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

As used in the development of Pan Am Champion and American record-holder Dawn Ellerbe

BECAUSE OF ITS limited popularity and miniscule textual treatment, the hammer throw remains the most ignored and misunderstand event in track and field. It is an official high school event only in Rhode Island, and it enjoys only hitch-hiker status on the college level.

At meets, it is never featured. It is often staged in a separate facility at 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning. And few people show up to watch it.

The good news is that the NCAA is encouraging the support of the event and it is beginning to bear fruit. At the USATF Outdoor Nationals in 1995, the hammer was contested by both men and women, thanks to the emerging interest in the event by women.

In 1996, the NCAA Division I Championships included the 20-lb. weight and hammer throw for women. It represented a giant step for the event.

Quite obviously, our coaches are going to be called upon to teach the event to both men and women. This should have a trickle-down effect to the high school level, as there will be a need for hammer-throwing "kindergartens."

Our high school coaches will have to become knowledgeable about the event and be able to teach it to both boys and girls, preparing them for the next level.

Why throw the hammer in high school? Because it is a great way to teach athletes balance, coordination, and core control. It is also an intriguing event and a lot of fun. For motivation, there are meets like the high school indoor nationals, the high school national outdoors, the Golden West Invitational, and the USATF junior nationals.

High school kids who acquire experience in the hammer will derive an advantage in scholarship aid. College coaches will be looking for athletes who can come in and begin contributing immediately.


The hammer is based on a three-turn rotation--the style used by the intermediate high school and college levels, particularly beginners.

Point to remember: A four-turn technique has been successfully employed by advanced throwers and may be ultimately advantageous for women because of their smaller feet.

The seven essential points of technique include: grip and starting position, winds, first turn, second turn, third turn, and release.

Starting Position

(for Right-Hand Throwers)

The Grip: Grip the handle in the left (glove) hand, then place the right hand over the left and cross the thumbs, with the left thumb on top.

If it feels comfortable, you may place the thumbs side by side rather than overlap. There is no exact focal point, but you should look to your right and back (toward the rear of the circle).

The Start: Different techniques can be used. The one you choose should best suit you and put you smoothly into the best position to accelerate the hammer. Choices: static, pendulum, dynamic or step in.

Static Start: Before performing the wind, decide where to place the hammer in the ring. The beginner should place the implement about three feet behind the right foot.

1. Stand in the rear of the circle, back facing the direction of the throw.

2. Maintain a shoulder-width base to ensure comfort and balance.

3. Keep head up, shoulders level and eyes focused outside the ring to the right.

The purpose of looking to the right is to catch the hammer early in front of you to create a more balanced system to alleviate the problem of dragging the ball.

Important Points:

1. Look at or behind the ball when it is in front of you.

2. Lock down the hammer on the first wind 80 degrees to your torso.

3. Move as the system (hammer, knees, hips, hands, head) simultaneously aligns.

4. Keep an erect torso with a slight bend in the legs.

5. Extend relaxed arms to extend the radius.

Pendulum Start:

The intermediate to advanced thrower may perform a preliminary movement with the hammer to create momentum for the winds. This pendulum movement can vary according to the athlete's preference.

Suggested preliminary movement:

1. Set the hammer next to the left leg and swing it off the left hip as you begin to wind.

2. Turn the upper body to the right and focus your eyes to the right, so that the shoulder axis is parallel to the throwing direction.

3. Straighten the left arm fully, assume the proper grip, then place the right hand over the left and cross the thumbs with the left thumb on top, and look right and forward (toward the rear of the circle).

The Winds

Two winds, or complete revolutions of the hammer head, are usually made before the turns. They must be performed with the same rhythm as employed in all the turns.

Since the position of the low point in this technique is critical, the winds play a key role in the throw. One of the important concepts to keep in mind during the winds is opposition- the opposition between body weight and hammer is what generates force in the winds.

As the hammer is gradually accelerated through these two revolutions, the body's center of mass is shifted in the opposite direction from the hammer in order to maintain balance between body and hammer (the opposition that generates force in the winds).

