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THE POWER OF GIANTS
The best shot putters in the world are testimonials to the effectiveness of BFS Core Lifts.
By Kim Goss
Published: Spring 2001

How far can you throw a bowling ball? Considering that a bowling ball weighs up to 16 pounds, if you said more than 20 feet then you probably haven't thrown many bowling balls. But when you consider that 16 pounds is also the weight of the men's shot put, and that men have put the shot more than 75 feet, you get an idea of the awesome power of these athletes.
Although few shot putters have competed in powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting competitions, very often those who have competed bowl us over with their accomplishments. In fact, former shot put world record holder, Al Feuerbach, not only won both the national championships in shot put and Olympic weightlifting in the same year, he also surprised the competitive weightlifting community by squat snatching 341 pounds in flawless style at 240 pounds bodyweight. Likewise, when the Superstars competition gave an invitation to professional shot putter, Brian Oldfield, who is credited with the first throw of 75 feet, he push-pressed a new record of 315 pounds overhead not once, but five times!
The lifts just mentioned occurred approximately 20 years ago, and since then the strength and overall quality of shot putters have reached even more amazing levels. For example, Greg Tafralis, with a best throw of 72 feet 1 3/4 inches, cleans 520, squats 880 and bench presses 638. Only four weightlifters in the US have clean and jerked 500. Further, consider that most of these athletes do not wear supersuits and bench shirts to assist with their lifting-for these men, weight training is a form of conditioning, not their primary sport.
Although those cleans and power lifts are remarkable, what's particularly interesting is that many of these athletes are fast, very fast. Lee Newman, who put the shot 62 feet, could run 30 meters in 3.41 seconds at a bodyweight of 262 pounds. When Brian Oldfield competed in professional track, he would often race, and win, against the best female sprinters in exhibitions. These extraordinary shot putters can also jump, as exemplified by the 35-inch vertical jump of Werner Gunthoer (best throw 74 feet 7 ½ inches) at a bodyweight of 278 pounds; and by the 11 foot 5-inch long jump of Henrik Wennberg, a 265-pounder who threw 65 feet 6 ½ inches.
These impressive numbers are an indication of the power that goes into training for the shot put. Power, which is defined as "work performed over time," is a combination of strength and speed. For the strength part of the equation, BFS core lifts such as the bench press and the squat are essential to the shot putter. These lifts develop the major muscles of the upper and lower body.
For the speed aspect of the power equation, the clean is the key lift for these athletes. Olympic weightlifters are often known for being surprisingly good sprinters and jumpers. For example, 1976 Olympic champion, David Rigert, who competed in the 198-pound weight class and was one of the lightest men to ever clean and jerk 500 pounds, ran 100 meters in 10.4 seconds; and 1980 Olympic champion, Yuri Vardanyan, a multi-Olympic champion who was just a few pounds shy of a 500 clean and jerk at 181-pounds bodyweight, could high jump over 7 feet with a 3-step approach and had a standing long jump of over 12 feet.
If you want a good rundown of some of the best shot put throws in history, plus data on the clean, bench, squat, vertical jump, long jump and 30-meter sprint, check out the statistics compiled by author Walter Shields on a website called the Shot and Discus Page. You'll discover that although there may be a few shot putters who don't perform the BFS core lifts, they appear to be the exception rather than the rule. Who knows, these lifts could even help lower your bowling score!

How far can you throw a bowling ball?
Al Feuerbach
Greg Tafralis

Return to Spring 2001 Articles


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