The shot put is an athletic throwing event that involves putting, or pushing, a heavy metal ball with one hand as far as possible from a circle 7 feet in diameter. The shot put has been featured in every modern Olympic games since 1896. The shot put employs almost every muscle in the body, but some muscles are used more than others.
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Getting the Shot Moving
There are two methods used in shot putting: the spin and the glide. Both methods start with a powerful leg drive. Shot putters use their strong quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus maximus muscles to push off from the back of the circle and generate the initial thrust necessary to get the heavy metal shot moving across the circle. A shot put starts with the athlete placing most of his weight on one leg; therefore, one leg tends to work harder than the other in this event.
The initial drive from the legs generates a lot of energy, which must be transferred into the upper body via the midsection. The muscles of the midsection are the abdominals -- which include the obliques, rectus abdominus and transversus -- must stay strong and rigid to support the efforts of the thrower's arms and legs while ensuring no energy is lost. Shot putters use their oblique muscles very strongly to rotate their upper body to drive the shot.
Pushing the Shot Away
The shot is pushed away, as opposed to thrown like a baseball or football. It is held next to the athlete's jaw and then driven forward with a powerful shoulder and arm extension. Pushing the shot away uses the pectoralis major muscles of the chest, the anterior deltoids, or front shoulder muscles, and the triceps brachii on the rear of the upper arm. The obliques are called upon again to add a final rotational effort to drive the shot as far as possible.
Other Muscles Used
A large number of smaller muscles are used in the shot put as well. The gastrocnemius, or calf, muscles provide an extra push from the ankles. The hip flexor muscles pull the thrower's knee up before the initial drive away from the back of the circle. The rotator cuff muscles -- the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis -- that stabilize the shoulder joint ensure that the head of the humerus remains fixed in the shoulder socket, and the finger extensors provide a final flick at the end of the push to try and push the shot a few extra inches.