April, 2003


Letter From The Editor
Random Thoughts

NCAA Report
Lady Gators push their weight around

USATF Report
Toth emerges, Mahon survives

IAAF Report
Gliders prevail

The Road Athens
Titan Games offer a new platform

Confessions of a Chalkaholic
Candid discussion with John Davis

Mac Wilkins examines mental preparation

Measuring Speed
Louie Simmons returns

The Glen Mills Way
Secrets from the prep glide factory

Aretha Hill’s faith keeps her on the road toward Olympic glory

Connell Hammer Festival
Nurturing ball-and-chainers

Quality Time
A reader’s remembrance

Jim Pauli
Chatting with the Highland patriarch

The Swings
Examining the entry in the hammer

Coaches Corner
Tips from the Cybercoaches

Setting The Mark
The Nevada Throwers Club is making a difference

Formula For The Rotation Shot Put
A mathematical evaluation of spin efficiency

The Glide-
The Glen Mills Way

By Barry Swanson, Scott Wethey- Glen Mills Schools

This explanation of teaching the glide style technique and Lift”. The opposing technique is “Short to Long” or “Lift and Rotate”. This instructional piece will include the grip and placement, power position, the reverse and the glide. Drills will be included as we go.

Grip And Placement
The first topic that will be discussed is grip and placement of the shot on the neck. Often this is the biggest mistake young and beginning shot putters make. Without proper grip and placement, the shot cannot be released properly. The shot put rests on the pad of the top of the palm, just prior to the beginning of the fingers. The thumb rests under the shot while the little finger is either placed behind the shot or on the top of the shot for control. The thumb is for control and prevents the shot from falling from the hand. The coaching cue here is the shot is not in the palm or on the fingertips; it rests between the two. The placement on the neck is crucial. The length of the individual’s forearm determines where in the neck the shot will be placed. The longer the forearm the closer to the chin the shot will be placed. The key to placement is the palm faces directly into the neck with the elbow up. The neck and forearm will form a 90 degree angle now. If the palm is turned up the elbow will drop. Often times an athlete’s wrist and finger flexibility needs to be improved for proper placement.

Power Position
The power position is taught next and is often taught before grip and placement. Everything that happens in the glide still comes from the power-position. If you don’t hit the proper power position following the glide, the length of the throw is going to be less. We like using the track when talking about the power position because it has lines. For this article, we will assume a right-handed thrower. The right foot is placed perpendicular to a lane line with the line running through the middle of the foot. The left foot is placed with toes up to the line. The width of the stance depends on each individual athlete, but is definitely wider than shoulder width, and with some athletes, much wider. The left toes are in line with the middle of the right foot. We will allow the left toes to go as far as the right heel (heel-toe power position).

To put the upper body in position, the shoulders turn back perpendicular to the line (parallel to the right foot). The chin is in line with the right knee. If the shot put were dropped it would hit about one foot behind the right foot. Very often athletes will stand up too high. The back is flat, not rounded, and the left arm is relaxed and pointing down with the palm rotated so it faces out. This will point the left elbow up. The eyes can be focused down or on a point in the opposite direction of the throw. How low or how bent over the athlete is in this position depends on each individual. From this power position we do two drills to help the thrower.

Remember everything starts from the bottom. The right heel kicks first. The first drill is called “Heel Kick”. In this drill the right heel turns to the left. The athlete attempts to turn the right foot in the direction of the throw popping the right hip forward. The eyes, shoulders and left arm attempt to keep pointing back. As flexibility increases, this drill will become easier.



 Glen Mills swept the shot hardware at the 1996 Pennsylvania state championships.

The next drill is referred to as “Turn”. The same thing happens with the right foot and hip, but now the left arm rapidly follows the heel kick. The left palm, with the thumb pointing down, swings up and forward. When this motion is completed, the right hip has popped and there is a straight line (42") coming through the left arm, chest, and then the right elbow. The eyes are still looking back. Throws can be performed from this position. This will teach the athlete proper release. From this position the left arm bends and locks at the side, attempting to make the left side movement stop. This is called blocking. During the block, the right arm extends, pushing the shot put at an attempted 42 degree angle. Once the left arm has blocked, the right locks out pushing the shot. The right thumb is facing down. The right elbow is behind the shot put. The right hand finishes by flicking to the right. The chin is up with forehead back and eyes on the shot.

