Step 11


Block; Post; Whip; Drive; Orbit; Stretch; Right side: Finish; Eyes, what do all of these throwing cue’s have in common?

They’re not step 1.

And that’s the crux of being a new thrower. Oh sure, we may be older and have athletic backgrounds. Maybe even have competed in other sports for years. But throwing? An entirely new beast. And the biggest thing I’ve learned out of my whole whoppin’ two seasons is this: advice will be free; it will be plentiful, and in many cases, it will be wrong.

Imagine this: you are new to squatting. Sure, you’ve seen many different styles but this is your first time under the bar and there are plenty of bro’s to help you through it. Best piece of advice? “Dude, at the very end, snap your knees back and your hips through or it’s not finished.” 

Dude. Srsly.

At the end? THE END? But…the rep’s about done? How many ways did I fuck things up from getting under the bar; unracking; stepping back, and actually squatting the stupid thing. 100? Yes. 100. (Maybe not 100, but 10? Yes, 10.) Cuz you just cued (incorrectly) step 11. And if steps 1-10 don’t go well, step 11 won’t mean shit.

True story.


See, unless you’ve been throwing for years, step 11 isn’t as helpful as STEP 1!!! DUHHHHHHH!!!!

The cues you get may be the easiest for your throwing “bro” to see but not necessarily the best for you. The first time I threw the hammer, the word “orbit” was repeated at least 4,287 times. FoShizzle. As if the process of repeating it would make it make sense. Finally, Coach Mac pulled me aside and said, “Right hand, right foot.” Ohhhhhhhhh, useful. As we all know, I struggle greatly with this event but after two years guess what? The word “orbit” still means shit to me. There are steps I need to figure out before I worry about it or at the very least figure out HOW to get the ball in the correct orbit. Repeating the word isn’t helpful, telling me how is.


Now, before I hear, “Well we’re just trying to be helpful and will never say anything at all so there you’re on your own dudette,” I know. I know every piece of advice is coming from a good place (most of the time.) The wonderful thing about Highland Games is that people want each other to succeed. That is cool. So cool.

But we must understand who we’re talking to. After two years of trying to “block” in stones, I was told that without enough drive or speed, it probably won’t happen. Ummmmmm, duh. I’ve been trying to “slap the giant” or something like that all this time when I could have been focused on gaining speed in a very short space. Now, it could be that those telling me to block assumed I knew this. But see I don’t. Cuz I’m green. A noob. Novice. Don’t-o Know-o Shit-o. Comprendre-o?

Step 1. What is step 1? If you don’t know, then should advice be dispensed? I honestly don’t know. I try to keep my mouth shut during throws unless specifically asked and even then I’m careful with what I say. Cuz I’m new, and I don’t know step 1. This may make me appear unhelpful. Don’t care. The last thing I need is to be telling others what to do in a sport I’m just barely starting to understand on Games day when we have no coaching/athlete relationship to begin with.

If I see something happening in others good throws (*COUGHkatieandluke*COUGH) I’ll usually say, “I see ‘x’ but am not putting it together, advice?” And the good one’s know. A quick, useful cue and then I leave them alone to their throws. At least I try to roll that way.

Also, judges. Often times judges have been around long enough and are throwers themselves. If I’m struggling in an event, the first thing I do is ask the judge, “what do you see?” They are invaluable. In Hawaii, I fouled my first LWD. I asked the judge about it and he simply said, “tighten up the feet. You’ll be fine.” And I was. Flat, but I fixed my feet and on Games day fixing the important stuff is priority. Flat is something I can work on at home.

Step 1…tighten the feet. YaBuddy!

I’m not a mean player. You’ll notice that I never pick on anyone with a number higher than 30.

Mike Ditka

About tosabarbell

For training opportunities at tosabarbell, call or text Juli at 320-296-9313. e-mail to At tosabarbell, I build relationships cultivated in a strength and learning environment. There is no 12 week magic pill program to strength but rather a lifetime commitment to be the very best and most useful human you can be. tosabarbell is a private, home grown gym with three lifting platforms; squat rack; prowlers; throwing implements; bars, bumpers and everything else needed for an effective strength and conditioning program. Straightforward barbell programming including the Olympic lifts; sound (read: not fancy bullshit) diet advance for weight gain or loss; and strong coaching will ensure you will meet your goals such as becoming stronger, more explosive, and better conditioned. I have been coaching teams and athletes for over 30 years. I grew up participating in various sports at various levels but was always drawn to those that require strength training. I have multiple local, national, and world records in the sports of Weightlifting and Highland Games Heavy Events as well as a combined total of 5 World Championships. My 5 years of training and coaching under Mark Rippetoe provided a wide range of influence from some of the top strength & conditioning and throwing coaches in the country. I will strongly encourage tosabarbell athletes to compete (and prepare you to do so.) However, tosabarbell is also for those who wish to be stronger and go through life feeling better. Matt WanAt is a retired Professional Strongman who competed frequently with Strongman Champions League in Europe. He played a year of D1 football with Iowa before concentrating on his Chemical Engineering degree in Iowa City. He is a native of Wauwatosa and still remains a staunch supporter of Tosa East. This blog will be a mixture of strength notes, coaching and nutrition tips, personal shit; bacon delicacies, and a whole lot of fun.
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