Last updated
(slow motion video) A man throws a ball in a park.
Throwing of stones into the river Throwing rocks (3843366278).jpg
Throwing of stones into the river

Throwing is the launching of a ballistic projectile by hand. This action is only possible for animals with the ability to grasp objects with their hands (mainly primates).


Humans, being bipedal, have a wide variety of throwing techniques and abilities. These have been employed in warfare – first through rock-throwing, then refined weapon-throwing (e.g. spear), and into modern day with hand grenades and tear gas canisters. Throwing is used in many sports and games, particularly ball games, and in throwing sports the action is the main determiner of the outcome. These serve as forms of recreation and exercise in society.

Evolutionary history

Evidence of hominid throwing dates back 2 million years to Homo erectus . [1] Development of the offensive throwing of projectiles is mostly a development of the human lineage, although the aimed throwing of sticks and rocks by male chimpanzees during agonistic displays has been observed, first described by Jane Goodall in 1964. [2] "Accumulative throwing", that is, the targeted throwing of rocks at a specific target, leading to the gradual accumulation of a stone pile, has also been described for chimpanzees. [3] Wooden darts were used for hunting at least from the Middle Paleolithic , by Homo heidelbergensis . The spear-thrower is a development of the Upper Paleolithic, certainly in use by the Solutrean (c. 20,000 years ago).

Human athletes can achieve throwing speeds close to 145 km/h (90 mph), far in excess of the maximal speed attainable by chimpanzees, at about 30 km/h (20 mph). [1] This ability reflects the ability of the human shoulder muscles and tendons to store elasticity until it is needed to propel an object. [1]


Types of throws include overhand throws, underhand throws and using both hands. Overhand throws are thrown predominantly above the shoulder, underhand throws below. Overhand throws are usually significantly faster, and ball speeds of 105 miles per hour (169 km/h) have been recorded in baseball. [4] Thrown objects can often be intentionally spun for stability or aerodynamic effects.

Overhand throwing motion

The overhand throwing motion is a complex motor skill that involves the entire body in a series of linked movements starting from the legs, progressing up through the pelvis and trunk, and culminating in a ballistic motion in the arm that propels a projectile forward. It is used almost exclusively in athletic events. The throwing motion can be broken down into three basic steps: cocking, accelerating, and releasing.

Desired qualities in the action produce a fast, accurate throw. These qualities are affected by the physical attributes of the thrower like height, strength, and flexibility. However it is mainly the throwing motion mechanics and the thrower's ability to coordinate them that determines the quality of the throw. Determining the desired qualities of the throwing motion is difficult to assess due to the extremely short amount of time that it takes professionals to perform the motion.


Ken Westerfield sidearm (forehand) Frisbee distance throwing, 1970s. Ken Westerfield Sidearm throw.jpg
Ken Westerfield sidearm (forehand) Frisbee distance throwing, 1970s.

Thrown weapons

Throwing is used for propelling weapons such as stones or spears at enemies, predators, or prey.

Sports and games

Throwing of a baseball MattKataThrowing.jpg
Throwing of a baseball

Track and field contains four major throwing events: discus throw, hammer throw, javelin throw and shot put. The weight throw is the fifth most common field throwing event, while the club throw is unique to disability athletics.

Sexual differences

Research by MythBusters found that men and women throw almost equally well with their non-dominant hand, suggesting that the sexual differences were probably due to differences in training. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

Paleolithic Prehistoric period, first part of the Stone Age

The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic, also called the Old Stone Age, is a period in human prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone tools that covers c. 99% of the time period of human technological prehistory. It extends from the earliest known use of stone tools by hominins c. 3.3 million years ago, to the end of the Pleistocene c. 11,650 cal BP.

A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head. The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with fire hardened spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as bone, flint, obsidian, iron, steel or bronze. The most common design for hunting or combat spears since ancient times has incorporated a metal spearhead shaped like a triangle, lozenge, or leaf. The heads of fishing spears usually feature barbs or serrated edges.

A projectile is any object thrown by the exertion of a force. It can also be defined as an object launched into the space and allowed to move free under the influence of gravity and air resistance.Although any object in motion through space may be called projectiles, they are commonly found in warfare and sports. Mathematical equations of motion are used to analyze projectile trajectories.

Spear-thrower Tool to give more leverage when throwing a dart-like projectile

A spear-thrower, spear-throwing lever or atlatl is a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity in dart or javelin-throwing, and includes a bearing surface which allows the user to store energy during the throw.

Ballistics Science of the motion of projectiles

Ballistics is the field of mechanics concerned with the launching, flight behavior and impact effects of projectiles, especially ranged weapon munitions such as bullets, unguided bombs, rockets or the like; the science or art of designing and accelerating projectiles so as to achieve a desired performance.


Shurikenjutsu (手裏剣術) is a general term describing the traditional Japanese martial arts of throwing shuriken, which are small, hand-held weapons used primarily by the Samurai in feudal Japan, such as metal spikes bō shuriken, circular plates of metal known as hira shuriken, and knives (tantō).


