HWD (Part 1)


I found this on the GLSAA site. If you know who drew it, please let me know. I’d like to give credit. Isn’t it awesome?

I talked to a woman a few weeks ago who, along with her husband, is interested in getting involved in Highland Games. In fact, her husband competed for his first time here in Waukesha over Labor Day weekend. Awesome. My first question was, how far did he throw the HWD? Why? Because, in my opinion, how someone handles that heavy weight gives me a solid impression on how things went on the field that day.

Stay with me here.

Matt and I had a conversation a week or two ago on which Highland Games event best showcased an athlete’s strength; athleticism, and explosive power. Now, the stones show some of this but handling a 22# stone is quite different than two turns with a 56# weight. Also, if you have throwing experience, you already know how to move through the trig space. And, hammers. Now, this isn’t science, but if you have any kind of shot or hammer experience, you’ll be okay on four events of the day. I’ve even seen hammer throwers do very well in their first Games on the stones. I’m too old and too inexperienced to know why. I imagine it’s because at some point they also threw shot or at the very least banged a shot putter and got some good tips while they snuggled afterwards.

But weight for distance? Nope. In fact. If you look (I have) on the NASGA results for Games around the country, you’ll see new people coming in with great stone and hammer numbers and their weights will be significantly behind. This tells me something. I don’t know exactly what, but something. Now, it is likely that these experienced throwers will pick up weights fairly quickly. More quickly than the non-thrower anyway.


My amazing friend, Victoria Wechter, took this picture in Portland last year. It remains my most favorite. Even though my right foot is pointing the completely wrong way (she loves when I use her pictures to bitch about my throws. Really.)

The first time I ever threw the 28# heavy weight for distance, I went 18’7″. There was one attempt that nearly landed me on my ass. Who knew 28# could feel so heavy? This year, I had a couple of 40 plus foot heavy weight throws and I’ll take it. For some reason, I took to weights. I lost my way during full season one (now I know why) and when meeting K.O. and Craig Smith in Waukesha again the next September , they fixed me right up. I can’t imagine the thrower I’d be if I had K.O. as a coach year round. A better one, that’s for sure.

Anyways. That’s only the 28# and in my opinion (my blog, my opinion) isn’t even close to the monster that the men’s 56# weight feels. It is a beast. Which is why I ask noobs what they threw. The first time Matt threw the 56# weight, it went 31 feet. His PR is 38 or 39, somewhere around there. A very respectable number. Especially for someone who doesn’t practice and only uses a one turn. But he’s strong. And he’s powerful (ya, one of the best Truck Pulling Strongman in the world. Power) and yes, he’s incredibly athletic. The general population won’t recognize that because they just see a big guy. The general population is stupid. Not completely, I’m still surprised at times how fast he moves if I cock off and turn my back on him. Heh.

I have seen incredibly strong men fail to throw the HWD further than the low 20’s. I have seen incredibly athletic men throw in the 30’s. But the best? They are strong. And athletic. And powerful. Nowhere else during the Games are these traits showcased like the Heavy Weight for Distance. Example:
This is Spencer Tyler’s HWD World Record throw in Portland this summer. It is over 50 feet.

50 feet. Now, that may not mean much to a noob. I’ve even had stupid people say, “Oh come on Jules, throw it 8 feet more” on a heavy distance attempt. (By the way, though later I may know that you were trying to be supportive of my throws when you got in my face while I walked up to the trig to tell me I should put 8 feet on my PR, in that moment I will think you are a complete dumbass who doesn’t understand sports so WintheF are you doing on the field?) 8 feet. That’s nearly 17 percent farther than my PR. That’s HUGE! I can’t do that. Shut up! However, to the rest of us, this 50 plus foot throw is huge. It is anywhere from 10 to 15 percent further than the average Pro thrower. But Spencer Tyler is strong. And powerful. And athletic. Fucking obviously.

So I asked this woman what her husband threw with the 56# a few weeks ago. She thought around 15 feet. However (and this is more precious than anything), he thought it wasn’t the weight, it was that he didn’t know how to move with it.

Ummmmm, dude? It was the weight. That’s okay. It’s a beast. But that 15′ tells me that A) you’re not strong and B) you’re not powerful and C) you may be athletic but if you’re not at the very least more “A)”, you’ll struggle. Get stronger. HEY! I can help with that. Heh. I haven’t heard back from them. They were some of the people who I confirmed that their wish of not being super competitive will be granted. At least for now. Me and my stupid honesty.

The Heavy Weight for Distance is my favorite event. Not because I’m okay at it (there is a lot of room for improvement. I know what that looks like, now it will come down to what my body is able to handle) but because it is ballet with a heavy fucking weight at the end of your arm.


The queen (and World Record holder) of Womens HWD, Adriane Wilson. She is so smooth and yet powerful in her weights, it is a delight to watch her throw.

And that, in my opinion, sums up Highland Games perfectly. Beautiful movement with heavy fucking weights. Why WOULDN’T you want to join in the fun??!!

There is something special about a Heavy Weight that goes further than most. I don’t know what it is yet. It has to do with your ability to control the orbit of the weight through turns in a tiny space and apply powerful force while still keeping your shoulder relaxed. I dunno. I need someone smarter than me to figure out the math and right now he’s in North Carolina trying to find gas for his rental car. But I DO know that the NASGA scores show a 10% decrease in distance of the next best Pro score off Spencer’s World Record and an 8% decrease off of Adriane’s best throw this year (probably another percentage point off of her World Record.) 8-10% is ginormous in a sport where a quarter inch is all it could take to win and set another record. In the immortal words of Craig Smith,

If that worked, we’d all be doing it.

Meaning in this case, if it were easy we’d all be throwing close to those world records. But we’re not. Cuz it’s not.


You’ve got to be honest. If you can fake that,  you’ve got it made.

George Burns


About tosabarbell

For training opportunities at tosabarbell, call or text Juli at 320-296-9313. e-mail to jep6095@gmail.com 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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