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Throws Blog: Shoulder Care for the Javelin Throw

  • Posted: 16.01.2014
  • Author: David Parker
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Throws Blog – Shoulder Care for The Javelin Throw

David Parker MSc ASCC

National Coach Mentor – The Javelin Throw

You don’t have to be hugely experienced in the intricate details of the Javelin Throw to recognize that the shoulder is one of the most susceptible joints to injury. As one of the most complex joints in the human body the range through which the shoulder moves can be extreme. With the forces exerted on the joint, specifically the involved musculature when training or competing for the Javelin Throw, it is no surprise that athletes suffer from a variety of injuries.

It is natural therefore for coaches consider the rotator cuff muscles, however, the rotator cuff is only part of the story when it comes to keeping your throwing shoulder healthy. The scapular stabilizers are the muscles that attach the scapula (shoulder blade) to the posterior chest wall and, therefore affect the function of the rotator cuff. They regulate the movement of the scapula relative to the shoulder during the extreme ranges of motion previously mentioned in the shoulder joint. If the scapular stabilizers aren't functioning properly it allows the scapula to sag forward and causes the rotator cuff to be overworked very easily, therefore causing potential strains with all the work being done while throwing.

The scapula stabilizers that we are concerned with here are as follows;

• Serratus anterior

• Trapezius (upper, middle, lower)

• Rhomboids (upper and lower).

For most of us with recurrent shoulder problems (sore cuff muscles and biceps tendonitis) the scapular stabilizers are usually weak as well and definitely contribute to symptoms.

Serratus Anterior

This exercise is called a push up plus (or scapula push up). You start in a push up position allow your shoulder blades to come together in the back and then push them forward as far as possible without unlocking your arms. It can be done with your feet on a bench and hands on a swiss ball for an advanced motion.


The upper trap is not a concern. The middle and lower trap are far weaker. Middle Trap - lying prone (face down), position your arms abducted to 90 degrees (make a T with your arms straight out). With your thumbs pointing towards the ceiling, keeping your shoulders down and relaxed (no shrugging), move your thumbs towards the ceiling, then hold the position and finally let down slowly. You should feel your shoulder blades touch and then slide laterally as you lower your hands. Repeat this movement for the required number of repetitions.

Lower Trapezius - lying prone, position your arms at a high three quarters position ("Y" position). With your thumbs pointing at the ceiling, raise your arms, then hold the position and finally lower slowly. You should feel your shoulder blades slide down your back and then back (hard to feel, but if you do it right you will feel the burning sensation at the bottom of your shoulder blades).

Both of the above exercises may also be done standing (thumbs now point behind you) using a cable or stretch tubing.


Lying prone in a T position (slightly lower T). Now the thumbs are pointing towards the floor. Use the same movement pattern as the middle trapezius exercise. Bring your hands towards the ceiling while squeezing your shoulder blades together, then slowly relax and bring your hands back to the start.

The rotator cuff

Exercises that are important to do are external rotation movements.

Holding your elbow at your side and bent to 90 degrees, pull a stretch tube (or pulley) across your body to full external rotation. The rotation is around your humerus (upper arm) so don't lift that elbow to complete the rotation. This can be done with dumbbells if you lie on the floor on your side, lifting the dumbbell straight off the ground. Do this exercise from your throwing delivery position as well. Hold your elbow (bent at 90 degrees) straight out from your shoulder (90 degrees of abduction) and pull the stretch tube (attached at ankle height to something in front of you) up and back as you rotate your arm around the axis of your humerus (point your elbow at something for reference and don't let it move forward or back).

Because these are small muscles that are used all the time it is best to train them for endurance using sets of 2-3 for 20-30 reps (it can be done with more sets at lower reps for younger athletes who are physically less mature and developing: 3 x 12 or so). Concentrate on a very slow eccentric movement - lower the weight down very slowly - because this is the action you want to train as it will improve stability and the muscles ability to absorb force. The posterior shoulder musculature functions to stabilize the shoulder in the joint and to decelerate the arm after the throw - these are both eccentric motions. The weight should be light enough to allow perfect form. Start with no weight and train the movements first.

These muscles are all worked together by doing exercises such as bent over rows/ flyes, seated rows, lat pull downs/ pull-ups. Concentrate on the scapular stabilizers by keeping your shoulders down and relaxed as well as squeezing your shoulder blades together before slowly letting the weight down.

Given that all athletes have different strengths and weaknesses, not every athlete will need to work every single little muscle separately and indeed isolating a particular muscle completely we know is not possible, however emphasizing the overload on a particular area is something we as coaches should look at with the athletes we coach and the above exercises should help to address shoulder problems before they occur.




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