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Relationship between throwing velocity and bench press in handball players

by P. Debraux | 10 February 2018

handball, player, bench press, throwing, ball, velocity, relation, science, sport, performance, high-level
Representation of an overarm throw

Figure 1. Representation of an overarm throw.

Handball is a team and contact sport. It consists mainly of intense and brief efforts such as sprinting, jumping, throwing, blocking against opponents, etc. In addition to the different technical and tactical qualities that this sport requires, it has been argued that ball throwing performance (i.e., ball velocity and throwing accuracy) is a key element.

The neuro-muscular performance, the coordination of consecutive actions of the body segments and the strength and power of the lower and upper limbs are factors that intervene in the efficiency of throwing in handball. Although muscle strength and power have been reported to be associated with throwing velocity in team handball, limited data exist on the relationship between the throwing velocity and the bench press.

The Study

In 2007, a team of researchers studied the relationship between strength and muscle power during bench press and the throwing performance. Other studies had previously highlighted this link but the evaluation protocols were very little representative of the reality of the field.

To overcome this problem, the researchers decided to study the ball velocity during an overarm throw using a 3-step running throw (Fig. 1) and its relationship with kinetic parameters (ie, the maximum force, the power and the speed of the bar) during the concentric phase of a bench press (Fig. 2).

Fourteen male high-level players including four internationals participated in this study. The protocol took place in two phases:

  • First phase : The players were instructed to perform 5 throws preceded by 3 steps in the 9 meter zone with 2 minutes of rest between each throw. The speed of the balloon was measured using a manual radar that was located behind a wooden target that the players had to aim at. Only the top 4 trials were retained for analysis.
  • Second phase : Initially, the concentric dynamic maximum force (i.e., 1RM concentric) at the bench press was evaluated. Then, the subjects performed 3 trials with bars of 26, 36 and 46 kg. They had 3 minutes of rest between each test. The main instruction was to perform the full extension of the arms as quickly as possible. The bar velocity and the external power output were determined by a rotary encoder.

Bravais-Pearson correlations were used to study the relationship between the throwing velocity and the maximum force developed, the movement velocity and the power output during the bench press.

Representation of the concentric bench press. The bar starts at point A and ends at point B

Figure 2. Representation of the concentric bench press. The bar starts at point A and ends at point B.

Results & Analyzes

The authors obtained the following significant correlations:

  • Ball velocity and 1RM (r = 0.64)
  • Ball velocity and maximal bar velocity at 26 kg (r = 0.56)
  • Ball velocity and maximal bar velocity at 36 kg (r = 0.63)
  • Ball velocity and maximal power output at 36 kg (r = 0.59)
  • Ball velocity and maximal power output at 46 kg (r = 0.58)

The significant correlation between the ball velocity during a shot and the maximal concentric force in the bench press is low. The average value of the concentric 1RM is 68.9 ± 10 kg, which is, in absolute terms, a rather low value for top athletes. It may reflect a low level of training on this movement and this may perhaps explain, in part, the low correlation observed. It should also be noted that the choice of absolute charges is not justified by the authors, and the interest of this choice seems minimal.

The choice to test only the concentric phase of the bench press could be questioned. The stretch-shortening cycle does not intervene in this configuration, but during the throw, the elastic potential energy is one of the essential components of the shooting performance.

Finally, the performance of the bench press can also be at the origin of the weak correlations which have been observed between the maximum speed of the bar and the maximum power produced. As the bar is not projected at the end of the full extension of the elbows, it is not possible to measure an actual maximal velocity of the bar. The bar is braked reflexively well before the end of the movement.

Practical Applications

Although very limited, the results of this study seem to show a relationship between performance in strength and power during the concentric phase of a bench press and the ball velocity during a handball throwing. Nevertheless, the different biases of this study do not allow to say with certainty if the bench press could allow to improve the shooting performance. It might be interesting to test the bench press (eccentric AND concentric phase) with projection of the load at the end of the concentric phase to maximize the power.

Handball throwing is a complex motor activity where many parameters come into play. Several studies have focused on throwing and the factors that would improve it. The resistance training can help to reinforce the muscles involved in throwing but throwing is a skill which needs to be train on its own.

Références

  1. Marques MC, van den Tillaar R, Vescovi JD and González-Badillo JJ. Relationship between throwing velocity, muscle power, and bar velocity during bench press in elite handball players. Int J Sports Physiol Perf 2 : 414-422, 2007.

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