Homer makes mention of competitions of rock throwing by soldiers during the siege of Troy. In the XVI century King Henry VIII was noted for his prowess in court competitions of weight and hammer throwing and in the XVII century English soldiers organised cannonball throwing competitions.
The rules of the competition were first established in 1860, when the throw had to be made from a square with sides of seven feet (2.13m). This was replaced in 1906 by a seven foot diameter circle. The weight of the shot was fixed at 16 pounds (7.257 kg). Bent arm throws were outlawed for being too dangerous and competitors had to hold the shot in the crook of the neck prior to release.
The sidestep action in the circle was invented in the United States in 1876.In 1951 Parry O'Brien (USA) refined a new technique. From a start position facing the back of the circle, O'Brien rotated 180 degrees to move across the circle before making the final release. This helped him become the first to break the 18m (and subsequently the 19m) barrier.
In 1976 Aleksandr Baryshnikov pioneered the rotational technique, similar to that used by discus throwers, which has become increasingly popular.
A women's shot put competition with a 4 kg implement was first held in France in 1917. The inaugural IAAF world record dates back to 1934 with the event making its Olympic debut in 1948. Until 1927 women's contests were also held with shots weighing 8 pounds and 5 kilograms.