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Throws Training: The Overhead Squat…or the Snatch Squat
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The following is an excerpt from Dan John Lent's  "A "Contrarian" approach to the discus throw", 2002.

 


 

 

You want a strong lower back, great flexibility, balance work, strong legs and the core muscles strong? You want something that will develop the ability of your throwers to hold the Stretch position? You want something that will transform your athletes in all sports?
The Overhead Squat. Do them. Grab a bar, lock the arms out with a wide grip overhead and sit “between the legs.” Repeat. Repeat again. Again.

The Long Course

After five decades of coaching at Utah State, Coach Ralph Maughan was retiring. His family organized a very fitting tribute: a surprise track meet. Utah State had developed champions in the hurdles, 800 meters, pole vault, shot put, and hammer but the program was noted, worldwide, for discus throwing. At this tribute meet, alumni from all over the United States and Canada returned. The discus throw had former world record holders, national collegiate champs, Olympians from two nations, and hosts of league champs. Every alumnus had reached at least 180 feet/55 meters in the discus and the roll call neared two dozen.

Standing around between throws, we had all decided to do shot, disc and hammer no matter what the age on the driver’s license said, I had a chance to talk with half of century of throwing excellence. One of the “young” guys, Chris Hatch, a 200 foot hammer thrower and 60 foot shot putter but still in his twenties, and I discussed lifting. “I would only do one exercise, if I could do it all over again,” Chris told me. “Really? Which one?” “Overhead Squats.” I thought he was joking. Sure, I had done a few and I thought they never really amounted to anything. “This coach in California won’t let his guys throw until they can do fifteen reps with bodyweight.” What? Fifteen? “It makes you one piece, an animal.”

Monday found me in the weight room. I thought I would just “toss” in a few overheads, just to see what he was talking about. I knew I had to do a few warm ups, so I tossed a 45 on each side of the bar. I thought I would knock off a quick ten or so. I went to the rack, stepped back and let my hands slide out to the inside collars (at just over six feet tall, this is my usual snatch grip), then push jerked the weight up to arms length. Locking my elbows and really trying to pull the bar apart while holding it straight over my head, I sank between my knees, dropped to rock bottom and came back up.

I thought: “Huh? Must not be warmed up enough.” Rep two. “What’s going here?” Rep three. Aren’t my legs stronger than this? What I was discovering was that the overhead squat requires total concentration, total lockout and perfect positions. There is no cheating; one can’t squirm, roll the knees or hips, or let other body parts help kick in. I got five reps and the bar started to move and shake too much for safety. I bent my knees, unlocked my arms, slowed the bar down a little with my upper body and caught the bar on the back of my shoulders using my legs like shock absorbers. I then realized the wisdom of fifteen reps with bodyweight in this exercise.

First, you can’t fake it. Nobody, NOBODY, just walks in and does this without training hard and steady. The ability to do this standard can only come from hard, steady work. Hard work, although some may deny this, is the number one factor in success in sports and life.

Second, the athlete must be balanced in both senses of the word. Certainly, the ability to steady the bar overhead is a balance exercise. Throwers need excellent balance, but so do Highland Games participants, Olympic Lifters, and every other athlete.One needs balance, too, in the sense of the upper body and the lower body need to be able to work in symphony do those fifteen reps. Lots of guys, unfortunately, squat what they bench. You just can’t do that with this drill.

Third, the athlete who completes this task will have strong, flexible legs. You can send your athletes to all the yoga classes in the world, but the overhead squat develops athletic flexibility. As for leg strength, that is the only way to get out of the hole in this exercise. You can’t lean forward, twist, bounce or cheat in anyway. The bar will come off the top and you will have to start again. Maybe next week.

So, overhead squats became a staple in my athletic diet and coaching method. Pretty soon, other coaches began asking questions. “How can that skinny sophomore (Paul Northway weighed 155) throw the discus 182 feet?” I wanted to answer: “Brilliant coaching,” but Paul chimed in “overhead squats.” He explained that it “held him together throughout the throw.” Later, he would throw 214 as a senior. Take Chris Hatch’s advice and try the Overhead Squat. You will wonder if you ever lifted before.

What do you recommend for sets and reps?

Good question. When first learning the lift, do a couple sets of three. We really see progress when we take a bar outside with a couple of plates and put Overhead Squats into the rotation with other throwing drills. Simply, during the rotations, set up the bar with two 25’s on each side. For MOST high school boys, this is a good weight…95 pounds on a standard Olympic Bar. 65 pounds is an excellent weight for most females; again, there may be some adding and subtracting to fit everyone. Have the athlete do sets of five, then rest for a minute or so, throughout the time of the training rotations. Besides the obvious leg work, it seems to reemphasize the Stretch position. Also, it gets the athletes away from the dreaded “accordion squatting!”

Rotations should be the basic method of teaching all sports. Any time the athlete is allowed to stand and watch during practice is akin to sand pouring out of a sandbag. The rotations are the “secret” to having the goal of one hour daily practices!!!

 

More of this work can be found here.