For positioning, 12 o’clock is used as the front of the circle
Preparation of the throw
The start and the wind up are critical to set up the throw. The wind up is very individualistic, but for the beginner, the simpler the better. One preliminary swing is enough to establish a rhythm to start the throw and should be simple and consistent. Most of the speed developed in a throw is in the other phases, not the wind up. Higher turning speed in the back of the circle means a higher risk of the delivery phase not being executed properly.
The discus throw has two common starting positions, left foot on the centerline or with the feet straddling the centerline.
After establishing the starting point, the thrower gets into an athletic position and drops down into ½ half-squat with the legs shoulder width apart or slightly wider. The discus thrower’s body weight is evenly disturbed or the thrower can have more weight on the left leg.
The upper body will lean forward slightly with the chest over the knees, the right arm should be at the side of the athlete holding the discus. To begin the wind, the right arm moves toward the left side, between the left hip and shoulder.
As the discus is brought to the left, the left arm aids in the wind by catching the discus as it moves to the left side.
The left arm should be long and straight at shoulder height inside the left knee as the athlete brings the discus to the right side during the wind.
Novice throwers should maintain even weight distribution or slightly more weight on the left side with little weight transfer from left to right during the wind. Only the upper body should rotate during the wind for beginning throwers. Some advanced throwers use a longer wind up to the right to gain momentum and additional torque between the upper and lower body at the start of the throw.
Getting out of the back
After the wind up, the throw is initiated with a shift in the weight to the left side.
The right foot is picked up and the right foot sweeps past the left side of the body and leads the throw. The right leg should be long and out away from the thrower. Individual differences dictate the spacing between the thighs out of the back of the circle, a quicker athlete may want to keep the feet tighter and the taller athlete may go with a wider right leg.
Creating the power position
The right toe should clear past the left foot before the athlete starts the sprint to the middle. The left leg should stay low and flexed, ready to push off toward the front of the circle. The left arm will remain inside the knee and with the shoulders level to help keep the body on balance.
The discus should remain behind the hip when the right foot touches down near the middle of the circle, the discus will be 360 degrees from the center of the throwing sector if proper torque is maintained during the drive or sprint to the middle of the circle.
When the right foot touches down near the middle of the circle, the left leg is kept close to the right leg. The right leg lands between 1 and 3 o’clock, the left foot is airborne at 9 o’clock. Keeping the knees together in the middle helps to create even more torque in the power position.
The sooner the athlete can get into the power position the faster force can be applied to the discus to create more release velocity. The discus thrower’s main biomechanical source of speed is rotary momentum, which is created from the back of the circle to the power position during the throw.
The main focus of this phase is to set up a good throwing position and increase the speed of the throw.
The shoulders are back and over the right leg as it turns. Since the hips lead the throw, the upper body is waiting to strike. As the legs turn the left arm opens up and stretches high across the chest.
When the thrower is ready to finish the throw, the chest and head drive upward with the legs. The legs will lockout and drive upward just prior to the release of the discus. The chest is driven up to meet the left arm, which is now pulling in.
The right side of the body rotates to complete the throw as the left side of the body braces and acts as the hinge on a door. The bracing action, called the block, is critical to accelerating the final phase of the throw.
There are two types of releases in the discus throw, the non-reverse and the reverse at release. In the non-reverse, the thrower’s feet stay fixed on the ground during the release of the throw. With a reverse, the thrower lifts off the ground during the release of the throw, and the right foot is brought forward to the front of the ring after the discus is released. The reverse of the feet is also called the recovery since the discus thrower recovers their balance after the release of the discus.
There is disagreement if throwing with fixed feet is better than throwing with a reverse. The longer path of acceleration with fixed feet versus an increase in the height of release with the reverse is the biomechanical debate. The coach must find the technique that has consistent high-level results for the discus thrower.
