Glide vs. Spin for the Shot Put

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If you're a shot putter who uses a glide, you've probably wondered whether and when to start using a spin. It's a common concern among throwers and their coaches. Don Babbitt, throws coach for Georgia track and field, gets the question at every clinic he attends and seminar he conducts. Here's what he tells throwers to help them determine how and when to make the transition.

Start with the glide

The glide is a simple, basic technique that is effective and easy to pick up. The risk of injury is lower than with the spin, which requires a more intricate technique.

Use the spin if...

The spin technique is more effective for shorter athletes with good footwork and quickness. For example, take Adam Nelson or Reese Hoffa, two of the top shot putters in the world. If either of those guys used the glide instead of the spin, they wouldn't be throwing 72 feet; they would be in the 66- to -67-foot range.

Change to the spin when...

When an athlete can match his glide distance using a full spin or the South African during practice, then he can change.


Jenny Dahlgren, my best female thrower, whose PR is 51 feet, averaged between 48 and 49 feet using the glide. That's when we decided to mess around with the spin. So she goes into the South African, and on her first try she throws 47 feet. She throws again and goes 48, and then almost 49. Right then, I said, "You're doing the spin." She threw 46 feet at the first meet she used the spin; 48 feet, 6 inches at her second meet; and at her third meet, she matched her PR. Going full out she can glide 50 feet-and with a spin at 80 percent, she can throw the same distance.

Don't spin just because...

Using the spin just because you see athletes who are smaller than you using it and hitting the same distances as you, or because it seems like everyone else is doing it and it looks cool, are not good reasons to switch. The point is to throw and compete as well as you can. If you use the spin but don't have good footwork, you'll have fouling problems, which is bad for confidence. Your distance won't be consistent, which can create a downward spiral in your performance. The steady athlete wins in most situations, especially pressure-packed ones. Learning the footwork of the spin takes a long time, so don't expect to be comfortable with it right away. Continue competing with the glide, while leaving time to practice the spin.

Babbit's scale of added distance to power position throw

Glide adds: 5% 6.6-8.3% 10% or more
Poor Average Excellent
Spin adds: 8.3-10% 11.6-13.3% 13.4% and above
Poor Average Excellent


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