyve
seen involved men in kilts tossing real hammers.

American Hammer Throwing: The Men


Americans won every Olympic gold medal from 1900 until Pat OCallaghans
win in 1928. Pat Ryan, the 1920 gold medalist, left a lasting impression on the
event. His world record of 57.55 m (188 ft 9 in) set in 1913 lasted more than
25 years until broken by Erwin Blask of Germany in 1928. Ryan still holds the
record for holding the world record for the longest period of time.
After 1924, Americans began to disappear from the international hammer
winner circles. While they picked up bronze medals in 1928 and 1932,
Americans have won only two medals since. In 1956, four-time Olympian
and six-time world record holder Harold Connolly won a gold medal. The only
other Olympic hammer throw medal won in the past 75 years was in 1996 by
Lance Deal, also a four-time Olympian. Deal holds the current American record
at 82.52 m (270 ft 9 in).
In the first 12 hammer throw competitions of the Modern Olympic Games
(1900 to 1956), 31 American hammer throwers made the finals when only
six throwers were eligible for the finals (43 percent of the hammer throw
finalists were Americans), and they won 19 Olympic medals, seven of them
gold. In the next 11 Olympic Games (1960 to 2000), only five American
hammer throwers made the finals under the changed rule, which provides for
eight finalists in each field event (less than one percent of the hammer throw
finalists were American). During these games, only one Olympic medal was
realized: Lance Deals 1996 silver medal, a great singular accomplishment, but
a far cry from the glory days of American hammer throwing (Connolly, 2006).
By the 1940s, as Americas population began to rapidly grow, the
interscholastic associations of 23 states and 93 private secondary schools
discontinued hammer throwing, while only the smallest state, Rhode Island,
continued to support high school hammer throwing as it has to this day.
Emphasis on football, baseball, and later basketball and hockey grew in the
United States, at first subsidized by colleges and later by professional franchises.
Soon these sports reigned supreme among the youth. In contrast, after the
recovery from World War II, Eastern and Western European athletic federations
began training pre-pubescent and adolescent hammer throwers, encouraging
and praising achievements without any competition of the marketing and the
allure of college and professional sports experienced by American youth.
Fast forward to the present time, where you will find pockets of youth
hammer throwing clubs developing in the states of New York, California,
Georgia, and Washington. Certainly the recent 1-2 finish of Walter Henning
and Connor McCullough at the 2009 World Junior Championships shows that
some motivated coaches are developing young talent across the country. 1956
24

Chapter One

History of Hammer Throwing

Olympic gold medalist Harold Connolly has been instrumental in the success of
revitalizing the youth movement in the hammer throw within the United States,
and his efforts were confirmed by the success of Henning and McCullough.
Harold Connolly has assisted coaches all over the United States with information
through his website (hammerthrow.org) as well as through personal coaching
and funding. A great example of the grassroots movement in the hammer throw
is in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. The Throw1Deep Club in Marietta, Georgia, is
one of the top hammer clubs in the United States. The Throw1Deep club is very
similar to the very successful hammer club in Szombathely, Hungary, developed
by Coach Pal Nemeth. Coach Mike Judge, the founder of Throw1Deep, has 50
athletes in the throwing club. He developed the current national high school
and American junior record holder and 2010 Youth Olympic Games competitor
Shelby Ashe (Figure 1-4). For more information, visit www.Throw1deep.com.
Pat McGrath, a hammer thrower from Manhattan College, has been having good
success with young throwers, most notably Alec Faldermeyer (UCLA) and Rudy
Winkler (in high school).

Figure 1-4. Shelby Ashe is one of the new stars on the scene
as she set the American Junior record of 68.12 m at the
2012 USATF Junior championships in Bloomington, Indiana.

Olympic Games
The mens hammer throw has been a part of the Summer Olympic Games
since 1900. In two of these gamesSt. Louis in 1904, and Paris in 1920a
hybrid hammer throw event (56 lb) was also contested. The heavy weight
throw (56 lb) never returned to the Olympic program after the 1920 Games
25

The Hammer Throw Handbook


but remains today in weight pentathlons. The weight throw (35 lb, 25 lb, and 20
lb) is an indoor event contested primarily in the United States. The indoor weight
throw has its origin from the early days of the Olympic program.
Ireland-bred throwers dominated the early Olympics with Irish-born
Americans winning the first five Olympic events, starting with three-time winner
John Flanagan. Another Ireland native, Pat OCallaghan, then won twice (1928
and 1932). The first recorded womens marks date back to 1931 in Spain, but
it was only as recently as 1982 that anyone threw as far as 40 m. The first
documented womens hammer throw competition was held in 1931, and the
event has been included in the Olympic Games program since 2000. The results
of the Olympic Games are listed in Table 1-2.
Olympic Medalists
Womens Olympics Medalists
Games
2012 London
2008 Beijing
2004 Athens
2000 Sydney

Gold
Tatyana Lysenko (RUS)
Aksana Miankova (BLR)
Olga Kuzenkova (RUS)
Kamila Skolimowska (POL)

Mens Olympics Medalists


Games
Gold
2012 London
Krisztin Pars (HUN)
2008 Beijing
Primo Kozmus (SLO)
2004 Athens
Koji Murofushi (JPN)
2000 Sydney
Szymon Zikowski (POL)
1996 Atlanta
Balzs Kiss (HUN)
1992 Barcelona
Andrey Abduvaliyev (EUN)
1988 Seoul
Sergey Litvinov (URS)
1984 Los Angeles
Juha Tiainen (FIN)
1980 Moscow
Yuri Syedikh (URS)
1976 Montreal
Yuri Syedikh (URS)
1972 Munich
Anatoliy Bondarchuk (URS)
1968 Mexico City
Gyula Zsivtzky (HUN)
1964 Tokyo
Romuald Klim (URS)
1960 Rome
Vasily Rudenkov (URS)
1956 Melbourne
Harold Connolly (USA)
1952 Helsinki
Jzsef Csermk (HUN)
1948 London
Imre Nmeth (HUN)
1936 Berlin
Karl Hein (GER)
1932 Los Angeles
Pat OCallaghan (IRL)
1928 Amsterdam
Pat OCallaghan (IRL)
1924 Paris
Fred Tootell (USA)
1920 Antwerp
Patrick Ryan (USA)
1912 Stockholm
Matt McGrath (USA)
1908 London
John Flanagan (USA)
1904 St. Louis
John Flanagan (USA)
1900 Paris
John Flanagan (USA)

Silver
Anita Wlodarczyk (POL)
Yipsi Moreno (CUB)
Yipsi Moreno (CUB)
Olga Kuzenkova (RUS)

Bronze
Betty Heidler (GER)
Zhang Wenxiu (CHN)
Yunaika Crawford (CUB)
Kirsten Mnchow (GER)

Silver
Primo Kozmus (SLO)
Vadim Devyatovskiy (BLR)
Ivan Tsikhan (BLR)
Nicola Vizzoni (ITA)
Lance Deal (USA)
Igor Astapkovich (EUN)
Yuri Syedikh (URS)
Karl-Hans Riehm (FRG
Sergey Litvinov (URS)
Aleksey Spiridonov (URS)
Jochen Sachse (GDR)
Romuald Klim (URS)
Gyula Zsivtzky (HUN)
Gyula Zsivtzky (HUN)
Mikhail Krivonosov (URS)
Karl Storch (GER)
Ivan Gubijan (YUG)
Erwin Blask (GER)
Ville Prhl(FIN)
Ossian Skild (SWE)
Matt McGrath (USA)
Carl Johan Lind (SWE)
Duncan Gillis (CAN)
Matt McGrath (USA)
John DeWitt (USA)
Truxton Hare (USA)

