Written by martin bingisser
A popular question I keep getting is how to apply range throwing to other sports. Range throwing was popularized by an article Olympic hammer thrower Jud Logan wrote for Hammerthrow.org. Based upon his encounter with Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk in 1989. Range throwing is simply a method of aiming to hit medium intensity throws (85%-92.5%) because these are zones that are easier for skill acquisition. This could be applied to a variety of activities that combine technique and power: kicking a football, throwing a baseball, driving a gold ball, or even weightlifting movements like the snatch.
Of all the questions I get relating to Bondarchuk, these surprise me the most since range throwing is something we’ve never actually done. In all the years of training with him we threw hard and we threw often. The only time I heard him try to rein us in was when we were injured or when our fitness was so bad that it was leading to bad habits.
Unraveling the Story of Range Throwing
Why is there such a discrepancy from the range throwing as described by Logan and range throwing as we practice it now? The most likely reason is context. In my article in October I stressed the importance of context in bridging the gap between theory and practice. While these intensities are good for learning, most of training for elite athletes is no longer just about learning. And furthermore the exact prescription needs to be individualized. Bondarchuk told me that even his best athlete, world record holder Yuri Sedykh, could only handle a small volume of high intensity thrower per training. On the other hand one of his current athletes, Kibwé Johnson, can handle many more hard throws. It may have been that Bondarchuk felt this formula would be the best for Logan based on his background and needs.
Add to this Bondarchuk’s limited English capabilities and the fact that he continues to refine and improve his methods and you can easily only get part of the story.
The Point of Range Throwing
Many people focus on the practice of range throwing, as described by Logan, and forget that it was recommended simply to improve technique. In his book Transfer of Training Volume 1, Bondarchuk notes that of maximum effort work should indeed be limited when learning technique, although even this can depend on individual characteristics.
However technique is just one goal of throwing and only one of the factors that needs to be taken into account when planning a technical session. Throwing is also a power movement and each throw develops specific strength. And technique is not a static quality: technique at 85% is also quite different than technique at 100%. Just watch a beginning lifter’s technique fall apart under the increased loads of a heavy squat. The same is true for the hammer; as the forces increase the body needs to react differently. Teaching the body to perform technique under the stress of maximal effort is therefore also an essential part of training.
The takeaway from Logan’s article shouldn’t be that everyone needs to utilize this exact programming of just 30% of technical training for maximal effort. The takeaway is that programming should be applied to technical training and the competitive movements just as it is to every other part of training. Sometimes you might need more maximal intensity work, and other times you might need less. As with other parts of training, each athlete needs to find the right mix of volume and intensity to meet their technical and physical goals.
Factors in Creating Your Own Range Throwing Program
Finding the right mix of volume and intensities simply involves putting the theory into your own context. Finding the right context requires a look at the following steps:
- Identify the needs of your sport. A baseball pitcher needs to have power, but they are not normally graded based on their fastest throw. They are measured based on their performance during a game over 80 to 100 pitches. Therefore a focus in training might need to be on maintaining technique using an intensity range that can be sustained for a longer period of time. In other words higher volume and slightly lower intensity would be the right prescription here.
- Identify the needs of the athlete. For example, is the athlete aiming for better technique, more power or both? A football placekicker with accuracy problems might utilize medium intensity kicks from a range of 30 yards to improve technique. But a kicker with a weak leg might need to put the ball further out and see if they can build strength and maintain their technique when testing their limits. Similarly, if technique is solid for short kicks but suffers on long ones, they might need more long kicks to train technique at 100%.
- Monitoring central nervous system loads. There are lots of benefits to high intensity training, but it also places a stress on the central nervous system. The stress is greater in some sports than others. This stress needs to be monitored and balanced with other elements of training to ensure the there is no overload. While I might throw a lot at a high intensity, our weightlifting exercises are performed at a more moderate intensity to balance things out.
- Continually reanalyze. Goals change and the programming should change with it. Once technique becomes stabile it is possible to move to higher intensities and try to transfer the technical improvements closer and closer to competition intensities. Even if goals do not change, programming can still be an extra element of variation for training. For example a kicker might focus on 3 sets of 10 kicks from 30 yards for one block and then move to 2 sets of 8 from 40 yards the next block.
With an individual range throwing plan you can unlock great results. Intensities, volume, sets, and reps are not something that are only used in the weight room. They can all be applied to any number of sports, but as with most elements of training, a copy and paste solution will not get the most out of it. To truly use these factors you have to put the theory into context.