The Myth of Mobility for Big Throws

The Myth of Mobility for Big Throws

With the offseason in full swing, I am seeing more and more approaches and outlines for people's offseason plans. One of the things I find in increased popularity is mobility and even flexibility as a way for athletes to improve their throws. While increased flexibility is never a bad thing, is it really a needed focus for the off-season? The arguments I hear are:
- He/she feels their lack of perceived mobilit keeps them from hitting the correct positions in the throws.
- He/she thinks that if they can get to postions of greater torque, then they will automatically throw further (i.e. a longer push on the stone, longer applied speed to the hammer, etc)

I am not saying to avoid mobility and flexibility work, I'm just saying let's not pretend that increased self myofascial release means bigger throws come August and September. Those come from getting stupid strong and taking thousands of throws on the practice field.

If you really want to look at it, your increased mobility and flexibility may put you in an even worse position now. You have not addressed the real problem - your technical deficiencies. Which leads me to that first argument, to which we must admit; as throwers, our inability to hit postions isn't a by product of tight muscles, but rather a direct result of our practice. There is no shortcut or easy route to big throws - it takes reps and reps and reps.

For throwing, there is something to be said about rigidity of muscles and overall stability strength, which doesn't come from being Stretch Armstrong.

I have looked at throwers through history to find out what the very best have done to take them to that level. Instead of creating a new path to greatness, why not use their model and adapt it to our personal approach? What similarities there are between them? What things do they all do that makes them "the greatest?" Chances are, you can really streamline your focus, time, and effort needed. Because, let's be honest, we are all adults in this sport with a myriad of responsibilities besides throwing. Our time is so much more limited than a full-time professional athlete or collegiate athlete and we must spend our time doing the very most important things. If not, then we're just turning our wheels doing minor things hoping for major results.

I struggle to find one of the greats whose incredible flexibility made them a great thrower. I would bet, though, you'd admit that many of them were very strong, and all of them we're very explosive for men for their size.

So, this offseason, while you are rolling, stretching and doing the things to take care of your body and allow yourself to train, let's not pretend that it's the secret to make you throw bombs this year. Go ahead and do the little things that make your body feel good and help improve deficiencies through stretching and mobility work, but focus on improving the things that we know translate to big throws for the next season. 


  • Jared

    Dan great artical. Enjoyed your thoughts and agree with your theories. You should elaborate on the idea of minimums and maximum in relation to flexibility as I see a lot of our internet experts think in extremes. Keep posting always nice to hear everyone’s thoughts.

  • Brian Randell

    Dave, as always, sums it up nicely. “But, I would also say that the movement patterns rehearsed over and over during the off-season will directly relate to throws next spring”

    Here is the deal, if you are lifting, and drilling throughout the offseason, you will have the ROM needed to do what it is you are training to do, period. To be great at what you do, you must do that thing. During this, the body will adapt naturally and give you all the “Mobility” to do that event, sport etc. that you need.

    If you want to do a little more mobility, or gain more flexibility, sure go ahead that is awesome! BUT Never let it take away from your main goal.

  • Brendan Ter Wee

    I believe your point of saying it’s probably more important to be super strong and not focus as much on flexibility is misguided on a moderate scale. Several exercise based studies have shown that increased flexibility in the trunk and legs (hips, groin, and hamstrings especially) can lead to increased weight on power lifts (I can find papers if people are interested). From an anecdotal point, I can attest to my power clean and squat greatly increasing once I dedicated 30 minutes before practice/lifts to flexibility and mobility work over a several week period. Unfortunately I cannot say if that helped my throwing before/after since I was focusing on collegiate wrestling at that time.

    I also believe it may be difficult to accurately making generalizations like “I struggle to find one of the greats whose incredible flexibility made them a great thrower.” Flexibility is not an easy thing to quantify and visual analysis alone would not be an accurate measure for this trait. Flexibility could be a given characteristic for some while others may need to work on this more to develop long throws by increasing their explosiveness through the lower body.

    Or in the end, maybe I’m just a sore guy, stiff in the wrong areas and find it very beneficial to spend plenty of time on mobility work along with weight training. Thanks for the piece!

  • Duncan Atwood

    You’re certainly excluding the javelin in your thinking, but your point is well taken. The problem is that flexibility is like strength – you need a buttload of it to throw far FOR THE SPECIFIC MOVEMENTS OF YOUR EVENT. Splits for a shot putter? Nope. Clap hands behind back? Nope. But just look at the upper spine extension and shoulder retraction in top shot putters. So the annoying mistake is to assume that doing the splits will make you more flexible (well, yes, for doing the splits) and that will help you put the shot, while in the meanwhile the athlete is so tight in the upper body they can’t get their shirt on. As a 94m javelin thrower, I can tell you I was very flexible and STRONG IN THOSE BIG ROM MOVEMENTS (being flexible wasn’t enough) and it was the strength IN THOSE MOVEMENTS that made the difference, not my pathetic Olympic lifts (95kg snatch) and a 190kg squat. So, let’s be clear – a blind application of flexibility doesn’t do much, just as a blind application of strength doesn’t do much either. The assumed transfers are usually disappointing. I really liked your comment about throwing a lot. Great way to gain specific strength and flexibility.

  • Dave Brown

    Dan – This is a great wake-up article and you’re right that folks don’t need to do the splits or clap behind their backs to throw bombs. But, I would also say that the movement patterns rehearsed over and over during the off-season will directly relate to throws next spring – meaning that if you incorporate cleans and snatches from relaxed arms (let them hang like ropes), then you’re more likely to use more hips and back which will connect your system better for throws. I see lots of guys go straight to bench and rows, but no cleans or snatches, and this will lead to a frustrating season when it comes.

    I also agree on the countless throws that are made – again, the emphasis is good throws (the old adage that practice doesn’t make perfect… perfect practice makes perfect). Even in throwing, being relaxed and long makes a big difference and I think there’s some folks that confuse relaxed and long with flexible and mobile. These are entirely different. Connection of the lower body up to the implement in a long, relaxed, and dynamic manner is the single most important pattern to develop and rehearse over and over. There may be some specific mobility issues (too much bench for most or too may rows and not enough cleans in the gym) that can get in the way of relaxed throws and folks just need to identify some specific areas for improvement – for most of us in the heavy events, it’s hammer and lots of reps has a funny way of stretching us out :)

    Now… gotta admit the age demographic is no longer just 20-40 for the iron games (or all sports it seems) and folks 40, 50, 60 and above love to still train and compete. For those upper folks, there’s definitely a component of stretching that becomes mandatory rather than optional. Without it, bodies tighten up, movements get harder and the passion for the sport goes away. Keep the fire alive, invest just 5-10 minutes at the end of each workout or session, and still apply the same principles mentioned above.

    All the best holiday wishes Dan – thanks for prompting some thoughts!

    Dave Brown

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