For the lower body, once the right foot and hip has popped, the left leg locks (blocks) and the right leg drives upward explosively. Following the release, and not until, does the athlete go into the reverse. We do not teach the reverse until the athlete begins to foul from momentum. Teaching the reverse early causes the athlete to prematurely reverse and lose all power from the right side. You should stress holding the “blocked” position as long as possible. All forces rise up over the left leg. Once this happens the reverse can begin. As the athlete holds the left side, the right side explodes and extends. This motion naturally brings the right foot forward. The right foot turns to the left and turns parallel up against the toe board, even hitting it to stop momentum. The left leg is lifted up and pointed back to the opposite direction of the throw. The right arm and shoulder are rotated back into the circle. The head is turned to left and eyes are focused back in the opposite direction of the throw. The center of gravity is lowered and the athlete, if necessary, hops on the right foot in a circular motion to the left, staying up on the ball of the foot. The head must be brought back into the circle as quick as possible. Often the reverse is not taught until the glide is added to the throw because the glide brings the added momentum. The reverse is a motion that can be practiced mimicking the movement.

The next step is the “Glide”. The lift from the power position exerts vertical forces on the shot while the glide itself adds the horizontal forces. We like to teach the glide on the track because there are lines. The athlete places their right foot on the line 180 degrees from the direction of the throw. The foot can be pointed straight back or be slightly turned in. The position of the torso and upper body is a bit different for each individual. Some coaches like the torso very low, while others like it high and have the athlete drop into the glide (dynamic). Others want the back at 45 degrees. The bottom line is the chin is outside of the right foot, but in line with the knee. The left arm is pointed down and relaxed with the thumb down and the palm rotated out to the left (same as in the power position). The eyes are focused on a point either down or in back of the circle. The eyes will attempt to stay focused on this point throughout the glide. The right leg is bent not more than 45 degrees. The weight is over the ball of the right foot. The left foot is back from the right foot on the ball of the foot, slightly to the left of the right foot. From here we move to what some refer to as the “T” position. The left foot is lifted off the ground to initiate this movement. Some coaches like the athlete to lift the left leg high, where the left leg and back are the top of the “T”, and the right leg is the middle.

We don’t coach this way. We like the left leg slightly lifted and under control. The left foot is then brought back to the left side of the right foot. The left foot is cocked with the toes pointing up. Now the “glide” begins. Prior to the left leg kicking and reaching for the toe board the hips are allowed to fall. This means the hips will begin to drop towards the ground. This is very important because it makes the left foot quickly reach for the ground because the mind tells the body it is falling. Once the hips have fallen a couple inches, the left leg violently kicks, reaching the left foot for the toe board. The left foot kicks down and back, not up. We do not want a late left foot. The right leg begins to push off the ball of the right foot as it straightens. The right foot will actually go onto the heel. The left leg and right leg will now form an upside down “V”. This is important - if the “V” is not created the right leg will leave the back too early causing the left foot to be late. The right foot leaving the back too early is called premature unseating. Once the left foot is almost down, the right foot is on the heel and is then sucked under to the heel-toe position. The shoulders, head, and left arm stay closed pointing back. The athlete attempts to land in a perfect power position.

One drill we do to teach the glide is the push drill. This drill teaches proper right leg action. The athlete gets into the power position, then takes the right foot and places it as far back as possible to where it would be for the glide. The right foot is on the line and left foot has its toes to the line. The upper body is pointed back just like the beginning of the glide. The athlete is instructed, toes up (right foot) and suck it under. Just as this is said, it is done: your right toes are lifted off the ground and then the right foot is sucked under to the heel toe position. Then the drill is done without saying toes up and we go right to push. This is a great drill.

As far as glide drills, we keep it simple. We do repeat glides on the line. Instructions are “up, in, glide”. Make sure the hips fall: hesitate between “in” and “glide”. We do a lot of push drills before the glide drills. Once the athlete is able to hit the power position in a consistent manner, we do glide kicks and glide turns. Hit the power position and kick. Hit the power position and turn. Momentum will want to push the athlete’s upper body forward. Keep it back. This drill will help train the athlete to keep the upper body back so that separation can be created and torque developed. Do glides with a pole on your back. This will show you if you open up. Do heel kicks with a pole on your back. Do your drills with a rubber cable in your left hand: heel kicks, glides and glide kicks.

