German scientists Alexander Lenz and Florian Rappl have created a model of shot putting that predicts an optimum angle of release that matches the angle observed in the best shot putters.
Apparently, the best models biomechanicists were previously able to come up with were 4-5 degrees off, so this new model represents the solving of a puzzle that has been out there for some time.
Lenz and Rappl look at the energy the athletes can impart to the shot as they push it at an angle from the shoulder. This can be split into kinetic and potential components. The potential component is related to the height of the shot above the shoulder when it is released.
The German pair point out that the equation that determines the final distance depends on the height but also on the velocity squared. So the athlete is better off imparting more energy in kinetic than potential form. And this lowers the optimum angle of release.
I didn’t know that scientists were busy on these types of questions, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have guessed that a problem like this would have still been unsolved!