The fastball is the most common type of pitch thrown by pitchers in baseball and softball. "Power pitchers," such as former American major leaguers Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens, rely on speed to prevent the ball from being hit, and have thrown fastballs at speeds of 95–105 miles per hour (153–169 km/h) (officially) and up to 108.1 miles per hour (174.0 km/h) (unofficially). Pitchers who throw more slowly can put movement on the ball, or throw it on the outside of home plate where batters can't easily reach it.

Pitch (baseball)

In baseball, a pitch is the act of throwing a baseball toward home plate to start a play. The term comes from the Knickerbocker Rules. Originally, the ball had to be literally "pitched" underhand, as with pitching horseshoes. Overhand throwing was not allowed until 1884.

Submarine (baseball)

In baseball, a submarine pitch is one in which the ball is released often just above the ground, but not underhanded, with the torso bent at a right angle and shoulders tilted so severely that they rotate around a nearly horizontal axis. This is in stark contrast to an underhand pitch in softball in which the torso remains upright, the shoulders are level, and the hips do not rotate.

Ranged weapon

A ranged weapon is any weapon that can engage targets beyond hand-to-hand distance, i.e. at distances greater than the physical reach of the weapon itself. It is sometimes also called projectile weapon or missile weapon because it typically works by launching projectiles ("missiles"), though technically a directed-energy weapon is also a ranged weapon. In contrast, a weapon intended to be used in hand-to-hand combat is called a melee weapon.

Dart (missile)

Darts are missile weapons, designed to fly such that a sharp, often weighted point will strike first. They can be distinguished from javelins by fletching and a shaft that is shorter and/or more flexible, and from arrows by the fact that they are not of the right length to use with a normal bow.

Card throwing

Card throwing is the art of throwing standard playing cards with great accuracy and/or force. It is performed both as part of stage magic shows and as a competitive physical feat among magicians, with official records existing for longest distance thrown, fastest speed, highest throw, greatest accuracy and greatest number of cards in one minute.

Sidearm (baseball)

In baseball, sidearm is a motion for throwing a ball along a low, approximately horizontal plane rather than a high, mostly vertical plane (overhand).

Hunting weapons are weapons designed or used primarily for hunting game animals for food or sport, as distinct from defensive weapons or weapons used primarily in warfare.


Hafting is a process by which an artifact, often bone, stone, or metal is attached to a haft. This makes the artifact more useful by allowing it to be shot (arrow), thrown (spear), or used with more effective leverage (axe). When constructed properly, hafting can tremendously improve a weapon's damage and range. It is estimated that hafted weapons were most common during the Upper Paleolithic and Middle Paleolithic. It was one of the first tools where hominins took separate elements and united them into a single tool. The development of hafting was considered a significant milestone by archaeologists. It was not only an improvement in the technology at the time; it also showed the progression of the human mind toward a world of complex tool-making.

Deflection shooting is a technique used for effectively propelling a projectile at a moving target, also known as leading the target, i.e. shooting ahead of a moving target so that the target and projectile will collide. This technique is only necessary when the target will have moved a sufficient distance to displace its position during the time the projectile would take to reach the target's range. This can become the case over long distances, due to fast moving targets, or while using relatively slow projectiles.


Waboba is an international outdoor toy and sporting goods brand headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden with offices in Atlanta, Georgia and Guangzhou, China. Waboba is most known for its invention of balls that bounce on water, the high bouncing Moon ball, and the Wingman silicone flying disc. The company specializes in beach and backyard toys and games. The slogan used in advertising is Keep Life Fun. The name Waboba is a registered trademark and many of its products are internationally patented.

Overhand throw Single-handed throw of an object from above the shoulder

The overhandthrow is a single-handed throw of a projectile where the object is thrown above the shoulder.

Native American weaponry Weapons used by Native Americans for hunting and warfare with other Native American tribes

Native American weaponry was used by Native American warriors to hunt and to do battle with other Native American tribes and European colonizers.

Throwing sports

Throwing sports, or throwing games, are physical, human competitions where the outcome is measured by a player's ability to throw an object.


  1. 1 2 3 Melissa Hogenboom, "Origins of human throwing unlocked", BBC News (26 June 2013).
  2. Goodall, J. Tool-using and aimed throwing in a community of free-living chimpanzees. Nature 201, 1264–1266 (1964).
  3. H. S. Kühl et al., "Chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing", Scientific Reports 6, 22219 (2016), doi : 10.1038/srep22219.
  4. Pepin, Matt (2010-08-26). "Aroldis Chapman hits 105 mph". Archived from the original on 31 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  5. "'MythBusters' Tests 'Throwing Like A Girl' Stereotype (VIDEO)". Huffington Post. 30 May 2013. Retrieved 2016-10-27.

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Throwing at Wikimedia Commons