Medicine Balls For Explosive Power
At GMS, success in the throwing events, especially the shot put, is expected each year. A combination of many training factors has established GMS’s success and tradition. The medicine ball work we do for torso explosive power is done daily at each practice. The daily torso exercisers will be talked about later in this article. Right now we will focus on what is done twice a week for overall explosive power. We at GMS call these explosions and they are most often done with medicine balls or shot puts. We do three types of explosions: backwards, forward and straight up. The kids enjoy throwing for distance and height. The backward explosion has been seen by most of you. This is when the shot putter gets on the toe board and throws the shot backwards and up utilizing legs and the lower back for power. We utilize medicine balls to perform these because we can utilize different weights. They can be done inside and nothing needs to be cleaned off. We utilize medicine balls ranging in weight from 3 kilograms to 8 kilograms. Coaching cues here are flat back, squat deep, chin up and explode all the way up to the toes.

Forward explosions are very similar except now the ball is thrown forward. Of course, now the back is still kept flat but leans much further forward. This exercise actually is much more specific for football players, but it does help our throwers. Coaching cues are very similar.

The next throw done is straight up. Flat back, squat deep, all the way to the toes and straight up with the ball. Catch the ball on one bounce and perform again. We perform these three exercises twice a week with two days in between sessions. Ten repetitions of each are performed for a total of thirty throws. One day is a heavy day and one is a speed day, but remember, these workouts are periodized, just like lifting workouts.

We utilize varying core strength exercises daily at practice. We have two glute-ham machines and utilize these for roman chair sit-ups. We do Roman chair sit-ups straight and twisting with and without medicine balls. Roman chair sit-ups allow us to tie together our upper and lower body in a way that creates power. We do leg pushes and spread leg sit-ups for the hip flexor. We also do a variety of twisting exercises utilizing medicine balls as the impetus. All of this core work allows us to bring together the upper and lower body so separation and torque can be enhanced when actually throwing the different implements. Remember, without a strong core, upper and lower body strength means nothing.

Use of medicine balls in developing arm speed and strength for the shot put plays a crucial role in the development of shot putters at GMS. Knowing that shot put technique is crucial and often hard to improve, improvement in arm speed and strength alone will bring about a distance increase. The majority of shot put coaches look to improve arm speed and strength using resistance training and different weighted shot puts. In addition, at GMS, medicine balls have always played a part in arm speed and strength. In the past 15 years there have been 20 throwers over 56'. Without the use of medicine balls, I believe this number would be much lower. The three main exercises (medicine ball) utilized are overheads, chest pushes, and shot pushes. Each of these exercises has variations and is performed kneeling, standing, or lying down. The medicine ball exercises performed are actually upper body plyometrics. We perform our medicine ball exercises always promoting a stretch reflex. Upper body plyometric exercises are just as important as lower body plyometrics exercises for throwers.

The first exercise we refer to as the overhead throw. Javelin throwers do this exercise often, but we stress the bending of the elbows, thumbs down, and flicking out. This exercise is done (both arms) either kneeling or standing, with a partner or against a wall. This exercise mainly mimics the last part of the shot put release, but also adds to shoulder and triceps strength.

The second exercise performed is the chest push. This exercise has many variations including standing, kneeling, lying on your back and on an incline bench. This exercise is performed with both arms, elbows out, fingers facing each other with thumbs down. The medicine ball is pushed with both arms extending at the appropriate angle with head and chest up attempting to create some separation between hip and shoulder. This exercise can be performed through full range of motion or less working specific speed. The flick must be stressed with elbows out and thumbs down. A helper can throw the ball or the wall is used as the rebounder. We combine this exercise with specific plyometric pushups.

The third and most important exercises we perform are shot pushes. This involves pushing a medicine ball against a wall using technique identical to throwing a shot put. Shot pushes are performed on one knee or standing. The ball is then retrieved by a helper and given back to the coach. The coach then throws the medicine ball into the athletes throwing hand. This creates the plyometric effect.

