Rob Earl provides an overview of the technique for throwing the hammer.
For safety purposes, the event takes place in a cage with moveable doors to accommodate left and right-handed throwers. The throwing circle measure 2.135m in diameter and is either single-use or concentric within a discus circle. The hammer is a steel ball attached to wire via a spindle inserted into the ball, and the wire is attached to a steel handle. A specialist fingerless leather glove is used to give protection. The athlete holds the hammer handle and specialist shoes are used to assist in reducing friction and gaining maximum speed while turning with the hammer.
The components of the throw
The following explanations are for a right-handed thrower.
The athlete's left hand, wearing the glove, grips the handle between the 2nd and 3rd joints of the fingers and the right hand is then placed inside the handle on top of the left hand.
The athlete stands at the rear of the circle [12 o'clock] feet parallel, with back towards the throwing sector [6 o'clock]. The preliminary swings are used to commence the momentum of the throw.
The athlete, in general, uses two swings, but more or less can be used. The swing starts from behind the right side of the body, taking the hammer forward away from the body and over the head. This will achieve a low point of the hammer ball in front of the body [12 o'clock] and a high point behind [6 o'clock].
At the end of the swings, the athlete is about to enter the turning phase. With the hammer directly in front of the thrower, the low point, the turns commence. The shoulders are relaxed, head passive, trunk engaged, knees and hips flexed, feet remaining in contact with the circle. The hammer is pushed to the left and the turns are started.
The number of turns performed is a personal choice, but in general 3 or 4 are used. These are a series of movements performed to increase the speed of the hammer using balance through the feet, and power from the legs and hips. The feet are working together throughout the throw.
The right foot is turned through the toes and the left foot through the heel. At 6 o'clock once the right foot has completed its movement, it is lifted off the circle, with a driving action from the right knee. The right hip rotates up, back and around with the right foot touching down onto the circle at approximately 3 o'clock. The hammer is then accelerated by force transferred from the continually rotating right foot through the knees and hips to the downward path of the hammer back to the low point [12 o'clock]. Please note, a force can only be applied to the hammer ball when both feet are in contact with the circle and hammer ball on its downward path. The left foot continues to turn throughout and maintains contact with the circle. The upper body remains in a passive position, shoulders relaxed with straight arms. At the low point [12 o'clock] the next turn is started.
The following diagram provides a side-on view of the path of the hammer ball and movement across the circle through each turn to release.
After the turns performed by the thrower have accelerated the hammer head to its maximal velocity, the thrower now stays with both feet in contact with the circle but still rotating and, at the same time, extending through ankles, knees and hips to drive the hammer upward and out to a position opposite the low point, known as the high point, at which point the hammer is released. In the drive upward, the feet are pointing at "9 o'clock", and the left side of the body is blocked.
Heel-Toe Turn Footwork
After the preliminary swings start the turn on the heel of the left foot and the ball of the right foot. As the hammer ball passes "9 o'clock" lift the right foot off the ground and rotate on the outside of the left foot. As the hammer ball approaches "6 o'clock" shift the left foot onto the ball of the foot. The right foot is put down on the ground as the hammer ball reaches "3 o'clock". For the remaining part of the turn, from "3 o'clock" to "12 o'clock", be on the balls of both feet. When the hammer ball reaches "12 o'clock" the left foot shifts onto the heel, and the next turn commences.
The distance achieved in the hammer is dependent on three parameters:
The parameter that has the most significant effect on the potential distance is the speed of release of the hammer.
Optimum Release Angle
Each athlete has a unique combination of release velocity and release angle that depends on their size, strength, and throwing technique which means that each athlete has their own specific optimum release angle. Bartonietz (2000) identifies that the optimum release angle for a world-class hammer thrower may be 40.5°± 3.5°.
Release velocity and angle
Isele et al. (2012) produced a report that provides an in-depth biomechanical analysis of the final of the men's and women's hammer competition at the 2011 IAAF Athletics World Championships held in Daegu. Mathematically the key factors that influence the distance achieved are the release velocity, angle of release and height of release. The range and average values for release velocity and release angle for the finalists were:
The information may suggest that an ideal angle of release is in the range of 41° to 42° for both men and women which perhaps supports Bartonietz (2000) findings of 40.5°± 3.5°.
Although the description given of the components of the throw are separately headed it is important to remember that the throw should be viewed as a series of continual movement processes to create maximal velocity and distance.
The weight specification for the hammer depends on gender and age.
* British Athletics changes of implements for 2014
A training program has to be developed to meet the individual needs of the athlete and take into consideration many factors: gender, age, strengths, weaknesses, objectives, training facilities etc. As all athletes have different needs, a single program suitable for all athletes is not possible.
Typical week's winter training for 68-metre senior hammer thrower
Athletes in the Event Group stage
The following is an annual training program suitable for athletes in the Event Group Development stage:
Athletes in the Event stage
The following is an example of a specific annual training program suitable for athletes in the Event development stage:
The following evaluation tests can be used to monitor the athlete's development:
Rules of Competition
The competition rules for this event are available from:
If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:
About the Author
Rob Earle has been involved as a thrower for 30+ years. He was an under 20 international hammer thrower and competed for the AAA on two occasions. Rob is a member of the British Athletics Hammer National Coach Development Program and is delivering mentoring training through the Local Coach Development Program workshops in the East of England. He is a British Athletics coach and coach education tutor, a Sports therapist and a tutor on sports massage courses.