More explicitly, as the hammer moves to the left the body weight is on the right, and when the hammer is on the right, the body weight is on the left. On the winds, the low point should be slightly left of center or at zero.

During the second wind, the body movements are more exaggerated than during the first because of the increase in the hammer's velocity and, thus, increase in the centripetal and centrifugal forces. You must keep the right foot straight. Never allow it to open. Have the hip axis remain square across the front, while the shoulder axis turns right to pick up the hammer at its apex.

Throughout the winds, increase the angle of the hammer's upward path slightly, so that the low point of the wind or swing is to your left as you face the back of the circle.

The second wind should be faster than the first as it sets the rhythm for the turn. Because of the implement's mass, you may have trouble starting the throw. The wind will cause problems if you are off-balance.

The left shoulder is the axis of the winds. Although your body weight is moving opposite the hammer, it is important to keep the winds moving around the left shoulder because the shoulder needs to be kept low on the entrance.

An off-balance start will take energy away from the turns and lead to a weak finish. A poor start can lead to problems in the first turn.

Key Aspects to the Wind:

1. The body weight should always be opposite the ball.

2. The left shoulder should be the axis of the winds.

3. The left shoulder should be low going into the entrance.

The Transition Phase

The transition into the initial turn, wherein the body becomes a rotating axis for the hammer, begins as the hammer descends after the second wind. The transition or entry to the first turn is one of the most difficult elements of the throw. An incorrect execution reduces the effectiveness of the turns and throws off the whole throwing rhythm.

Probably the most crucial part of the throw is the entry to the first turn. If the start of a throw is good, the throw will usually be good. If the start is bad, the throw will always be bad.

The entry of the throw begins at the end of the second wind. At this point the hammer should be on the right side and the body weight on the left with the left shoulder slightly lower than the right. During the last wind, after the hammer has passed through the high point, you must lower the center of gravity. As soon as the hammer reaches its low point (at the completion of the second wind) you must pivot on the heel of the left foot and ball of the right foot.

During the transition to the turns, the body mass must be kept in a central position so that the right leg does not move in an "unloaded way."

During the turns, both you and the hammer must rotate around an axis that passes through the common center of mass. At this point, you must simultaneously drive the hammer down on the left side by keeping the left shoulder low, and then shift the weight from the left leg to the right. This will put the low point over the left foot at the start of the throw.

Coaching point: While driving the ball down on the left by keeping the shoulder low, try to keep as far away from the ball as possible. This will increase your tangential acceleration. That is, keep your head aligned with your spine, which is also known as "countering."

Although the weight is now on the right leg, you will ultimately want to have your left knee and left hip joint maintain a constant angle during the second half of the double support phase. This is called "locking the left side."

The common mistake is pushing all your weight onto the left leg on the entrance. This creates two problems:

First, with the weight on the left leg, the right leg becomes passive, reducing the effectiveness of the double support phase. This causes the thrower to pick the right foot up early, decreasing the duration force applied to the hammer.

The second problem is that when the weight is on the left leg, it becomes difficult to keep the left shoulder low, thus reducing your ability to actively act upon the implement.

During the first turn, you must keep your trunk erect with the left knee locked. You must try to utilize the inertial forces of the hammer in the single support phase by riding the ball and being passive with the hammer in the desired power position.

You should, ideally, maximize the amount of time that you can apply force to the hammer by keeping your weight on the right leg as long as possible while still keeping the left side locked. If you can do this, you will achieve a smooth and balanced entrance.

Key aspects of the transition phase or entry:

1. At the end of the second wind, drive the hammer down on the left side by keeping the left shoulder low, while simultaneously shifting your weight from the left leg to the right leg.

2. When executing the entry, try to keep your head as far away form the ball as possible (countering).

3. Try to keep your weight on the right leg as long as possible, while keeping the left side locked.

Important points during the entry following the winds: A definite increase in tempo occurs as you start the first turn and increases with each subsequent turn. At the end of the second wind, the weight should be on the right foot until the ball reaches approximately 90 degrees.

As you move the hammer head forcefully to the left, the weight will shift to the ball of the left foot as the right leg is lifted.

Next Month: The Turns
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Article Details
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Author:Judge, Larry
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2000
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