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This article is evidence-based, verified by Blake Conner, Certified Strength, and Conditioning Specialist.
You’ve seen hunting with firearms, bows, and a few other primitive weapons. However, one of the MOST primitive weapons that you can hunt with is the spear. Spear hunting has existed since time immemorial. It is one of the earliest forms of hunting our species has used to dominate the landscape.
The spear is seen on cave walls where some of the first humans would paint or create artwork.
This weapon hasn’t been lost to time either. People still practice hunting with this weapon in today’s world, as well. In more technologically advanced societies, spear hunting is more of a sport than a necessity for survival.
Yes, it is still a legal practice to use a spear for hunting. Alabama, Hawaii, Alaska, and Oklahoma all still allow hunters to use a spear for hunting. Typically, this is done from a tree stand where the animal can’t directly see you, and from there, you wait for the perfect opportunity to strike.
Unless you make a fatal blow that kills the animal immediately, there is some level of tracking that ensues after a hit. Regardless, it is an effective form of hunting, but it takes a certain level of skill to partake in. Most won’t look to go the extra mile for this style of hunting, but it can be an advantageous way of hunting.
Not only is this a very skillful hunting method, but it also requires strength and power to perform. It would be difficult to hit the animal or do a fatal blow without the strength to throw the spear. Pretty much anyone can hunt with a gun, but a spear is a different game in itself.
Spear hunting requires much skill, and you can improve yourself to do this sport better.
Muscles Involved in Spear Hunting
Typically, spear hunting is only going to involve one throwing arm. The spears are similar to a javelin that are in the Olympic track and field sport. However, there is a lot more going on than just using your arm.
When you go to throw the spear, you are engaging your triceps, shoulders, back, and core muscles. All of these lead to a powerful throw that lands the kill shot. This is great because you can specifically train to be strong in these areas and improve your performance.
There is benefit in training your general musculature as well. We never want to become extremely one-sided. So, it is a good idea for you to train the entire body. Hit those other muscles when training and become better overall.
Muscles Involved in the Javelin Throw
Now, spear hunting is very similar to the javelin throw on a track. They are different in a couple of ways. For starters, the javelin throw is done a little more with the legs. You can get a couple of steps into the throw, which creates more force into the spear.
This allows for a farther and more powerful throw. When you are spear hunting, you are typically in a tree or a stand above ground. This doesn’t leave much room for you to use your legs to hunt. You are typically coming from one spot and using your upper body and core to create force into the spear.
Spear hunting in its original form involved physically chasing the animal down on foot and then throwing the spear. However, the practice isn’t the same anymore.
You are still using your shoulders, arms, back, and core to throw the javelin in sport, but you get some more leg use as well.
Below is the direction of the force that is being used in a javelin throw. This differs from a hunting throw; in that, you are going for max distance versus actually trying to hit something. The throw is also forced more upwards to get some arch in the direction versus a straight line for the animal.
There is less accuracy needed and more technique. Most hunting throws are from a medium distance and require a ton of force in that one direction. So, this is how the throws can differ between hunting and the javelin.
How to Train for Spear Hunting
When looking to improve yourself for the sake of spear hunting, you can use plenty of strength training exercises. The gym is going to be a great place to make this happen or even at home if you have the equipment.
The basics include a barbell, some dumbbells, and a weighted medicine ball.
You need to have two qualities for throwing a spear; those are strength and power. The difference between the two is essential. Strength is just your ability to produce force, no matter the speed. While power is the ability to produce force at a certain speed in a specific direction, when you think of strength, think of a powerlifter, and when you consider speed, think of a sprinter.
The lower body needs training because it does play into your core stability. The upper body and core are going to get a ton of focus in your training as they are doing a ton of work.
Producing strength involves lifting heavier weights in small sets. So, this may be a simple as doing a moderately heavy weight for 5 sets of 5 reps. This is the gold standard of strength training.
When you are building power, you may be using a lighter weight and moving it at maximum speed. This could include you performing 6 sets of 2 reps at max effort on a back squat. Speed is the deciding factor in power.
There are tons of strength and power-based movements that you can be doing as accessories as well. These include, but are not limited to, rows, deadlifts, pressing, and other pulling movements. All of this can be done with minimal equipment as well.
