Coaching the Javelin Throw
The javelin throw has three main phases; the approach, the power position, and the delivery. However, the first step to learning the javelin throw is the grip.
Javelin Throw Grip
The javelin can be gripped using three methods; the Finnish grip, the American grip, or the fork grip. With the Finnish grip, the javelin is placed diagonally across the palm. The middle finger presses into the back of the cord, the index finger is partially extended toward the back of the javelin; the other fingers wrap around the cord with enough pressure to secure the javelin in the hand. The American grip is similar to the Finnish grip, except the index finger is pressed into the back of the cord. With the fork grip, the middle finger and index finger are split between the cord, with the other fingers placed around the cord of the javelin.
The Finnish grip is the most common grip used in the javelin throw; it provides more direction in the throw because the index finger guides the javelin into the release; more force can be applied with a release by the middle finger since it is the largest digit on the hand.
The approach is the number of steps or distance before the javelin is released.
The approach is designed to create horizontal velocity and momentum that will be converted into the implement at release. The goal is to release the javelin with high velocity at an optimal release angle. Maintaining good positions during high speed movements will be critical for optimal performance.
Novice throwers start with 5-8 strides, and more advanced throwers use 14 plus strides in the javelin approach.
The ideal approach distance will be determined by the athlete's ability to create maximal controlled speed that can be converted into maximal release velocity in optimal positions that result in the greatest throwing distance possible. Less experienced athletes generally have shorter approach runs because of the inability to maintain optimal throwing positions at higher rates of speed and inconsistent stride patterns during the approach.
The javelin thrower sets up the approach by positioning the lower body to accelerate down the runway at a set checkmark. The right arm is bent; the javelin is gripped and placed above the right shoulder at eye level or higher; the left arm is positioned at the side of the body.
The javelin approach is initiated with running mechanics similar to the acceleration phase used in sprinting, characterized by quicker, shorter strides pushing the body forward. The javelin thrower drives forward to overcome inertia at the beginning of the approach, slowly increasing stride length until the javelin is withdrawn. The javelin is stable with minimal movement during the beginning of the approach. The left arm counterbalances the cyclic motion of the lower body.
The speed developed from the start of the approach with the javelin above the shoulder into withdrawing the javelin back should be gradual. The thrower will have a second predetermined checkmark primarily used by coaches when the javelin is withdrawn. The second checkmark measures acceleration speed and consistency during the beginning of the approach.
Moving into a set starting checkmark is not recommended for novice athletes because of inconsistent running patterns.
Withdrawing the Javelin
The javelin is withdrawn at the start of the left foot touch down and is completed after completing the next stride with the left foot. Typically, the javelin is fully withdrawn when two to four left foot contacts remain in the full approach.
The javelin is withdrawn as the left foot plants underneath the center of mass; the right knee is driven forward; the shoulders move from parallel to the center of the sector to the shoulders turned perpendicular to the center of the sector. As the javelin is withdrawn back, the left arm raises up and is extended out across the thrower's body.
When the javelin is withdrawn, it is the signal for the javelin thrower to increase speed.
The javelin thrower should run with the maximum controlled velocity possible with an upright posture after the javelin is withdrawn. The running mechanics are similar to maximum velocity sprinting but angled to create separation between lower and upper bodies. The javelin thrower pushes vertically from the ground with a high right knee drive across the body as the left leg actively plants underneath the thrower's center of mass. The javelin is fully extended with the tail slightly behind the thrower to increase separation. The left arm action counteracts the lower body motion by moving back and forth from across the body to a more open position parallel to the right sector line while remaining at shoulder height.
Final Three Strides
The second to last left leg stride is marked by an active push forward from the hip as the last right leg stride is driven up and forward from the knee. The left leg pushes forward then recovers quickly in front of the thrower while the right leg is airborne.
The right foot is turned and planted on the ball of the foot between a 30 to 45-degree angle from the center of the sector. After the right foot plants on the runway, it turns as the right hip and knee drop down as the left leg approaches touch down. The left foot, which is out in front of the thrower when the right foot lands, is aggressively planted flat to the ground.
The upper body will have minimal backward lean away from the throw during the final three strides to increase the path of acceleration of the javelin. In the last three strides, the javelin stays withdrawn with the tail slightly behind the thrower; the left arm remains long, inside the left leg at shoulder level until the left leg is firmly planted.
The power position is a continuation of the approach. The left leg plants heel first with the leg straight, angled back to create a strong blocking action. The upper body is upright with both arms extended in the power position. The javelin is behind the thrower, and the left arm is stretched out long out and in front of the thrower.
When the left plants, some bodyweight should still be over the thrower's right foot, allowing the thrower to push forward forcefully into the release. If the center of mass is ahead when the left leg is planted, the transfer of momentum will not be as effective at the release.
After the left leg is planted, the delivery of the javelin begins. The lower body of the right side pushes forward into the left leg block. The upper body remains upright and turns; the javelin stays back as long as possible prior to the release action. The left open arm pulls down and into the left side of the body to complete the blocking action before the release of the javelin.
