Shot Put Rotational Technique

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Randy Barnes used the rotational technique to set a world shot put record of 23.12 meters (75 feet, 10¼ inches) in 1990. Mike Powell/Getty Images

Shot putters have a choice between two techniques, the glide and the rotational (or spin) style. Young competitors, other than ​beginning shot putters, will naturally gravitate to the more direct glide technique. Most world-class male throwers, including 2009 World champion Christian Cantwell, employ the rotational shot put technique. But other competitors, including Olympic champions Tomasz Majewski and Valerie (Vili) Adams, do quite well with the glide. The spin technique is similar in principle to the basic discus-throwing technique, but there are key differences. For example, the shot put throwing circle is smaller, requiring a tighter turn. But the major difference involves the implement itself. While the discus is held at the end of an extended throwing arm, the shot remains close to the thrower’s neck – near the center of the rotation – making balance more difficult. While the rotational style may be tougher to master, quality shot putters should at least learn the technique, to discover whether the acceleration generated by the spin leads to longer throws. The following description assumes a right-handed thrower.

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World champion Christian Cantwell holds the shot toward the back of his neck, beneath his ear, as he begins his throw. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The rotational grip is the same as the glide grip. Place the shot on the base of your fingers – not in the palm – and spread your fingers slightly. Push the shot firmly against your neck in a comfortable position. You may wish to experiment with the exact placement to see what works for you. Spinners tend to hold the shot farther back, closer to the ear, while gliders generally keep the shot closer to the chin. Your thumb should be under the shot with your throwing elbow pointed outward, away from your body.

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Rebecca Peake takes her stance at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. She lifts her left heel to begin her wind-up. Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

Stand at the rear of the ring, facing away from the target. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, your body upright and your head up. Extend your left arm (again, for right-handed throwers) to the side.

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Christian Cantwell turns to his left as his wind-up begins. While his right leg is straight, his left is bent slightly at the knee. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Rotate your upper body about one-quarter turn to the right. Your right elbow will point toward the target. Keep your shoulders level. As you rotate, pivot on your right foot – keeping the foot flat on the ground – and rotate the left leg so your knee moves slightly toward the right. Balance on the ball of your left foot. Move your left arm in sync with your left leg.

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Entry Phase 1

Adam Nelson pushes off with his right leg and pivots on his left, early in the entry phase of his throw. Notice how his left arm extends to counter-balance the swinging right leg. Michael Steele/Getty Images

Shift your weight to your left side as you pivot on, then turn, your left foot. Bend your left knee slightly and flatten your left foot as you transfer the center of gravity to your left side. Begin pushing off with your right foot, so you’re on the ball of the foot.

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Entry Phase 2

Reese Hoffa's right leg swings around as he concludes the entry phase. His right foot will land in the middle of the circle. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

As your center of gravity shifts to your left side, continue pushing off with the right foot. Lift your foot off the ground and begin sweeping it counterclockwise. Pivot and turn your left leg. Go back on the ball of your left foot as you pivot, moving your upper and lower body together. Keep your left arm extended to counter-balance the sweeping right leg, which will extend past the right side of the ring.

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Drive Phase 1

Dylan Armstrong’s right foot has landed and his left is swinging into throwing position as he continues to spin. Michael Steele/Getty Images

Continue sweeping your right leg around until it lands in the center of the circle, toward the front. Your right elbow will be pointed toward the target and your right knee bent. You may wish to bend your left arm at the elbow, bringing your forearm closer to your body. Lift your left leg and circle it toward the front of the ring. Don’t slow down or stop when your right foot lands or you’ll lose momentum.

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Drive Phase 2

Adam Nelson's left foot has touched down as he prepares to throw. His left arm is sweeping forward and up, helping to place his shoulders at the correct delivery angle. Michael Steele/Getty Images

The left leg lands in the front center of the ring. Your foot should be flat and your leg firm with very little flex in the knee. Your left arm extends forward toward the target, then reaches up, lifting your left shoulder.

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Power Position

Reese Hoffa prepares to launch the shot forward at approximately a 45-degree angle. Michael Steele/Getty Images

Your left arm should be pointed toward the target with your left leg straight and right knee bent. The right shoulder should be lower than the left with your right forearm roughly parallel to the ground. Your weight should be over the right foot. Again, the description is a snapshot; don’t stop in this position. Continue rotating, because the rotation’s momentum helps to power the shot.

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Christian Cantwell releases the shot. As his arm punches forward, he continues to spin to his left, to maintain momentum and keep his balance. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As your left foot lands, continue spinning by shifting your weight over the left foot. As you do so, punch your throwing arm up at approximately a 45-degree angle, pushing off with your right leg as you release the shot forward. Remember that the shot will go forward but you’ll continue spinning, both to maintain your momentum and to avoid fouling.

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Follow Through

Scott Martin rotates left after throwing the shot to keep his momentum from taking him out of the circle and fouling. Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

A good follow-through is essential to maintaining your momentum through the delivery and keeping your balance afterward. As you push off with the right foot, lift your leg and pivot on your left foot. When the right foot lands, hop on the foot and continue spinning. Everything you’ve done so far will be wasted if you lose your balance, fall out of the circle and foul.