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8 Weeks to a 88 Yard pull

January 17, 2010

3 weeks to Vegas baby, and some 12 weeks to (College) Sectionals… can you dig it? This blog post will describe a KB-based training program, called the Ultimate Program Minimum (Minimum) designed to help strengthen your pulls and hucks, hammers (?) and deep looks. But first, some preliminary results from the reader survey.

Thanks for filling out the 2010 UltiTraining reader survey–I’ve gotten and read through dozens of comments so far! The average reader (n=26 comments this week) has played Ultimate for 7 or 8 years, with a mix of college/club players who read rec.sport.disc or other Ultimate blogs online.

Most (80%) UltiTraining readers surveyed train with free weights (DB/BB/KB), 1/2 do bodyweight (kallos thenos) training, and a 1/3 of you do Kettlebells. 40% of y’all incorporate machines into your training (but only 10% of readers who use machines use them exclusively, good job :). Fewer, about 15%, do CrossFit, and another 15% do nothin’ but 175g work on the field =)

The median reader neither strongly agreed nor disagreed that UltiTraining.com was too technical in nature, although the average score was about 3.2 / 5. Folks are interested in off-season work, KB swing form and prehab, nutrition and Z-Health, laying out / jumping and “becoming some sort of freakazoid layout machine who can jump 52 inches and can huck a disc 200 metres.” We’ll keep that in mind!

(Folks want Dominator Friday back–me too! anyone want to help with that? and thought we could post more often. Go nudge the other writers ;). Some wanted more classically athletic training while others appreciated a more scalable approach. A number did want simpler articles, so we can try to give that a try.)

That said, I’m not sure how to teach people how to throw 200m, so I’ll be a little less ambitious and theme this post “8 weeks to a 80yd 88yd pull”. Why 80+8 yards? Well sqrt(70*70+40*40) ~ 80, which is to say that if you can pull 80 yards you can get from corner to corner of the playing field proper, plus another some yards into the endzone. And when I say 88 yards I mean a consistent and accurate 88 yards in mild to moderate wind (upwind or down). If you do the approximate math, it’s better to pull 70 yards 90% of the time than 80 yards 50% of the time (assuming that we count an OB pull as closer to 50 yards, given the brick plus the added advantage of starting play from the center of the field).

I don’t really know if you can get to 88 yards in 8 weeks–it depends on where you are starting from =)–but it’s a catchy title so I’m going to stick with it. Perhaps a more reasonable goal would be to pull 80 yards with some wind landing in-bounds 90% of the time by College Sections (3 months or so from now). I can probably pull 70 yards in-bounds 95% of the time, which means I have some work to do!

But without any further ado, with apologies to Coach Dan John and Pavel, the Ultimate Program Minimum (Minimum):

Movement Prep:

+ Foam roll or soft tissue work, focused on thoracic spine (upper-back)
+ Your standard dynamics warmup: high knees / butt-kickers / carioca to open the hips / etc.
+ Reverse lunge with thoracic-twist (see video demonstration in previous post about handler sustainability).
+ If you know how to do scapular joint mobility or gleno-humeral joint mobility, do so

Strength & Conditioning:

= Twice a week, for 8-10 minutes, alternate Kettlebell swings with single or double Kbell farmer’s walk.

Focus on a strong hip snap, with a strong hard-style lock (glute / abs / fire-the-lats engagement), weight on heels (“wiggle your toes”). Do these swings / walks instead of excessive LSD (long slow distance) or other aerobic work. Keep the ‘bell below nose height and do not perform “squat” swings to save your back. If a deadlift is a moving plank, as Dan John points out, a KB swing is/should be a ballistic deadlift–so keep your shins roughly vertical rather than letting them come forward.

= Twice a week, do several (alternating side) reps of the Kallos Thenos-style Turkish Get-up (high bridge pls), with a lighter Kbell (or sandbag). I’d rather you do bottoms-up KB get-ups with a lighter weight than regular get-ups with a heavier weight, since this drill is about good form and training your stabilizers rather than your prime movers.

