Shot putters come in all sizes and shapes. Eight-year-old girls and 80-year-old men can participate in the shot put, but they won't all throw the same weight. Based on an athlete's sex and age, the rules for U.S. competition allow eight weights of shots. Additional rules are used for individuals with physical disabilities. Shot put weights and dimensions are determined by the National Federation of State High School Associations, USA Track and Field and the NCAA.
Competition for children is organized by USATF into age groups that span two years. The age groups are determined by the child’s age at the beginning of the year. Those 8 years of age and younger use a 4.4 lb. shot. It increases to 6 lb. for 9- to 12-year-olds. In the 13- to 14-year-old age group, girls continue to use the 6 lb. shot while boys use an 8.8 lb. shot put. In the 15- to 18-year-old brackets, the USATF shot weights are the same as high school weights set by NFHS: Boys throw a 12 lb. shot while girls throw an 8.8 lb. shot.
Open Age Groups
In NCAA, Olympic, national and international competition, men use a 16 lb. shot while women continue to use the 8.8 lb. shot. National and international competitions for junior men or those younger than 20 years of age at the beginning of the year use a 13.2 lb. shot.
Older athletes compete in five age groups. Men 30 to 49 years old continue using the 16 lb. shot used by open age group men. Fifty-year-old men use a 13.2 lb. weight. The weight of the shot decreases by 2.2 lb. every decade. Sixty-year-old men use an 11 lb. shot, 70-year-olds use an 8.8 lb. shot, and men over 80 years use a 6.6 lb. shot. Women continue to use the 8.8 lb. shot until they reach 50 years of age. The shot then drops in weight to 6.6 lb. for women up to 74 years of age. Women older than 75 years of age use a 4.4 lb. shot.
Athletes with significant disabilities are classified by gripping ability, sitting balance, trunk control and standing ability. Competition rules govern how the wheelchairs are built and secured for shot putting. Regulations that determine if an athlete can stand or rise out of a chair are determined by the disability classification. Paralympic athletes use standard shot weights.
In outdoor competition, shots must be made of brass or a harder metal. For indoor competition, the shot put must be made of plastic with a metal shell containing metal pellets. At larger competitions, officials check to see whether shots meet the specified minimum and maximum diameters of shots for each weight class. The smallest shot is 4.4 lb., and should be 80 to 90 mm in diameter. The largest shots weigh 16 lb. and have a diameter of 110 to 130 mm. The officials inspect the shot to make sure it is perfectly round and has no indentations, which would help the shot putter grip it.