Watch the javelin in full speed and it is a thing of beauty. Watch it in slow motion and it’ll often make you cringe. In order to throw a spear the length of a football field requires athletes to put their body in extreme positions with massive amounts of force transferring through the kinetic chain. Mastering it is hard, staying at the top even harder. Steve Backley was not just one of the best javelin throwers of all time, but sat atop the sport for 15 years. On this episode of the GAINcast, Backley joins us to discuss how he developed in the sport, what creates the perfect throw, and becoming a better competitor.
Notes and quotes
Backley is one of the most decorated javelin throwers in history. His world record throw of 91.46 meters from 1992 still ranks 12th all-time as of the end of last season. During the course of his career he as four-time European champion, a three-time Olympic medalist, and three-time Commonwealth Games champion. He currently is a speaker, executive coach, and athletics commentator for BBC.
In our chat we looked back at how Backley picked up the javelin, how he thinks about throwing the javelin, and becoming a better competitor.
Learning to train
- 5:00 – Beginning in the javelin throw: “We just set up a stick and tried to throw past it. That method took me from 26 meters to 78 meters. “
- 9:00 – Working with Backley’s father as a coach: “The coach doesn’t need to have all the answers. They are there to hold the mirror, reflect, plan, and hold the athlete accountable. “
- 13:15 – Coach John Trower and building a support team to reach the next level: “At some point you have to get around smart people. “
- 18:30 – Influence on Vern’s methods on Backley’ career: “Physios were looking to isolate the rotator cuff, but Vern put it into the function. That helped me not just rehab my shoulder, but stay health for the rest of my career. “
- 20:30 – Backley’s approach to throwing the javelin: “At lot of people look to hit the javelin and create force suddenly. I always looked to pull the javelin. It’s like moving a parked car: smack it quickly and it won’t move, but push it for a few seconds and it gets more speed.”
- 27:30 – Key points for javelin throwing: “Javelin is about rhythm, range of movements, and connection. Every technical point can be put into one of those categories. The final element is how aggressive you are, but raise the aggression too much and one of the others will break down. “
- 28:45 – Adapting rhythm to the situation and throwing his first world record.
- 31:00 – Staying healthy.
Training and competing better
- 35:30 – Keeping training fun. “Find out what makes you tick. Looking back, I loved competing. It wasn’t about winning, it was about locking horns and going into a competitive environment. We always finished training with something competitive. “
- 39:30 – Stepping up at competitions, taking chances, and more lessons from competing.
- 43:45 – Training with rival Jan Zelezny.
- 50:00 – Moving from the runway to the broadcasting booth.
To hear more about these topics you can listen to the full episode above. If you like what you hear on the GAINcast, don’t forget to give us a review and subscribe on iTunes.
The following links were referenced in the podcast or provide some additional reading material on the topic:
- The GAINcast is brought to you by GAIN and HMMR Media. Applications for GAIN are now open and you can learn more here or at www.thegainnetwork.com. We just announced the faculty on GAINcast 154.
- This month’s site theme is throwing. That ties into today’s episode, and we have more resources on the site. Click here for an overview of our top resource on all the throwing events. Join HMMR Plus so that you get full access to our video, article, and podcast archive.
- You can learn more about Backley on his website and Twitter (@Steve_Backley). He has also written a book The Champion in All of Us: 12 rules for success. He also shared 10 lessons he learned from his career in an article for BBC Sport.
- Listening to Backley describe his technique is one thing, but you really have to see it to understand what he is talking about. Check out videos of his 91.46 meter world record and 90.81 meter throw are both on YouTube.
- If you want to learn more about the javelin, we posted some javelin specific strength exercises with coach Terry McHugh. For specific strength exercises for all the throwing events, watch Lesson 9 in the HMMR Classroom.