Finally, the javelin is ready to be delivered forward and over a well braced left side. The arm action in the javelin release is a forward and upward sequential movement from the shoulder, followed by an inward rotation of the forearm and flexion of the elbow to set up the proper release of the javelin. The javelin is released forward with the thumb rotated downward over the block leg. The typical release angle for the javelin is between 30 to 40 degrees.
The javelin should be released approximately one javelin length from the foul line because of the thrower's forward momentum after the implement's release.
Release speed is the number one factor in javelin throwing distance, top male javelin throwers obtain release velocities over 28 meters per second (m/s), and female javelin throwers release the javelin over 25 m/s. Release speed is the highest in the javelin when compared to other throwing events. Therefore, javelin throwers must devote most of the training time to speed and explosive qualities and minimal time on maximal strength.
Aerodynamic and Environmental Factors
Aerodynamic and environmental factors can influence the throwing events. The javelin throw is influenced by the aerodynamic qualities of the implement as well as the rotation spinning forces, vibrations, and oscillations that occur at release. Environmental factors such as altitude, air density, wind speed, and wind direction can influence throwing distance positively or negatively, depending on the specific conditions.
Javelin Throw Coaching Points
Gradual build up in speed
Keep the javelin behind the thrower
Keep the left arm up and across
Final Three Strides
Drive the right knee up and across toward the throwing area
Actively plant the left leg underneath the body
Keep the javelin back and level
Use the left arm to counterbalance the lower body
Turn and drop the right hip and knee
Get the left leg down quickly and brace (block)
Keep the javelin back
Keep the left arm long and pointed toward the center of the sector
Release and Recovery
Turn the right side aggressively into the finish
Hold the left side block (no bending)
Move the javelin forward into a long powerful finish
Pull in the left arm and shoulder down slightly during the block
Regain balance during the recovery of the throw
Javelin Throw Training Tips
Learn proper running mechanics for the javelin
Develop consistency on the approach
Train timing and rhythm with various throws including medicine balls
Speed is more important than strength for the javelin
Improve javelin specific flexibility
Focus on technique and short approach throws at practice
Sample Javelin Throw Practice
Training for the javelin throw is a combination of throws training similar to shot put and discus throwers with elements of sprint training. Javelin throwers need to train as speed and power athletes like throwers, jumpers, and sprinters. In addition, javelin drills and skills should be a part of all training sessions.
Coaches like to know workouts and how the puzzle pieces of an overall training plan fit together. Within the framework of the comprehensive training plan, daily planning is one critical factor for success. Outlined is a typical training session for a javelin thrower during the mid-season which includes, warm ups, javelin throws, javelin drills with medicine balls, and sprints.
Mid-Season Training Sample
(Javelin Throw Specific Training Day)
General Warm Up
Daily training in the javelin throw begins with a dynamic warm up, usually about 400 meters of activity. The warm up starts with low intensity flexibility movements, such as a walking quad stretch and advances to more explosive warm up exercises like power skips for height.
Active Dynamic Drills
2x30 meters each exercise
- Easy skips with arm circles
- Walking knee hugs
- Backward walking knee hugs
- Backward skipping with arm circles
- Jogging grapevine
- Dynamic build ups
Javelin Stretching Warm Up
After the general warm up, the javelin throwers prepare for event specific training on throwing days. Extra flexibility exercises for the shoulders, elbow, and torso can be completed with the javelin.
Circuit Warm Up
More dynamic explosive training can be used before the throwing session, such as medicine ball throws and plyometrics; here is an example warm up circuit for javelin throwers before throwing practice:
Throws-Jump Circuit (3 kilo shot women/ 5 kilo shot men)
- Overhead shot put throws for distance x 10 throws
- 3 double leg hops in the sand x10
- Front shot throws for distance x10 throws
- 3 backward double leg hops in the sand x10
Javelin Throws (800 gram men/600 gram women)
Javelin throwing begins with easy throws up and down the field, to progressively high intensity throws on the runway.
- Easy throws up and down the field 2-3 x 75-80 meters
- Walking three step throw on grass x 8 throws
- Dynamic three step throw with high right knee drive x 6
- Dynamic five step throw with high right knee drive x12
Event Specific Javelin Drills with Medicine Ball
After the throwing session, event specific javelin throwing drills are used to develop specific strength for the javelin throwers.
Javelin Specific Throws (2 kilo women) (3 kilo men)
- Arch and throw javelin style throw x10
- 1 step javelin style throw x10
- Walking three step javelin throw x10
- 3 shuffles into a throw x20
Sprint training on the runway and on the track will be important to develop the speed characteristics needed by the javelin thrower. Proper sprint mechanics are needed even with the javelin in the hand of the thrower.
Sprint Training For The Javelin Thrower
- 8 x full approach runs
- 8 x 30 meter sprints from 3 point start
- 4x 100 meter easy running (70% speed)
This type of training is considered higher intensity training, usually matched up with other high intensity training movements during the early and middle part of the season.
The javelin throw is a speed and power event with specialized skills, the training plan should enhance the qualities needed to throw far.