The Robinson Library

The Robinson Library >> Track and Field Athletics >> Events

a track and field event in which an athlete tries to "throw" a metal ball as far as possible


The ancient Greeks threw stones as a sport and soldiers are recorded as throwing  cannon balls in the Middle Ages, but a version of the modern shot-put can be traced to the Highland Games in Scotland during the 19th century where competitors threw a rounded cube, stone, or metal weight from behind a line. The shot-put has been an Olympic event since the first modern games in 1896; women began competing in the event in 1948.

Today, shot-putters use a metal ball. Men use a 16-pound (7.3-kilogram) shot, high school athletes use one of 12 pounds (5.4 kilograms), and women use one that weighs 8 pounds 13 ounces (4 kilograms). The specific metal used varies, as does the diameter of the shot. The put is made from within a 7-foot-diameter (2.1-meter) circle with an arc-shaped wooden 4-inch-high (10-centimeter) stopboard forming its front.

Before 1951, the main movements involved in the shot-put were to stand and throw from a crouched starting position. The winner of the shot put Olympic gold medal in 1896 was Bob Garrett of the United States with a throw of 11.22 meters. The current men’s shot put world record holder is Randy Barnes of the United States, who had an outdoor throw of 23.12 meters. His success as a thrower is attributed to the rotational style of throwing known as the "spin," which was first introduced in 1976 by American shot-putter Brian Oldfield. The spin developed from a throwing style known as the "glide," which was pioneered by American Parry O’Brien in 1951 and is now considered a major turning point in the history of the sport as it introduced the technique of facing away from the direction of the throw at the beginning the movement. A key factor in all shot put styles is that the shot must be put as opposed to thrown.

Whichever method is used, the shot cannot drop below the line of the athlete's shoulders prior to being put and it must land inside a designated 35-degree sector. The athlete cannot touch the top of the board during the put, nor can he/she leave the circle before the shot lands, and then only from the rear. The measurement is taken from the nearest edge of the first break of ground to the nearest point on the inside edge of the circle.

In the glide technique, the athlete starts from the back of the circle, with the shot balanced in his/her hand and cradled against the neck. The athlete then hops or glides forward until the leading foot is near the stopboard. As he/she propels the shot his/her momentum turns the body so that the positions of the feet are reversed and the weight is well forward on what was the following foot. The idealangle of release is about 40 degrees.

shot-put glide technique

The spin technique involves rotating like a discus thrower and using rotational momentum for power. With this technique, a right-hand putter faces the rear and begins to spin on the ball of the left foot. As the putter comes around and faces the front of the circle he/she drives the right foot into the middle of the circle. Finally, the putter reaches for the front of the circle with the left foot, twisting the hips and shoulders like in the glide, and puts the shot. When the athlete executes the spin, the upper body is twisted hard to the right, which builds up torque and stretches the muscles, creating an involuntary elasticity in the muscles, providing extra power and momentum. When the athlete prepares to release, the left foot is firmly planted, causing the momentum and energy generated to be conserved, pushing the shot in an upward and outward direction.

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Track and Field Athletics >> Events

This page was last updated on August 19, 2018.