Shot putter Ryan Crouser will go down in the athletics world as one of the greatest stars the sport has ever seen and the best athlete in the history of his event. A Portland, OR native, he owns 25 all-time best shots, including best indoor and outdoor records. He is a two-time Olympic champion and 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 shooting and discus champion and another uncle, Brian, was a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the javelin. Ever since he threw his first shot put in his grandfather's backyard, Crouser has been obsessed with how quickly you can improve on the previous shot by making just minor technical adjustments. This motivates him to look for ways to become a better athlete and to surpass himself.
The 30-year-old will compete in the Millrose Games at the Armory in Manhattan on February 11. The track and field classic is an event that Crouser enjoys attending for a variety of reasons.
"It's always fun to go to New York City and compete there," he said. “It's really good to have that spotlight in athletics, especially shot put. They placed us front and center on the infield at the finish line. It's a really high intensity, high energy event. The training is going really well. I've tried a few new things technically that I think have been very productive and I'm looking forward to getting these out and seeing how they hold up on the big stage.”
Ryan Crouser spoke to M&F about the collapse of the track and field season, the other sports he's taking bits and pieces from, and training and nutrition throughout the year.
Millrose Games 2022 – John Nepolitan
The striving to get better
It started in my grandfather's garden and what spoke to me back then really is the same thing that drives me to improve and it's that simple to measure your improvement and see how you keep improving. I remember one of the very first times I threw and my grandfather worked with me. As I was doing it, he told me to go a little lower and use my legs a little more, and I had a two-foot improvement — which is huge in shot put. The lightbulb went on and I learned that I can see myself getting better by doing things right and it's so easy to see that you're getting better. Those extra two feet came out of my legs and a new sense of powering the ball is something of a rabbit hole where I can put more energy into the ball, be more technical, or develop more power in the ring.
It's about how I can be a better athlete and how I can continue to be better. That still motivates me today because I have the feeling that I can still improve technically as an athlete, and the distances will reflect that. There are very few things in life that you can put in work and see improvement. The weight room is one of them and throwing is another. I feel like that goes hand in hand and that's one of the reasons it appeals to me so much.
Ryan Crouser breaks down shot put season
The season starts about now. In January and February we start the indoor season. This is from January to March. It's inside and we throw in. It's very similar to the outdoor season except we're indoors. In a way, indoor track is considered a sport in its own right, in the sense that it has its own world championships. Our indoor season is relatively short and we roll straight from the indoor to the outdoor season. It starts in March/April and the so-called US outdoor season, the classic race track in the USA, lasts from April to around June/July.
From there we have the European season which runs from July to September. Really, it breaks down into almost three separate seasons that just run non-stop. September to late December or early January is our low season. I really make a lot of progress in the off-season. I only take 10 days to two weeks off in September when the European season ends. The total time is about 10 days.
Ryan Crouser training tips
There is something of everything. To throw the shot put you need to be big, strong, fast and flexible. The coolest thing about the shot put is that it's made up of some of the biggest guys in the sport, but also some of the more athletic ones. I'm about 318 and that's sort of medium-small weight. You need to be constantly aware of your body mass. So I do a lot more bodybuilding-like moves in the off-season, but not so much for bulk as for strength gains. I do a lot of sets of eights and tens in the fall to gain strength and build size. I'm just coming out of this hypotrophy phase and moving more into a powerlifter-like workout at this point. The. means focusing on the three to five rep range.
We started touching some twos in the weight room this week. We have a lot of Olympic lifts and they are relatively difficult. 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 squats. During the fall I do low bar squats and handle more weight. w we are also working on many plyometric exercises. There's a lot of box jumps, long standing jumps, weighted jumps with a trapeze bar or dumbbells, and sprints as well.
Calories off and in season
I'll definitely be consuming more calories in the off-season—not that I'm calorie-restricted in-season. Since I don't do those 8-10 reps in the weight room, I'm not that hungry. If I do 8-10 reps in the fall and hypertrophy, I'll have about 5,500 calories a day to try to gain weight. Right now when I'm on fives, threes and twos I'm at about 4800 and I'm trying to maintain my bodyweight. If I can win a little bit, I will. But it goes from the goal of trying to gain a pound of mass a week to trying to gain a pound a month during my early season.
Once I get into the championship season in June/July it's all just maintenance. Towards the end I'm in singles and will have been in the weight room in singles and doubles for a few months. It's just about maintaining my weight at this point because inevitably you're going to lose some muscle mass without having that baseline volume in the weight room for that period of time.
I've found that as I increase my calorie intake, I try to never go more than two and a half hours without eating. The biggest challenge when you're eating so many calories is getting them all from healthy sources. It's easy to go to McDonald's and get 2,000 calories, but if you eat that, you'll feel bad and your workout will be bad. The thing I've included in my diet is not to be afraid of fats. One thing that has helped my diet later in my career is the distinction between healthy and unhealthy fats. Allowing fats to play a bigger role simply because they are so calorie dense.
- Before 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 oat bars.
- Lunch: 12 ounces rice, 12 ounces lean ground beef or chicken.
- Dinner: 1500 calories. Chicken Alfredo
- Light snack before bed: Trail Mix and Casein Shake.
Acquire techniques from external sports
I really enjoy looking at some of the elite coaches and athletes in other sports. One that has been an aha moment for me is watching UFC and MMA guys. They try to kick as hard as possible. The way they create a separation with the upper body to throw that kick is impressive. If you watch someone kick as hard as they can at a heavy sack or other person in the ring, you'll see them slip their left shoulder as they throw a right leg. It creates a separation and stretch reflex across the upper body. This is very similar to what we do in the throwing competitions, but in reverse. We throw the lower body forward and really twist the right leg to throw our upper body and develop rotational power.
Another one I really enjoy looking at is baseball's high-speed pitching trainers. There are a few people across the country with incredibly small social media followers for the quality of content they have. I think the guys are really into some good stuff. We're throwing a 16 pound ball, so it's a little different than a baseball.
But still try to maximize the speed and energy from the ground into the ball. Some of the trainings they do are really interesting to me because they do really good stuff. And some of the things I dreamed up in my training to maximize ball speed are replicated in baseball even when disconnected. I enjoy cross-referencing and trying to find innovations in other sports that have similarities that aren't very obvious.
Follow Ryan Crouser on Instagram at @rrouser.