What is a Shot Put?

Niki Foster

A shot put is a track and field athletic event in which the athlete throws or puts a metal weight called a shot. This event has ancient origins in strong man competitions, in which stones were originally thrown instead of metal balls. Events such as the stone put of the Scottish Highland games and the Steinstossen native to Switzerland are its precursors. Shot put was included in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and has been an event in every Summer Olympic Games since then.

A shot put is typically held as part of a track and field competition.
A shot put is typically held as part of a track and field competition.

A shot put is performed inside of a 7-foot (2.14 meters) circle with a four-inch tall (10 cm) toe board at the front edge. Distance is measured from the inside of the circle's circumference to the closest disturbance of soil caused by the shot. The shot may be made of brass or any heavier metal, though brass and iron are most common. Regulation weights are 16 pounds (7.26 kilograms) for men and 8.8 pounds (4 kg) for women. Each competitor typically has six throws, and the best single throw is the winner.

The Scottish sport of stone put is a precursor to the shot put.
The Scottish sport of stone put is a precursor to the shot put.

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The shot putter must step into the front half of the circle but must not leave the circle during the throw. The weight must be thrown from the shoulder and pushed off the fingertips, not thrown like a baseball. Using improper form is cause for disqualification.

There are two major techniques in shot put: the glide and the spin. In both techniques, the athlete begins facing the rear of the circle. In the glide, she leaps forward while turning and throwing the shot, "gliding" across the circle. In the spin, the thrower simply rotates while throwing, without his feet leaving the ground.

Shot putters have been successful using both techniques. The glide is usually mastered first and has more consistent results. However, most top male athletes favor the spin.

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