Bronze
Koji Murofushi (JPN)
Ivan Tsikhan (BLR)
E ref Apak (TUR)
Igor Astapkovich (BLR)
Oleksandr Krykun (UKR)
Igor Nikulin (EUN)
Jri Tamm (URS)
Klaus Ploghaus (FRG)
Jri Tamm (URS)
Anatoliy Bondarchuk (URS)
Vasiliy Khmelevskiy (URS)
Lzr Lovsz (HUN)
Uwe Beyer (EUA)
Tadeusz Rut (POL)
Anatoli Samotsvetov (URS)
Imre Nmeth (HUN)
Bob Bennett (USA)
Fred Warngrd (SWE)
Peter Zaremba (USA)
Edmund Black (USA)
Malcolm Nokes (GBR)
Basil Bennett (USA)
Clarence Childs (USA)
Con Walsh (CAN)
Ralph Rose (USA)
Josiah McCracken (USA)

Table 1-2
26

Chapter One

History of Hammer Throwing

Record Performances: Men


The first recognized world record in the mens hammer throw was 44.46 m
(145.9 ft) set by Irelands John Flanagan in 1895 (Butler, 2003). He immigrated
to the United States in 1897. He represented his new country the 1900 Paris
Olympics, the first time the hammer throw would be an Olympic event. Flanagan
won Olympic gold again in 1904 and 1908 with tosses of 51.23 (168.1 ft) and
51.92 (170.3 ft), respectively. Flanagan set his last world record in July 1909,
with an amazing toss of 56.18 m (184.3 ft). The previous world record, set by
Flanagan in 1908, was 53.38 m. He left the United States in 1911 to return to
his native Ireland to coach. Yuri Syedikh of the Russia (Soviet Union) holds the
current mens world record of 86.74 m (284 ft 7 in) set in 1986. The current
womens world record holder is Betty Heidler of Germany with a throw of 79.42
m (260 ft 6.75 in) in 2011. Despite huge improvements in performance over
the past century, competitive marks for men have decreased since the late
1980s. This shift is likely due to increased anti-doping efforts. In light of this
change, it is important to note that the outstanding hammer throw performances
achieved between 1970 and the early 1990s may more likely reflect widespread
drug use than advances in technique or training. While this notion has not
been verified, continued research on hammer throw technique may lessen or
eliminate the gap between current and past performances.

Rules
The objective of the hammer throw event is to throw a hammer as far as possible
without breaking any of the rules governing the event. The only significant
change in the hammer throw rules since the introduction of the event during the
Olympic Games is the narrowing of the sector into which the hammer may be
thrown. Over the years, the sector marked on the field for valid throws has shrunk
from 90 degrees to the 60 degrees in the 1960s to the present 34.92 degrees.
The following section examines the rules of the hammer throw.
Previous Rules
In the early days, a steel ball attached to a long wooden handle was likely the
most convenient object to throw during competition, and no widely accepted rules
existed for the event (Gardiner, 1910). This left little for standardization and made
the comparison of results difficult. The implement changed during the course
of Flanagans career with the introduction of the modern hammer, which had a
single grip and manufactured steel ball. Additional rule modifications also shaped
the event, adding throwing cages, modern smooth-soled hammer throwing
shoes, and concrete throwing circles. (Prior to the 1950s, throwers would use
spiked shoes on dirt circles.) A protective cage was not used, and there was no
sector. When the sector was ultimately established, it was set at 90 degrees. The
sector shrunk to 60 degrees in the 1960s, then to 40 degrees in the 1980s,
andfinally to the present size of 34.92 degrees. These early rules focused mainly
on the performance of the throw and the throwing surface (Gardiner, 1910). The
dirt surface had to be leveled and smoothed. Since then, additional rules have
been added, and old rules have evolved as track and field gained popularity.
27

The Hammer Throw Handbook

Mens World Record Progression


Current World Record: 86.76 m
Current World Record Holder: Yuri Syedikh (Soviet Union)
Mark
57.77 m
59.00 m
59.02 m
59.57 m
59.88 m
60.34 m
61.25 m
62.36 m
63.34 m
64.05 m
64.33 m

Athlete
Pat Ryan (USA)
Imre Nmeth (HUN)
Imre Nmeth (HUN)
Imre Nmeth (HUN)
Imre Nmeth (HUN)
Jzsef Csermk (HUN)
Sverre Strandli (NOR)
Sverre Strandli (NOR)
Mikhail Krivonosov (URS)
Stanislav Nenashev (URS)
Mikhail Krivonosov (URS)

Date
17 August 1913
27 August 1938
14 July 1948
4 September 1949
19 May 1950
24 July 1952
14 September 1952
5 September 1953
29 August 1954
12 December 1954
4 August 1955

Location
New York City, United States
Stockholm, Sweden
Tata, Hungary
Katowice, Poland
Budapest, Hungary
Helsinki, Finland
Olso, Norway
Oslo, Norway
Bern, Switzerland
Baku, Soviet Union
Warsaw, Poland

64.52 m
65.85 m
66.38 m
67.32 m
68.54 m
68.68 m
70.33 m

Mikhail Krivonosov (URS)


Mikhail Krivonosov (URS)
Mikhail Krivonosov (URS)
Mikhail Krivonosov (URS)
Harold Connolly (USA)
Harold Connolly (USA)
Harold Connolly (USA)

19 September
25 April
8 July
22 October
2 November
20 June
12 August

1955
1956
1956
1956
1956
1958
1960

Belgrade, Yugoslavia
Nalchik, Soviet Union
Minsk, Soviet Union
Tashkent, Soviet Union
Los Angeles, United States
Bakersfield, United States
Walnut, United States

70.67 m
71.06 m
71.26 m
73.74 m
73.76 m
74.52 m
74.68 m
75.48 m
76.40 m
76.60 m
76.66 m
76.70 m
77.56 m
78.50 m
79.30 m
80.14 m
80.32 m
80.38 m
80.46 m

Harold Connolly (USA)


Harold Connolly (USA)
Harold Connolly (USA)
Gyula Zsivtzky (HUN)
Gyula Zsivtzky (HUN)
Romuald Klim (URS)
Anatoliy Bondarchuk (URS)
Anatoliy Bondarchuk (URS)
Walter Schmidt (FRG)
Reinhard Theimer (GDR)
Aleksey Spiridonov (URS)
Karl-Hans Riehm (FRG)
Karl-Hans Riehm (FRG)
Karl-Hans Riehm (FRG)
Walter Schmidt (FRG)
Boris Zaychuk (URS)
Karl-Hans Riehm (FRG)
Yuri Syedikh (URS)
Jri Tamm (URS)

21 July
29 May
20 June
4 September
14 September
15 June
20 September
12 October
4 September
4 July
11 September
19 May
19 May
19 May
14 August
9 July
6 August
16 May
16 May

1960
1965
1965
1965
1968
1969
1969
1969
1971
1974
1974
1975
1975
1975
1975
1978
1978
1980
1980

Palo Alto, United States


Ceres, South Africe
Walnut, United States
Debrecen, Hungary
Budapest, Hungary
Budapest, Hungary
Athens, Greece
Rivne, Soviet Union
Lahr, West Germany
Leipzig, East Germany
Munich, West Germany
Rehlingen, West Germany
Rehlingen, West Germany
Rehlingen, West Germany
Frankfurt am Main, West Germany
Moscow, Soviet Union
Heidenheim, West Germany
Leselidze, Soviet Union
Leselidze, Soviet Union

Table 1-3
28

Chapter One

History of Hammer Throwing

Mens World Record Progression (cont.)


