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A Technique Analysis of the Hammer Throw for Men & Women.

IN MY INTRODUCTORY article last month, I covered the first three points in the basic three-turn rotation of the hammer throw, including the grip, starting position1 and the winds.

I would like to conclude with the three turns and the release.

The Turns

The number of turns must be fixed for each thrower according to the degree of the athlete's ability and level of speed and strength. This will usually come to two turns for the beginner and three or four for the intermediate or advanced thrower.

The turns consist of single-support and double-support phases. During the single-support phase you will be on one leg in no position to accelerate the ball. In the double-support phase, you will be able to actively act upon the implement.

During the first turn, you must keep the trunk erect and lock the left leg. You must try to utilize inertial forces of the hammer in the single by riding the ball and being passive with the ascending hammer, while avoiding activity with the pelvis and legs.

After running through the high point of the hammer, you must complete the turn on the ball of the left foot by actively driving back to double support as soon as possible.

Upon entering the single-support phase of a turn, you must keep the left side locked to prevent yourself from turning around the axis of rotation. If you fail to keep the left side locked, you will get pulled out of your axis of rotation when the hammer reaches its highest point. This is called "getting heavy right."

During the single-support phase, you should be doing two things: continuing to actively turn the left foot and collapsing the left leg. Both of these actions shorten the duration of the single-support phase, making you unable to accelerate the hammer.

The less time you spend in the single-support phase, the more time you can spend accelerating the ball in the double-support phase.

During the turns, you must accelerate the ball by tangential acceleration and angular acceleration.

The angular acceleration is achieved by the pushing force generated by the right leg and driving the ball down through the low point by keeping the shoulder low.

The tangential acceleration is achieved by countering against the hammer's centripetal force.

After each turn, you must try to catch the hammer in a position that will allow you to exert maximum force on the hammer. This is called the "catch" position. To get into it, you have to do two things during the single-support phase.

First, continue to actively turn your left foot, even though the right foot is now in the air. The action is similar to stamping out a cigarette.

Second, collapse the left foot prior to the placement of the right foot. The right foot's contact with the ground is referred to as "the catch" or "power" position.

Keep most of your body weight on the left leg and be countering the ball so that your spine is away from the axis of rotation.

Lastly, and probably most important, is to keep your left shoulder lower than the right. This will allow you to drive the hammer through the low point, increasing your angular acceleration.

A key point about the catch position: The ball should be at its highest point when you position the right foot. Remember, the hammer is accelerated by the force you generate as well as the gravity pulling the hammer down.

To accelerate the hammer, you must simultaneously drive it down through the low point by keeping the shoulder low and actively pushing with the right leg. While doing this, you should be driving the hammer down through the low point and begin shifting the weight from the left leg to the right leg.

As mentioned earlier, by keeping the weight on the right leg, you can apply force to the hammer for a longer period of time.

Review of Turn

Catch Position: Place most of your body weight on the left leg.

Counter the ball so that your spine is away from the axis of rotation.

Keep the left shoulder lower than the right.

Double-support Phase: Drive the ball through the low point by keeping the shoulder low.

Single-support Phase: Continue to actively turn the left foot.

Collapse left leg prior to placement of right foot.

First Turn: The implement should be moving fast as at the conclusion of second wind.

At this point, start to bend knees in preparation for entering first turn.

As hammer comes into wind, shoulders should be level with trapezius and latissimus muscles locked down.

Start turning on left leg when the ball arrives at zero or at the right front.

To maintain the system, start the right leg and simultaneously turn on left toe and right heel.

On the first turn, stay on heel of left foot and perform a turn that does not take up the area of a full turn.

Keep body weight over right foot and work left leg against the centrifugal force of hammer.

Keep lower back straight, slide shoulders, and extend arms.

At this point, shift much of your body weight to left leg in order to help keep your balance at conclusion of the toe turn. Keys to the first turn: Keep feet, knees, hips, torso, arms, and head all moving together in sync with the whole hammer system.

Make sure the start is controlled and balanced. The first turn should allow you to accelerate the hammer in a more gradual and fluid motion.

Upon entering the first turn: Keep everything in line with a flat moderately flat orbit.

Then pump the right knee up over the left leg by lifting it at approximately 80 degrees.

One of the common faults to look for when the right leg sweeps around the left is dragging the ball, breaking the system, and catching the hammer with the wide base. If the first turn is properly executed, you should catch the ball at 225 degrees with the ball lined up with the head and the torso erect and legs bent on the ball of the right foot.

Upon catching the hammer, you must follow with a violent counter action that will accelerate the ball to zero by countering against the hard heel.

The Work Phase

There are four forces that act upon the hammer and must be maximized in the acceleration or work phase: (1) gravity, (2) torsional "pushing" of the hip/shoulder separating, causing tangential acceleration, (3) linear "dragging" (along the wire), causing tangential acceleration of the hammer toward the hands, and (4) centripetal force along the wire, causing tangential acceleration of the hammer.

As the thrower, you must be in the proper position in the catch phase to maximize these forces.

Upon grounding the right foot at the completion of each turn you will be in position to greatly accelerate the hammer. The feet must land slightly ahead of the hammer on its downward path, creating an ideal situation for increasing the hammer's velocity.

You should ideally, try to drop the left knee and set the right foot in at about 225 degrees. If the upper body is facing 270 degrees, you will be able to get slightly in front of the ball to work it.

