Does Speed Matter in Javelin?
BY BEKAH WALTON
If the general public were asked, 'what traits come to mind when you think of a javelin thrower?' more often than not, people are quick to respond 'strong'.
Strength is recognisably a vital part of the event, with the athlete launching an implement as far as possible. But what makes javelin special is the vast skill required in many different areas these athletes need to perform at the top level.
WHAT SKILLS DO YOU NEED IN JAVELIN?
The skills in question include...
- Coordination (combined with the best possible technical frame)
Javelin throw requires the athlete to be the best they can be in these areas without regressing their throwing distance. Twenty years ago, the ideal javelin thrower was stereotypically a 6 foot plus athlete as wide as they were tall. Strength was the biggest goal when training; therefore, athletes were also big to align with this.
The event has really evolved over the decades, and there is no longer an ideal training programme or body type.
TYPES OF JAVELIN THROWERS
Take a look at the top male German athletes: Johannes Vetter is renowned for his immense strength and is one of the very few athletes in the event today that can boast awe-inspiring gym numbers comparable to weight lifters. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Thomas Röhler is more recognised for his faultless technique, which he compliments with CrossFit style training. The athlete that is a mix of both is Andreas Hoffmann. A stereotypical build for a thrower, he compliments his simple technical work with great athleticism.
HOW DO YOU THROW FARTHER IN JAVELIN?
Javelin is a fantastically versatile sport, and there is no single solution to throwing far. This is true for both training programmes and technique – in the women's javelin final, the top five ladies threw over 63m with individualistic techniques. With this in mind, how much should we prioritise strength training?
Javelin is classified as a speed strength event, effectively meaning that speed is a more demanded skill set when performing the event than strength. The javelin weighs 600g for senior females and 800g for senior males. At this mass, the real challenge is how fast the athlete can move the implement. So, when breaking down the event to its fundamentals and training priorities, it should always come back to this.
Yet, strength will always have its place. It's all good and well being able to move the implement fast, but if there is no power behind that implement, it will not travel as far as it can. Power is a product of force and velocity, so the force is necessary to train as much as velocity production.
HOW DO YOU BUILD STRENGTH FOR JAVELIN?
Strength training can take place in different ways, and it comes down to how individuals respond, athlete age, experience, etc. This type of training could include Olympic lifting, compound movements, accessory work, or eccentric training. But, strength training doesn't mean that the focus must be on lifting as much weight as possible. The approach can be to lift the weight as fast as possible instead.
Medicine ball sessions can also be treated as a strength session when using heavier balls and is a great way to implement strength training for beginners or in the winter. This translates very well into the summer and competition season by lowering the medball weight and working on more javelin-specific exercises. It is also a way to maintain strength work and throwing volume, which is especially important to athletes with a small strength background.
To complement strength training, javelin throwers often execute speed work. Studies have found that the end runway speed of the thrower translates to 1/3 of the release speed of the implement. Immediate thoughts lead to the conclusion that if an athlete runs faster, their javelin will go further. Yet, if the athlete is not in control of the movement on the runway, then the speed will actually cause the technique to break down. The event is a delicate balance between running as fast as possible whilst remaining in control of your body.
As mentioned earlier on, javelin is an event that requires the marriage of several skill sets. It is incredibly destructive to your body, and it's imperative to prepare the body for the impact it is exposed to. This is when the other skills are just as important to improve. Mobility and flexibility are slightly different skills. Flexibility is having the range to hit positions, whereas mobility requires the athlete to have strength through the range. These skills are essential for both recovery and technical progress. Javelin throwing technique is not a natural position for the body to get into, and these skillsets generally require a lot of attention to make the technical positions easier and to prevent injury.
DOES JAVELIN REQUIRE MUSCULAR STRENGTH?
So, is strength the most important trait for javelin throwing? The answer – it depends. Very few athletes have the strength background like Vetter where they can rely on strength to be their most powerful asset for throwing a javelin. For most, it is the marriage of speed, skill and athleticism alongside strength that will create a well-rounded javelin thrower.
ABOUT BEKAH WALTON
Originally a netballer, Bekah quickly discovered a talent for javelin throwing, and hasn't looked back since.
Bekah is a British Champion and now has her eyes set on Commonwealth and Olympic glory!