Young throwers who compete in both the discus throw and the rotational shot put may benefit from learning key differences between the two movements. The following advice for discus throwers is based on a presentation given by veteran coach Jim Aikens at the 2014 Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association coaches’ clinic.
Discus Throw Basics
Before a new discus thrower does anything else, he or she must learn to hold the implement properly. There are two main types of discus grips. You can spread your fingers about evenly around the edge, or you can keep your index and middle fingers together. Either way, you place your hand on top of the discus, find the middle, and then position the index finger on the middle point, with the first knuckle barely over the edge. Use a relaxed grip with your hand flat. Many beginners make the mistake of trying to cup the discus because they’re afraid it will fall out of their hands. With a proper grip you’ll release the discus off of your index finger, and not the pinkie.
To establish your starting position, stand in the back of the circle, facing away from the target. Spread your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with the right foot flat on the ground. Position the left knee inside the left big toe and place more weight on the right foot. Wind up as much as you can handle. If you feel good with a big windup, do a big windup. If you feel good with a little windup, do a little windup. But more movement means more chances to make a mistake. When you’re a new thrower, less movement is better. You can do more movement later on, when you continue your throwing career.
The good throwers you see, when you break it down, all have commonalities. They plant that left side and bring that right side around just before the release. But you have to have that strong plant in the front of the ring. The whole idea is to get the discus in a good power position.
Comparing Discus Throw with Rotational Shot
Coaches of beginning throwers can often simplify matters by trying to make rotational shot and discus as much alike as possible. Once throwers improve sufficiently, however, they can begin learning some of the nuances that separate the two events.
The main difference between the discus throw and the rotational shot put is the implement’s position. You hold the shot near your neck, so you don’t have much room for error as you move through the ring, because you’re moving around the ball. But you hold the discus away from your body, so the discus moves around you. It’s a similar movement but a different concept. But balance is still key in both events. When you’re in the back of the ring at the start of the discus throw, the left knee must be inside the big toe, with your knees flexed. That’s your balance position.
In the rotational shot put, you drive up and into the shot at the end. You want to transfer that horizontal movement that you’ve created while advancing forward in the circle into a hard vertical force to drive the shot up. But you drive up and out at the end in discus – you lift the discus, driving the shoulder up. Because the discus travels around you, you want it farther from your body during your approach, then you want to move the right hip around and through at the release.
Picture the throwing circle as a clock face, with the target at 12 o’clock. In rotational shot, you want your right foot to hit around three o’clock when you step forward from the back. In discus you want to get around one o’clock with the right foot on the first step into the middle. You’ve got a shorter ring in shot put, only 7 feet (2.135 meters), as opposed to 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) in discus, so you’ve got more room to drive forward in discus. You should almost look like a sprinter, driving out of the back of the ring. But you start off moving relatively slowly and accelerate as you drive forward. Just as in the shot, however, you want the discus moving as fast as possible at the moment of release.