Shot putter at the University of Nebraska, 1942, showing the circle and stopboard
Homer mentions competitions of rock throwing by soldiers during the Siege of Troy but there is no record of any dead weights being thrown in Greek competitions. The first evidence for stone- or weight-throwing events were in the Scottish Highlands, and date back to approximately the first century. In the 16th century King Henry VIII was noted for his prowess in court competitions of weight and hammer throwing.
The first events resembling the modern shot put likely occurred in the Middle Ages when soldiers held competitions in which they hurled cannonballs. Shot put competitions were first recorded in early 19th century Scotland, and were a part of the British Amateur Championships beginning in 1866.
Competitors take their throw from inside a marked circle 2.135m (7 ft) in diameter, with a stopboard about 10 centimetres (3.9 in) high at the front of the circle. The distance thrown is measured from the inside of the circumference of the circle to the nearest mark made on the ground by the falling shot, with distances rounded down to the nearest centimetre under IAAF and WMA rules.
Czechoslovak shot putter Jiří Skobla
showing the correct technique for keeping the shot near the neck
The following rules (indoor and outdoor) must be adhered to for a legal throw:
- Upon calling the athlete's name, the athlete may choose any part of the throwing circle to enter inside. They have thirty seconds to commence the throwing motion; otherwise it counts as a forfeit for the current match.
- The athlete may not wear gloves; IAAF rules permit the taping of individual fingers.
- The athlete must rest the shot close to the neck, and keep it tight to the neck throughout the motion.
- The shot must be released above the height of the shoulder, using only one hand.
- The athlete may touch the inside surface of the circle or toe board, but must not touch the top or outside of the circle or toe board, or the ground beyond the circle. Limbs may, however, extend over the lines of the circle in the air.
- The shot must land in the legal sector (34.92°) of the throwing area.
- The athlete must leave the throwing circle from the back.
Foul throws occur when an athlete:
- Does not pause within the circle before beginning the putting motion.
- Does not complete the putting movement initiated within thirty seconds of having their name called.
- Allows the shot to drop below his shoulder or outside the vertical plane of his shoulder during the put.
At any time if the shot loses contact with the neck then it is technically an illegal put.
- During the putting motion, touches with any part of the body (including shoes):
- the top or ends of the toe board
- the top of the iron ring
- anywhere outside the circle.
- Puts a shot which either falls outside the throwing sector or touches a sector line on the initial impact.
- Leaves the circle before the shot has landed.
- Does not leave from the rear half of the circle.
The following are either obsolete or non-existent, but commonly believed rules within professional competition:
- The athlete must enter the circle from the back (none of the rule books contain such a clause).
- The athlete entering the circle, then exiting and re-entering it prior to starting the throw results in a foul (all the rule books allow an athlete to leave a circle prior to starting a throw, but this still counts within the 30 second time limit; the allowable method of exiting the circle varies by rule book).
- Loose clothing, shoelaces, or long hair touching outside the circle during a throw, or an athlete bringing a towel into the circle and then throwing it out prior to the put, results in a foul.