9 Lifts You Should Be Doing this Off-Season

9 Lifts You Should Be Doing this Off-Season

We all know that nothing replaces throws. If you truly want to improve in the Scottish Highland Games, nothing does it better than getting reps in. But, in the off-season, how do you get better at throwing … without throwing? Not throwing in the off-season is another blog for another day, but are there lifts that directly correlate to the events? The simple answer is, “No.” But, I believe there are a number of very important lifts for each of the events and you’d be remiss if you didn’t program them in this off-season!

Now, let me also get the disclaimer out that I still believe the core lifts are the best lifts to throw far and, not ironically, if you want to throw far you need to get strong. To me, those are:
Hang Snatch
Hang Clean
Bench Press
Back Squat
If I'm successful in these events, I throw further. (and I’d even take it down to the first two, if you really want to stir the pot).

So, what lifts are you perhaps not doing that you should add into your programming this off-season? While I won’t be breaking down each one with the “hows” and “whys,” I think you’ll be surprised at your preparation and strength this next season once you’ve spent a few blocks training these.

Braemar Stone: Strict Overhead Press
I’m not talking push press or push jerk, I’m talking about knees locked and straight shoulder pressing the bar. I’ve found that when my overhead press is strong, these heavy stones go further.

Open Stone: Close Grip Bench Press
I really like banded close grip bench press, as well. The stones are always so odd shaped and big, that a strong chest and shoulder girdle does nothing but help.

Heavy Weight for Distance: Heavy Pulls
Whether you’re throwing as a master, amateur or pro, the heavy weight is, well, heavy. To help you better handle this beast, get your rows and pulls stronger. Close grip rows, wide grip rows, heavy DB rows, whatever.

Light Weight for Distance: Trap Bar Jumps
I’m not a huge advocate of plyometric jumps for bigger folks, but I do like these. Do these in sets of 3-5 or even more; I like the feel a rhythm of this movement as it pertains to the two turns of the light weight.

Heavy Hammer: Hang Snatch
Now, I know this is “core lift,” but I can’t stress enough how important I believe this lift is to the heavy hammer. Work this in various movements from rack/block snatch (love ‘em) and high pulls (perfect for in-season and peaking work).

Light Hammer: Rollouts
Yep, abs. For me, this movement is a great piece of hammer throwing, both for strength and for health (I’ve had my share of back injuries back early in my career). Work this at angles of left, right, and center. You can also add resistance to these, but most important is to focus on a long stretch out and a fast pull back to the start.

Caber: Hang Clean
I debated whether or not to put an upper body/shoulder girdle lift here, as I think it’s a critical piece in being able to control bigger sticks. But, for me, another way to improve your caber is your ability to control, move and explode with heavy weight. Thus, the hang clean (with a high catch, mind you, but that’s another blog).

Weight Over Bar: Cable or Banded Pull-Throughs
A key aspect to throwing the weight higher is to have greater speed and power “out of the hole” when you throw. I love cable or banded pull-throughs for that long stretch and reaction in the hole. Posterior chain, baby!

Sheaf: Backwards Sled Drags
One thing I have needed to focus on the last few years has been my anterior (front). I am very posterior dominant and if we’re not careful, we neglect the front simply because our events are very posterior dominant. Work that anterior harder (quads) and you’ll find your block a little bit stronger and a little bit more powerful.


  • Michael Lovell

    Man, this is a life saver.
    I haven’t thrown in a decade and I signed up for Master’s in ST Louis in a month. O.o
    The muscle memory is still there but I needed this article to help refine the work outs!

  • Ian Shaw

    Great advice and something I’ll definitely have to incorporate into my 3rd offseason of throwing. Fall is starting and the Michigan throwing season is wrapping up.

    Congrats on retirement and hope you look forward to the next part of the journey God has for you! Hope to see you again in Michigan sometime in the future at one of our 8 amateur games. Met you in Livonia (St. Andrews) a few years ago.

  • Ray Boss

    As always, I really enjoyed the post Dan. You mentioned not throwing in the off season is a post for another day – do you think you could touch on that as some point? We’ve had some mild days in Maryland this winter and I’ve gotten out to throw some but it seems like rather than knocking the rust off, I just become more aware of the rust. I didn’t know if you think it better to just focus on getting as strong as possible in the off season and then really dial in throwing in pre and intra season training? Take care and thanks again for the posts – they’re always insightful and enjoyable.

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