Even though I’ve observed and coached hundreds of athletes while training I’m always amazed at the things they can do….especially at the highest level of sport. This is true whether we’re speaking of freestyle juggling in soccer, bobsledders lifting insane amounts of weight despite very inefficient technique, or jumpers bounding over hurdles equivalent to their own height. So when I had the chance to observe some of the strength and power testing done on elite US throwers as part of a throws initiative by USATF it was something to see….especially the men and women shot putters. The testing was part of a comprehensive initiative to improve our medal performances at the 2016 Olympics. My role is as the sport biomechanist. Strength and power testing was led by Dr. Keith Baar of UC Davis (@MuscleScience).
Most people don’t have an appreciation for the strength and power these athletes are capable of. On the low-end power side of the force-velocity continuum they may be unmatched in the entire sporting world. You’ll find the following video features almost all of the top US throwers including Reese Hoffa, Ryan Whiting and Michelle Carter. 4 tests were performed:
- Upper extremity isometric strength using a bench mounted on to force platforms and a fixed bar
- Upper extremity power using a tendo unit and a bar at a sub-maximal load
- Lower extremity isometric strength performing a squat with the athlete standing on force platforms and a fixed bar
- Lower extremity isometric strength performing a squat with the athlete standing on force platforms and a bar at a sub-maximal load
A couple interesting things to note….
- On several of the first trials for isometric lower extremity strength, the male throwers actually lifted the squat rack off the ground which is why there is so much weight on the bar in subsequent trials even though it was an isometric test.
- Ryan Whiting is not performing a behind the neck push jerk….the bar is just flying off his back with that much velocity.
- Following the bench press power test with Jordan Clarke at 100kg he tried one at 140kg (~315 lbs) and it moved almost as fast.