When it comes to throwing, the smallest things can have a big impact on distance. Recently in my own discus training I had first hand experience with this. I discovered a small trick that adds 5m on my 50m throw using the 1.5kg disc.
Two weeks ago I had my first discus training session in over 6 months, but I hadn’t planned things this way. I would have loved to take thousands of throws in that time, but a couple of things stopped me. First was the winter weather. I live on a small island called Manitoulin and it’s in Ontario, Canada. The winters here cold and snowy from November to early April. This year we had a particularly harsh winter and as you can imagine, that certainly isn’t conducive to outdoor training.
In addition to that, I’ve been dealing with a pretty serious back injury since last fall. So the combination of winter and injury forced me to take a 6 month layoff from discus throwing.
On the surface this is a bad thing. Any experienced thrower knows that technique will always deteriorate when it’s not practiced and distances will plummet. So when I started my first session two weeks ago I wasn’t surprised that my technique felt unfamiliar and slow. What did surprise me, however, was the fact that my distances were the same as last fall when I was in top form, even though they should be at least 5m shorter based on how my technique felt. It was a pleasant surprise of course, but a puzzling mystery at the same time. “How can my distances not be shorter? My technique is much worse than it was in the fall.”
I thought about it for a while and by the end of the session I had figured things out. I was doing one thing better than I had been 6 months earlier and that was creating and maintaining chest and back stretch through the circle. After comparing some video clips I confirmed that this was in fact the difference.
It’s amazed me that such a little thing could do so much. The fact that it’s making up for everything else I’m not doing as well as 6 months ago (speed, rhythm, positions) is really surprising. Maintaining stretch has compensated for my rustiness and put my distances in the same place they were. In my mind, this confirms just how important stretch is in the discus circle.
In discus throw, stretch is first created in the back of the circle with the initial wind-up. If there’s enough stretch, you should feel some tension in your chest and back.
Now this initial stretch at the back is a pretty easy position to get into. Other than your arms and torso, your body isn’t moving much. The trick of maintaining the stretch comes into play when you start rotating through the circle. As your non-throwing arm and legs rotate, your throwing arm naturally rotates with them. But you need to fight this tendency and keep the disc back through the circle.
The stretch needs to be held until you begin your delivery from the power position. Maintaining it the entire time will do two things to help your distance. First, it’ll create a whip-lash reflex at the end of your throw. When that stretch tension is suddenly released, a huge amount of power and speed will be transmitted from the elasticity in the muscles. If there’s no stretch, you’ll be forced to try and muscle the disc out, and that won’t create nearly as much speed. The second thing that the stretch does is give more distance to speed up the disc. If you maintain the stretch, your throwing arm will naturally be much further back when you hit that power position. This will give more room for the disc to speed up with the whip-lash motion and that’s only going to make it go further.
The next time you go out for a discus session, keep these points in mind. Maintaining stretch is not hard to do and it will really help your throw. Focus on keeping the tension all the way through the circle and finishing with the fast, whip-lash motion.
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Author of “Spin To Win”