When first performing this exercise, the athlete just holds the ball in place and performs the exercise. This helps the learning process. More experienced athletes are able to perform this exercise catching the medicine ball with one hand while others must catch the ball with both hands. Stressed during this exercise are thumb down/elbow behind ball, chest and head up and proper blocking with the non-throwing arm. This exercise not only helps develop arm speed and strength, but also teaches proper release of the shot. Remember, the medicine ball is bigger than the shot put so it cannot be placed in the neck, but is placed as close to the neck as possible without dropping the elbow. Remember, thumb down.

We do upper body medicine balls twice a week with two days rest in between, but often do shot pushes more than twice. We usually do 3 sets of 10 reps each exercise, but remember these exercises should be periodized just like a lifting program. We like to have one heavy day for strength and one light day for speed. At the beginning of the season we will do more heavy balls and at the end, we do a lot of light balls for speed. Coaches often like to get so many throws in per workout. On bad days your shot pushes count. We utilize medicine balls weighing in range of 3 kilograms to 8 kilograms.

Lower Body Plyometrics For Throwers
At GMS, the throwers participate in a two-day a week lower body plyometric program. At the beginning of the season the plyometrics are more general and less intense and as the season progresses, they become more specific and intense. The number of touches per session is usually around 100-120, but less when it comes time to peak. Plyometrics are preformed on Mondays and Thursdays. A thorough warm-up is done before each session to eliminate chance of injury. Each session begins with a set of bunny hops (10) and frog jumps (10) to further prepare the legs for intense activity. The majority of plyometrics done with shot putters and discus throwers are vertical while with the javelin throwers are much more horizontal and incorporate single leg plyometrics.

Following the warm-up we go right to repeat single boxes utilizing the 6", 12" and 18" boxes. Technique is worked on; don’t lean forward, but look down with the eyes. Arms block like the double arm block in the triple jump, only the balls of the feet should be touching on contact. Quickness off the floor is stressed with as little sound as possible. The first workout would consist of four boxes of ten reps each. This would encompass 80 touches. 2x10 bunny hops, 2x10 frog jumps, 4x10 repeat boxes. The boxes would consist of 1x10 - 6", 1x10 - 12", and 2x10 - 18". The next few workouts (3-4) will progress to 6x10 repeat boxes leaving the warm-up the same and moving up to at least the 24" box. Advancement in height depends on each individual athlete and their ability. The 6" and 12" boxes are thrown out of the picture quickly. Within six workouts we begin to do multiple boxes. The plyometric warm-up would be 1x10 bunny hops, and 1x10 frog jumps.

Remember, a thorough warm-up is done prior to any plyometrics. Adequate rest is always allowed between sets as we are training explosiveness, not endurance. After the bunny hops and frog jumps, we do 2-4 sets of repeat boxes starting out low and going a little higher, within reason, each set. Now we are really warmed up and ready to do the multiple boxes in a line moving from low to high. The first workout will have the first box be 18", moving up to 32" as the last box for 4-6 boxes will be utilized. Coaching cues are: step off each box (don’t jump), straighten the legs all the way up on top of each box, get off the ground quickly, don’t lean forward and double arm block with the arms. Lets say we want a total of 60 touches and we are using 5 boxes, 6 times for two sets. In other words, 5 x 6 x 2 = 60 touches.

Remember each workout is between 100-120 touches and the bunny hops and frog jumps no longer count. As the athlete improves, the height of the boxes increases. Improvement is seen within a couple of workouts. You are looking for how quick the athlete gets off the ground, how much the legs are bent prior to each jump and how high is the athlete able to jump. Many of you don’t have plyometrics boxes, but you do have stairs wherever there is a stadium or inside hallway stairs.

An entire plyometric workout can be created using double and single leg stair hops. Once you exhaust the stairs move to hurdle hops. Workout benches can be used which are much lower for a lower level hurdle hop. There are also plenty of in-place vertical and horizontal jumps that can be preformed on the track, gym floor or parking lot.

The method we use at GMS to teach the glide has been designed for the athlete that has never touched a shot. This method has produced many quality shot putters in a short period of time. One example is a thrower who produced a 60’7” toss after only five months of training with no prior shot experience.

The training methods presented in this article are a very condensed version of the Glen Mills Schools program. Hopefully this information will be helpful to you…THROW FAR! *LSTJ*