Ryan Crouser Breaks Down How He Became the World’s Best at Shot Put

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In the world of track and field, shot putter Ryan Crouser will go down as one of the greatest stars the sport has ever seen and the best athlete in the history of his event. The Portland, OR, native owns 25 of the top throws of all time, including the top indoor and outdoor records. He’s a two-time Olympic gold medal winner and a world champion.

Ryan Crouser comes from a family of track and field stars. His grandfather Larry was a javelin thrower, while his father Mitch threw discus. Uncle Dean was an NCAA champ in the shot and discus and another uncle, Brian, was a two-time Olympian in the javelin. From the time he threw his first shot put in his grandfather’s backyard, Crouser has been obsessed with how quickly you can improve upon the previous throw by just making minor technical adjustments. It’s what keeps him motivated to seek ways to become a better athlete and out best himself.

The 30-year-old is set to compete in the Millrose Games at the Armory in Manhattan on Feb. 11. The track & field classic is one event Crouser enjoys competing at for various reasons.

“It’s always fun to visit and compete in New York City,” he said. “It’s really good to have that spotlight on track and field, especially with the shot put. They put us front and center on the infield at the finish line. It’s a really high-intensity, high-energy event. Training has been going really well. I’ve been trying a few new things technically that I feel have been really productive and I’m excited to put those out there and see how they hold up on the big stage.”

Ryan Crouser spoke with M&F on the breakdown of the track and field season, the other sports he takes bits and pieces from, and the training and nutrition throughout the year.

Ryan Crouser celebrating his victory at a shot put throwing competition
Millrose Games 2022 – John Nepolitan

The Pursuit to Be Better

It started in my grandfather’s backyard and what appealed to me then is really the same thing that keeps me trying to improve, and that’s how simply easy it is to measure your improvement and see yourself continue to get better. I remember one of the very first times I was throwing, and my grandfather was working with me. As I was doing it, he was telling me to get a little bit lower and use my legs a little bit more, and I had a two-foot improvement—which in the shot put is huge. The light bulb went on and I learned that if I do stuff right then, I can see myself get better and it’s so easy to see yourself get better. That extra two feet came out of my legs and a new feeling of applying power to the ball is something like going down a rabbit hole of how can I put more energy into the ball, be better technically or develop more power in the ring.

It’s about how can I be a better athlete and how can I continue to be better. That still motivates me today because I feel like I can still improve as an athlete, technically, and the distances will reflect that. It’s very few things in life that you can put in the work and see improvement. The weight room is one of them and throwing is another. I feel like those go hand in hand and that’s one reason it appeals so much to me.

Ryan Crouser Breaks Down the Shot Put Season

The season roughly starts right about now. In January and February, we start the indoor season. That runs from January until March. That’s indoor and we’re throwing inside. It’s very similar to the outdoor season except we’re inside. Indoor track is kind of viewed as a separate sport in the sense that it has its own world championships. Our indoor season is relatively short and we pretty much roll straight through the indoor to the outdoor season. That starts in March/April and what we call the US outdoor season, which is the classic track in the US, runs from April until about June/July.

From there, we have the European season and which runs from July until September. Really, it breaks down into almost three separate seasons that just runs continuously. From September until the end of December or early January, that’s our offseason. The offseason is really where I make a lot of my progress. I only take 10 days to two weeks off in September when the European season ends. Total time off is about 10 days.

Ryan Crouser Training Tips

There’s a little bit of everything. To throw the shot put, you have to be big, strong, fast, and flexible. The coolest thing about the shot put is it consists of some of the biggest guys in sports, but also the more athletic. I’m about 318, and that’s kind of medium-small weight-wise. You have to be constantly aware of your body mass. So in the offseason, I do a lot more bodybuilding-esque type movements but not so much for the pure mass but for strength gains. I’m doing a lot of sets of eights and 10s in the fall trying to gain strength and put on mass. I’m transitioning out of that hypotrophy phase and moving more into training similar to a powerlifter at this point. That. means focusing on the three to five-rep range.

We started to touch on some twos this week in the weight room. We have a lot of Olympic lifts and it’s relatively heavy. I’m a pretty solid Olympic lifter in terms of power output. It’s also a lot of front squats as well as high-bar back squats. During the fall, I’m on a low-bar squat and handling more weight. Now, we’re working in a lot of plyometrics as well. It’s a lot of box jumps, standing broad jumps, weighted jumps with a trap bar or dumbbells, and sprints as well.

Off and In Season Calories

I’ll definitely be on higher calories in the offseason — not that I’m calorie-restricted in season. Because I’m not doing those eight to 10 reps in the weight room, I’m not as hungry.  When I’m on the eight to 10-rep counts and hypertrophy in the fall, I’m at about 5,500 calories per day to try and gain weight. Right now, when I’m on fives, threes, and twos, I’m at like 4,800 and I’m trying to maintain my body weight. If I can gain a little bit, I will. But it goes from the goal of trying to gain one pound of mass per week to try to gain a pound per month during my early season.

Once I get to the championship season in June/July, it’s all maintenance. Towards the end, I’m on singles and will have been on singles and doubles in the weight room for a number of months. It’s just about trying to maintain my weight at that point because you’ll inevitably lose some muscle mass without having that baseline volume in the weight room for that period.

I’ve found when I’m upping my calories, I’ll try to never go more than two and a half hours without eating. The biggest challenge when you’re eating that many calories are trying to get them all from healthy sources. It’s easy to go into McDonald’s and get 2,000 calories but if you eat that, you’re going to feel rough and your training is going to be bad. The thing I’ve embraced in my diet is not being afraid of fats. One thing that’s helped my diet as I’ve gotten later in my career is differentiating healthy and unhealthy fats. Embracing letting the fats play a larger role simply because they’re so caloric-heavy.

  • Pre-breakfast: Protein shake with 30 grams of protein and milk (250 calories). 
  • Breakfast: Two breakfast burritos on extra large, high-protein tortillas with eight eggs, a healthy cheese, and low-fat protein. 
  • Light snack: Trail mix with an oat bar.
  • Lunch: 12 ounces of rice, 12 ounces of lean ground beef or chicken. 
  • Dinner: 1500 calories. Chicken Alfredo 
  • Light snack before bed: Trail Mix and Casein Shake. 

Gaining Techniques From Outside Sports

I really enjoy looking at some of the elite coaching and athletes in other sports. One that was a light bulb moment for me is watching UFC and MMA guys. They’re trying to throw as hard of a kick as they can. The way that they create separation with the upper body to throw that kick is impressive. If you’re watching someone who’s kicking as hard as possible at a heavy bag or another person in the ring, you’ll see them slip that left shoulder if they’re throwing a right leg. It creates separation and stretch reflex across the torso. That’s very similar to what we’re doing in the throwing events but in reverse. We throw the lower body ahead and really turn that right leg to throw our upper body and develop rotational power.

Another one that I really like looking at is the high-speed pitching coaches from baseball. There are a few guys across the country with unbelievably small social media followings for the quality of content that they have. I think those guys are really onto some good stuff. We’re throwing a 16-pound ball, so a little bit different than a baseball.

But still trying to maximize velocity, and energy from the ground into the ball. Some of the training they do is really interesting to me because they’re doing some really good stuff. And some of the stuff I’ve come up with in my training to maximize ball velocity is replicated in baseball even with no connection. I enjoy cross-referencing and trying to find innovation in other sports that share similarities that aren’t extremely obvious.

Follow Ryan Crouser on Instagram on @rcrouser.

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