My Trip To China Part 3: Insights from German Throws Coaches


For the third installment in this blog series I want to discuss not something directly related to China per se, but more a connection that I made as a result of the trip. Joining me at the throws conference in Beijing were two legendary figures of German track and field: Karl-Heinz Steinmetz and Rolf Danneberg. Karl-Heinz is the former coach of Rolf as well as the man who is arguably the greatest discus thrower ever, Lars Riedel. Although he has worked with several other championship level throwers, those two alone account for five World Championship Gold medals, 2 Olympic Golds, 1 Olympic Silver and 1 Olympic Bronze. Rolf was Karl-Heinz’s athlete and has now become a coach himself including the coach of one of the top young throwers in the world. Here are some things that I picked up from them:

  1. They both use a strength program with a heavy emphasis on Olympic weightlifting and squats.
  2. Rolf liked to occasionally use high repetition Olympic lifts (sets of around 15 reps) because he felt it provided a base for throwing-specific work capacity.
  3. Lars Riedel hurt his back in 1992 and ceased use of all lower body lifting. From that point on he only did bench press and bench rows as well as some jumping activities with a medicine ball for lower body work. Karl-Heinz suggested that Lars was not very strong in the bench press with a 1 rep max of 217.5 kg. He felt his bench pull 1 rep max of 175 kg was a much stronger performance.
  4. Set, rep, modulation was quite simple and generally followed a linear periodization scheme.
  5. Exercise selection seemed to be relatively unchanging with only a few core exercises being used (snatch, clean, front squat, back squat, bench pull, bench press). Interestingly they both mentioned use of what I can only describe as a reverse grip clean in which the athlete essentially finished with an explosive arm curl.
  6. Both coaches used special strength work to supplement their main strength exercises (throwing weight plates, twisting exercises, etc).
  7. Rolf preferred the snatch to the clean but emphasized the need for technical mastery both for safety and to maximize efficiency and benefits gained. When he was competing, Rolf could snatch in excess of 150 kg.
  8. Rolf also preferred the front squat to the back squat because he liked the fact that it did not load the spine as much and placed a greater training emphasis on the quads. He mentioned using both variations of the squat in a 2:1 ratio, with front squats being performed for 2 weeks to a depth of about 90 degrees (above parallel) and back squats being performed for 1 week with a greater load and depth. His current top level young discus thrower (64.60m) was capable of 205 and 230 for the two exercises performed as described.
  9. Rolf did not like the use of 1 repetition sets because he didn’t feel it provided enough training stimulus. He preferred to do most exercises in rep ranges around 3-6 for most exercises.
  10. Both coaches believed that you should not plan very far ahead because it was difficult to predict how the athlete would feel on a given day and that doing hard sessions while fatigued was a waste of time.