The quick right foot contact should use the rotating right foot, hips, and torso as the mechanism to push the ball out and around the front of the body to zero. As the two contact the ground, the right foot should be rotating and the upper body countering back toward the throw.

At this juncture, you should be attempting to lengthen the distance between the back of your head and the bottom of the implement. As the ball passes zero, allow it to get slightly ahead of you and take you into the single-support phase, which started at approximately 90 degrees.

This is termed as "using the ball."

The acceleration phase can only be done when you have both feet on the ground. It's therefore advantageous to ground the right foot quickly. The double-support in the work phase has to be as prolonged as possible to give you more time to accelerate the hammer. This is accomplished with a passive upper body.

The work phase will continue to about 90 degrees, but the ball will only accelerate to zero degrees. The body weight stays on the right side foot until 90 degrees and then the foot is lifted. By continuing to work the ball from zero to 90 degrees, you can keep the ball from slowing down.

The Second Turn

The implement will be moving very fast at the conclusion of the first turn. At this point...

You must start to bend the knees in preparation to enter the second turn and...

As the hammer comes off the toe turn, your shoulders should be level and your trapezius and latissimus muscles locked down. At the same time your right leg starts turning, you must turn on the left heel and ball of the right foot.

The body weight should be over the right foot, with the left leg driving against the centrifugal force of the hammer.

The lower back should be straight and the shoulders relaxed. At this point, you must shift much of your weight to the left leg in order to help you keep your balance at the conclusion of the turn.

Quick summary: You have turned the left foot to about 160 degrees in the first phase of the turn, continued on the other side of the foot, and completed the rest of the full 360 degree turn on the ball of the foot.

Try to keep the right knee as close as possible by pumping the knee over the left leg, and try to move the right hip and leg so fast that they will move ahead of the shoulders, arms, and weight when the right foot hits the ground.

After the right leg has left the ground...

As the right foot leaves the ground, pump the right knee to help ground the right foot faster.

Get the mid-part or ball part of the right foot down as close to 225 degrees as possible at the completion of the second turn, keeping the head up and shoulders level.

On the second turn, you must firm up and work the hammer down and around, from 225 degrees to slightly past 0 degrees. You must make sure to learn how to work the down strokes. This is crucial because the double-support phase is the only rime you will have to apply force to the hammer and accelerate the ball faster with each throw.

(Beginning to immediate thrower) keep the first work phase under control and do not try to create too much orbit.

Do not raise the shoulders or arms to create orbit.

Concentrate on working the hammer during the double-support phase.

Working the up strokes during the single-support phase will create problems.

As you advance in techniques, you can expand the work phase past zero.

Elite throwers will work the hammer to 70 degrees.

The Third Turn

The final turn should follow the same path as the second in order to increase speed of the hammer. The lower body (hips and legs) must move faster and faster by pushing away from the hammer with a hard left heel, grinding the right foot against the ground.

The orbit of the hammer should be at its highest point (42 degrees).

The Release

If the three turns have been executed correctly, they will have increased the speed and orbit of the implement on a smooth path of acceleration from turn to turn. The final acceleration comes from the extension of the knees, hips, back and shoulders.

A good release can spell the difference between a good throw in a great throw. Many athletes will destroy a technically perfect throw with a poor release.

The release accounts for 30% of the throw. So work at it!

One of the best ways to look at a release is as an entrance to another turn. Many beginners think the release is something totally different from the rest of the throw and so deserves a special effort of some sort. This line of thinking usually leads to a poor throw. You can increase your chances of a good release by continuing to accelerate the ball the same way you did in the previous turns.

One of the most important technical aspects of the release is keeping the left shoulder low throughout. By allowing the left shoulder to rise, you will reduce tension between yourself and the hammer, causing a loss of force.

It is important to learn how to keep the left shoulder down during the entire release. Many throwers have difficulty believing that the hammer will have a high trajectory anytime they drive the ball down on the release.

The hammer should achieve maximum force at the release. You have to be strong enough to counterbalance this force, as the loss of tension will result in shorter throws.

A look at the top throwers will reveal that their heads are as far as possible from the hammer and that this increases tangential acceleration.

The final part of the release is the lift with the legs. You will recall that in the turns leading up to the release, you tried to keep your left side locked--keeping the angle of the hip and knee joint constant. On the release, however, you have to use the legs as leverage to send the hammer on its trajectory path.

In the beginning of the last turn, you must concentrate on this final effort.

Keep the left shoulder low throughout the release.

Counter the hammer's force by keeping the head as far as possible from the hammer.

Lift with the legs.

Just as the right foot hits the ground, start a final explosive counter and ball.

Propel the hammer up and over the left shoulder with the arms straight.

The close-grip snatch is the best specific-release lift for the power development. The ultimate angle release is 44 degrees. At that angle, an 80-meter throw has a ball speed of 60mph.


A coach must set a technical model for each athlete--the one that will work best for the athletes. This model must be specific to the physical attributes of the athlete. The coach must also choose which technique works best for the athlete with whom he's working.

In teaching technique to beginners, the coach must pay special attention to the development of the right reflexes. The techniques can be mastered only through coordinated and synchronized muscle contractions that produce maximum effort.

During the initial stage, the athlete should avoid being distance conscious. He should concentrate on the development of the proper movements that go into the establishment of the proper technique.

The men and women's hammer events are wide open events these days and the opportunities for talented young throwers are endless.
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Article Details
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Author:Judge, Larry
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2000
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