Keeping these simple and fundamental movement patterns in mind helps you to get the best results possible when training for spear hunting.
How to Train for the Spartan Spear Throw
In addition to hunting with the spear and using it like a javelin on the track, there is also the popular Spartan Race Spear Throw. Within the race, you are asked to throw a spear into a hay bale. If the spear sticks, you can advance to the next obstacle. If not, you spend more time there trying to get it into the hay bale.
With this throw, you are prone to a barrier. Meaning, you are not using your legs to run and produce force. A lot of the power is coming from your upper body, as well as your core rotation. If you can produce enough force for the throw, then you should have no issues with this obstacle.
However, how should you train for it?
Spartan Race training is intense because you can face plenty of different challenges. You may not know what to expect. So, you have to be very well rounded. Of course, you are going to be doing a ton of running for the course, so you should have already or be training for endurance. You are going to need that even to finish the race, but you also need some strength and power.
This can be created very similarly to our method for general spear hunting. You want to put a focus on some strength and power training. This should involve some barbell, dumbbell, and medicine ball work. All of which can be done from home or a gym. Follow the simple principles for gaining strength or power, which are moderate weight at low reps for strength, and less than moderate weight for speed if you want to power.
Now, training specifically for the spear throw takes practice. It is a mechanical movement, so taking some time to practice hitting a target at home is great for you. This helps you get the technique down, and from there, you should have the power or strength that is needed.
Remember the difference in angle for the throw. Since you are going for a target, you need power and force behind the throw. In comparison to the javelin throw, which is aimed more upwards, you are only going to angle slightly up. This allows you to put more force behind the throw, but also make it to the target.
You can see above that during the throw; the angle is slightly lower than that of a javelin throw. You also need more upper body behind the spear, as you are not using as much of your legs during this particular movement.
Sample Spear-throwing Workout
Unless you are an Olympic level javelin thrower, most of the training is the same for all forms of spear throwing. With that being said, staying consistent and actually following a plan is the best way to get good results.
Below is a sample workout that will not only make you stronger but make you more potent for spear hunting. It will improve your ability to produce force as well as produce force quickly.
Spear Hunting Workout:
- Standing Shoulder Press
- 5 sets of 5 reps at a moderate weight
- Dumbbell Rows
- 5 sets of 10 reps on each arm
- Clapping Push-ups or Explosive Push-ups
- 4 sets of 6 reps
- Lying DB Triceps Extensions
- 4 sets of 10 reps
- Med Ball Side Scoop Toss Against the Wall
- 6 sets of 5 on each side
- Med Ball Slams
- 4 sets of 8 reps
- Explosive Med Ball Chest Press
- 5 sets of 10 reps w/ light med ball
This is how your workouts should look when training for spear hunting. We are hitting all of the muscles that are involved in a spear throw. This helps to develop strength and power through the movement.
As time goes on, you also need to be progressively increasing your weights on these movements. This ensures that you are getting better over time. If you just stick to the same weights, eventually, you plateau and won’t make as much progress.
Workouts like these may not seem super complex, and they don’t have to be. This does a great job of improving the desired qualities that one needs for an excellent spear throw.
Spear hunting is still a prevalent method for hunting. It is probably one of the first tools that we used as humans to hunt for food. If you have the skill and the strength to hit something with a spear and take it home, that’s impressive. Spear hunting is a sport that requires a lot of strength and power.
This sport, just like many others, can be trained so that you are at the top of your game. Generally, you are going to focus on some strength and power training so that you can more proficiently throw your spear.
There are other forms of spear throwing, such as the javelin throw or the Spartan Race Throw, but the training is similar. You just have to develop some technique along with some decent ability to produce force.
The only equipment you may need for getting better at spear throwing is a barbell, some dumbbells, and a few medicine balls. With this minimal equipment, you can put together some fantastic workouts that improve you overall in the gym and while hunting.
Use the provided sample workout as a way to build your own. Remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated; it just has to be effective.
Blake Conner is a nutritionist who graduated from Mississippi State University. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA, as well as a certified nutrition coach through Precision Nutrition. Blake runs his own remote nutrition coaching business to help people become the best versions of themselves.