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training with dan greaves

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1 January 2014

As the New Year is now underway, many of us are busy making resolutions.Featured in Athletics Weekly, we caught up with Paralympic and world F44 discus silver medallist Dan Greaves and asked how he stays motivated throughout the winter period...


Weighing in at 105kg (16 ½ stone) with a bench press 200kg one rep max, Dan Greaves is undoubtedly the strongest, athlete within the GB & NI Paralympic camp. However, behind the man mountain is one of the country’s most successful Paralympians ever. Since winning silver at his first Paralympic Games at the age of 17 in Sydney 13 years ago, the 30 year old has since gone on to medal at the subsequent three Games - Athens 2004 (gold), Beijing 2008 (bronze) and London 2012 (silver). So how does Greaves’ training contribute to his enduring success in his event?

With the season fast approaching, the 2011 world champion is now focused on his winter programme as he prepares for another big year with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the IPC European Athletics Championships in Swansea next July: “During the season, I will lift lighter weights, which will focus more on my explosive power and speed. However, during the winter period my focus will be on the heavier weights and conditioning my body for the season ahead.”

No fewer than three sessions a week are spent in the gym at the Loughborough Hipac with Greaves incorporating snatch, bench press and single leg press into his midday Monday workout. “I will start off with snatch, where I will work off 70-80% of my one rep max for three sets of eight reps followed by two sets of six reps.” He explains that an Olympic lift like the snatch is an important part of his programme as “Olympic lifts are extremely important to throwing, as it gives my legs, my weaker  element a chance to improve the dynamic strength that they need. The snatch lift allows my body to co-ordinate legs to upper body and is extremely important for using the opening and strengthening of my hips which are paramount in the discus throw."

Greaves follows this exercise with a bench press, which will typically range between 120kg-150kg with low reps. He explains: “We use the Bench press exercise as a core strength exercise and as a judgement of upper body strength. We range the reps according to the time of year. Mainly throughout winter the reps vary from 8-15 reps up to 70% and then 4-6 reps mainly in season to use as explosive speed.”To complete the weights session, he works on single leg presses at 80-100kg for three sets of eight reps highlighting that “single leg exercises help to conquer the imbalance and strength of my left leg.”

Abdominal circuits are also incorporated three times a week into his programme, with Greaves highlighting their importance in “maintaining a strong core, essential for throwing. I found that my core just wasn't strong enough before London having gained a hernia. We now find this a fundamental part of training."

In the evening, Greaves does what he does best, by going out into the field and taking 60 full throws under the guidance of his coach Jim Edwards.

“We work alot on throws throughout the winter to gain consistency and work on new aspects of my technique that we have altered or implemented the season before. We try to get outside as much as possible but we are very fortunate to have the throws nets inside.”

An additional throws session is incorporated into his programme on Tuesday, but this time working on a technical basis where both coach and athlete will analyse the sections of the throw and make any adjustments. Greaves explained:“We have always prided our training ethic on getting to grips with the core technical aspects of the throw. We'll look at my technique from last season and find positives and negatives to work on.Last year we worked on a bigger drive across the circle, which I previously couldn’t handle because of my leg strength, but now can it’s more controllable the bigger distances will inevitably come."

Further weights sessions on Wednesday and Friday incorporate cleans, clean pulls, squat push press, deadlifts, snatch pulls and incline bench presses. In what is a heavy week of lifting, the 2013 world silver medallist believes that this puts him in the best possible place approaching his season ahead. “We lift three times a week heavy and have a rest day in-between. The explosive nature of the discus means that you need to be strong enough to handle the forces in the technique you are working and essentially use that strength to throw the implement far. Becoming a regular 60m thrower means that I need to improve leg strength and core stability and the only way to make sure this is achieved is to technically lift big."

More explosive movements are carried out in the medicine ball activation circuits on a Tuesday and a Thursday, where the drills carried out are “all connective muscular actions to replicate throwing and weights.”

A running session is also incorporated to “Throughout the winter we surprisingly do cardiovascular work as throwing is surprisingly taxing on the body with sessions we do last up to two hours. The CV element means I’ll be fitter for longer and prolong fatigue to keep the quality of the session for longer."While a considerable time is spent throughout the week in the physio room and foam rolling to ensure his body stays firmly intact.

Greaves was born with talipes - a deformity of the foot and ankle and he hadoperations to correct the placement of his foot when he was younger. “My feet were turned in and they were slowly turned out which has caused scar tissue.”

So how does that impact on the training he does? “It limits flexibility in the foot so that means that when I do an overhead medicine ball throw I’ll be automatically on my heel anyway. To do a forward medicine ball throw, I have to do it flat footed because I can’t get on my toes to push forwards. I have to use the momentum I generate from both feet together and through my knees and quads as opposed to my calves and Achilles because they’re so tight.”

So what would be the noticeable differences between Greaves and Olympic champion Robert Harting, who boasts a personal best of 70.31m? “Technically wise on his left foot, he’d be able to turn on his toes at the back of the circle, whereas I have to turn on my heel. That’s purely because I can’t point my toes to get them like that. If you try it, it’s really hard to do, you’d probably fall over! Bend your knees at the back so you have soft knees and do the motion and turn on your heels to raise your toes up. It’s quite an obscure thing, but that’s obviously the way my foot is formed.

“Able-bodied athletes like Robert are at the front of the circle when they block against the discus. They can obviously get their toes down and a lot flatter on their feet so it’s a more stable platform to throw from. I land heel first and very rarely go onto my toes, so I’ve got less of a surface area on the floor to use.

