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Strength and conditioning: Hammerobics

Strength and conditioning: Hammerobics

A study claims that exercises simulating a hammer throw are essential for improvement in the event, as Peta Bee reports

Of all throwing events, sports scientists claim that the hammer is the trickiest to simulate in strength and conditioning sessions. But a study published in the Strength & Conditioning Journal recently outlines a selection of specialised exercises designed to do just that. And the researchers have dubbed the approach ‘hammerobics’.

According to the team of scientists, who are based at the National University Corporation Tokyo Medical and Dental University and the University of Georgia, it’s crucial that the hammer thrower includes strength and conditioning exercises that simulate the ‘parametric oscillation’ aspect – or the double pendulum-like swing – of the event that sets it apart from other throws. Here’s how and why it works:

Basic biomechanics

Throwing a 7.26kg implement that is 121.5cm in length for men requires the generation of rotational and translational movements in order to maximise the speed of the hammer head. When the hammer is released, the tension of the wire can increase up to 350kg and it can hit speeds of over 29.0m/sec (65mph).

In other throwing events, final release velocity is generated towards the end of the movement, but with the hammer the final release speed begins with the initial winds and builds over a series of accelerations and decelerations.

There are several factors that distinguish it from other throws including, of course, the fact that it is two armed and the hammer head is not directly in contact with the thrower’s hand.

Why hammerobics?

According to the researchers, the exercises are a novel way of increasing stability strength using the parametric oscillation specific to the motor skills of the hammer throwing technique.

“They offer a different way to train the body while avoiding the repetitive nature of classic weight training exercises (such as Olympic style lifts and the snatch and clean),” they write.

“The addition of hammerobics exercises into an athlete’s programme can add variety and may help decrease the possibility of overuse injury while also developing the athlete’s ability to move and feel resistance that changes in an asymmetric and unpredictable manner.”

There are other benefits. The researchers suggest the exercises simulate the body positions needed in the event and will develop stability and strength to support them. Performed regularly, they “translate into more efficient movements in the circle, resulting in more optimal force production” as someone throws.

HAMMEROBICS – THE RULES

1. Introduce hammerobics exercises at the beginning of the general preparation period

2. Aim to perform them 2-3 times a week with 2-3 exercises per session

3. Separate sessions by 48–72 hours to allow for full recovery

4. Allow 3-4 minutes between sets depending on the athlete’s level

5. Continue with them all year, but taper down to two hammerobics sessions a week in the pre-competition phase and with just two exercises per session

Getting started

» Start by attaching a hammer to a bar by looping the wire to each end of a bar. This provides a constantly changing stimulus as the hammer moves backwards and forwards when you lift

» For traditional moves (like the stability squat, bench press or step-up), you can push the hammer to start it ‘swinging’ before you begin the exercise

» The emphasis should always be on maintaining good technique and rhythm, not on gaining maximal swing of the hammer

Stability squat

» Attach a hammer to each end of the weights bar

» Initiate the squat by shifting your centre of gravity back and forth, between the heels and toes of both feet

» Start by squatting as the hammers are swinging in the same direction

» Begin with a partial or quarter squat until you get used to the swinging motion. Gradually progress to a squat that simulates that achieved in the actual throw

» Maintain rhythm and tempo throughout each rep of the exercise

» Don’t allow the hammers to swing past 90° relative to the vertical plane

» You can vary the squat by setting the hammers in motion to swing in similar directions or to swing back and forth on the ends of the bar in opposite directions. This is an advanced move since each leg must move in an opposing direction to keep the hammers moving in opposing directions. This simulates the part of the hammer throw when both legs work independently using a heel-toe alignment to execute the turns

Calf raises

» Set up the move in a similar way to the stability squat, using two hammers attached to a bar

Kettlebell swing

» This is another move that simulates the hammer throw. Start by attaching a kettlebell weighing 4-6kg to the end of a 121.5 cm rope or band

» Hold the ends of the rope or band above your head so that the weight dangles behind your back

» Position feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart

» Begin to rhythmically move your body from right to left so that the kettlebell swings from side to side like a pendulum.

» As the weight picks up speed, gradually reduce the amount of body movement to counter the weighted swing

» Maintain good posture throughout and decrease weights if you can’t control the movement

» Suggested repetitions for this exercise number between 10 and 20 reps in each direction

» Reference: Supplemental Exercises for Core Stability Which Utilize the Concept of Parametric Oscillation in the Hammer Throw: Murofushi, Koji PhD; Babbitt, Donald MA, CSCS; Ohta, Ken PhD; Strength & Conditioning Journal; August 2017 volume 39 (4)

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