Balance Exercises to Help With the Discus & Shot Put
Throwing a shot or discus has a lot to do with strength. But to successfully whirl around while gaining momentum to make that long throw also requires dynamic balance. That’s why coaches like Jerry Clayton at Auburn University work with athletes on balance and rotation as well as developing strong muscles.
Balance and Rhythm
Discus throwers and shot putters must build momentum within a small circle of 8.2 feet or 7 feet in diameter, respectively. If you’re throwing the discus, you spin around one and a half times before releasing your projectile. If you’re putting a shot, you can use this same spinning technique or you can glide. Gliders start facing away from their throwing direction. You slide one foot way back, then bring the other foot into the middle of the circle. You pivot around while throwing the shot and jumping into the air, landing on the opposite foot. Spinning and gliding both require perfect balance and rhythm to get the maximum throwing distance. Beginners are prone to mistakes such as releasing early, resulting in your shot or discus flying in the wrong direction, or losing your footing and winding up on your rear end.
Mark Harsha, a coach at Portage High School in Indiana, suggests a drill called “wheels” to improve the balance of discus throwers and shot putters. Start with your right foot in the middle of your throwing circle. Next, spin around on your right foot, picking up your left foot and completing a 180-degree reverse arc. Bring your knees together in the middle of the spin, and keep turning on your right foot. Repeat this exercise five times.
More Pivoting Exercises
Since gaining momentum within the circle is the key to throwing your discus or shot as far as possible, coaches have developed many drills that center around gaining power on the initial spin. New Zealand throwing coach Didier Poppe leads his athletes in a whole series of pivoting exercises. Some involve pivoting over obstacles, such as shoes or cones, while wearing a weighted vest. In one exercise, he holds his fingertip on the top of the athlete’s head to remind him to stay in the middle of the circle while pivoting. Sometimes he has them practice their throws in front of a mirror, using a towel as a stand-in for the shot or discus.
Mainstream Balance Exercises
Some coaches supplement discus and shot put-specific balance exercises with more mainstream balance aids. Clayton, the Auburn coach, incorporates balance beams, half-round balls and jumping exercises into his athletes’ training. Once you’re able to easily do regular squats on the half-round ball, try doing single-leg squats. You can also practice jumping onto the half-round, landing solidly before stepping off. Try jumping forward, then practice jumping sideways onto the half-round from the left and right.
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