How to Throw Spears

spartan spear throw

So you tried your first Spartan Race and you failed the spear throw? Well here is where I teach you about strength and finesse and striking a balance between both. You will only see Spear Throw in the Spartan Race is currently exclusive to them and let me tell you..they LOVE this event because it’s almost a guaranteed burpee-maker. This meme says it all:

While there are 5 techniques that I have seen work, I will focus on the “single arm over-the-shoulder” throw. The Spartan Races use a tethered spear (a string is tied to the back for easier retrieval after throwing) and a metal fence demarcates the closest position you may throw from, usually 25 feet from the hay bale targets.

  1. First thing you should do is grab the spear and feed 75% of the string in FRONT of the fence, leaving only enough to draw your arm behind you for the throw.
  2. Next, hold your first and middle fingers together and place the spear on top, shifting it slightly forward or backward until it balances level.  With your aiming (non-dominant) hand, hold the center of that balance point then grab the spear with your throwing hand, 2 fist widths behind that point, with 4 fingers across the top, and your thumb along the bottom, pointed towards the rear.
    proper grip for over-shoulder spear throw.

    Why not this grip?  Because it’s a spear; not a dart.  It’s way too heavy for you to transfer any significant momentum/power with such a small area of contact!

  3. If you feel you lack upper body strength, try first throwing from 10 feet away using just the arm/shoulder.  If you make 5 consistent shots (hitting the hay), back up to 15 feet (for 5 in a row…), then 20, then finally 25.  In addition, you may ADD momentum by turning your weaker side leg toward the target and performing a “shuffle-step” followed quickly by the throw.  A shuffle step is simply left foot forward, feet together, left out forward again. but it must be done very quickly.  If the step rhythm was “1-2-3” then the throw would be “4”.  Example:  step, step, step, throw (1-2-3-4).
  4. I recommend turning your body about 45 degrees off target and use your non-dominant hand as a pointer. Draw your throwing (dominant) arm back, maintaining a bend in your elbow.
  5. Quickly bring your arm directly over your shoulder, releasing the spear at about eye level with your arm completely straight. This ensures you get the shoulder extension (by activating your chest, shoulder and back muscles), as well as elbow extension (by activating your triceps) as here:
  6. Now, here is where the finesse comes in. If you try to over power your shot it will start to rotate as it travels to the target, it may hit on an angle, or even turn completely sideways, resulting in non-penetration of the target (perhaps bouncing OFF the target!) and that means 30 burpees for you! If you have ever snapped a football to someone in front of you, it’s a bit like that.  You must at some point near the end of the throw, loosen your grip on the spear slightly so it can go straight out, not be pulled toward the ground.
  7. WHAT TO AVOID:  You need to resist the temptation to cross your throwing arm across your body, as it nearly always forces a sideways rotation in the spear, like this:

Since most trainees lack a real Spartan spear, one way to practice this movement is to use a 3/4 or 1″ diameter PVC pipe about 5 to 6 feet long. The physics of the hold, and the throw are remarkably similar! For further questions reach out to my email, or stop by Legacy Athletic Club for a free class. Good luck!

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