80.64 m
81.66 m
81.80 m
83.98 m
84.14 m
86.34 m
86.66 m
86.76 m

Yuri Syedikh (URS)


Sergey Litvinov (URS)
Yuri Syedikh (URS)
Sergey Litvinov (URS)
Sergey Litvinov (URS)
Yuri Syedikh (URS)
Yuri Syedikh (URS)
Yuri Syedikh (URS)

16 May
24 May
31 July
4 June
21 June
3 July
22 June
30 August

1980
1980
1980
1982
1983
1984
1986
1986

Leselidze, Soviet Union


Sochi, Soviet Union
Moscow, Soviet Union
Moscow, Soviet Union
Moscow, Soviet Union
Cork, Ireland
Tallinn, Soviet Union
Stuttgart, West Germany

Table 1-3 (cont.)

Mens All-Time Top 10 Throwers


Rank
1

Mark
86.74 m

Athlete
Yuri Syedikh (URS)

Place
Stuttgart

Date
30 August 1986

86.73 m

Ivan Tsikhan (BLR)

Brest

3 July 2005

86.04 m

Sergey Litvinov (URS)

Dresden

3 July 1986

84.90 m

Vadim Devyatovskiy (BLR)

Minsk

21 July 2005

84.86 m

Koji Murofushi (JPN)

Prague

29 June 2003

84.62 m

Igor Astapkovich (BLR)

Seville

6 June 1992

84.48 m

Igor Nikulin (URS)

Lausanne

12 July 1990

84.40 m

Jri Tamm (URS)

Bansk Bystrica

84.19 m

Adrin Annus (HUN)

Szombathely

10 August 2003

10

83.68 m

Tibor Gcsek (HUN)

Zalaegerszeg

19 September 1998

9 September 1984

Womens All-Time Top 10 Throwers


Rank
1

Mark
79.42 m

Athlete
Betty Heidler (GER)

Place
Halle

78.80 m

Tatyana Lysenko (RUS)

Moscow

78.69 m

Aksana Miankova (BLR)

Minsk

78.46 m

Anita Wodarczyk (POL)

Moscow

77.26 m

Gulfiya Khanafeyeva (RUS)

Tula

12 June 2006

77.13 m

Oksana Kondrateva (RUS)

Zhukovskiy

30 June 2013

76.99 m

Zhang Wenxiu (CHN)

Ostrava

24 May 2012

76.90 m

Martina Hranov (SVK)

Trnava

16 May 2009

76.83 m

Kamila Skolimowska (POL)

Doha

11 May 2007

10

76.72 m

Mariya Bespalova (RUS)

Zhukovskiy

23 June 2012

Table 1-4

29

Date
21 May 2011
16 August 2013
18 July 2012
16 August 2013

The Hammer Throw Handbook


Current Rules/Competition
Throws are considered legal when the hammer lands within the lines of the
field and the athlete completes the throw without touching anything outside of
the circle before the hammer hits the ground. Athletes are allowed to touch the
inside of the ring but not the top or any of the sides that do not face the center
of the ring. All throwing attempts in the hammer throw must be initiated from
a stationary position inside the circle, and if the hammer hits the ground, the
thrower must continue to complete the throw. An attempt is considered a failure
if the athlete improperly releases the hammer or touches any part of the ground
outside of the circle between the time he has stepped inside the ring to begin the
throw and the moment the implement lands after the completion of the throw.
In a competition, each athlete typically gets an equal number of throws,
usually three or six. In some cases, all competitors are given three throws with
only the top 8 to 10 athletes given the opportunity for three more throws.
To keep fan interest, meet organizers have been exploring ways to shorten
the competition schedule and have experimented with different formats. In
2006, the IAAF gave competitors four throws in the final-only competitions at
the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, Germany, and the World Cup in Athens,
Greece. Even when the hammer is released at the wrong moment, it is still
counted as an attempt. The winner of the competition is the athlete with the
farthest legal throw. Measurements are made in meters (m) and are rounded
off downward on whole centimeters (cm).
Description of the Implement
A ball, a length of wire, and a handle make up the hammer (Figure 1-5). The
overall weight and dimensions of the hammer used in competition are different
between men and women. Males use a ball that is between 11 and 13 cm in
diameter and weighs 7.26 kg. Women throw a ball between 9.5 and 11 cm in
diameter that weighs 4 kg. A mens hammer is between 117.5 and 121.5 cm
in length, while the womens hammer length must fall between 116 and 119.5
cm. The ball is composed of solid iron or other metals that are no softer than
brass. The ball cannot be filled with any materials that may add to the overall
weight. A looped wire is attached to the handle at one end and the ball at the
opposite end. The wire measures 3 mm in diameter. The wire is one piece and
is made of a suitable material that cannot be stretched when placed under the
tension of the throw. The wire is securely looped at both ends attached directly
to the handle and to the ball by a swivel. The handle is a solid piece shaped like
an isosceles triangle and should not stretch when placed under the tension of a
throw. The regulations also specify where the center of gravity of the implement
can be located. Center of gravity is not to be more than 0.6 cm from the center
of the ball and must be able to balance in the holder of a weighing device with
a 1.2 cm depression (IAAF, 2011).

30

Chapter One

History of Hammer Throwing

Figure 1-5. A ball, a length of wire, and a handle


make up the hammer.

Implement Specifications
Mens Hammer
Weight: 7.26 kg (16 lb)
Length: 121.5 cm (3 ft 11.75 in)
World Record: 86.74 m (285 ft 7 in)
Womens Hammer
Weight: 4 kg (8.8 lb)
Length: 119.5 cm (3 ft 11 in)
World Record: 79.42 m (260 ft 6 in)
Table 1-5

Description of the Ring and Throwing Sector


The throwing circle is 2.135 m in diameter (IAAF, 2011). The ring is constructed
out of a nonslippery material, typically concrete. The rim of the ring is between
14 and 26 mm above the throwing surface (IAAF, 2011). The top of the rim
of the circle must be flush with the surrounding ground outside the ring. The

31

The Hammer Throw Handbook


interior surface of the ring is uniformly level. For a legal throw, the hammer must
land within the throwing sector after release. The throwing sector is an angle
beginning at the center of the throwing circle and projecting 34.92 outward into
the throwing area (IAAF, 2011).
Implement
The current rules governing the event are established by the IAAF and are laid
out in their rulebook (IAAF, 2011). These rules state that the hammer must be
spherical and made of a metal no softer than copper or a shell of such metal
filled with lead or another material. The hammer must be smooth and without
irregularities on its surface. For senior men, the weight of the hammer must be
7.26 kg with a diameter between 110 and 130 mm. For junior men, the weight
of the hammer must be 6 kg with a diameter between 110 and 130 mm.
For junior and senior women, the hammer must have a mass of 4 kg with a
diameter between 95 and 110 mm. In the United States, high school boys use
a 12 lb hammer and girls use a 4 kg.
Implement Storage
Proper maintenance and storage of the equipment means better longevity and
more importantly safety. At the collegiate level, some athletic administrators are
reluctant to stage the hammer on campus due to perceived risks. A remote
training/competition site can sometimes make implement storage a challenge.
Ideally, hammer wires should be straightened and the implements should be
wiped off following each training session. A dry equipment shed is ideal for
storage as the hammers can be hung on a hook for easy access (Figure 1-6).
The implements can be organized by length and weight. Implements should
always be kept under a lock and key, and a coach should always be present at
all training sessions. Athletes should never be given access to implements if the
coach is not present.

