It’s height, not distance.
May 8, 2017 8:52 PM   Subscribe

Midwest Filter: I witnessed hay bale toss contest last summer at my local county fair. I want to participate this summer! Help me tweak my exercise routine to become the county’s hay bale toss champion!

There are probably worse hobbies. I have four main questions:
1. Exercises – what exercises should I be doing and what muscles should I pay particular attention to?

2. Technique – if someone asked me how to best toss a hay bale I would think a squat push press-like. However, the reigning technique is shot put-like (SLYT, starts around 0:21. Warning – country music.) Is this really the best way?

3. Equipment – ideally, I’d like to practice before the actual competition. And while hay bales are not difficult to come by in my flyover state, tossing one around my (very suburban) home, or even yard, is something I much rather avoid (they do have a tendency to fall apart after a couple of tosses.) This guy (SLYT) has a non-shedding equivalent. How can I make one?

4. Grip - the bales are tied together with wire and, from my observation, getting a good grip on the thing is a first step to success. What technique should I use to grip? Would wearing gloves help?

Anything else I need to think about?

Oh, and my title is correct. Despite some crazy people who, according to YouTube, toss for distance, this particular competition is who can toss the highest.

I'm female, probably fairly fit for my age, and know my way around the gym.
posted by Dotty to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you are asking if gloves would help you definitely need some practice bales because you know nothing Dotty Snow! I've spent far too much time stacking hay and it's more of a flick action actually than a caber toss because bales of hay lack structural integrity. Hay bales are made of compressed flakes that don't align perfectly and aren't joined together much. Each bale has it's own balance point where it's fairly stiff and you can throw it without too much wobbling and the trick is to find that then launch without disturbing the jenga stack of flakes. In short: you need some bales to play with, and don't hurt yourself trying to squat or caber toss a wiggly load. Bales of hay aren't kettle balls, more like a stack of flower pots.
posted by fshgrl at 9:30 PM on May 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

For #3, I see there are a variety of "hay bale bags" out there for about $30. Just add hay, and if you have hay available, there's probably a tack shop nearby where you might be able to buy one locally.
posted by rhizome at 9:32 PM on May 8, 2017

And yes that's probably the best way to toss a hay bale that size. The other good way to toss hay is to sling it but that's not really ideal if you're going that high and don't have hooks. The lady who knocked herself over is pretty much what I'd expect.

Also just as an fyi- depending on the baler, bales weight 30-120lbs. Those are decent sized bales, I'd guess those are 50-60lb+ probably.
posted by fshgrl at 9:41 PM on May 8, 2017

Wrap the bale in a few extra passes of twine, it won't break after repeated throws. I can give more detail if you need it but the concept is pretty simple; it's the same thing they already to do to keep bales of hay and straw together -- just do more of that, with jute, polypro, nylon, whatever is on hand. Work in some perpendicular or diagonal passes if you're feeling fancy and want extra durability. Tension it up and you're good to go. This may indeed alter the subtle balance points fshgrl mentions, but it will keep your bales together.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:15 PM on May 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

what exercises should I be doing and what muscles should I pay particular attention to?
Most of the time, we want to focus on movements rather than muscles, because just about every muscle in the body is involved in complex activities like these. That gives us with lifting, shouldering, and explosive pressing motions, which one should train generally with squats, deadlifts, power cleans, overhead presses, and push presses. Those are the movements that I'd want to transform my body to be dramatically stronger at. My goal is not to merely practice the movements, but to change my body for the task.

Like all strength training for non-elite athletes, those are quite general lifts, as they should be. Strength is a general attribute best trained by non-specific whole-body exercises. Note also that these lifts form the foundation of gym work for most throwing events in track and field, including shot putt.

I might go with a workout of power-clean-and-press, then power-clean-and-push-press, then deadlift, then end with squats. All would be in the 3-5 rep range for multiple sets. I wouldn't say it matters much if the presses are one-handed or two-handed, except that the power cleans have to be barbell to be heavy enough, so one-handed presses with a dumbbell would have to be in addition to (not instead of) the two-handed work. Maybe strict presses with dumbbell and push presses with barbell (either in the same workout or alternating each workout) could be a good way to schedule both.

If training time or learning capacity is limited, I would focus on getting my barbell deadlift and one-arm dumbbell clean and press both as strong as possible. When designing my program I would only schedule push presses in addition to strict presses, not instead of, because for both efficiency and safety one wants to develop positional strength before adding speed-strength.

The only sport-specific exercise I'd recommend is trying to replicate, as exactly as possible, the precise competitive scenario, complete with bale and bar to clear. This teaches you to translate your all-around strength developed in the gym to your sport activity.
posted by daveliepmann at 11:46 PM on May 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Looking at the video it's different than loading a stack, it's like the high jump over a bar, look at the "Fosbury Flop", it's a pivot over the bar. So practicing a smooth flip up so it rotates over will probably be the win. Remember, lift with your legs, get the bail moving and finesse with the arms. One smooth movement.
posted by sammyo at 5:32 AM on May 9, 2017

I have no advice to offer on this topic (sorry!) but please keep us updated on how this goes. This was the best thing I've read in the last 24 hours, and I hope you have a great time getting ready to win that ribbon!
posted by asperity at 8:00 AM on May 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Huh, I'm surprised no one uses a strongman keg toss technique to get it over the bar… that's how I'd do it. If that's not allowed, or the hay bale doesn't hold up with that… I would think that the circus dumbbell clean and press technique would come in handy.
posted by culfinglin at 10:22 AM on May 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe this is obvious, but since you're in the midwest, do you know anyone who owns or works on a farm? I'll bet they'd let you throw a bunch of bales around for free. They may even provide lemonade.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:42 AM on May 10, 2017

Thank you all for your advice and encouragement. The hay bale (straw, actually) toss was this week and I did not win. I did clean 6 feet, but 6.5 was too much. fshgrl was right – the bale was heavy. Seemed much heavier than the bale that I got myself at Lowe’s. However, the time I spent training was a complete loss – I have learned to power-clean and push-press and am increasing my weight in deadlifts. I hope to do better next time by developing more explosive strength and working with my legs more.
posted by Dotty at 6:43 AM on July 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

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