= Several times a week, perform the chop and the lift with tubing or cables at the gym. In a pinch, use a 175g disc or a light medball outdoors. Keep your “pillar” strong and stable, hips and shoulders *stay* square, avoiding rotation. Read Gray’s Chop & Lift article series here at PerformBetter.com.

Throw. Actually practice your pulls, hucks, and deep looks (done from various positions of the “compass lunge”) as often as you can. “Do as much work as possible while staying as fresh as possible.”

That’s it. The Ultimate Program Minimum (Minimum) =)

New to Kettlebell training? No sweat. After you get cleared by appropriate medical/fitness professional and seek out a KB coach (HKC / RKC / etc.), check out the following videos which I put together to help someone out with HKC certification prep.

How to Swing:

Do as RKC Team Leader Yoana does–El Kettlebell Swing with beautiful form. If you need instructions, please follow the directives of RKC2 Phil in the dv8fitness KB swing video, or Coach Keats on the swing (although I’d rather you train barefoot / in VFFs / cleated on-field than as CK does :). Here are some KB swing corrections courtesy of averagetoelite.com.

Can has Get-up?

Monkey see, monkey do what RKC Team Leader Yoana does in the Turkish get-up. Emphasize the high bridge, which throwing coach Dan John particularly recommends. Gray Cook explains the Get-up in detail here, and of course Doc Cheng has a beauty of a bottoms-up TGU.

Okay, got those moves dialed in? Let’s talk a little bit about why and how this program was designed. It was patterned after throwing / lifting coach Dan John’s Program Minimum (Minimum) as described in the DVDs for Dan’s Never Let Go book tour, which is a kissin’ cousin to Pavel’s Program Minimum in Pavel’s ETK. Swings develop the hip snap useful for deep looks, and are generally great for work capacity / conditioning.

Dan has suggested alternating swings with farmer’s walks, although I’m not sure this is necessarily a better choice than the Litvinov-type workout of swings and sprints. I simply figure that your college program will already include sprints, and you don’t want to overtrain max-effort sprinting (more than twice a week). If you don’t do sprint intervals, or you are doing this as part of your team practice (I brought 255.5 pounds of weights to team practice today, overkill I realize now heh, 155.5 lb of Kbells and some new (play) sandbags I made in the parking lot of Home Depot (more on that another day), then you might want to swap out the farmer’s walk with sprints. Otherwise, do your sprinting at the end of your team practices (or on the track) and instead train work capacity, “pillar” (trunk) stability, and a bit of grip strength with good ol’ farmer’s walkin’.

If you do get-ups and swings on the same day, do get-ups first, as you might be smoked by the swing / sprint set, and get-ups are for form, mobility and stability, and require more careful practice. Note that 1/2 get-ups are often used to rehab shoulders, and that in a full get-up, your shoulder joint goes through quite a large range of motion–arm pointing forward (as in a one-handed bench press) on the deck (ground), arm pointing ninety degrees to the side in the high-bridge / t-stance (one arm on the ground, the other exactly opposite), and arm pointing straight up when you stand up fully. Of course, the arm is always pointing “up”, but the shoulder moves through that triangle of forward, side, up, which is a fairly rare thing for many late 20th century lifts.

The get-up will also serve as a simple corrective exercise screen–do you lack range of motion in any of these shoulder positions? most likely unless you have been practicing get-ups for months. Do you lack the t-spine (upper back) mobility to do the high-bridge? Remember that if you look at an anatomy text, as I was the other day (my father’s decades old edition of Netter’s hardcover anatomy, the nervous system), you’ll see that although the lumbar spine (lower back) appears very strong as a weight-bearing mechanism, it actually has fairly limited rotational capacities relative to the thoracic (upper back) spine. You might think you have shoulder issues, but sometimes you really need work on your t-spine (think the back of your chest) or c-spine (around the neck).