Figure 1-6. Implements can be organized by length and weight and


should always be kept under a lock and key.

32

Chapter One

History of Hammer Throwing

Equipment
The IAAF rulebook also states that any form of assistance that aids an athletes
ability to throw the hammer is forbidden (IAAF, 2011). Back belts and gloves
are allowed, however, to help prevent injury of the back and hands. Athletes are
allowed to smudge a sticky substance onto their glove so that they can improve
their grip and are allowed to tape individual fingers underneath the glove. In most
competitions, athletes may use their own implements, provided they are checked
and marked as approved by the competitions organizing committee before the
contest and are made available to all competing athletes. Officials normally will
mark a legal implement by putting a certain color tape on the wire and put
some type of marking on the ball near the swivel so the set screws cannot be
altered to remove weight from the implement. No modifications can be made
to any implements during the competition. If an implement is damaged during
the competition, it may have to be recertified. If a wire or handle breaks during a
throw before the hammer is released, the athlete receives an additional attempt
for equipment failure. If the implement is damaged subsequent to release, it is
generally taken out of the competition (depending on the level of damage). A
throw is considered legal even if the wire and handle contacts the cage as long
as it lands inside the sector line.
Throwing Ring
The IAAF rulebook also regulates the throwing environment (IAAF, 2011). The
throwing circle itself has a diameter of 2.135 m ( 5 mm) and is submerged 1.4
to 2.6 cm below the surface of the ground outside of the circle. A rim made of
steel or iron must surround the submerged throwing surface and be flush with
the ground outside of the circle. The surface of the circle itself must be made of
a non-slippery material such as concrete or asphalt. Athletes may not spray nor
spread any substance in the circle or on their shoes to enhance their grip.
Landing Area
The landing area for the put is marked with white lines 5 cm wide, which, if
extended, would do so at a 34.92-degree angle from the center of the circle.
The landing plane must be level and made of a material that permits the
implement to make an imprint upon landing. Grass or cinder is typically used. A
grass sector is acceptable, but it can get muddy and sloppy with lots of divots.
Better alternatives include: dirt, coarse packed sand, clay, or cinder. Either can
be raked smooth and no compacting is necessary. If youre going to install a
sand or cinder landing area, extend the sand area one foot beyond the sides of
the sector area. Do not place the foul lines right on the edge of the sand/grass
boundary. That way, the foul lines can clearly be drawn inside the landing area.
You will want grass or track surface around the circle so that the circle can be kept
free from sand/gravel. One final recommendation for the landing area: curbing,
landscaping beams, or railroad ties should be installed at the outer edge of the
landing area to stop the rolling hammers on hard ground. A flat landing area at
a distance of 295 ft (or 90 m) from the ring to the edge of the landing area will
be acceptable for most practices and competitions.

33

The Hammer Throw Handbook


Specifications and Equipment
Anyone seriously interested in the event must first concern himself with:
where am I going to throw? You need a safe cage, placed far enough away
from other events. The cage should be the same size as the IAAF-specified
cage, with swinging gates in front that can be moved easily. Consult the IAAF
and NCAA rulebooks for details. Some schools allow throwing on multiple-use
fields. It is important that someone fill in the holes (Dunn & McGill, 1991). Get
a load of sand near the throwing circle, and have the athletes fill in divots at
the conclusion of each throwing session. This daily maintenance will keep the
athletic administrators happy. Keep in mind, however, that if someone is in the
line of fire and a throw takes place, no cage in the world will help. If attention is
given to safety, the hammer becomes a beautiful expression of rhythm, power,
and speedunmatched in all of sport.
The hammer has three parts: head (or ball), wire, and grip (or handle).
Inexpensive hammers consist of a solid iron head, although you can buy
steel shells filled with lead or other material. The filling in the shell should be
immovable. The wires can be homemade from #11 piano wire, but the best
ones are manufactured by the pros and currently cost around $10.00 each,
to start. Numerous handles are available. Coaches should check the length
and weight of the implements prior to meets, so there will be no surprises
(deficiencies). Gloves with fingertips exposed, smooth front and back, may be
used. The hammer head must land inside the sector lines (34.92 degrees).
Where the handle hits is of no consequence. The rules state that the athlete
must continue the throw if the head hits the ground after the throw begins. It
is a foul if he stops, but this rule has not been regularly enforced.
Hammer Throw Facility Requirements
At the original inception of the modern hammer throw in Ireland, Scotland, and
England in 1866, no safety cage was used (Dunn & McGill, 1991). Equipment
changes such as more precisely manufactured hammers, the invention of the
concrete throwing ring and smooth-soled shoes that permitted faster spinning,
and superior training methods increased throwing distances considerably
(Connolly, 2006). The enhanced equipment and resulting increased distances
amplified the dangers associated with the hammer throw. As the event evolved,
a C-shaped cage was designed (Connolly, 2006). But the hammer cage did not
become a common safety device until the middle of the 1950s. The hammer
cage was originally designed to prevent the hammer from exiting the throwers
hands in unprotected directions such as out of the back, sides, or in dangerous
angles from the circle. Despite these good intentions, the original hammer cages
only provided limited protection.
As the sport has developed and increased in popularity, the landing sector
marked on the field for valid throws (i.e., similar to a baseball fields foul
lines) has shrunk from 90 degrees to the 60 degrees of the 1960s to 40
degrees in the 1970s, to the present sector angle of 34.92 degrees (Connolly,
2006). Prior to 2004, the last significant change to hammer cage design was
in 1994/1995, when the height of the cage netting and, more particularly,
34

