Recently, John Smith, one of the premier shot put coaches in the world, asked the question, “What is the most important key to throwing the shot far?” Many coaches thought they knew the answer, but everybody failed to realize the simplest and most important aspect of good shot putting is to “KEEP THE BALL MOVING!” Everything the athlete does throughout the throw, must keep the shot moving. No matter what technical philosophy you subscribe to, this is THE NUMBER ONE GOAL!
Currently there are two main categories of technique that are widely practiced in the shot, the rotation or spin, and the glide. Each of these categories can be further divided into multiple subcategories based on technical philosophy. Mike Young, the US Shot Put Biomechanist, divides the rotational technique into four subcategories: the “linear spin,” “rotational spin,” “wrapped spin” and the “cartwheel spin.” The glide is divided into the “short-long glide” and the “long-short glide.” In this article, I am going to focus on the short-long glide technique, due to the fact that it is the most common technique for beginning shot putters to learn.
The shot put is an explosive event. In being so, the athlete must first have a good understanding of the power position above all else. Without a proper understanding of the power position and execution of the stand throw, any other technique development is of little value. The power position consists of the following aspects:
• Heel-Toe Relationship
• Axis from head to heel
• Sternum over knee
• Shot behind foot
The stand throw is initiated by pushing the back heel out and turning the hip completely into the direction of the throw. Upon triple extension (ankle, knee, hip) the athlete strikes the ball out over the toeboard fully extending the throwing arm. The left side should block any further rotation, so that the athlete can see the shot land, while the throwing shoulder remains over the toeboard. The athlete should NOT be taught to reverse initially, as this should be a natural byproduct of the athlete becoming more explosive off the back leg. It is often easier for athletes to learn the stand throw by rocking into it, creating a “teeter totter” motion. One of the primary differences between the long-short and short-long glides is when the left foot lands at the front of the circle. In the long-short glide, the athlete strives to land both feet simultaneously. In the short-long glide, the left foot lands after the right, creating a more natural throwing motion. An especially helpful cue for most athletes is to remind them to stay on the outside of the power foot while turning it. This will allow the foot to turn completely into the throw.
After there is a basic understanding of the power position and stand throw, it is time to move to the back of the circle and begin to learn the glide. There are many different drills and cues to use to teach athletes to glide into a proper power position, but no matter how a coach goes about teaching the glide, there are fundamental points and positions that must be achieved.
There are two different approaches to the beginning of the glide, the static start, and the dynamic start. Most athletes will begin with the static start and advance to the dynamic start as they become more comfortable with the technique. In the static start, the athlete begins in a T-position or crouch. In this position the right-handed athlete should display the following characteristics:
• Right foot on centerline of circle
• Shoulders are square to the back of the circle – directly opposite the toeboard
• Left thumb is turned down
• Left knee stays behind right
• Legs never cross
• Shoulders do not fall below hip line
In the dynamic start, the athlete usually begins on the toes and quickly sinks down into the crouch position. To begin the movement across the circle, the athlete should push the right knee down over the toes, while allowing the hips to sink down and back. As the hips begin to “fall” the athlete aggressively pushes off the toes of the right foot, rolling back onto the right heel. The left leg strikes straight and low into the base of the toeboard, while the left arm and upper body remain behind the hip axis. The right knee is aggressively pulled under the upper body, striving to pull the knee under the left elbow. By pulling the knee under, the foot should naturally turn and land between 45 and 90 degrees in the middle of the circle. When the left foot lands, the athlete turns and lifts to deliver the shot into the direction of the throw. Key points to look for in the middle of the circle include:
• Chin stays even with sternum
• Shot put is 5-8 inches behind a turned right foot at left foot touchdown
• Right knee and hip get turned completely into the direction of the throw
• Upper body remains passive with long left arm until hips face 180 degrees
• Hip should drive to the toeboard
• Athlete sees the shot leave
• Right shoulder finishes over toeboard
• If athlete reverses, eyes finish at 270 degrees
This is a basic synopsis of the fundamental concepts involved in the short-long glide technique. Using this approach to teaching the glide should allow the coach to develop a consistent technical philosophy that will maximize the talent level of the throwers involved in the program.
1. Balke, Norm. Shot Put Shenanigans. The Long and Strong Throwers Journal. Vol. 5, Iss. 3, Jan. 2003.
2. Sylvester, Jay. The Complete Book of Throws. Human Kinetics Publishers. Champaign, IL. 2003.
3. Young, Mike. Rotational Shot Biomechanics. National Throws Coaches Association. 2006 annual convention video series. Vol. 2, Disc 3.