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Dedication and talent: how resistance training improve the shot put

by Gabriele Ferraresi / LUZ
There are records that don’t last long which are almost ephemeral, filed away every year and then there are records that seem destined to remain eternal.

One of the records in Italian athletics that seems to be carved in stone is that of the shot put: both for indoor and outdoor, held by Alessandro Andrei. A weightlifter born in 1959. He achieved them in 1987, more than thirty years ago, in one of the athletic disciplines that require brute strength.

Alessandro Andrei has remained in the collective memory of Italians even more than for two records still unbeaten for an Olympic gold in Los Angeles 1984.

The faces of the athletes are masks of anger and tension before exploding, freeing themselves with a scream at the launch moment, when they throw a weight of 7.26 kg as far as possible.

Alessandro Andrei's shot put records

Alessandro Andrei in azione
For athletes, good means throwing the shot put for more than 20 meters. Alessandro Andrei 's more than thirty-year records speak for themselves: 21.54 metres indoors and 22.91 metres outdoors.

Now the American Randy Barnes, who in 1990 managed to reach 23.12 metres, holds the world record. A legendary distance.

Legendary as Alessandro Andrei, who remained in the collective memory of Italians even more than for two records still unbeaten for an Olympic gold in Los Angeles 1984.

The boycott Olympics, those of Alessandro Andrei, without the Soviet Union - but with China, which had been missing since 1948 under the five circles - the Olympics of Carl Lewis who brings home four golds, in the 100, 200, long jump and relay 4x100.

Alessandro Andrei at the end of the '80s prepares the bandages for the shot put
It was the best Olympics ever for gold won for Italy, 14 in total. Alessandro Andrei brought one of them home, the colossus of Scandicci, a 25 year old at the time, standing 1.91 meters high and weighing in at  118 kg, a vague resemblance to Lou Reed, who declared to the newspapers "Athletics is a vice for those who, like me, have no money". Perhaps little money; glory in return.

The boycott Olympics, those of Alessandro Andrei, were without the Soviet Union - but with China.

Glory did not arrive by chance, given that Alessandro Andrei was performing two daily workouts, one on the field and one in the gym, for a total of 5-6 hours of daily work, an exemplary dedication to his exercise. Alessandro Andrei, who retired in 2004 at the age of 45, lives in Florence and married a disc player, Agnese Maffeis.

To date, no one seems to be able to improve his records.

Strength training and power like Alessandro Andrei: the determining factors of performance in weightlifting

Slow motion of shot put movement
The shot put is a male and female athletic discipline, in which the athlete tries to throw as far as possible a metal ball (the weight).  It is a throw in which the competition tool tends to escape in the centrifugal direction, to adhere to the neck and it must always be kept under pressure. In order for the throw to be powerful, the weight must be thrown with a gyroscopic movement and with an exit angle capable of gliding in the air.
Shot put track field
According to FIDAL- Italian Athletics Federation studies, strength training and explosive power means working on two key elements to excel in the performance of the shot put.

Alessandro Andrei, "the colossus of Scandicci", a 25 year old boy at the time, 1.91 meters high by 118 kg, a vague resemblance to Lou Reed

As far as strength training is concerned, weighing exercises are to be counted among those of a general nature, especially with reference to specialties such as the shotput in which Alessandro Andrei excelled. Sessions that Alessandro Andrei underwent regularly, once a day.
Muscle hypertrophy is an indicator of the success of strength training, which develops with special strength training where it is nothing more than an increase in the transverse section of the muscle. There is a correlation between it, the development of muscle strength and performance in shotput, so it is necessary to develop this aspect.

Weighing exercises are to be counted among those of a general nature, especially with reference to throwing specialties such as shot put.

Weight thrown by the athlete lands on the field in clay
A kinematic analysis of the throwing gesture (i.e. through films at various speeds) shows that apparently the movements of the weight have no similarity with the throwing. Some key elements are missing such as:

  •  translocations
  • displacements
  • rotations
  • the movements of the various limbs (upper and lower)

The latter, when taken individually are very different from those of the weightlifting. These are multi-articular movements and on various axes and planes that tend to vary continuously during the execution of the gesture.

"Athletics is a vice for those who, like me, have no money". Alessandro Andrei

It is true that the muscles used are the same, but with different angles and directions. On the other hand, it should be remembered that in order to connect the classical strength training and the casting technique, a special force was created, a series of exercises connecting these two factors.

Knowing how to launch with force, working on force with strength  training

In some sports, one of the skills that make the difference is knowing how to launch with strength and the throwing of weights is one of these sports. In shot put it is important that the athlete has strength and acceleration in the arm. But how do strength training affect the success?
Athlete prepares to jet
Recent studies show how strength training is fundamental: in research, a group of athletes had to train following squat and flat bench exercises, a group trained without these strength exercises.  Mechanical information was collected about this, such as the degree of stiffness of the lower limbs. The study showed that the athletes who achieved the best results about the maximum force applied were those who did strength training such as squat and weightlifting. For sportsmen, the strength and speed of the lower limbs can be associated with the shot put performance.

Alessandro Andrei retired in 2004, at the age of 45. He lives in Florence and married Agnese Maffeis, a discus thrower.

Another way to develop the strength of the limbs in addition to strength training in the gym, is to use different weights during the different warm-ups. According to research published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, those who used heavier weights than those who did not were able to increase the length of the throw by 3.15 meters. Using different weights during warm-up is a good way to increase the throw power during the competition.
Sources and bibliography

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