Track and Feld: Introduction to Shot Put

Caucasian athlete preparing to throw the shot put
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The shot put is one of track and field's four basic throwing events, along with the discus, hammer and javelin throw. But the steel ball, known as the "shot," isn't thrown in a conventional sense. Instead. it's "put" - thrust forward with one arm, which travels forward and up at approximately a 45-degree angle relative to the ground.


Under IAAF rules, the shot putter must begin with the shot touching or “in close proximity to” the neck or the chin. He or she may not drop the shot lower than this position afterward and must put the shot with one hand only. Cartwheeling techniques are not permitted.

Shot putting requires strength and sound footwork during the approach. Some shot putters use the “glide” technique, moving forward in a straight line from the back of the throwing circle before releasing the shot. Others use the “spin” or “rotational” method in which they spin as they move forward, to generate momentum for the throw.

Learn how to perform the shot put glide and rotational techniques.

What to look for:

Shot putters throw from a circle measuring 2.135 meters (7 feet) in diameter. Stepping outside of the circle during the throw results in a foul, canceling the attempt. The men’s shot put weighs 7.26 kilograms (16 pounds) with a diameter of 110-130 millimeters (4.3-5.1 inches). The women’s shot weighs 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) with a diameter of 95-110 millimeters (3.7-4.3 inches). As with other throwing events, shot put finalists in major competitions generally throw six times, with the longest single throw winning. In Olympic and World Championship events, for example, each of the 12 finalists receives three attempts. The top eight competitors then receive three additional throws, for a total of six. 

Men’s world record:

The spring and summer of 1990 were the best of times and worst of times for American Randy Barnes. First, Barnes set the world shot put record with a throw measuring 23.12 meters (75-feet, 10 ¼ inches) at a meet in Westwood, Calif., on May 20. Less than three months later, however, Barnes tested positive for steroids and was suspended from competition for two years. A U.S. panel upheld the IAAF suspension, although the panel expressed doubts about the testing procedures used and Barnes denied using the steroid.

In the remainder of Barnes’ checkered career, he won the shot put Olympic gold medal in 1996 but received a lifetime ban in 1998 for testing positive for androstenedione. Barnes said that he didn’t know the over-the-counter supplement was on the IAAF’s list of banned substances.

Women’s world record:

Natalya Lisovskaya, from the former Soviet Union, set her first world record in 1984, beating Ilona Slupianek’s 22.45 by .08 meters. Lisovskaya eventually topped out at 22.63 meters (74 feet, 3 inches) on June 7, 1987, in Moscow. More impressive, perhaps, was her gold medal performance in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, in which her worst throw, 21.11 meters (69 feet, 3 inches), would still have won the gold. Lisovskaya’s winning throw measured 22.24 meters (72 feet, 11 inches).