Also, Gray Cook likes to point out that you can subdivide muscles roughly into ones used as prime movers (the big guns) for quick/powerful motions, and the stabilizers–smaller, but should fire first. Many overtrain their prime movers and undertrain stabilizers, Gray believes. In this program minimum-minimum, you whack your prime movers with the swing, and teach your rotator cuff / “pillar” to quickly stabilize under load. What do you think the rotator cuff was designed for, rotating your shoulder to pour bad-tasting beer out of a can (not that traditional PT rotator cuff work does not have its place, to empty that can), or carrying stuff below your chest (farmer’s walk) or above it (pressed out above)?

Push, pull, do something with your legs–swings count as dynamic pulls, get-ups as a sort of static press. Both require some leg strength. For a more complete program, add push-ups (horizontal push to balance the horizontal pull) and pull-ups (horizontal pull to balance to horizontal get-up as static-press). Coaches Dan John / Mike Boyle / Gray Cook do not necessarily recommend additional torque/rotational (Russian Twist) movements, as they don’t seem to be convinced of the utility for throwing athletes, and throwing athletes rotate plenty. The question is can you keep your core tight and resist rotation at the lumbar spine like a tight core to a spring, transferring your linear momentum weight shift to the eventual rotational drive above your lumbar spine…? This is how I conceptualize the pull, but then again I cannot claim to be an expert on pull mechanics.

Another point worth noting is that some athletes undertrain their ligaments and tendons, particularly if you do exclusively machine work and little kallos thenos (bodyweight) training. You can actually tolerate and generate more load/force with tendons/ligamentous structures than muscles (!), which is why disc golfers used to talk about “tendon bounce” (just be skeptical if someone tells you to do band work with your elbow pulled in to strengthen your rotator cuff for max power rather than rehab…). But, note that tendons and ligaments heal/develop more slowly than muscles, which means it’s probably difficult to develop a 80 Yard forehand pull if you’ve a new forehand thrower.

Another trick I’m going to try this term is to do as-slow-as-possible pull practice some of the time. Tiger Woods retools his swing every few years (or at least used to), and many of the old golf greats would be able to replicate their swing form at superduperslow speed. Can you replicate your pulling form at superslow speed? If not, then there may be structural form elements that you’re not conscious of as you pull. For skills practice, if superslow deliberate practice worked for driving little white balls hundreds of yards, I’d hazard that deliberate practice model could prove useful for Ultimate as well. This, and watching yourself on HD film are two training modalities I’m going to try in the months to come before Sectionals. That and fixing my handler cuts & getting more comfortable throwing with momentum / from a hamstring-loaded deep lunge for I/O fh breaks. What’s your 3 month goal?

To quote the title of Dan’s new book, Never Let Go.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 18, 2010 12:52 pm

    A good post. thanks

  2. March 4, 2010 1:21 am

    Swings/Swing throws – Swing up and throw behind/backwards
    Turkish Get-Ups
    Diagonal Core movements w/ bands or throwing diagonal movements backwards – Serape effect.

    I’m a fan of GPP as much as the next guy and do believe more people do need it, I believe even GPP can be made better to include movements not typically performed.

    Thoughts?

  3. Logan permalink
    February 7, 2011 4:35 am

    Great post.

    I have some athletes who I’d like to get doing some work dedicated to throwing farther…looking to design an easy program they can integrate into their practice/tracktice schedule from now til the college series. Definitely going to work these in, as well as some PB Russian twists to dissociate shoulders/hips (http://www.coreperformance.com/knowledge/movements/russian-twist-physioball.html).

    I’m wondering if you have any suggestions for increasing flick distance, besides adjusting one’s technique. I just read your “throwing biomechanics” post, which seems to suggest the best route is technique adjustments and increasing tendon elasticity. Can you suggest any movements to build “tendon bounce”? Also, any specific tips for increasing grip strength?

    Thanks, love your posts!

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