Chapter One

History of Hammer Throwing

the hammer cage gates were significantly increased in height (Laurel, Wilson,
& Young, 2004). At this time, it was suggested (but not required) that an
effective hammer cage have movable panels (gates) that were 2.00 m wide
and 6.15 m in height. These dimensions were increased to 8.00 m in height
and 2.90 m in width.
Even with the changes in safety standards of the cage and the reduced
throwing sector, the inclusion and growth of the hammer throw event has
met considerable resistance from state high school associations, as the
hammer throw is only contested in one state. At the collegiate level, some
athletic administrators are reluctant to stage the event on campus due to
perceived risks. For example, the Ohio Valley Conference does not offer the
hammer event as part of the outdoor conference championships (Ohio Valley
Conference, 2009).
Rule 1, Section 9 of the NCAA Track and Field rulebook states that the
purpose of the hammer cage is to contain, but not interfere with, the flight
path of the implement (NCAA, 2011). The recommended minimum height
for the NCAA hammer cage is 6.15 m, and the rule book states that the
height should be increased to 8 m whenever possible. The gates are required
to be panels of suitable material between 2.74 and 2.90 m in width with a
fixed cage opening of between 8 and 9 m. It is also stated in the rules that
cage configurations that are more restrictive than the minimums set forth in
this rule may only be used with the consent of each participating institution
(NCAA, 2011). The problem, as noted by some coaches and participants, with
NCAA hammer cage recommendations and design is that implements can still
land on the track front and back straight-aways even when the cage gates are
operated correctly. The NCAA standards are far below the IAAF standards of a
smaller 7 m opening and gates that are 10 m in height and 3.2 m in length
(Laurel, Wilson, & Young, 2004).
After three hammer-throw-related deaths in European venues in 2000,
the 2001 IAAF Congress decided to reduce the landing sector angle to 34.92
degrees as a measure to improve safety (Laurel, Wilson, & Young, 2004).
Additionally, in August 2003, IAAF approved rule changes affecting hammer
throw safety cages. These two measures taken by the IAAF Technical Committee
were enacted to satisfy safety requirements as opposed to changing the event
by altering the implement weight, length, or number of turns allowed (Laurel,
Wilson, & Young, 2004). The IAAF considered the need for new cage designs
as prior specifications did not provide enough safety (see the diagram of
cage specifications in Appendix 1). The problem with earlier hammer cage
specifications and design was that implements could still land on the track along
the front and back straight-aways even when the cage gates were operated
correctly. The new design modifications were made to augment safety by
increasing the length and height of the gates as well as decrease the opening
between the front posts to accommodate the new throwing sector of 34.92
degrees. Studies of the trajectory of the hammer necessitated that the minimum
height of the additional two side panels and the gates be increased to 10 m
(Gutirrez, Soto, & Rojas, 2002). The new IAAF rule standards came into force
January 1, 2004 (IAAF, 2011). According to Laurel, Wilson, & Young (2004),
35

The Hammer Throw Handbook


the mathematical calculation method of the release velocity gives an 83-degree
danger zone for the pre-2004 cage design. The pre-2004 IAAF cage design is
the same as the current NCAA recommendations across all divisions. The danger
zone for the new IAAF cage is approximately 53 degrees, thus reducing the
danger zone by 30 degrees. The new design (Figure 1-7) considerably reduces
the danger of a hammer thrown by a right-handed thrower from landing on the
main straightaway if the cage is located near the 1500-m starting line (Laurel,
Wilson, & Young, 2004).

Figure 1-7. The IAAF cage was redesigned for increased safety, in 2003, with gates that
are 10 m in height and 3.2 m in length.

The new IAAF hammer cage design has worked well in terms of reducing
the risk of hammers landing on the track (Laurel, Wilson, & Young, 2004).
However, the new IAAF specifications have not been adopted by the NCAA
rules committee. At the 2006 outdoor championships of USA Track and Field,
Sam Seemes, CEO of the U.S. Track and Cross Country Coaches Association,
polled a select group of NCAA throws coaches regarding adopting the IAAF
hammer cage specifications. According to Mike Corn, assistant director
of the U.S. Track and Cross Country Coaches Association, these coaches
recommended not adopting the IAAF standards due to concerns related to
the narrower opening impacting collegiate throwers abilities and skepticism
that IAAF standards would really address safety concerns (M. Corn, personal
communication, March 17, 2010). Although the NCAA has detailed facility site
specifications for member institutions in numerous other sports, these detailed
venue and facility specifications are not applied across the board for hammer
throw facilities (NCAA, 2011). NCAA facility guidelines are not always enforced
for the hammer throw when an intercollegiate track and field competition is
held (M. Corn, personal communication, March 17, 2010).

36

Chapter One

History of Hammer Throwing

In some cases, a poorly designed/poorly funded venue can increase


a universitys potential liability from an accident. Some NCAA institutions
have found themselves involved in litigation because of track and field and,
specifically, throwing event accidents (Connolly, 2006). For example, Rucker
v. Regents of the University of California was an example of a case from
1993 in which the University of California was forced to pay a settlement
of $2.25 million because of a hammer throw accident (Lewellyn, 2008). An
errant throw resulted in Mr. Rucker, a triple jumper on the team, being struck
in the head and sustaining permanent brain damage during a team practice.
In the 1980s, a sportswriter was killed by hammer during the NCAA Division
II National Championships at Cal State Los Angeles. During the 1999 United
States of America Track and Field (USATF) National Championships, American
record holder, Dawn Ellerbe, was struck just above her eye with a hammer
handle from an errant throw that ricocheted off the cage (D. Ellerbe, personal
communication, March 25, 2009). More recently, in 2005 Noah Byrant, a
thrower at the University of Southern California, was seriously injured when the
hammer bounced off the cage and struck him in the face (N. Bryant, personal
communication, May 21, 2009). During that same year, Rachel Longfors, a
thrower from the University of Florida, was struck in the shoulder by a hammer
while warning another athlete of impending danger during a competition (R.
Longfors, personal communication, March 22, 2009). Tragic accidents of this
nature provide a clear indication that the safety of track and field facilities
requires further study. Could these tragic accidents have been prevented by
safer venues? Would venues have mandated to meet current industry safety
standards established by the International Association of Athletics Federation
(IAAF) impact NCAA venue safety?

Technique
Little is known about the technique used in Tailteann games. The technique
of the modern hammer throw has evolved over the years. The event was first
thrown on grass in spikes. Pat Ryan (IRL), the last of the Irish Wales, threw
57.77 m in 1913 with an amazing throw on grass with suspensions at each turn.
Pat OCallaghan (IRL) threw 56.95 m (1933) on concrete while keeping contact
with the ground. Karl Hein (GDR) 58.24 m (1938) and coach Sepp Christmann
developed the heel-ball turn technique. Harold Connolly (USA) was the first man
to throw over 70 m, utilizing a wide right leg and drag technique. Boris Zaichuk
(URS) was the first man to throw over 80 m utilizing a more modern technique
with the knees close together.
In 1976, there was a revolution in the hammer. Prior to that time, most
throwers tended to use a wound-up or torque method in the event. This
means that throwers attempted to gain a big lead on the hammer with the
lower body. An attempt was made to gain a separation between the hips and
shoulders, a crossing of the X, if you will, which would lead to a long pull at the
end (Dunn & McGill, 1991).
A modification of the older torque technique was used by the Polish athlete,
Zdzislaw Kwasny, in the 1983 World Championships. He stunned the Russians

37

The Hammer Throw Handbook


with his 261 ft 6 in throw, which was taken away the next day by a Russian
protest. Kwasny had fouled, but the Finnish judges did not call it. The 1984
Olympic hammer champ, Juha Tiainen, also used this technique, referred to by
American coach Tom McDermott as Drag City, because of the almost discuslike dragging of the hammer behind the thrower (Dunn & McGill, 1991).
Not everyone is truly suited for the newer technique, which has been
perfected by the Russians (even though each Russian athlete has different
variations in his own style). Yuri Syedikh is an example of the ball lead, catch-up
style. Some of the reasons for his success are worth examining.
Radius
The key to success in any throwing event is to increase the release velocity
(Dunn & McGill, 1991). That is the essential success factor. Table 1-6 shows
how a 3 in difference in radius makes a remarkable influence on distance.
Importance of a Long Effective Hammer Radius
Throwers turning speed (revolutions/second) vs. different lengths in hammers
effective radius.
Turning speed at instant of release = Distance thrown1 based on effective hammer
radius2 of:
Revolutions/sec.