Influences on Discus Distance
- Velocity of the discus at release
- Angle of release
- Attitude angle or angle of tilt at the release
- Wind direction and velocity
Throwing angles, wind and discus types
The discus is an aerodynamic event; wind conditions can affect the flight of the throw. The vertical lift and horizontal drag, as well as the type discus thrown, are factors in the distance thrown in the discus. To maximize aerodynamic forces, the discus should be released with some upward tilt to the front of the implement. The ideal angle of release for the discus throw is between 32-37 degrees. Facing the throwing sector, a headwind is ideal, also some crosswind from right to left is helpful for quality discus throwers. Although wind conditions and discus throwing is an interesting topic, most throwers should be more concerned with the execution of the technique.
Ideally, beginners should throw a discus with lower rim weight (70%) like the OTE Low Moment discus because the thrower has less clockwise spin on the implement. And more advanced throwers use a discus with high rim weight, such as a Pacer Gold (90%) because of the higher rim weight, the discus turns faster and goes further if the thrower can apply the initial spin on the implement.
Teaching progression for the discus
The discus is released with a clockwise rotation off the index finger.
The thrower rolls the discus off the hand near the ground and focuses on the clockwise release of the implement.
The thrower tosses the discus in the air, then adds some arm swing and the discus is released from the side of the body like an actual discus throw.
The drills are designed to teach proper release technique and develop confidence that the discus will not fall off the hand if the implement is in motion.
The thrower gets in the power position with the feet wider than shoulder width, the discus starts on the left side, then the discus thrower winds the discus back to 270 degrees and turns the right leg into the left side.
Standing throws are often completed without a reverse to emphasize the right side turning and a strong block with the left side.
½ turn throws
The thrower sets up in the middle of the circle, the right foot is placed at 9 o’clock and the upper body is facing the center of the sector, the discus is at the side of the body. The focus of the throw is an active turning the right foot, as the upper body stays back as long as possible.
Multiple ½ turn throws
The thrower completes a series of 1/2 turns then on the final ½ turn, the discus is thrown.
The discus thrower can also lean back and lift the right foot up and place it down in the middle of the ring, this adds some rhythm to the half turn throw and closely simulates the timing of the full throw.
As with the standing throws, the throw is often completed without a reverse.
Slow full throws, no reverse
The athlete executes the full technique but at a slower pace focusing on body positions. During the release phase, the discus thrower’s feet remain on the ground.
Full throws, no reverse
The throw is performed without the reverse, concentrating on turning the right side in the middle and the blocking action of the left side.
As with the slow full throws, other objects can be thrown to learn the technique without focusing on distance.
Non-throwing drills for the discus
The thrower practices the winding motion. The athlete needs to learn how to properly set up the start of the throw. This drill works on the whole winding motion, not just winding again and again; it prepares the athlete for the next phase of the throw.
Wind and step-out
The athlete completes a wind and steps out with the right leg, tapping it on the ground at the 3 o’clock position. The left side should point at 3 o’clock with the shoulders level, the left leg will support most of the bodyweight (90%+).
Wind, step-out, step to the middle
The thrower completes the previous drill, then step with the right foot to the middle of the circle.
Wind, step-out, step to the middle, turn to the power position
The discus thrower adds to the previous drill by turning the right foot is in the center of the circle and the athlete will complete the drill by finishing in the power position.
Wind, step out and turn to the power position
The thrower performs a step out and then works on sprinting from the 3 o’clock position, landing in the power position. The drill should simulate the actual body position in the full throw, keeping very little weight on the right leg on the step out.
Turn to the power position
The athlete executes the initial throwing motion, landing in the power position. The emphasis is on balance and landing in a good throwing position with most of the bodyweight over the right leg.
Drills with a throw
During each phase of the drill, there is a long pause, the coach checks the positioning of the thrower, then the next phase of the drill/throw is completed.
Wind, step-out, step to the middle, turn to the power position, standing throw
Wind, step out and turn to the power position, standing throw
Turn to the power position, standing throw
Wind, step-out, step to the middle, ½ turn throw
Wind and step to the middle, ½ turn throw