Throwing Secrets from Germany

With just a few days left of my training camp in Germany I can already say this was one of the best training blocks of my career. My body feels healthy, I learned a lot, and I am very confident about my upcoming 2014 season. 

But what did I do for five weeks? What did I learn? What have the Germans been doing that has made them so successful at the Olympic Games and World Championships the last few years?

For starters there is an all-star cast here helping me every day; 2013 women’s javelin world champion Christina Obergfoll (70.20m PB – #4 all-time), Boris Henry (90.44m PB – #12 all-time), and Werner Daniels, who has been coaching Christina for years!

Become a better athlete

First things first… Throwing the javelin is one of the more athletic and dynamic events in all of track and field, just behind the pole vault and the decathlon. So becoming a better athlete is something we continually worked on. I am very heavy on my feet and Werner says that this is slow and costing me meters in the javelin. Werner Daniels was originally a sprints and jumps coach for Christina so he is always telling me to have lighter feet and to be elastic.

When we sprint we always try to be as light on the ground as possible. He would turn away from me and listen to my sprints rather than watch them. If I was loud on the ground he knew I was not running fast.

We also worked on our explosiveness in the jumps. He wanted me to be “elastic” or quick and light on the ground similar to the sprints. Keep a slight bend in the knee, explode up with the arms, while jumping with the ankles and calves , and anticipate the ground contact, so that you can be springing up again as soon as you touch. He is always building the foot strength in me so that I could handle the right leg support in the throw.

Get healthier

Comes as no surprise that I have had my fair share of injuries, and you either rehab them after you are injured or you prevent them from happening altogether. Rehab is post prevention so that they don’t happen again, and at home we call it prehab so that it never happens in the first place, but they are both basically the same drills.

We do a lot of stability jumps: Do one single leg bound hold, stick the landing in a stable low position, if the knee wobbles at all start over, if you are stable bound to the next leg and repeat. These are slow and controlled jumps that develop stability in the knee, flexibly, and strength. I think this drill alone has been helping my knees more than anything.

Other major risks in the javelin are shoulder and elbow injuries, so we do a lot of ring stabilization to develop strength and flexibility. The Olympic rings are hung low to the ground and we work in a wide range of motion which also builds our abdominals as well as range of motion in the shoulders.

The biggest focus they have in Germany must be the abdominals. A strong core is an athletic body and the core controls the entire throw; this is why the core is so important. Build up your back and core muscles it is like your own personal back brace for lifting and throwing. This will also prevent back injuries.

Throw farther from the line than you did before

More importantly than anything else we are always working on throwing farther! Never try and throw like Jan Zelezny, or Andreas Thorkildsen; these guys are built way differently than everyone else. Your goal should always be to work within your natural throwing style and make it a few centimeters better here and there. And that’s exactly what we did!

Major benefits of throwing in Germany is the indoor KTG (German for Strength Training Device). I am sure at your local gym you see old men working out on the machines rather than the free weights. This is because the controlled range of motion is by far safer. Same goes with the KTG; because of the specific, controlled range of motion, it limits the risk of injury while still developing strength. Where in contrast; throwing the javelin is like your Olympic lifts, which are dynamic and explosive, but if done improperly can cause injury. Because the KTG is easier on the body we are able to throw with it more often; 2-3 times a week, about 5 sets of 10, ranging in anywhere from 0-10 kilos on the sled. The goal is to develop arm strength in the winter seasons. This develops a slower but stronger arm; as you get closer to season you throw lighter implements and develop a faster arm.

Biggest benefit by far, for technical throwing is that we throw indoors. At the foul line is at a large garage door that we open up and throw onto a 95m grass field. This means I stay warm and dry inside even though its 40 degrees and raining outside. When I am in Oregon we are considerably bundled up and have to brave all the elements, and while I don’t mind it, I know that I get a much better technical session when I throw indoors within a controlled atmosphere.

What was I working on technically? STAYING CLOSED! This means the left shoulder is turned in and visible when the left blog leg touches the ground. This also means that my hips are closed while running to maximize pull length. Add to that that we worked on runway speed, leading with the hip in impulse, and turning our right hand (palm up), which puts the shoulder in a more flexible position to throw over the top.

Best Part

The best part about Germany was that I heard the same stuff my coach has been telling me for years; just in a slightly different way. No one has any “secrets” to throwing the javelin farther. Everyone is trying to get to the same end goal (high release velocity); they just get there in slightly different ways. So more than anything, training in Germany built up my confidence that I have been working on the right things all along, and that I am on the right path to throwing far this year.

9 months ago