Q&A On Javelin Conditioning With Wilf Paish
By Wilf Paish, U.K.
Wilf Paish answers queries in the U.K. publication, Athletics Weekly. Here is a recent discussion about how to develop arm speed.

Q: What exercises can I do to improve my javelin throwing, specifically the speed of my arm? Also I would like to know how to taper down for my main competitions. What type of strength work should I do between these competitions.

A: The speed potential in one's arm is basically a genetic factor, and while one can do much to realize the latent speed in the arm, great javelin throwers are born with an incredibly fast arm. It is not unusual for javelin throwers to be able to throw to within 20% of their maximum distance from a standing throw. Hence you are very correct in wishing to highlight this quality.
Before trying to suggest suitable exercises to help promote the specific arm speed necessary for the event, I would like to emphasize the skill factor involved. The arm is a three-pivot lever, the shoulder joint being the first pivot, the elbow the second and the hand and wrist the third pivot. For a straight line throw---and this is essential for this event---the release must be in line with the first pivot. The first pivot must also stay close to the long central axis of the body. My advice is to keep the deltoid muscle as close to the ear as possible.
During the arm "pull," the elbow must be higher than the shoulder and also close to the same vertical axis. And the hand should be higher than the elbow that is also close to the same axis. The throwing sensation must be one of a high pull, flail-like action of the arm and over the head. Failure to observe this simple advice will certainly lead to elbow pain and an enforced rest from throwing.
While the emphasis is on the arm, a stretched muscle can produce more speed than an un-stretched one; hence I believe that the lever system must be put under stretch by the action of the dominant foot. I rather like to put the emphasis on a short rhyme which I introduced to young children during my early teaching career.: "Chin knee toe, make a bow, see it go." The "chin, knee, toe" being the balanced position with the weight over the dominant leg. The bow is produced by the dominant heel turning away from the central axis, forcing the hips ahead of the shoulders. The arm, then under stretch can strike quickly in the sequence described earlier. During this action I like the athlete to feel that the driving foot has turned outwards very quickly so that a sensation is felt high up on the outside of this foot.
The most useful weapon in the armory of the javelin thrower is a suitably weighted medicine ball. If too heavy the total action becomes too slow, thus defeating the essential quality of this exercise. When too light the level of stretch in the system becomes difficult to create. Using a two-handed throw, over the head, it is possible to create the stretched lever system encouraging the displacement of the hips and shoulders.
The action can be done from the back-lying position, from kneeling position and from standing position. From the back-lying position more emphasis is placed upon the trunk, from the kneeling position emphasis is placed upon the back and shoulders, and from standing the total action can be experienced. The throwing can be done against a secure net, a solid wall or to a partner.
A word of warning for the coach. My wrists are now in a very poor arthritic condition having caught many thousands of repetitions of ball throwing, from both Tessa Sanderson and Mick Hill, to name just two.
While work with the heavier medicine ball will essentially slow the movement, this type of exercise must be supplemented by throwing much lighter balls ranging from 500 grams to 1 kilogram, again into a net or against a wall.
With the advent of our indoor arenas and modified implements the days of the javelin thrower breaking javelins on frost-affected grass has long since gone. The body needs to be warm to effect speed.
As far as I am concerned there cannot be a weak javelin thrower. Hence systematized weight training is a must; and even this form of activity must be supplemented by working with pulleys, resistance pulleys and elastics. In the early part of the foundation training, an eight item schedule on general strength will produce the necessary gains in strength (3 x 8 rep maximum).
However, once the early foundation period is complete exercises of a more specific nature should be introduced. These will include the double-split snatch for speed and coordination, straight-arm bridge pullovers, seated tricep press, straddle split lunge, etc. To make sure that the power component is linked in to the system a weekly plyometric session is essential for the mature thrower.
It is most important, however, that in training one never loses the appreciation of the original intention. Hence, full-effort controlled rehearsal of throwing the javelin is essential the whole year round. I have noticed how, in recent years, many of our top throwers do not use a disciplined approach run during their training.
During the competitive training period I believe that a thrower must keep in the schedule at least one specific weight training session, at least one speed power prompting session, and one technical session. With competition this should leave the system fast and motivated to succeed.