6 ft

5 ft 9 in

5 ft 6 in

2.0

180

166 ft

151 ft

2.1

200

186 ft

168 ft

2.2

220

203 ft

185 ft

2.3

240

221 ft

203 ft

Based on 44-degree angle of release


Distance from axis of rotation to about center of hammer head.

1
2

Adapted from Felton, S. (1967). Modern hammer throwing. Rosemont, PA: Sam Felton, Jr.

Table 1-6

Based on the figures in Table 1-6, it may be estimated that Syedikh has
an effective radius of greater than 6 ft, since a 286 ft throw would necessitate
too high a turning speed. He is not turning much faster than a number of top
throwers; he simply has an advantage in effective radius.
Range of Motion in Double Support
If a thrower can extend the time he exerts pressure on the ball, force will
increase. Syedikh is the master, as he lifts his right foot earlier each turn, and tries
to get it down sooner for a greater range of motion in double support. Figure 1-8

38

Chapter One

History of Hammer Throwing

HIP AXIS
SHOULDER
AXIS
Adapted from Cairns, M. (1990). Basic point of modern hammer technique. Track and Field Quarterly
Review, 81(1), 4243.

Figure 1-8. Azimuthal angle

shows the azimuthal angle of the hammer in double support. American coach
Tom McDermott adds, Power comes from two feet on the ground. One cannot
punch from one leg!
Free Leg Radius
The free leg radius is defined as the distance between the center of gravity of the
free leg and a line joining the base of the neck with the ankle of the support leg.
This distance must be kept rather small, as it relates to the previous point about
range of motion. The farther the free leg is away from the body, the longer it
will take to put it on the ground (Table 1-7). The result is that time is subtracted
from when the greatest force can be applied on the hammer.
Average Free Leg Radius (FLR1 Through FLR4) in the
Single Support Phases of Turns 1 Through 4 (in Meters)
Name

Trial

FLR1

FLR2

FLR3

FLR4

Syedikh

10
19

0.21
0.21

0.21
0.20

0.24
0.24

Litvinov

3
12

0.18
0.19

0.20
0.19

0.19
0.19

0.22
0.21

Table 1-7

Factors Which Determine Distance


The chart in Table 1-8 shows the relationship between range or distance,
release velocity, angle of release, and flight time of the hammer. Although other
factors affect the hammer, such as height of release and aerodynamics, they are
considered not very significant.

39

The Hammer Throw Handbook


Impact of Angle of Release and Release Velocity
Name

Trial

L
(m)

SHJ (m/s)

SH2 (m/s)

Sh3 (m/s)

SH4 (m/s)

ShR (m/s)

ANGR
(degree)

Syedikh

10
19

80.46
80.02

17.7
18.1

22.6
22.4

25.1
25.0

29.1
29.2

42
40

Litvinov

3
12

79.32
ca. 80

16.0
17.0

22.2
22.6

24.9
25.2

25.8
26.5

29.2
29.5

37
37

Length of each throw (L), speed of the hammer at the instant of takeoff of the right foot from the ground in
turns one through four (SHJ through SH4), speed of the hammer at release (SHR), and angle formed by the
horizontal plane and the hammer path at release (ANGR).
Table 1-8

In the 1982 USA/USSR meet, Sergey Litvinov had a foul of about 80 m,


which had a release velocity of 29.5 meters per second (mps). The winning
throw of 80.46 m by Syedikh had a velocity of only 29.1 mps. The difference
was in the release angle. Litvinovs throw was released at 37 degrees, while
Syedikh was perfect with a 42-degree angle. In this case, the release angle was
crucial, but if you study the chart in Table 1-8, you will see how an increase in
release velocity can dramatically add to a throw.
Tangential Velocity
Is the hammer pulled or pushed along its path? In the pre-1976 technique, the
term was clearly pull. Now, with the hammer being the leading element in
the turn, you can think of the turn as a unit turn, keeping the body as a unit,
and pushing the hammer, utilizing the whole body, in relation with the ground.
Syedikhs hips are barely ahead of the hammer, so it is clear that he can use his
legs and hip power more effectively than the early techniques.
The thrower has to counteract the outward pull of the hammer, which
is called the centrifugal force. By doing so, he maintains the proper orbit.
However, it is only the combination of the horizontal forces and vertical forces
applied on the hammer that will affect the tangential velocity. This is what the
athlete must aim to maximize.

Introduction to Basic Technique


Similar to the shot and discus, the hammer throw requires a combination of lower
body strength and agility. But proper footwork and technique are also essential
in order to maintain balance and accelerate the ball. The following section will
introduce the basic components of proper technique. A more detailed analysis
of technique will be presented in subsequent chapters as well.
The Grip
As in Figure 1-9, the athlete holds the hammer so that the handle goes across
the end phalanges of the fingers on the gloved left hand. (If the athlete is a
40

Chapter One

History of Hammer Throwing

Figure 1-9. The right-handed athlete holds the hammer so that the handle
goes across the end phalanges of the fingers on the gloved left hand.

clockwise turner, or a lefty, he will use the right hand.) The majority of hammer
throwers turn counter-clockwise and will hold with the left hand. The right hand
will cover the left hand, as in Figure 1-9.
The Starting Position
Figure 1-10 shows the standard offset position for the hammer. Many variations
can be used, but the world record holder Yuri Syedikh keeps it simple: have the
thrower place the hammer behind the right side of the body, with the right arm,
reach back with the gloved left hand, grip the hammer as shown in Figure 1-10,
and hes ready to start. Many throwers stand in an upright position and swing the
ball into action (with a pendulum start) without it ever touching the ground. This
is an advanced technique that requires perhaps too much coordination for the
beginner. It falls into the category of nice to do, but not recommended.

Adapted from Dunn, G.D. and McGill, K. (2007). The throws manual (3rd ed.). Mountain View, Calif.:
Tafnews Press.

Figure 1-10. In the static start, the hammer is placed behind the right side of the body with
the right arm, and the athlete reaches back with the gloved left hand to grip the hammer.

When the thrower reaches back for the ball, his body weight will be
centered over the right leg. This will help him lift the ball into position by
straightening the leg, as he twists to the left.
41

The Hammer Throw Handbook


Winds
The British call these swings, but the term winds (as in wind-ups) will be
used for this discussion. In these drawings of Sergey Litvinov, the sequence of
movement is clearly shown (Figure 1-11). The thrower must sweep the ball
to the front, curl his left arm when the ball passes his body, and then twist the
shoulders to catch the ball behind him. Simply stated: sweep-curl-twist. The initial
sweep of movement of the ball to the front is accompanied by some shifting of
the body weight from the right leg to the left. However, no dramatic shifts in the
center of gravity should occur in the early stages or the rhythm will be upset.
Since the body is bent over at the start and the shoulders twisted to the right, as
the thrower sweeps the ball around, the shoulders will unwind to face the front,
and the arms will be straight out in front. When the ball passes the thrower, he
must concentrate on simply curling the left arm. This cue will bring the hands
close to the top of the head as the hammer passes behind him on the left
side. Keeping the body weight mostly central, the body twists the shoulder to
catch the ball. Sweep-curl-twist. The thrower should be careful not to allow
the right side to be soft and bend at this point. He wants the right leg to remain
perpendicular, and actually block the hip. The thrower should not let the hands
pass beyond the center of the head (T. McDermott, personal communication,
1987). After one wind, the thrower repeats the sequence.

