The Betz Slam Drill. I named it this because that’s who taught it to me – Sean Betz. For those of you who didn’t get the opportunity to throw with Sean, or even watch him throw, you missed out on one of the truly great American throwers in history. I could regale of stories about Sean and his throwing prowess, but that’s for another day. Today, we address the hammer drill he showed me years ago.
So, when you’re throwing the light or heavy hammer, it’s hard to warm up. At a competition, you’re not allowed to throw the hammer like you do the other events to warm up (just think how dangerous that could be). To warm up, you dig your blades in and start taking winds. Sean showed me how he would “slam” the hammer into the ground over his right side instead of doing the alternative that many throwers do: slowing the winds down after three or even jumping up and pulling their blades out of the ground (this one takes some athleticism I just don’t have).
As I messed around with this drill more, I realized it became a staple for not only my warm up, but for me in my timing and execution of the hammer throw. My focus of keeping the low point of the ball’s orbit over the right foot was taught and influenced to me by Sean, who noticed it first from Matt Sandford (five-time World Champion). The drill, really, is quite simple. Let’s break it down:
- Dig into the ground with your hammer blades (remember, that hammer stance should be shoulder width or slightly closer). Set yourself up in an open area, especially to the direct right of you. Also, when it comes to warm up, I always use the light hammer first. Even on days that I'm going to throw the heavy hammer, I warm up with the light. Hit those positions and feel that speed; then jump in wiht the heavy hammer.
- Wind the hammer up to three times and then throw (slam) the hammer into the ground out over your right foot.
- As you slam, you’ll want to be leaning back towards the throwing area, and even take a half step that direction as you throw it (this should largely mimic your actual throw).
Now, remember a few things as you wind and throw the hammer on this drill. First, “catch” the hammer back over your right shoulder as early as you can. The ball will naturally drift left (right handed throwers), so keep that low point as far right as you can. With each wind, make sure you are “catching” the hammer early over your right shoulder and driving it down over your right foot (I like to think of chopping wood). Secondly, as you are about to throw it into the ground, realize it is just that – a throw into the ground. You aren’t letting it go, you’re throwing it down. Focus on making the biggest crater you possibly can. This teaches your body to have a more effective and powerful push on the ball.
Use the hammer landing zone as a check of sorts. You want to be so consistent that each throw is landing in the same crater; the more times you can that, the better you’ll be able to catch, push and launch the hammer. All of this adds up to more speed, which means more distance … awesome! You’ll also want to use this zone as a measure of how far off you are on the low point. If the crater is out in front of you instead of more to the side, then you need to work that low point back over to the right.
The Betz Slam Drill is, in my opinion, the best thing you can do to work consistency and timing in your throws; do it!