Should a Discus, Javelin or Shot Spin Out of the Hand?

Which of the Throwing Implements Should Spin in Flight?

Discus, javelin, shot – which of these implements should spin as they fly? Let’s take a look.

Discus

Should a discus spin when in flight?

YES.

Why?

The spin on the discus stabilises it in flight. The more it spins, the more it resists tipping or tilting over, allowing it to stay in the air for longer. Think of a frisbee. A high-spinning frisbee maintains its lift and can fly long distances. A non-spinning frisbee is almost completely ineffective.

To generate spin on a discus, an effective grip and release is required.

To grip a discus:

  • The discus sits flat against the palm of the throwing hand.
  • The edge of the discus sits on the pads of the first joints of the fingers.
  • The thumb rests on the back of the discus.
  • The discus is held in a loose grip.
A collage showing the discus grip from three angles

The discus grip

To release a discus:

  • The hand should be over the top of the discus.
  • The discus should spin over and off the index finger.

It is very difficult for an athlete to impart spin on the discus if:

  • Their thumb is held over the edge of the discus.
Discus held with thumb incorrectly over the edge.

Thumb incorrectly over the edge

  • Their fingers extend too far over the discuses rim.
Discus held with fingers too far over the edge.

Fingers too far over the rim

Javelin

Should a javelin spin while in flight?

YES.

Why?

Firstly, we are not referring to a javelin cartwheeling or helicopter-spinning through the air. The “spin” we are looking for is the javelin rotating around its longitudinal axis, which helps stabilise it in the air. A javelin that rotates about its axis creates lift for longer.

To generate spin on the javelin, an effective grip and release is required. The javelin should be held at the back of the grip, along the palm, with fingers firmly around the implement, with at least one finger behind the binding. I prefer teaching the grip that sees one finger and the thumb behind the binding.

Close-up of a javelin grip

A “One-Finger” grip

It is very difficult for an athlete to impart spin on the javelin if they:

  • Have a loose grip.
  • Hold the javelin in their fist.
  • Don’t position their hand so that they can pull on the back of the binding.
  • Extend their index finger back along the shaft of the javelin.
Javelin held incorrectly across the palm

Javelin incorrectly held in the fist

Shot Put

Should a shot spin while in flight?

NO.

Why?

A spinning shot indicates that the force generated by the athlete has not been projected through the shot’s centre of gravity, which is detrimental to the throw. This has most likely been caused by the thrower’s fingers rolling over the shot on release and/or the hand being rotated during the putting action. These are both common errors made by kids.

Ideally the shot should “float” through the air.

Shot putter twisting hand on release of the shot

Hand being rotated on release

To prevent the shot from spinning:

  • Use an effective grip with the shot sitting on the base of the fingers with three fingers behind the shot and the thumb and little finger to the side. The shot should not touch the palm
  • The hand should be positioned behind and not under the shot when it is held against the neck.
  • The palm, elbow and forearm need to be kept behind the shot and not be allowed to drop under the shot during the put.
  • The hand should not be twisted as the shot is released.
A photo that demonstrates how a shot being held in the hand can resemble a scoop of ice cream in a cone., which is a great analogy to use when teaching young athletes.

An effective shot grip

Summary

The implements that should spin in flight are the discus & the javelin.

The implement that should not spin in flight is the shot.

Any Questions or Comments?

I would love to hear from you. Leave a reply/comment or use the contact details below.

20150614_154020-1Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on TwitterFacebookLinkedin , Anchor or via email.

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