The Elbow Is The Engine In Shot Put
I was recently teaching shot put to a group of 7 and 8 year-olds. During the session I became aware of how many of the kids were attempting to “throw” the shot, rather than “put” it. In other words, as they were attempting to propel the shot forward away from their neck, they were dropping the elbow of their throwing arm under the shot, and even allowing their elbow to get in front of the shot.
A “dropped” elbow is a common error amongst novice shot putters.
If you ever see this happen (and you most likely will) you will notice that the shot remains still while the athlete’s elbow drops and rotates under and around the shot in a “scooping” action. The elbow moves first, whereas the elbow, forearm, hand and shot should all move as one unit in the direction of the throw.
A “dropped” elbow places the athlete’s arm in a very poor position to impart a forward force on the shot. In fact once the elbow gets in front of the shot, it will cause the athlete to pull or drag the shot forward rather than push it.
The other problem is that once the elbow is under or in front of the shot, it is likely that the shot will fall away from the athlete’s neck, leading to a foul throw.
An athlete’s elbow should “stay behind” the shot.
“Keep your elbow up” is a common cue amongst coaches.
I prefer to use “Keep your elbow behind the shot”, but even this was having a limited effect on my group of 7 and 8 year-old shot putters.
In searching for a cue that better connected with the kids, I stumbled upon asking them to think of the elbow as the shot’s engine, pushing it along. I had the kids visualise a boat being propelled along by an outboard motor. I asked them if the motor is at the front or back of the boat. I then related this to their elbow being the motor that propels their forearm, their hand and the shot forward.
The “motor” stays behind the shot and propels it forward.
It worked a treat. It wasn’t 100% effective with everyone, but it certainly worked well enough with enough kids for me to add it to my coaching toolkit for future use.
In fact any analogy that the kids can relate to, and that sees the elbow as the pushing force is worth experimenting with. Another potentially effective analogy may be to relate the the arm to a rocket, with the elbow being a booster engine. The shot could be the capsule containing the astronauts.
What can you come up with?
Now you try it
The next time you come across a young athlete dropping their elbow while shot putting, try using the “elbow as engine” analogy. I would love to hear how it goes. If you come up with extensions or other interpretations, please share them. You can let me know by leaving a comment/reply or by using the below contact details.
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Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes, and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube, the Coaching Young Athletes podcast, and the Coaching Young Athletes E-Book Series.