Adapted from Dunn, G.D. and McGill, K. (2007). The throws manual (3rd ed.). Mountain View, Calif.:
Tafnews Press.

Figure 1-11. To start the throw, two winds are utilized to get the ball moving as the
athlete enters the first turn.

How many winds? Traditionally, only two winds are required, but no rule restricts
throwers from completing more. However, more than three throws would be
tiring! The winds are important in developing rhythm and balance in the throw.
Trajectory? A person using three turns must, out of necessity, wind with a slightly
steeper plane than the four-turner. Note in Figure 1-12 the plane for Syedikh
was rather steep in the 1976 Olympics. As he still uses three turns as a masters
thrower, the hammer remains in about the same plane today.
Low point? In the first wind, the ball is kept off to the right to prevent creeping
on the entry and in the turns. Ideally, you want the throwers low point to
be at zero degrees, or slightly left on the last turn. Due to the differences in
technical execution, what works for one thrower may not work for the next.
Generally, keep the ball off the right leg, around 300 degrees on entry, and
it will move to at least 0, or 360, by the last turn. Some throwers have tried
advanced ideas such as winding completely facing the right for the first wind,
then stepping in. This complicates matters and does nothing to improve
42

Chapter One

History of Hammer Throwing

Adapted from Payne, H. and Payne, R. (1981). The science of track and field athletics. London: Pelham
Books Ltd.

Figure 1-12. The orbit of the throw starts flat and steepens as the athlete increases the
speed of the ball and travels across the ring.

distance. Others have tried stepping out a bit on the second wind to improve the
base and prepare for the entity.
How fast? Some top throwers have actually gone too slow here in the USA. The
Russian throwers arent seen often enough in this country to appreciate how
quick Syedikh is in the winds. His ball moves like a blur into the entry. Some
people concentrate so much on a slow entry that they never achieve decent
release velocity.
The wind should be treated as part of the throw, not a separate event.
As a throwers ability to turn increases, so should his entry speed. Result:
greater distance. In the beginning, however, the thrower must go slow to get
accustomed to these strange movements.
Coach Tom McDermott has some thoughts about speed in the hammer,
which make a great deal of sense. In a November 1990 letter to the author,
he writes:
How fast? This is called critical speed. This is the essence of
the athlete in the event. Its the speed he can handle. The
better the athlete, the more critical speed he can handle. It is
the difference between the champ and chump ... and yet the
coach should never mention the word speed. He should stress
only tempo and cadence. The speed will always be there
even more than most can handle. But alsodont extend the
rump in order to let it out for radius. Stay conformed, with the
body aligned with a straight back and a quick right foot.
The Russians are expert at working the ball in the active (or descending)
phase. They are very careful not to impede the balls progress in the upward
direction. In other words, they can leave the ball alone without pulling with the
upper body. Perhaps this ability is due to differences in the societies, where the
Russians do not have baseball and football but focus on lower body-oriented
sports, such as soccer?
43

The Hammer Throw Handbook


Entry or Transition
The entry actually begins at the high point of the last wind. When the ball is in
front of the thrower, he must begin to apply force through a pushing action of the
ball of the right foot, in association with an almost isometric-like action through
the left heel. The body should turn as a unit to the left. The thrower must get
as much radius as possible on the left side and not be in a hurry to beat the
hammer around with his lower body, as a discus thrower would. In other words,
Make haste slowly. At the end of the second wind, the ball should crack out
to the front and immediately out to the left. The stretching of both arms outward
will form an isosceles triangle, which must be maintained throughout the whole
throw. In the past, some throwers attempted to pike at the waist to gain radius.
Syedikh did this in 1975 when he threw in the U.S. However, his piking resulted
in many people copying him and grinding their left foot into the ring as a result,
not achieving his results. It was explained later that this technique was an error
resulting from a lack of strength. By keeping a straight back position, the thrower
is in a much better position to control the hammer, and develop greater speed
(Connolly, 2006).
When does the thrower lift off the right foot? It is impossible to recommend
an exact point when this should be done. No one could achieve it anyway. As a
general rule, the thrower must lift off before the hammer reaches 90 degrees
for the first turn. In subsequent turns, he should lift off slightly sooner than that.
Syedikh was measured at 75, 60, and 55 degrees for his three liftoff points in
1982 by Jesus Dapena, on his best throw. If the athlete stays on the ground
too long, it will be almost impossible to attain an early right foot placement at
the end of the throw. Russian coach Anatoliy Bondarchuk made a statement in
the early 1980s, which indicated a later liftoff, but his throwers did not adhere
to his words.
Turns
How fast do the top Russians turn? Unless you are a speed reader, the best
Russians can do three turns in less time that it took you to read the first line of
this paragraph: under 1.1 seconds for three turns. All throwers have to seek out
the speed and the rhythm which suits them best. Although it is not uncommon
to see throwers use four turns, Syedikh used three for his world record throw. If
maximum speed can be attained with three, why use four? Top throwers look
for greater control on hammer acceleration, which is easier to attain with four
turns. The feet turn in unison, with the left foot doing a heel-to-toe turn, with the
right foot pivoting on the ball. The left foot usually begins turning when the ball
approaches it in the entry, but this is an individual matter for the athlete.
The ball of the left foot is picked up, and the first 180 degrees of the tum
will occur on the left heel and side of the shoe. Midway during the transfer
from the heel to the ball, the weight will briefly pass on the outer edge of the
shoe. Prior to the hammer reaching the high point, the weight will have shifted
to the ball of the left foot. In addition, the thrower will have lowered his center
of gravity to counteract the upward and outward pull of the hammer at the
high point. The throwers left knee will have maximum bend just at this point.
44

