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THEABC’ SOFTHROWI

NG: GLIDE
VS. SPIN?
By Bogdan Poprawski

Thi sart
iclei sanexcer ptf r
om t heaut hor’scol umnoft hrowi ngt hatappear edi n
theCanadi antrackandf i
eldpubl icat
ion“ Athleti
cs”t hr oughoutt he1980’ sand
90’s.Whi l
eobvi ouslydat ed( see“ Realit
ies”att heendoft hear ticl
e),the
information provided gives the reader an interesting insight into the evolution of
shot put technique and methodological trends. Re-printed with permission from
the author.

It has always struck me as amusing that something like throws, at its basic level
a very simple activity, can always inspire heated debates amongst its
participants. One controversy that has been raging for a number of years has to
do with the spin technique in the shot put. I don’ tintendt
oopenold wounds, but
much of the argument for spinning comes from smaller throwers, while the larger
throwers tend to opt for the traditional glide technique.

In the end the decision rests with the individual coach and thrower as to whether
or not they choose one method over the other. Personally I am an advocate of
the traditional technique developedbyPar r
yO’ Brien.Nowdon’ tgetmewr ong,I
am not one of those coaches who automatically assumes that anything old has to
be better. It’
sjust that I think people in general, and track people in particular are
very quick to adopt new methods or products if they are actually an improvement
over the old ways. A case in point is the flop in high jump. Within a few years of
DickFosbur y’s rise to fame everyone had tried this new way of jumping and now
you will not be able to see an international high jumper using straddle technique.

The spin technique on the other hand has been around since the ear
ly1960’
syet
it has failed to make significant inroads in the throwing world.

To help the novice thrower or an interested coach make their decision I thought it
would be prudent to offer the reader arguments from both sides of the debate.

One of the most outspoken prophets of the spin technique is Art Venegas, a well-
known coach at UCLA in the United States. In a speech he gave at the European
Coaches Congress in France, 1987, he pointed out that the spin or rotational
technique “hasbecomethe predominant style of putting in the United States. ”

He told the congress that in both the 1985 and 1986 NCAA indoor and outdoor
championships rotational throwers outnumbered glide throwers for the first time.
“I
tisac ommonobs ervati
on,”hestressed, ‘ t
hatstrength is better utilized by
t
her otati
onaltechni que”.He went on to say the rotational technique allows
athletes of modest size and strength to perform well because:

 there is superior leg lift at the front of the ring,

 there is the mechanical advantage of a greater path of acceleration,

 there are good rhythmic qualities to the rotational movement.

The theory of the spin method is, as we will see in a moment, very sound, but the
results are all over the map.

To prove his point Venegas gave the results of a number of throwers who were in
hiswor ds“ smal l”al t
houghone,Greg Tafralis, while short (185 cm) tips the scale
at 133 kg! Tafralis had a best throw with the spin technique of 21.44m, while he
could only manage a 17.00m with the glide. Another thrower, Hank Kraychir (183
cm / 132 kg) had better result in the spin, but by a very small margin (20.55m vs.
20.00m).

The largest differential was recorded by Randy Barnes (21.88m vs. 17.00m), but
then Barnes is hardly one would call a “small
”thrower.Hei s193cm and 130 kg.

The other theory that proponents of the spin technique like to toss out is that
practitioners of this method don’ thav et obe very strong. In other words superior
technique of the spin method will allow for less brute strength than the glide. For
starters glide technique will always be an advantage, but someoft he“ weaker ”
spinners are in fact far stronger than their glide counterparts. Barnes, for
example, could bench press 550 lbs, while Edward Sarul of Poland, the World
Champion in 1983, a glider, could only press 400 lbs. Of course there are results
that indicate that Venegas is right as he can trot out athletes who achieved better
throwing results while registering lesser lifting totals.

By now you should be thoroughly confused, and rightly so. There is no concrete
data to suggest that either method is dearly better. Any results we do have can
be manipulated to support either theory.

What might be more useful then would be a look at the theory of the spin, versus
the reality of the shot put today.

Theories:

 “Rot ati
onalt echniquehas the advantage of creating favorable conditions
i
for the acceleratonoftheat hlet
eands hot.”

o Bartonietz, East Germany, Scientist


 “Success fuls pinner susually exhibit a higher degree of un-teachable
characteristics of natur
albal l
ist
icmot i
on. ”

o John Kennenson, North Carolina State.

 “Rotationalt
echni queismor edi
ff
icultthan the traditional one, therefore it
requires much higher development of bal
anc e.”

o Bogdan Poprawski.

 “Rotat i
onalt ec hniquegi vest hechanceto smaller throwers to achieve
better results than in the glide, assuming they have goodathleti
cabi l
iti
es.

o Kerssenbrok Czechoslovakia.

Realities:

 There was only one spinner, Poland’ sHelmut Krieger, among the finalists
at the 1987 World Championships. And he put further using the glide in
warm-up than
he did using the spin in competition.

 Only A. Baryshinikov of USSR has won medals at the Olympics using


spin.

 Gliders regularly outnumber spinners in medals.

 Ulf Timmerman of the GDR is a moderately sized athlete, who put the shot
using glide technique 23.06m.

 There is no significant interest in the spin among the coaches in Eastern


Bloc countries, who are acknowledged to be among the best in the world.

 Current World Champion Werner Gunthor, when asked about his spin
results stated that he did not care about his results in the spin.

So what is the answer? Well, I hate to sound like a politician, but on this one I will
have to sit on the fence for there is no right or wrong answer. It is up to the coach
and athlete, but I do feel a coach will achieve better results, regardless of style, if
they seek out larger athletes. Clearly there is greater potential in a larger putter
than in a smaller one.