What Are the Rules of Weight Throw?

What Are the Rules of Weight Throw

True to its name, the weight throw is a track and field competition involving the throwing of heavy weights. Competitors win by throwing their weights either the highest or the farthest, depending on the event. Read on to learn the basic rules of weight throw events.

Weight Throw Basics

Since ancient times, the roth cleas was an Irish tradition where men would throw weights and see who could throw them the farthest. Eventually, people started to keep track of the feats of strength, recording records for the 14, 28, 35, and 56-pound throws in the early 1900s. These feats of strength became what we know today as the weight throw.

The ball thrown in the weight throw consists of three parts: the metalhead, wire, and grip. Contestants grab the grip with their non-dominant (glove hand), stand in a 7’ diameter circle, and bend their knees. Then, they use the Earth’s gravity acting on the ball to help them rotate their body to gather momentum for their throw. Once they have built up sufficient momentum, throwers explode upward, extending their legs and twisting their shoulders and hips. They use every bit of their body in the throw. If they have done it right, they should face where they want the ball to go after releasing it.

Weight Throw Rules

There are two main types of weight throws, the distance throw and the height throw. Additionally, there are heavy and light-weight throws for each type. However, there are global rules that apply to any kind of weight throw:

  1. Contestants must throw the metal ball within the 7’ diameter circle, wear competition bibs, and proceed with caution whenever throwing or spectating.
  2. Gloves can be worn, but the fingers must be exposed.
  3. Throwers get three chances to launch the ball and take their best distance out of those three tries.
  4. Every chance, also known as a trial, lasts one minute from when a player’s name is called.
  5. Once a ball lands, it is measured from its nearest mark to the inside edge of the throwing circle. Officials make measurements to the nearest ¼ in.

Weight Throw Fouls

Players commit a foul when:

  • Throwing the ball out of play (outside or on the sector lines).
  • Stepping out of the circle before the weight hits the ground.
  • Throwing the ball from a non-stationary position.
  • They run out of time to make their throw.
  • They touch the painted circle area, stop board, or the metal band's top.
  • Using any illegal modifiers to their equipment.
  • Making an illegal throw.

The weight throw is predominantly played in two mediums: the United States’ indoor track and field competition or the Highland Games.

The Highland Games

The Highland Games highlight aspects of Ireland’s rich history. Since ancient times, these games have helped define Irish culture and are a nostalgic experience for the community. Per tradition, the Highland Games hold two weight throw events: the weight throw for height and the distance weight throw.

During the height weight throw, contestants attempt to throw the weight above a metal bar whose height has already been measured. Throw it the highest, and you win. Competitors must stand behind a line or trig, usually swinging the weight between their legs and launching it upward. Any throw that involves a player crossing the trig does not count.

Contestants doing the distance weight throw in the Highland Games throw the massive metal ball like a discus. They rotate their body in a circle, standing behind the trig, and hurl the sphere forward. The farthest known height recorded for this event is 95’10”.

Light vs. Heavy Throws

Each of the above events in the Highland Games consists of two sub-events: the light throw and the height throw. The light-weight throw involves spheres measuring 28 pounds, whereas the heavy throw consists of weights measuring 56 pounds.

Female athlete light and heavy-weight throws have weights of 14 and 28 pounds, respectively. Senior male athletes throw 28-pound weights for the light events and 42-pound weights for the heavy events.

Indoor Track and Field Competitions

Many athletes in the United States fell in love with the weight throw even after it was discontinued in the Olympics after 1920. Since 1935, the 35-pound male weight throw has even been a part of the United States Indoor Track and Field Championships. Then, in 1991, they introduced the 20-pound female weight throw.

The weight throw in indoor track and field competitions is much like the shot put in other competitions. Players swing the weight above their heads and launch it forward after building sufficient momentum. Furthermore, contestants must throw the ball within a 34.92° sector, or their throw does not count.

Currently, Lance Deal holds the world record in the US weight throw for men at 25.41 m outdoor and 25.86 m indoor. Britney Riley has the world record for the outdoor weight throw for women at 24.57 m, while Gwen Berry holds it in the indoor women’s weight throw at 25.60 m.

Equipment Rules

The weight used in the weight throw must meet the following specifications:

  • The ball must be a sphere made of solid metal with a minimum diameter of 130 mm for men and 120 mm for women. The maximum diameter for men is 150 mm and 140 mm for women.
  • The center of gravity of the sphere must be no more than 9 mm from the sphere's center.
  • The attached wire must be solid. It cannot be broken in any place. Additionally, it cannot be allowed to stretch when it is pulled. It must have a minimum diameter of 3 mm.
  • One must measure the weight from the grip’s inside.
  • Those putting on the event must place a net or cage around the throwers so that the spectators do not come under any harm.
  • The grip must be rigid.

Weights for Various Ages

Competitions in schools and collegiate events have rules for which age groups throw weights. Here is a table of age groups and their respective weights.

High School Boys25 lb
High School Girls20 lb
Collegiate Men35 lb
Collegiate Women20 lb
Men Ages 30-4935 lb
Men Ages 50-5925 lb
Men Ages 60-6920 lb
Men Ages 70-7916 lb
Men Ages 80 and Up12 lb
Women Ages 30-4920 lb
Women Ages 50-5916 lb
Women Ages 60 and Up12 lb


How does the weight throw work?

Athletes take a metal ball with an attached chain in their non-dominant hands. They must stand within a 7’ diameter circle and get three separate throws. By bending their knees, they can rotate to gather momentum and explode upwards when the time is right to throw the weight the optimum distance.

How much does the metal sphere weigh?

For the indoor track and field US Championships, men throw a 35 lb ball, and women throw a 20 lb ball. In the Highland Games in Ireland, men throw 56 lb weights in heavy-weight competitions and 28-pound weights in light-weight competitions. Women throw 14 and 28 lb weights and older men throw 28 and 42 lb weights in the light and heavy competitions, respectively.