“I get quite tight hip flexors, glutes and that’s from the formation of the way I turn on my heel and the way I use my feet and hips. My ankles also get really tight, which affects my knees – I’ve had arthroscopies in the past because my knees are taking a lot of the shock absorption when I’m spinning around trying to block against the power. However, as my legs have got stronger over the past few years, I’ve been able to absorb that strain in other areas.

To counteract any imbalances, Greaves has used “pressure and power boards on deadlifts and cleans to see how much power is generated from each leg. Now they’re evening up, it means that I can generate a lot more power when I throw so I’m not relying on my stronger right side.”


Monday –        Weights session – pre-weights warm up (Disc twists, Side bends etc) Snatch at 70-80% of one rep max 3x8, 2x6. Bench   press at 120-130kg 5x5, 3x3 at 150kg+, single leg press at 80kg 3x8. Abdominal circuit – crunches, leg lowers, leg raises. 60 full throws

Tuesday -        Medicine ball activation circuit (d-ball throws, med ball push, overhead push, overhead throws, side twists 3x8. Reformer core – crunches, roll outs, leg lowers & side slides 4x10 Different spring strength. Technical throw drills maximum of 15-20. Physio session.

Wednesday -   Pre-weights warm up Weights session – cleans at 80-110kg 3x8, clean pulls 120kg+ 3x10, squat push press 80kg 5x5

Thursday -       Medicine ball activation circuit (d-ball throws, med ball push, overhead push, overhead throws, side twists 3x8.and drills. Reformer core – crunches, roll outs, leg lowers & side slides (4x10 springs variable),Physio 

Friday -          Pre-weights warm up. Weights session – deadlifts at 150kg 3x10, snatch pull 70kg 5x5, 100kg 3x3, incline bench 100kg+ 5x5. Abdominal circuit and run 400m, 300m, 200m, 100m (same distance rest walk in between) 

Saturday -      Stretching

Sunday -        Stretching


*The above sessions are specific to the individual athletes and many not suit others.


The 30 year old won silver at the IPC World Athletics Championships finishing behind USA’s Jeremy Campbell, the man who beat him at London 2012. However, he believes that this rivalry gives him the motivation to keep improving.

“I was number one in the world for eight years and then Jeremy came out and beat me in 2008, which gave me a huge kick. Winning my world title in 2011 then gave him one, before he came back to claim gold in 2012 and again in Lyon this year. I’ve been fortunate to have been at the top for a long time, so when someone takes that away from you, you want that even more. Hopefully over the next few years we’ll have some good battles with the aim of finishing off on a high in Rio and 2017.”

Not only is the depth improving in the sport, but Greaves believes that we are beginning to see the blossoming of the sport, which he put down to the success of London 2012. 13 years ago USA’s Shawn Brown won gold with a throw of 47.96m, but fast forward to 2012 and the winning distance was 60.05m.

“When I went to Sydney as a 17 year old, I came second with 46m, but in London 12 years later, that would have only made sixth. It’s not only distances, but the depth and competition is a lot better. There was probably only 100 people watching at my first major European and it was poorly run and now we’ve got Grand Prix events on the able-bodied circuit.

“The world can learn a lot from Britain in way we put events on. You just have to look at the Sainsbury’s IPC Athletics Grand Prix Final to see that it was probably the best event the IPC has co-run with British Athletics. With the Commonwealth Games, it’s going to put more interest out there and from the point where we are now, Paralympic sport is nearing its pinnacle. People now realise it’s elite sport and we just happen to have a disability.”

Commercially, Greaves can see the huge potential in para-athletics. With Sainsbury’s sponsorship of the Summer Series and the GB & NI team in Lyon, he believes that the sport is in a strong place.

“It’s massive for any sport when you have a great sponsor and a proud sponsor with their advertising – Sainsbury’s has done that. They have really supplied some great support for the Anniversary Games and the summer series as a whole. If they can do that in the future, they’ll not only be enabling elite top level performances, but providing an infrastructure for future Paralympians. I think that’s the most essential part of this movement and legacy. The Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games helped massively with publicity for the sport and it can only get better. To have the event every year and get that excitement back will give people opportunities to follow the Paralympic heroes that are coming out of the woodwork.”

Regarded as a bit of an old head in terms of international and European experience, what else can ‘Discus Dan’ go onto achieve?

“I believe I can be a 65m thrower and I’ve always thought about retiring having done that. I’ve still got that aspiration and I’m almost on the cusp of 60m, so if I can get that out of the way first, I’ll be able to progress with a full winter of training behind me. I’ve been at the top of that 50m barrier for a long time, so it would be nice to get past it and having those distances in the bag will naturally bring success with it.”




Born     04/10/1982 

Coach  Jim Edwards

Class    F44 discus (Single below knee amputee or physical impairment allowing similar movement)

Club     Charnwood AC

PBs      Discus 59.85m (2011)

Career highlights

2013    IPC World Athletics Championships silver

2012    Paralympic Games discus silver

2011    IPC World Athletics Championships discus gold

2008    Paralympic Games discus bronze

2006    IPC World Athletics Championships discus Gold

2004    Paralympic Games discus gold

2002    IPC world athletics championships discus Gold

2000    Paralympic Games discus silver 


You can follow Dan Greaves on Twitter @DiscusDan or by visiting him at http://discusdan.co.uk/