*2016 Video Tutorial Update:
Original post with more details below…
The Spear Throw is a staple of Spartan Races and one of the obstacles that is unique to them. It’s a simple obstacle, you walk up to a target and get one chance to throw a crude spear into a hay bale that is representing something like the torso of an enemy. If you miss, you do burpees; If it hits and bounces, you do burpees; If you hit the edge and it skims through, you do burpees. The only way to move on without burpees is to hit the target and have the spear stick.
***2015 Update – There is now a rope tether attached to the spear. Before you throw the spear make sure you are not standing on the rope and that it will flow freely once thrown. Spending a few seconds here is worth it not catching your leg. ***
For this in depth article on how to throw a spear it is being guest written by Stephen Sinek, or as many of you know him, The Painted Warrior. If you haven’t heard of him, or seen him, Stephen is a top notch obstacle course racer that always runs in some amazing body paint. I stumbled across his spear throwing expertise while searching for information on spear throwing. In the video below he hits 190 spear throws in a row which convinced me he was the man for the job. Watch the video then read on for his helpful how to – never again face a thirty burpee penalty.
How To – Spear Throw
Thirty burpees in the middle of a race is enough to make anybody dread failing the infamous Spear Throw obstacle. After missing it in my first 3 Spartan Races, I was determined to teach myself the ways of the spear. Since learning the proper techniques, my spear record is 39/40 and growing with each race! I have been coaching Spartans on this obstacle for a while now and in doing so, have determined that there are 5 steps to the spear throw process. All of these steps must sync together in order to guarantee a successful throw. I’ll list them here in chronological order:
BALANCE: You may have heard that holding the spear near the middle, allowing for it to remain perfectly balanced in your palm is the way to go. In my experience, this is not necessarily the best method. If you move your hand back about a fist behind the balance point (so the spear tip will drop down in an open palm), you are likely to have better results for two reasons. Firstly, you are positioning the majority of the weight in front of your hand which will allow for energy to transfer into forward motion more efficiently. Think of a football, which is thrown with the bulk of the weight in front of your hand. How far would you throw that same football with the weight behind your hand or even balanced? Not nearly as far. Secondly, throwing from slightly behind balance will cause the spear tip to angle downward on the decent of your throw (rather than the back end of the spear dropping) thus setting the spear up for a good deep bite into the target.
GRIP: I see a lot of people throwing with their finger tips. Really? Do you think the Persians would have flinched if the Spartan 300 threw with such daintiness? The fingertip grip is a loose adapter and your spear tip will be prone to wander without a solid grasp. Hold your weapon like a warrior. You can use a full grip, or as I prefer, with my thumb riding straight along the bottom and my first 3 fingers clamping down tightly from above. You want to have a good contact with the spear so that your energy can transfer into it as it leaves your hand, giving you more distance. Just know that these two strong-grip methods will require slightly different timing in the release.
AIM: Does your spear have a tendency to spin sideways before it hits the target? I can tell you exactly why that is. It happens when you do not aim at your target before you release, or rather you “turn into your aim”. When you are setting up, hold the spear up near your ear. You should be able to sight the tip up with your target. From here, pull STRAIGHT BACK from the arm and shoulder, NEVER allowing your aim to veer off target. Your release should also be straight forward with no sideways swing, however, there can be a vertical pivot in your elbow for at extra oomph before releasing.
APPROACH: It’s good to take at least one step towards the target before your throw to create that forward momentum. This should be with the opposite leg of your throwing arm and it should also be done in a fluid motion right before the throw. As you are releasing the spear, the same leg as your throwing arm should swing back behind you as sort of a counterbalancing mechanism. You may also hold out your opposite arm parallel with your spear to aid in aiming during your approach. If doing so, this arm should swing down and behind you as your throwing arm is coming forward.
TRAJECTORY: Lastly, you want to plan for a slight arc in the trajectory of your throw. You will not be throwing in a laser beam fashion straight at the target. You could, but it requires an unnecessary amount of energy. You’ll have to fine tune the exact release point with practice, but it should be in somewhat of an upward path, with the intention of peaking near the half-way point and beginning a downward trajectory into the target. This will allow you to get more distance in your throw for less effort and at the same time setting you up nicely for that downward strike, which is much more likely to stick.
Keep in mind that all of these mechanics must work together in order to guarantee a successful throw. If you are having trouble with a specific issue, one or more of these five steps is likely the culprit. One final bit of advice that I want to mention is that with obstacle racing, there are so many variables that will inevitably lead you to the Spear Throw obstacle. You will never be able to predict where it will show up during the race. You don’t know if your hands will be dry, muddy, wet, or even numb until you arrive. If you hands are muddy or wet, obviously wipe them off as best as possible as you are nearing the obstacle. Maybe find some dry soil or grass along the way. One thing I like to do is choose a spear with a relatively straight tip and give a few practice throws into the ground just ahead of me. The point in doing this is to familiarize yourself with the feel of the spear leaving your hands in your current situation. It may feel completely different with wet, muddy or numb hands. This will give you a slight indication of what to expect and plan for during your attempt. As with anything, practice is key and all the instruction in the world doesn’t matter unless you are able to put the knowledge into practice. I hope you find these tips helpful. Best of luck at your next race and I’ll see you on the course, but hopefully not while doing burpees for missing the spear! Aroo!
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