Field Events in Track and Field

Brian Oldfield

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Athletics, also known as track and field or track and field athletics, is a collection of sports events that involve running, throwing and jumping. The name is derived from the Greek word “athlon” meaning “contest.”

Some languages such as German and Russian refer to these sports as “light athletics” to differentiate them from sports like weight lifting, wrestling, etc.

Field Events — Throwing events

Shot put — “putting” (throwing in a pushing motion) a heavy metal ball (called the shot) as far as possible. Competitors take their throw from inside a circle 7 feet (2.135 meters) in diameter, with a toe board approximately 10 cm (4″) high at the front of the circle. The distance thrown is measured from the inside of the circumference of the circle to where the shot lands at its nearest disturbance of the soil. In men’s competition, the shot weighs 7.26 kilograms (16 pounds). The women’s shot weighs 4 kg (8.8 pounds). American high schools usually use 12 pound (5.44 kg) shots for boys and 4 kg shots for girls; these are sometimes used as practice shots as well. The weight of the ball differs depending on the age group. Men over the age of 50 use a 6kg shot (13.2 pounds).


Brian Oldfield practicing the Shot Put (Glide Style).

Two putting styles are in current general use by shot put competitors: the glide and the spin. Glide (example for right-handed thrower): a right-hand thrower begins facing the rear of the circle and kicks to the front with the left leg while pushing off forcefully with the right. The key is to move quickly across the circle with as little air under the feet as possible, hence the name “glide.” As the thrower crosses the circle, the hips twist toward the front, followed by the shoulders and strikes in a putting motion with their arm. Slide (example for right-handed thrower): In the spin, a right-handed thrower faces the rear, and begins to spin on the ball of the left foot. The thrower comes around and faces the front of the circle and drives the right foot into the middle of the circle. Finally, the thrower reaches for the front of the circle with the left foot, twists his hips and shoulders like in the glide, and puts the shot. Top records for men are a distance in the low to mid-20 meters.

Hammer throw — The modern or Olympic hammer throw is an athletic throwing event where the object to be thrown is a heavy steel ball attached with wire (maximum length 4 ft (1.22 m)) to a handle. The name “hammer throw” is derived from older competitions where an actual hammer was thrown.

The men’s hammer weighs 16 lb (7.257 kg) and the women’s hammer weighs 8.82 lb (4 kg). Competitors gain maximum distance by winding the hammer around their head to set up the start of the turns. Then they apply force and pick up speed by completing one to four turns in the circle. In competition, most throwers turn three or four times. The ball moves in a circular path, gradually increasing in velocity with each turn with the high point of the ball toward the sector and the low point at the back of the circle. The thrower releases the ball from the front of the circle. The two most important factors for a long throw are the angle of release and the speed of the ball. Top distances for men are in the mid-80 meters.

Javelin throw is a throwing event where the object to be thrown is the javelin, a spear-like object made of metal, fiberglass and, in some cases, carbon fiber. Because of its potential danger, it is not always included in track and field meets. Competitors take three throws after which the top eight take another three, their best legal throw is recorded and the winner is the individual with the longest legal throw. 

The Javelin event has a run-up area coated with the same surface used for running tracks, and a painted line on the surface for small spikes on each shoe. Many athletic tracks have javelin run-ups at each end to take advantage of any potential wind benefit. Javelin throwers gain considerable forward velocity in their run-up to their throws, and as well as upper body strength demonstrate athleticism more similar to running and jumping events. Thus, the athletes share more physical characteristics with sprinters than other throwing athletes with their bulky frames. At release, a javelin can reach speeds approaching 113 km/h (70 mph).

Traditional free-weight training is often used by javelin throwers. Metal bar exercises and resistance band exercises can be used to train a similar action to the javelin throw to increase power and intensity. Core stability can help in the transference of physical power and force from the ground through the body to the javelin. Stretching and sprint training are used to enhance the speed of the athlete at the point of release and subsequently the javelin. The rotator cuff muscles are very important for keeping the upper arm in an instant center during the rotation of the arm at the shoulder. Elastic tubing resistance exercises for internal and external rotation are very important for helping to prevent shoulder injury. Top records for men are a distances in the 90-meter range.

Discus throw is a throwing event where the object to be thrown is a heavy lenticular disc with a diameter of 220 mm (8.66 inches) and a weight of two kilograms (4 lb 7 oz) for the men’s event, and one kg (2 lb 3 oz) for the women’s, with a smaller diameter of 181 mm (7.17 inches).  In U.S. high school track and field, boys typically throw a discus weighing 1.616 kg (3 lb 9 oz) and the girls throw the 1 kg (2.2 lb) women’s disc. Most events for children use the 1kg discus.

The discus usually has sides made of rubber, plastic, wood, or metal with a metal rim and a metal core to attain the weight. A discus with more weight in the rim produce greater angular momentum for any given spin rate, and thus more stability, although they are more difficult to throw. A practice discus made of solid rubber is often used in High School; it is cheaper, more durable, and easier to learn to throw (due to its more equal distribution of weight, as opposed to the heavy rim weight of the metal rim/core discus).

To make a throw, the competitor starts in a slightly recessed concrete-surfaced circle of 2.5 meters (8 feet 2)

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