Chapter One

History of Hammer Throwing

Remember: hammer high, thrower low. As the speed picks up, the thrower
may find himself leaning back to increase the counter or displacement. While
all of these interesting things are happening with the left leg, what is the right
leg doing? When the hammer is at 75 degrees or less, the right foot should
come off the ground in an active fashion; this is not a discus turn! There is
a plantar flexion of the ankle joint, and a thrust using the large leg muscles.
The top throwers even exhibit a brief heel kick like a sprinter, as this powerful
plantar flexion of the ankle creates a snap of the right foot off the ground, up
and over the left ankle and lower leg, and then quickly down to the ground.
The landing is on the ball of the right foot, which immediately gives the right
leg a chance to apply another force. Some throwers have used a heel-first landing,
but this is rare and difficult to master. After the first turn, a thrower like Syedikh
exerts so much pressure on the right side that you can see his leg muscles react
to the force being applied through the leg and hip area. The placement of the
leg must be very active, not quite a vicious stomp, but a powerful, active placing
of the foot with an immediate potential to apply horizontal forces. At this point,
few athletes have been able to get the early landing of the right leg and the
unusual hip position that the world record holder attains. Due to the incredibly
fast placement of the right leg, Syedikhs hips are almost facing the ball. Even his
left foot is just barely ahead of the hammer.
Biomechanically, this is the most advanced technique in the world. No
other thrower has quite reached this level. Slower athletes may never achieve
these positions due to the lack of quick reaction time. The famed German
coach, Ernst Klement, explained that slower throwers must leave with the right
foot even sooner than the faster throwers. Syedikh has stated that he knows
he has the ability to overtake the hammer at any time, but this is not the case
with the rest of the world. Syedikh does not use a lower body lead on the
hammer, and, in fact, he gets farther back with the hammer on each turn on
good throws. This means that he leaves earlier, gets a good leg drive which
rotates the thrower/hammer system rapidly, and has the time to catch the
hammer earlier. This makes good, basic sense and is advice for any thrower
regardless of throwing ability.
Delivery
The hammer delivery is a lot like bailing hay; the athlete performs an explosive
turn and lift. In the delivery, the thrower must continue to turn right to the last
low point. The hammer is lifted with a powerful extension of both legs, while the
feet continue to turn.
Why are front squats important for top throwers? As the legs lift, the upper
body becomes more involved than at any time in the turns. Some throwers use
a braced left leg (it stops turning), which will cause the hips to stop also. Litvinov
is the perfect example of this technique. Syedikh has gotten away from this
technique in later years, not using a firm left leg block. The legs will straighten,
the hips go forward, and the arms shoot overhead, all in one fluid, continuous,
and powerful action. Immediately after release, the thrower must find a way to
keep his balance by lowering the center of gravity in order to avoid fouling. A
blocked release simplifies matters.
45

The Hammer Throw Handbook

Adapted from Dunn, G.D. and McGill, K. (2007). The throws manual (3rd ed.). Mountain View, Calif.:
Tafnews Press.

Figure 1-13. The legs block and straighten at 90 degrees, the hips go forward, and the
arms shoot overhead, all in one fluid, continuous, and powerful action. Immediately
after release, the thrower looks up and keeps balance by lowering the center of gravity
and dropping.

References
Butler, M. (Ed.). (2003). 9th IAAF World Championships in Athletics Statistics
Handbook. Monaco: IAAF Media & Public Relations Department.
2. Connolly, H., (2006). History of the hammer throw. Retrieved from http://www.
hammerthrow.com/technique/articles/history.htm
3. Dunn, G., & McGill, K. (1991). The Throws Manual. Palo Alto, Calif.: Tafnews Press.
4. Ellerbe, D. (2009). Personal communication. March 25, 2009.
5. Gardiner, E.M. (1910). Greek Athletic Sports and Festivals. London: MacMillan
and Co.
6. Gutirrez, M., Soto, V.M. & Rojas, F.J. (2002). A biomechanical analysis of the
individual techniques of the hammer throw finalists in the Seville Athletics World
Championship 1999. IAAF New Studies in Athletics, 2, 1526.
7. Homer. (1984). The Iliad of Homer (R. Lattimore, trans.). Chicago: University of
Chicago Press.
8. IAAF. (2011). Competition Rules 20122013. Retrieved from http://www.iaaf.org/
9. Laurel, B., Wilson, D. & Young, R. (2004). Hammer throw safety cages. IAAF New
Studies in Athletics, 19(1):4751.
10. Lewellyn, T.G. (2008). Alameda county injury attorney: Our successes. Retrieved
from http://www.lewellynlaw.com/lawyer-attorney-1076265.html
11. NCAA. (2011). NCAA Division I track and field rulebook. Retrieved from http://
www2.ncaa.org/.../media_and_events/ncaa_publications/playing_rules/fall/
cross_country_track_field/index.html
12. Ohio Valley Conference. (2009). 2009 Outdoor track and field championship.
Retrieved from http://www.ovcsports.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=6200
&ATCLID=650710
1.

46

2
Hammer Throw Review

Considerable literature relating to the hammer throw is available (Dapena,


1984; Payne, 1980). Someone researching the hammer will need to acquire
the bibliography done by Jurgen Schiffer for New Studies in Athletics, which has
541 publications (Schiffer, 2004). The purpose for this section of the review is
to summarize the results of experimental investigations on the biomechanics of
hammer throwing. Precise and thoroughly documented data are available only on
certain aspects of hammer throwing performance. Many variations in technique
are based on personal opinions of athletes, coaches, and researchers. Although
such personal opinions are not generally taken into consideration in scientific
reviews, they will be included in this review in order to provide a systematic
treatment of technique variations. The scientific merit of many of these views
remains to be seen.
Research performed on the hammer throw has been both qualitative and
quantitative in nature. Most of the research that has been performed on the
event has used male participants employing the four-turn technique. This choice
is likely due to the fact that the womens event has only recently emerged as a
competitive event. Men have generally been used as the participants in studies
largely because until recently more funding has been available to sponsor
research on mens athletics than womens. The applicability of research
performed on one sex to another remains to be seen; however, some evidence
(Barclay, 2000; Bartonietz, Barclay and Gathercole, 1997) suggests that male
and female athletes may perform the task quite differently.

Motor Task Classification


Division Systems
To better understand the movement of hammer throwing, this review will start
with an overview of previously used approaches to studying the movement as
47

The Hammer Throw Handbook


well as discussing some operational terminology for the movement. Several
approaches have been taken to examine the hammer throw. The purpose of
these various approaches has been to subdivide the performance so that the
movements of one throw (or athlete) may be compared to others regardless of
the specific time/history of the throw (or athlete). Noted in Table 2-1 is one way
to subdivide hammer throw performance.
Variations in the Division of Hammer Techniques Into Phases
Division Principle

Phase Designation

Author

Motor task

Winds, turns, delivery

Bartonietz & Borgstm


(1995)

Nature and location of the final


delivery effort

Initiation and completion of the delivery

Gaede (1990)

Temporal and spatial characteristics

Winds, entry, countering, turns, etc.

Payne (1990)

Support

Single leg, double leg

Bondarchuk (1978)

Character of the acceleration of the


hammer

Cyclical action

Chen (2000)

Body position

Starting, winding, entry, turns, delivery

Connolly (1997)

Hammer position

High and low points, trajectory

Bertram (1996)

Acceleration

Thrower and hammer movement

Murofushi et al. (2007)

Table 2-1

Operational Terminology
The following terms were chosen to best simplify discussion and will be used
wherever possible. The push-off leg will be defined as the leg that is last in
contact with the throwing circle prior to the single support phase.
In addition to the performer terminology, the following terms will be used
to define various events and phases in the throw. The preparatory phase begins
with the initiation of the throwing movement and is concluded at the moment
of takeoff of the right foot. Single support will be defined as the moment at
which the push-off leg breaks contact with the surface of the throwing circle
and the athlete enters the flight phase. The period of time in which the athlete
is moving toward the front of the throwing circle and has no contact with the
throwing surface will be called the flight phase. Double support is the point at
which the throwers right foot makes contact with the throwing circle following
the flight phase.
Description of Event
The hammer throw is probably one of the most technical events in track and
field. Unless there is a thorough understanding of hammer biomechanics (see
Chapter 3), the thrower may be limited in his progression. Most technical
problems in coaching can be traced back to a poor interpretation of a simple
fundamental of technique (Paish, 1979). There are four basic acceleration
48

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